Weaves of emotion: Petra Czerwinske at DakshinaChitra
Petra Czerwinske is teaching artisans how to conserve garments at DakshinaChitra.
Earlier this month, textile conservator Petra Czerwinske was flown in from Germany to conduct a four-week workshop at the DakshinaChitra museum.
Initially meant only for the six students who are a part of DakshinaChitra’s 22-month museum conservation internship programme, the workshop has now been opened up for the public as well.
With 20 years of conservation experience behind her, and being a senior textile conservator at the Cologne Museum, Petra’s first lesson for quality conservation is simple — “Know your fabric, only when you know how a textile is made can you take steps to preserve it.”
She adds, “Understand from where the resources come, and how are they engineered to make the garment. Understand the sentiments of the weaver himself.”
A weaver by profession and a conservator by academic interest, Petra employs a two-pronged strategy for conserving ancient textiles, which she describes as “Preventive” and “Interventive”, with the chief focus on the former aspect.
She explains, “The preventive method is indirect and works to control the five enemies of textiles — climate, mechanical faults, insects, oxidation and pollution.”
While the first week dealt with understanding proper storage methods of textiles, the second week shifted focus to mounting.
“Mounting includes prepping the garment for display, constructing a support system, and securing the garment from touch and environmental elements,” explains Petra.
Vinod Daniel, an advisor to the Australian government on heritage conservation, will grace the classes in the third week to discuss how to terminate termites through an “Integrated Pest Management” course.
The fourth and final week will cover practical topics such as planning conservation treatment, the mechanical cleaning of dirt and also, conservation stitching.
Petra’s tryst with Indian garments dates back to 1994, when she first came upon the Indian craft of Kalamkari in the form of a “jama”, or a men’s trouser, belonging to the 17th CE, while she was working at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
“My frequent discourse with Kesavan, an in-house Kanjivaram weaver at DashinaChitra who happens to be the last in his family to carry on weaving, informed me not just about the weaving process, but of the sorry state of handloom weavers in the country,” she explains.
Petra’s efforts are thus much welcome and will prove to be life-giving to regional weaving communities.
At DakshinaChitra. Until September 2. Entry fee: `6,000. Details: 9841436149