Master artisan Silpinwita Das partially grew up in Santiniketan, in a landscape she describes as “red soil, and meadows of lush green paddy fields, where rows of chhatim trees and palms charmed me from the very beginning.” Das grew up watching her father, textile artisan Ajit Kumar Das, absorbing his process and passion while forging her own wholly unique approach to creating vividly beautiful and unique textiles and paintings.
Cotton cloth serves as the background for Das’s paintings, while hand-spun cotton fabrics or fine Matka silk is used for scarves, stoles, and garments. Perhaps surprisingly, local fruits and flowers are important parts of Das’s work. “We never throw out pomegranate skin after consuming it,” she explains, “and we don’t throw out flowers we offer to God, because they are the sources of our colors.” In some cases, Das uses turmeric, chickpea flour, onion skin and other spices as well to achieve vivid, all-natural dyes for her textiles. Das does not work alone, but provides employment to other skilled artisans in her community, especially women.
All her art is made entirely by hand. Das enlists her father’s help in the dyeing and washing of cloth since this step requires a high level of care and experience.
Technically the origin of this type of artwork is kalamkari, largely practiced in Southern India, and rooted in narrative panels for temples and celebrations. Some of Silpinwita’s motifs come from the tradition of alpona, designs made by women with rice flour and water on mud walls or floors during special occasions or for daily blessings. Other themes come from the great outdoors, where plants and animals offer abundant inspiration.