Co-designing with the Kashmir shawl community
“The weaver shook it out so the colours danced in the air. The other two young men caught the corners and brought the piece closer to show off the design. These were the embroiderers who had sat for the whole year, one end apiece, to work over the woven blossoms with their intricate stitches. The shawl wasn’t just their work, though. It also belonged to the spinners and dyers, and the talim man who had drawn up the intricate patterns for the weavers to follow.” Rosie Thomas from The Kashmir Shawl
Like other traditional textile communities throughout India artisans from the Kashmir shawl community develop their skills through intergenerational observation and practice. It takes eighteen processes to create an embroidered pashmina shawl, each interrelated step completed by a different artisan. The value of human connection, relationships formed in producing handcrafted textiles is well recognised in the Kashmir shawl community.
Increasingly customers of the artisans’ textiles want to know more about both the techniques used and the makers of the products they purchase.
By adopting a co-design approach Australian customers of handcrafted textiles engaged directly with artisans of the Kashmir shawl community to co-create their own pashmina shawls and scarves in three projects between 2019 and 2022. Strategies were developed using the digital platforms of WhatsApp and Zoom that accommodated the participants’ language differences as well as the geographic distances between them. The co-designers from Australia shared in the maker’s experiences as the textiles were created while having their own input into the designs and colours of the shawls and scarves within the cultural context of the Kashmir craft. To read the full dissertation about the projects click here.
Co-design Project Gallery
Photographs from the co-design projects of artisans and their processes in the Kashmir shawl community
Where is Kashmir?
Artisans from the Kashmir shawl community live in the beautiful Kashmir Valley in northern India, known for its lakes, mountains and houseboats. Here they practice their craft in their homes or small workshops while often also caring for their agricultural land.