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by Sally Campbell

Well Hello India yet again….it has now been 10 years of Sally Campbell Textiles and I am still totally excited and passionate about every trip. I have kept very detailed diaries full of fabrics, block prints, paint and embroidery samples, flower petals, leaves, air tickets, photos and scribblings.

Seems like everything is squashed inside them except human blood. I travel with my partner in crime and life who I recommend as a perfect accessory to any girl. Greg organises and researches every minute detail, has a brilliant visual eye and is great company.

This trip started in Delhi at our fave small hotel called The Manor. Stylish and relaxed, has an amazing restaurant/bar with great cocktails. I always end the day with a  "quiet storm lassi" cocktail,as there is usually a great deal of unwinding to do.

Day One we are straight into the work whirl - meeting up with Meeta to see all the natural dye block prints we did with her in January. She works out of a village in Jaipur called Kaladera.

It was Teej festival time in Delhi - everyone was out celebrating the monsoon and dressed up as the Hindu god Shiva.

Meeta then took us to a brilliant Afghani restaurant in the button and braid district where we sat on satin bolsters surrounded by muslim men and ate yummy sate sticks,fabulous naans and yoghurt drinks. We then moved on to visit our shibori friends, very talented sisters called Prabha and Kusum.  For many years now they have created most of my shibori fabrics in indigo.This is before the quilt process begins. We always settle back with the girls over a chai or two to catch up on textile gossip,fairs and exhibitions. Below I am chilling on a charpoy in some of their shibori designs I have made into tunics,throws and quilts.

Already exhausted by Delhi chaos,pollution and traffic beyond - our wonderful Sheikh driver Dashun whisked us away at twilight to see the Sufi singers at a mosque in East Nizzamudden. I adore strolling through the area at sunset, so much action in the tiny medieval streets, men ironing, pedlars selling exotic tinctures and elixirs, strange wooden sticks for cleaning your teeth,huge orange curly queue sweets,endless rose petal sellers and kebab barrows all exuding fabulous smells as their children fly kites over the roof tops.

After more trips to another block printer,sewers and textile dealers we are just about done with Delhi. In two weeks we will return to see new blocks and samples. Earlier in the year we  visited villages out of Hyderabad (famous for Kalamkari)  and designed some very scrumptious silk throws in natural dyes.  We have just picked up the results in Delhi and are thrilled.

At this point I should mention another marvellous bar we retire to at the end of our manic days - the art deco Insomnia bar in the old Taj Ambassador hotel. Beautiful old 1930’s paintings amidst velvet lounges.

Next stop is Jaipur and this time we are staying at the recently opened 47 Jobner Bagh. A delicious old Haveli exquisitely renovated over many years by the elegant charming owner Shiva and run by his equally lovely daughter. I felt a bit of a traitor, having stayed elsewhere for 9 years in another incredible Haveli and become part of the family. I’m afraid though, internet and iphone reception have forced me to move into a more modern world, to the huge relief of my husband. I can no longer fantasize about being a wandering desert queen, its all about insta, insta, and more instas.

In Jaipur we travel to Bagru where we work with a talented natural dye block printer. We have a rather neurotic relationship as sometimes our orders take forever as we are a small business and the big honchos get first preference. I always love experimenting with new pigments,blocks and designs and getting madly covered with indigo. Each time I leave totally inspired, bursting at the seams with excitement to see the completed designs in three months ( or six).

Always in Jaipur I visit some old textile rogues, the king being Chander and his family. This is where I buy some stunning old pieces to make into cushions and anything I can think of. An indulgent passion is to sift through 1000s of old embroideries in their Alladin's cave of wonders and then settle back on exotic bolsters for an incredible tiffin lunch with my hosts of dahl,garlic naan,kashmiri rice,yoghurt and finishing off with rasgulla sweets and chai. What more could a girl want.

Below are some samples of my handwoven,indigo clutches.

Finishing business round 7, the streets in the old city were manic with more crazed Teej Festival celebrations. Elephants, camels,cows and horses with psychedelic make up jobs were swaying in ecstasy to the music of brass bands.


 After diving into and dodging the chaos we returned to our Haveli to chill for an hour, then change into something stunning and off to Bar Palladio in the grounds of the Naryan Niwas Palace for Italian snacks and cocktails. Whilst here I always have to check out the shop Hot Pink to see the latest collection of Pero and also cannot resist the shop Jaipur Modern for Injiri's latest designs. 

 Slithering round the backstreets of Jaipur (a fave pastime) exploring  local village life....is full of inspiration and surprises.

Now you have tasted our Jaipur experiences.... its on to Kolkata The City Of Joy. And a joy it always is to visit Bappa and Rumi - weavers extraordinaire and owners of Bailou and Byloom. We have watched them over the years when they first started with a few weavers in Fulia villages to being mega moguls today with 100s of weavers and many shops. Bappa designs handwoven saris of extreme exquisiteness worn by movie stars and royalty. He has been a great pioneer of natural dyes, has taught weavers all over India  his creative techniques. Not to mention teaching me everything I know about warps and wefts with great patience and humour. We love our working relationship with them. All my handwoven, hand stitched and patchwork quilts are done here. They take us to the villages of Fulia famous for weaving and hand stitching. It is a stunning area by a sleepy river with bullock carts and mud thatched huts. Inside the mud huts are the superbly made hand looms. As we walk by the huts there is the lovely clickety clack sound of the looms going back and forth. Below are some examples of handwoven throws,scarves and Ikat we have designed in Bhuj,Fulia and Hyderabad.

Meanwhile back in Kolkata I also work with my sari man. He collects vintage cotton saris for me all year round. When I visit him I choose the saris to create the designs for my vintage hand stitched  throws. It is days and days of quite stressful work, buried in saris in a cement dungeon being stared at by many people speechless that someone my age is still working. No-one speaks English and I dont speak Bengali so it is miming all the way. They are devout Krishna followers so the only food they serve us is apples and custard. In August the heat is a true test, specially for a red head.

While in Kolkata we like to have an adventure or two.Wonderful for colour and movement inspiration. This time we headed off at the crack to the flower markets and fruit markets. Thousands of tuber roses and lotuses later, not to mention the mountains of limes, mangoes,guavas and pomegranates  pouring out of trucks into archaic surroundings of Ole Kolkata … a total thrill.

The old colonial houses are dreamy with giant fig roots growing out of their living rooms and wonderful intricate lattices carved from wood. Painted in distressed faded colours of remembrance past. And don't get me started on the Bengali food. Famous for their sea food cooked in mustard seeds and misti doi. It's my favourite regional Indian food.