YUKTI       V.           AGARWAL


designing for impact //
designing with purpose //



︎ I am a current honors student in the Brown /RISD Dual Degree Program.

I work in interdisciplinary spaces– combining rigorous research with a human-centered approach to reimagine societies, cultures, and futures.



︎ MORE ABOUT ME HERE
YUKTI       V.           AGARWAL

designing for impact //
designing with purpose //



︎ I am a current honors student in the Brown /RISD Dual Degree Program.

I work in interdisciplinary spaces– combining rigorous research with a human-centered approach to reimagine societies, cultures, and futures.

︎ READ MORE ABOUT ME HERE


︎︎︎Resumé︎︎︎Contact ︎︎︎ LinkedIN︎︎︎ Instagram︎︎︎ Handmaking Hope︎︎︎ Fine Arts Portfolio︎︎︎Academic Research




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︎ RECLAIMING THE STITCH 




Client 
︎ RISD Fleet Library
︎ I Am For You
 

Timeline 
24 weeks (June-Dec ‘20)

Tools 
︎ Scrap cloths and fabrics 
︎ Embroidery & Woodworking Materials  

Skills 
︎ Illustration, Embroidery, Machine Stitching 
︎ Comunity Outreach, Concept Development, Fundraising, Marketing 



︎ THE PURPOSE


This is a 3-fold project to reinstitute embroidery as a respected craft (as it is often considered the least 'respectable' and most feminine of the textile crafts) to empower females craftspersons as vehicles of agency and social change.



︎ THE IMPACT


01– This product was sold to raise money to support the primary education of the daughters of the women in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh (where this craft originates) who practice the craft of dophar embroidery to this day.

02– This initiative aimed to send handmade, hand-embroidered love, in the form of cloth dolls for the girls in parts of rural India, who hadn't seen their mothers in over 4 months due to the CoVID-19 pandemic.

The dolls were packaged in bags which were made using scraps from Intercity Traders’ subunit ‘I Am For You’ to raise money for the primary education of the underprivileged daughters of the workers at the garment factory.

03–  Outreach to promote embroidery amongst the masses & support the women artisans who create a living by practicing this craft

︎ THE COLLABORATORS


This project was conducted by 'Handmaking Hope' using waste materials procured by ‘I Am For You’– one work specifically for the ‘RISD Fleet Library’s Permanent Collection.’

     

'Handmaking Hope' is the Non-Governmental Organization I started in 2016, focused on raising funds for the education of the girl child in India: a country where girls are denied education and seen merely as objects of the patriarchy. We ‘Handmake Hope’ through our philosophy of sustainability where we ensure that each woman, and each girl child can sustain themselves through a practice of craft.  

Materials procured from the Indian fashion label ‘I Am For You.


   

RISD FLEET LIBRARY
Founded in 1878, Fleet Library at RISD is one of the country's oldest independent art college libraries.

‘Chamba Rumals– The Woman’s Way’ was awarded the ‘Librarian’s Choice Award’ in 2021




“THE CHAMBA RUMAL” 


︎ WHAT IS ‘CHAMBA RUMAL’?


︎︎︎ Chamba Rumals from ancient India are small hand-embroidered handkerchiefs that were made in the village of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. 

︎︎︎ They are adorned with dophar embroidery, which can be viewed from two perspectives; thus, the back of the rumal has the same embroidery form as the front. They illustrate stories and epics of the time. 

︎︎︎Reminiscent of the dophar technique, these recreations of the handkerchiefs draw a parallel with the way we see our history as well: from more than one perspective.



︎ PURPOSE


︎︎︎Historical narratives tend to leave the women, who are instrumental in catalyzing change and revolution, in the background of archival practices.

︎︎︎These recreated ‘Chamba Rumals’ are a re-telling of stories that bring to the foreground female voices and elucidate the intrinsic role that women played, and continue to play, in the Indian landscape.



︎ RE-TELLING THE NARRATIVE 



The Women We Domesticate

The first rumal: a modern-day shikargah (hunting scene) shows women mounted atop horses and catching their prey, instead of the valiant man (for whom hunting as a sport was exclusively reserved). One of the most enjoyed sports of the Mughal era, hunting was a leisure reserved for men. However, Nur Jahan, one of the most iconic women of the Mughal Dynasty in India—who was known for her keenness with politics and court matters; her love for architecture, poetry and botany; and her mighty fierceness on the battlefield—was one of the best hunters of the time. She was called the “tiger-slayer.” In a period when women were concealed behind the veil of submission, Nur Jahan was an idol who defied the confines of societal expectations and rose above the roles of domesticity and piety that were given to women. This shikargah shows Nur Jahan, the sole female hunter, in the midst of an ocean of male hunters, catching her prey with ease and grace—as is the nature of women in all fields of existence.



