Rainbow Textiles is run by Shakeel Ahmed and his family. They live out in the port town of Mundra in Kutch, Gujarat. To get out there I sat on the back of a bike for about an hour and a half. Being a bit out of practice of sitting on a bike for so long, definitely needed to stop and get feeling back in my legs. a couple times :-). Once we got out there, his whole family invited me into their home to first eat some lunch. The love and connection fostered by the art of feeding your guests is one of the things I love about traveling.
After a super filling lunch, we walked over to his workshop. Upon entering you walk almost right into some of the Crafters shaking out the drying fabric, pulling it fast and taught. You can hear the thwack of them pulling it fast, that helps shake off any of the lingering wax on the fabric.
In the first room to the side there are people blocking fabric for dyeing. Tapping the design blocks coated in wax for the first round of dyeing. The next room is Shakeel’s office. Like so many textile crafters and artisans at least one wall is a floor to ceiling shelving filled with product ready to sell, export and distribute.
His cloth is beautiful, covering the whole spectrum of color. They are vibrant and bright, earthy and muted. Some with fun imagery like lions and birds, some with more traditional abstract designs.
He talks about how he learned at KALA RAKSHA the importance of changing with his market, but at the same time not losing his heritage and traditions in the art. One way his art has had to change is in their dyeing methods. Originally batik printers in India used beeswax, which you can imagine has a lot of issues with it now. One beeswax is getting harder to come by and because of that more expensive; two it can not be reused, once washed from the cloth that’s it it can not be collected and used again. And so they’ve had to move to using paraffin wax. But paraffin also has its drawbacks, mainly it can not be used in vegetable dyes as it’s melting point is much lower. Vegetable dyes or natural dyes are highly in demand in today market, with a lot of people looking for less chemicals in their lives.Shakil does definitely feel a drop in his sales. He’s still doing the natural dye process, though in smaller quantities and to limited markets. I got a few stoles that are perfect for your summer and spring wardrobes! Keep an eye out for them. Also check out Shakil’s IG where he documents different textures, one of his passions.