Fr Carlos Luis SAC
We live in a world where technology has superseded most traditionally done activities and artificial intelligence is gaining prominence in every area. Despite the scientific advancements, however, many of us stick to time-honoured methods of accomplishing objectives.
Aari embroidery is a form of needlework that has persisted through time, and, although dying, has been kept alive by the likes of Poonam Krishna Gawas, a resident of Camurlim, Bardez.
Poonam received her post-graduate degree in physics in the year 2017 from Goa University but soon realised that fashion designing and garment technology were her true calling. Therefore, she obtained a diploma certificate in the same at Stenodac Institute, Panjim, in 2018.
She set up a fashion boutique in Morod, Mapusa, in the year 2019. Determined that she is, during the Covid, she took online classes and learnt the skill of Aari embroidery. It is one of the many needlework styles that date back to the Mughal Empire.
In Aari work, the cloth is tightly stretched over a wooden frame. The fundamental Aari work is carried out with a pen-like needle that resembles a crochet needle. Fine and delicate threadwork is a hallmark of Aari art. And when you do it by hand, it takes a lot of patience, and the intricacies are visible.
One of Poonam’s customers Alisha Vaz had the following to say, “Poonam is very professional and gives her inputs when you put forth a design, which shows her expertise. She has a lot of patience with her patrons and makes necessary changes accordingly.”
Poonam has customised clothes for various occasions like weddings, birthdays and other celebratory occasions, and is loved by many of her customers. VruKsh is the brand that she is famously known for on social media.
The artist hasn’t stopped at establishing a brand. To spread the artistic needlework, she has been taking classes or conducting workshops on Aari embroidery for almost one year at various locations in Goa ie Mapusa, Panjim, Ponda and Margao. She has also been invited as a resource person to Government High School, Keri, Sattari, Goa.
Aari embroidery is undoubtedly one of the elements in bridal blouses and is very famous in the southern part of our country. Though the process is very simple, it requires a lot of time and talent to translate the design from the mind to the fabric.
Poonam says about her process, “The initial part is to create a design according to the customer's requirements. Getting it traced on butter paper and then transferring the basic outlines on the main fabric is followed by working with different elements."
"The entire process is so satisfying, especially when the design is ready. The client should be happy seeing that the design has turned out better than expected. At the same time, the client shouldn't feel a pinch to their pockets,” she continues.
With so many new technologies to create the designs, what still draws Poonam to Aari embroidery by hand is interesting.
She says, “Most artists have their own style and are not able to replicate somebody else's work. But when it comes to clothing and designs, I always try to understand what my client wants. They may have an image in their mind, but they fail to convey it. I try to join the dots and turn their dreams into reality. There is computerised machine embroidery as well, but it doesn't give a thrill, so I always opt for Aari embroidery by hand, which increases the charm and makes it unique.”
The current trend is to customise our furniture the way we want, to personalise our gifts to our spouses, relatives, friends, etc. And thus, handiwork makes this trend more relatable, authentic and straight from the heart.
There is certainly a lot of love that goes into making the pieces of art. For Poonam, art is expressing oneself in a physical form.
She explains, “We visualise something – it is just an illusion. It is, nevertheless, an idea, but still not materialised. Then we reproduce it in the form of designs.”
In other words, Poonam is transforming ideas into something tangible.
She adds, “These ideas could be floral, but also more entertaining is creating human figures or animal figures like elephants, peacocks, etc. Developing skills to create such designs is very important, and it should be done at a very early age along with academics. It simply makes a human express oneself creatively without any barriers, making it easy for them to have a healthy mindset.”
Poonam is not a movie or TV person but listens to Abhanga, a form of devotional poetry, a kind of ritual she follows while creating the Aari artwork. She also solves sudoku, which helps her think out of the box.
Given that not many are taking up Aari embroidery, she confirms and encourages everyone saying, “Despite initial hardships like backaches or shoulder pains, which disappear as you continuously do the designs, to be very honest, there is no age or gender barrier to learning this skill. Anybody can learn it, be it as a hobby or a profession. And if it is converted into a profession, one can consider it a good source of income.”
(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic
Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently studying for a licentiate
degree in Moral Theology. He comments on social and moral issues.)