The Women We Rescue

The second rumal: a recreation of the epic Ramayana, while a triumphant tale of emancipation, talks about the way a man saves his wife and considers her impure after. In my iteration, the women in this scene are in fact saving the men, who, here, play the ‘damsel’ in distress. After Sita was kidnapped by Ravana and kept in the sanctuary of his vast gardens in Sri Lanka, Rama (Sita’s husband) embarked on the valiant journey to cross the strip of water that separated the island of Sri Lanka from the mainland. The only way to do so was to fill the ocean with enchanted rocks which, instead of sinking, floated and created a path for Lord Rama to save his wife. However, why is it that Sita needed her husband to save her? In this iteration of the famous epic Ramayana, Sita is not being saved by the mighty Rama, but rather there is a role reversal that gives Sita agency and authority over herself.



The Women We Worship

The third rumal: a mobile shrine of the eight Mahavidyas (the ten Mahavidyas, or Wisdom Goddesses, represent distinct aspects of divinity intent on guiding the spiritual seeker toward liberation) proudly exemplifies the manner in which women were worshipped, yet treated as objects of the patriarchy for the better part of Indian history. This rumal provides the paradox that is evident in our society: a society where women are forced to fit into the molds of piety, purity and submissiveness, and are disrespected and considered mere objects of the patriarchy, but at the same time, these very women are worshipped and revered in temples dedicated to them for their qualities of power and strength. For example, Kali is the first of the eight Mahavidyas exemplifies the might and fury of a woman. She is known as the “Dark Goddess.” But, she is also an occult symbol of Mother Nature. The multiplicity of a woman character is exhibited here: a woman can be as fierce as she is nurturing. Kali is one of the eight reminders for us as a society that a woman can be—and are—beautiful, strong individuals, who deserve respect and celebration.



︎ PACKAGING & THE COMMITEMENT TO CRAFT  


Materials– silk thread embroidery on handwoven silk-khadi fabric, in a hand-crafted teakwood box, internally painted with natural pigments of fuchsia, lined with a pure cotton handmade khadi paper, tinted with madder pigments on the back to emulate bloodstains, naturally stained embroidery floss in the colors of the Indian flag and embroidered in a pattern derived from Sanskrit text.


The wood box is made in the local teak wood and the embroidery into the wood is in the colors of the Indian flag to reiterate the locality of this issue, but the embroidery pattern itself is derived from Sanskrit but contemporized to bring to light the universality of this pertinent issue. The embroidery is based on a Sanskrit saying from old times which reveres and celebrates women to remind us that our scriptures and our past celebrated and respected women, and question why we are not continuing those traditions even today.




︎ WATCH THE VIDEO: 






︎ ON VIEW AT THE GELMAN GALLERY  



Selected to be a part of the very first display of South Asian work in a curated exhibition at the RISD Museum 





“THE DOLL” 


︎ PURPOSE


These handmade dolls have the entire organ system embroidered on their exteriors to help underprivileged girls in villages –who are separated from their mothers who often work as sweepers, maids, and caretakers in big cities– understand the works of their bodies. The lack of human touch and affection can be hard to deal with and can affect their development. Providing a source of comfort and touch was a meager way to remind these girls that they are loved.

This initiative aimed to send handmade, hand-embroidered love, in the form of cloth dolls for the girls in parts of rural India, who hadn't seen their mothers in over 4 months due to the CoVID-19 pandemic.



︎ EDUCATION ABOUT THE FEMALE BODY 


This project focused on making sex education for young girls accessible even in remote parts of India, where education about female bodies is not given a second thought in the schooling systems. 



︎ PACKAGING & THE COMMITEMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY 


When sent to the villages, these dolls were packaged in hand-made, reusable bags that were upcycled from waste fabric, by factory workers.

The company that sponsored these bags, employed garment worker’s and helped them raise funds to educate their daughters, thus having 2 times the impact with a single project. 






“THE SEWING BOX” 


︎ PURPOSE


A capsule collection of ‘sewing kits’ was distributed to bring the act of sewing to the forefront of creativity and ingenuity to help support embroidery artists– majorly comprising of women.



︎ CRAFTING THE PRODUCT 



This collection has three concepts: NEELAM | SINDOOR| GULSHAN. Each kit comes with 6 tufts of embroidery thread, a hand spun crochet thread of spool, 6 needles of varied sizes, a crochet hook, a selection of buttons and beads (including coral buttons) strings of glass beads, and fabric to stitch on, all in an amazing handmade paper bag.


︎ SINDOOR 


SINDOOR is a handmade kit with hand crocheted laces bordering Mysore cotton covers.

SINDOOR relates  sewing and marriage– however, sewing is not merely an obligation, it can also be a space for create expression. 



︎ NEELAM


NEELAM is a handmade kit with hand crocheted laces bordering pale pink or mashru off-white cotton cove.

NEELAM is inspired by the sky on a rainy day. Monsoons have always been my favourite time of year.


︎ GULSHAN


GULSHAN is a handmade kit with hand crocheted laces bordering a pale pink cotton cover.

GULSHAN is the happiness of siting amidst nature, hearing the birds sing, sitting on the grass, feeling the breeze in your hair. 






︎ PRESS FEATURES




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