Bela Shanghvi has been a well-known revivalist of handloom weaving techniques since the last 27 years. She received exposure in this field as her childhood as her father used to manufacture textile machinery. This 46 year-old has not received any formal education in textiles but learnt about textile and design from Charles Russolini under whom she served as a first assistant in USA.
“About 25 years ago, I spotted a collection of textiles dating back to the Moghul era in Washington D.C. When I came back, I realised that these textiles were not there is India,” says Shanghvi. “That is when I decided to revive textiles,” she adds.
Shanghvi has served as the President of the Crafts Council Maharashtra and is the national adviser to the Government of India on policy and design. She is currently working on a book on traditional techniques in textiles. Being familiar with about 300 – 400 different techniques, Shanghvi has helped to revive about 30 – 40 techniques which were dying. Additionally, she is also an honorary member of the World Craft Council
Shanghvi also runs Studio Aavartan – a firm that deals with marketing for handlooms and Purnakala that addresses the issues of craftsmen. “Through Purnakala, I can confidently say that I have touched the lives of more than 2000 craftsmen all over India,” informs Shanghvi.
The Patola and Asshawali are her specialties. Shanghvi has not only been training weavers, but has also been providing them with technical support, design inputs and marketing options in an effort to revive the Patola weaving tradition of Patan, in Gujarat. With improved techniques, she cut production time and labour cost.
The challenges she encounters in her quest to revive weaving techniques lies in the creating awareness among the consumers who are do not know about the different kinds of textiles and the effort that goes into making them. “Craftsmen all over the country face several problems ranging from poverty to unemployment and their welfare is very important,” informs Shanghvi.