I am really dreaming of these courses as I loved, loved the course in January so much
Victoria, Ibiza

The Jaipur experience has lead to so many wonderful things and I can’t wait to go back for more
Sarah, UK

I still feel homesick for that beautiful time in Jaipur. I want to thank you for your great and tasteful organization. It was all great fun.
Constanza, Spain

Thank you for the terrific experience of participation in the workshop gathering. Diggi Palace was just right as the venue and the musical events were magical
Anne, UK

What a wonderful, successful year for your workshops! Everyone was so happy. The kite festival celebration lunch was a delight and the evening music was bliss. Thank you, thank you for a most fascinating and enjoyable week.
Astrid, UK

I had a really terrific time at the workshops – Di and Natalie are such great teachers. Thanks again Frances, you gave us all a really magical experience.
Kerry, Australia



MAKING MUD - Kerry Little connects with her creative side over indigo dye in Jaipur

My connection to fashion designers Stella McCartney, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen is an unlikely one given that my fashion cred extends no further than attending a Colette Dinnigan warehouse sale some 10 years ago and managing to emerge with a ‘last season’ lace evening dress that I wore once. It now hangs in my wardrobe as a kind of fashion trophy – evidence that I did once step out in something very chic.

But in Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, in a workshop called ‘Mud Resist and Indigo Dye’ I found my ‘six degrees of separation’ from the global style icons. The workshop involved using wooden blocks dipped in mud to form reverse patterns on fabric, creating a resistance to dye that is applied later. The connection to McCartney, Galliano and McQueen was through our teachers – English textile designers, Di Livey and Natalie Gibson who have taught many of Britain’s leading designers. Natalie is the head of the print design department at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and a roll call of her former students sounds like the running order at London Fashion Week. Di is a textile artist, teacher and painter who has exhibited her work internationally. They travel to Jaipur every January to lead the workshop and in doing so, promote the importance of traditional hand dyeing techniques – all but forgotten in the developed world –and barely clinging to life in increasingly modern India.

My workshop was one of several offered by English textile designer and former head of the Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery in London, Frances Ronaldson through her 'Wonderful Workshops' program. Her craft workshops, run every January in Jaipur, are taught by highly-regarded English artists and designers. They include textile artist, Lucy Goffin who leads the exotically named 'Stitches of the Desert', internationally known artist, sculptor and jeweller, Andrew Logan who leads the 'Sparkling Surfaces' workshop, and Delhi-based Olivia Dalrymple, who with Jaipur artist Ajay Sharma, guides students through the closely detailed art of Indian miniature painting.

There were 14 of us in the mud-resist workshop and while most of us were textile virgins, a handful were people who had worked in textiles and wanted to hone their traditional dyeing skills in an environment that can’t be replicated in the major design schools in London, Paris or New York. We were at the source; where hand-dyeing techniques are still practiced and the printers are artisans; their craft honed at the knees of their fathers and grandfathers. We used the natural dyes, indigo and kassis to create our colours and the all important mud to resist the dye to show the patterns from our blocks.

Frances Ronaldson created her Wonderful Workshops with the Jaipur Virasat (Heritage) Foundation to help promote heritage conservation and responsible tourism. Our base was the heritage Hotel Diggi Palace, and after breakfast, everyone would scatter to their workshop venue to create wondrous things, returning in the afternoon for drinks or afternoon tea on the hotel lawn.

In our free time, we bought textiles, and then more textiles until we couldn’t fit one more hand woven, hand printed, hand stitched article in a suitcase.

Many of the participants were on their third or fourth workshop. Many came to escape the bitterness of an English winter (although seem obsessed by the weather in England while they were away from it).

I may have to escape the Sydney summer and go back next year.

from The Australian - Saturday travel edition - Sept 2010

A Taste of India by Henrietta Bredin of the Spectator

Frankly, you haven’t really lived until you’ve danced your feet sore under a low-slung Indian moon to the sounds of a beatbox/traditional Rajasthan folk-band combo. This joyous experience came as the culmination of an extraordinary week of workshops which took place in Jaipur earlier this year. The workshops (run with exemplary patience and good humour by Frances Ronaldson and Louisa Tomlinson) were the brainchild of Faith Singh, who, as the creator and driving force behind Anokhi textiles, has established a tradition of promoting and conserving regional crafts and techniques. Over a number of years she has brought a range of experts from Britain to Jaipur, to exchange skills with local practitioners, and now to pass them on to paying participants.

I could have made sparkly jewellery with Andrew Logan, learned block-printing and indigo dyeing, attempted to paint miniatures or master complex embroidery techniques, but I opted for an introduction to Rajasthani cooking. And goodness, was I pleased with my choice. We were staying at the Hotel Diggi Palace, which is still a family home, with a small farm attached (its cows not only provide milk for discerning Jaipur consumers but also enough methane to fuel the kitchen). Its chatelaine, Jyotika Kumari, along with her sister-in-law, Sandhya, led the workshop. They were two of the warmest, funniest, most welcoming women you could ever meet – and sensational cooks into the bargain. At least, Sandhya was a sensational cook and Jyotika, who used to be a teacher and has the scary pointing index finger to prove it, was the talking/explaining side of the operation.

She needed to be a good talker as you’re unlikely to come across a more – well, articulate is putting it politely – bunch of people as my fellow cooks (entirely delightful too, of course). With all the active vocal participation that went on I’m amazed we found the time to prepare our puris and parathas but somehow we did and managed to listen to a stream of helpful advice and gripping family anecdotes as well.

