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    Made for Chennai

    Uma Balakrishnan talks about limited-edition saris and her jasmine connect with our city.

    Bengaluru-based Uma Balakrishnan has a definite connect with the city. “I love everything about Chennai — the sense of space, the beaches, the genuine yet unassuming local population — jasmine flowers at every street corner,” says Balakrishnan, the founder and creative force behind Shiuli Creations. It is no surprise that the name of her design enterprise is taken from the ‘shiuli’ jasmine. “I loved the quality and lingering fragrance of this jasmine. It is the only flower which is not plucked. It falls naturally to the ground, covers it in a white carpet and its sweet aroma fills the air!” says the designer who visits the city often.

    By the hand

    Bringing her limited edition saris and home décor (curtains) to Chennai this month, the Kerala-born designer has put together a special selection for her debut exhibition here. Her brand showcases the best of our indigenous fabrics and craftsmanship. “We have hand-crafted indigo dabu work on south silk, kothayee work on mull, indigo cotton kota saris, kalamkari on Chanderi and silk, hand-block prints on khadi, linen and cotton saris, kalamkari-inspired block prints on traditional Kerala kasavu saris and a few traditional shibori techniques on muga tussar silk,” she lists the tantalising array of hand-crafted weaves, all in vibrant colours.

    Weave wise

    The 61-year-old started Shiuli in August of 2012 after years of receiving compliments on her distinctive taste and requests for sartorial advice. This English Literature graduate from the University of Kerala, confesses her first love has been collecting and discovering handlooms for decades. “I cannot remember a time when I was not crazy about handloom saris. Being married to an army officer I had the opportunity of witnessing hand-crafted work and various embellishment techniques, generic to every place in India.” Over the years she has befriended and worked with “hardworking women with nimble fingers” from Punjab (Phulkari work), from Kutch (Ari work), Srinagar (chinon fabric) and weavers of Assam and Nagaland, to name a few. Another facet that customers of Shiuli love is its distinctiveness. “All our saris and dupattas are handcrafted and made in small numbers. We work closely with the weavers and in most cases the wooden blocks used in printing are made specifically for us.” Balakrishnan retails currently through her FB page and regular exhibitions at Bengaluru and Kochi.
    Rs 2,000 onwards. Sunday at Rutland Gate, from 11 am to 7 pm. Details: 9008029184/facebook.com/ShiuliCreation

    —Shibi Kumaramangalam

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