The Khatri Family

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If you're interested in learning how to run a family business successfully, the Khatris are the people to talk to. They're on their 11th-recorded generation of practicing the artisan tradition of bandhani (or tie and dye), but it wasn't until the current generation took the reins that what once was a highly regional craft has now been propelled into the international marketplace, all still from the backyard of their family home of course. 

Traditionally, bandhani is a family affair. The Khatri family is headed by Dadi Ma, the 106-year-old grand matriarch, who also worked with the craft herself since she was a young girl. The men (Aziz Bhai, Suleman Bhai, and their brothers) are in charge of the dyeing process, and the women (nine of which are listed above) lead the intricate art of tying fabrics in different patterns before getting dyed.

Tina is one of the best bandhani artisans from her family and helped NorBlack NorWhite, with whom they often partner, create their signature razor blade pattern for the spring/summer 2011 collection. Tina's other equally important job is being mother to 2-year old Gayatri. 

Aziz Khatri is the master dyer of the family. The craft is like second nature to him; He immediately recognizes the quality of a piece as soon the dye appears on the fabric. 

 

The Khatris answer a few questions for us (translated by Bikki Gill):

How long has the Khatri family been practicing bandhani?
There's no clear record of how many generations have been working in this field but we've always been bandhani artisans going back at least 10-11 generations, if not more.

Where does bandhani originate and what makes it unique?
According to Crafts of India, Handmade in India,  bandhani is believed to have traveled from Sindh to Gujarat via Rajasthan and from Gujarat further on to Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The Kachchi bandhani, traditionally practiced by the Khatri community, is renowned for its extremely fine dots and sophisticated sense of composition. 

How are women involved in bandhani?
The women are responsible for the tying and run the households, while men do the dyeing.

How have you inspired your children to take on the craft?
Aziz Bhai: My daughter Taina loves to design and she wants to be a designer when she's older. I'm fully supportive of that but at the same time, Khatris have always known how to work with bandhani. So, I will do my best to teach her all that I know, and even if she doesn't want to practice it as an adult, it's a skill I want her to know. I'll begin formally teaching her when she's around 15 but she's already picking up stuff being around us and helps out in the experimentation.

What's one thing you’d like our customers to know about your work?
Once you start working with a piece of fabric it's not about the order or the money. It's about finding inspiration. We try and include things that we see around us in our work. Something like a piece of wood or a leaf. Above all, we're inspired by nature.

What has been your favorite order to work on so far?
As long as we're working on something new and not reproducing old work, we're happy. Aziz Bhai: My favorite has to be one we got in '98. Work was bleak because everyone was moving towards synthetic fabrics and we don't work with them. Suleman, my brother, and I were getting married and funds were low and just when things seemed like they wouldn't improve, we got a massive order from Japan and with that things got rolling again and thankfully its continued till now.

 

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WHOLE SCARF SERIES
by The Khatri Family 

DESIGN PARTNER:
NorBlack NorWhite
 

KNOW MORE

 The Bandhani Ladies:
 A photo essay
 Traditional Textile Techniques
 The Real Meaning of Earrings - My Year at Qasab