If you’re visiting a country for the first time, as I was, especially one as vast and varied as India, it’s extraordinarily rewarding to settle in one place for a while and to a small extent get the measure of it, rather than immediately rushing off on a frantic trail around Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, etc, glorious though those places may be. Under Jyotika’s guidance we spent a morning rootling around the Jaipur spice market, buying smoky black cardamoms and shelled pistachios, watching gur being made, tasting delectable shards of the stuff and learning that it is not the same as jaggery, the product of sugarcane, but is made from the sap of the date palm. We watched gold leaf being beaten into a state of near transparency and bought shivery slivers of it to decorate sweets and milk puddings, we sat in the sun making tiny dumplings from mung beans and attempting to roll our chapattis evenly, and on one glorious day we drove out to the family farm up in the hills, where Sandhya supervised the creation of a Rajasthani feast, cooked on cow-dung fires and devoured in the dappled shade of a neem tree (twigs highly effective as toothbrushes, oil efficacious in cases of head lice, leaves recommended to be laid underneath those suffering from chicken pox).

In addition to all this learning and cooking and eating, there was an unexpected musical bonus. Faith Singh’s husband John is passionate about the rural music of the area and has travelled widely to hear musicians in villages in every corner of Rajasthan. As a result we were lucky enough to be treated to a concert on four of the seven nights we were there, with music of heart-stopping intricacy and immediacy from tabla and flute players, singers and Indian classical violinists. A number of the players will be performing at RIFF, The Rajasthan International Folk Festival, in Jodhpur next October and I shall certainly be moving hell and high water to try and fix myself a return visit.

Workshop week over, sadly no space here to describe the rest of the trip, impeccably organized by India Beat Travel and involving tiger and leopard sightings, the Taj Mahal by moonlight (thank you Noël Coward, yes it did look just a tiny bit like a biscuit box) and the Republic Day parade in Delhi, complete with caparisoned camels.

And since coming back I’ve cooked more than one Rajasthani supper for friends including the arts editor of this magazine. No complaints so far.



Impressions by Miranda Innes of the Wonderful Workshops

If, when the novelty of breaking your New Year’s Resolutions has begun to pall, you have in mind to do something a little more satisfying, India is the solution. To be more specific, there is nothing quite as wonderful as Jaipur in January. Endless blue sky, clear sunny days, cool exhilarating evenings when the extravagant embroidered pashminas you bought make perfect sense. As if this were not enough, the kite festival takes place in the middle of January, followed by spectacular fireworks.

And while wandering in solitude in the midst of the sensory overload of India is all very well, the best way to really enjoy this precious escape from everyday life is to find a bunch of congenial people with whom to lose yourself making things. It is a secret that should be better known – playing (which is what making things really is) makes you younger. As you position your beads, dry fry spices, dye fabric, embroider with jewel bright silks, mix colours or squelch pulp, what you are actually doing is taking a short cut to childhood, losing track of time and in a serenely meditative way, having fun.

One of the many joys of attending the Jaipur Heritage Foundation’s Wonderful Workshops is that you discover the city in a very different way. Confidently, with purpose, with friends, discovering the life of the markets. When you are on the hunt for a particular purple sequin, the labyrinth of little streets invites exploration, revealing one tiny shop after another, crammed with treasures.

Then, after a long day spent poring over the intricacies of stitch or glitter, there is music in the spectacular Durbar Hall of Diggi Palace and elsewhere - classical dancers, sufi singers, beat box, a wild cultural pick‘n mix.

In 2008, the Wonderful Workshops course leaders were Nathalie Gibson and Di Livey, a very charismatic pair of experienced teachers, who did fabulous work with mud resist prints and indigo dyes. Their students got to take home truly beautiful shawls and proper wearable garments.

Lucy Goffin, a quietly charming textile artist whose work can be seen at the V & A, inspired her students to make small, perfectly pieced bags, gloves and slippers embellished with stitch, beads and cords.

Olivia Dalrymple sat with her group on the grass beneath a huge spreading tree, an oasis of calm concentration, producing delicate miniatures, with the expert assistance of Ajay Sharma.

Carol Farrow, an artist who works with paper, took her students to a papermaker in Sanganer, where they made brilliantly bound albums and fascinating sheets of paper incorporating tinsel, petals and dyes.

The cooking group were initiated into the mysterious techniques and methods of Indian cuisine by Sandhya Kumari and her sister-in-law, Jyotika Kumari who had the best smile I have ever seen, and in whose Diggi Palace Hotel we all stayed. Diggi Palace is a fabulous, casual, rambling building, not far from the city walls, with a green garden surrounded by vast parrot-filled trees.

I had the incredible good luck - working with a living legend - to be in Andrew Logan’s ‘Sparkling Surfaces’ course. Our days started with a brief burst of yoga on the tented roof that was our studio, followed by difficult decisions - whether to use the blue or the green glitter, how to attach the feet of a bird of paradise, how to apply beads to epoxy resin without become attached to it oneself. We made decorated boxes and richly ornamented candlesticks, dazzling prism-rich frames and the odd crown. Everyone exercised their creative muscles, and one or two made astonishing objects, dangerously close to being works of art. We kept Andrew busy - like a kindly giraffe he observed and advised, and occasionally let the merest hint of exasperation ruffle his guru-like calm. Time whizzed by after my first day, during which I considered hiding in a cupboard while inspiration failed to strike. The moral is to have a fairly precise idea of what you want to do before finding yourself in the sequin emporium.

I can’t speak for the cooks - who consumed their oeuvre - but in a short five days from a standing start, having to design, buy materials, and make the objects, everyone produced work of seriously good quality and originality.

We all made new friends, there were always interesting people for talk, eating with and braving the markets. The Anokhi Museum, among others, was a huge source of inspiration, and John Singh was responsible for consistently mesmeric music. That week raced by with an extraordinary concentration of good things, and as everyone went in different directions, they were all warmly insulated with good memories.

Miranda Innes – March 2008