Santosh Kumar Rathi
Medium of Work:
Santa Fe: 2013, 2015, 2018
Indian textile artist Santosh Kumar Rathi is not only a master of traditional designs and techniques; he is also an earth-conscious craftsman with an eye on sustainability. Using previously used, embroidered and printed saree fabric, Rathi reconfigures discarded items into a range of vibrantly patterned, richly colored garments, accessories, and home goods.
Using upcycled sarees and other items gathered from community and family members, Rathi embellishes these fabrics with applique and embroidered elements of his own design; this process is done by hand using needle and scissors. Traditionally, this type of labor is divided between the sexes, with male family members assigned to the cutting and stitching tasks, and women adding lining and finishing stitches.
Though we may think of recycling and earth-friendly creative techniques as being somewhat new, in fact in India this type of textile making has ancient roots. Rathi originally learned his now-distinctive techniques from family members, both male and female, as is traditional of this artform. Rathi’s textiles are not meant just for foreign markets. His garments are used in daily life by members of his community, with more elaborate items reserved for special ceremonies and events. Rathi has expressed a desire to have his community’s artwork “to be recognized by the world, so that we can live a better, healthier life and educate the children of our families.”