A few kilometers from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. One of the most popular craft of Orissa is the Pipli applique technique work that comes from the town of Pipli. Pipli is small town, situated about 40kilometers from Puri, Orissa. In the old days, Pipli craftsmen used to make canopies, banners, umbrellas and trasa (fans) for festivals held in Puri's famous temple. But as the craft's popularity spread far and wide through the pilgrims of Puri, the craftsmen started making other decorative and utility items also. The use of all these products are associated with the religious ceremonies of Lord Jagannath. So it can be concluded that this art form ascribes its origin to the Jagannath cult. Patronized by kings and nobility of Orissa, applique work at one time had reached the artistic heights of excellence.
The kings of Puri engaged craftsmen in the service of Lord Jagannath and set up village Pipli for them to live in. They were especially skilled in designing the canvas cloth that is used to cover the chariots of Lord Jaganath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. The income of this state is mainly depended on the sale of its handicrafts.
Applique is a French technique that basically cuts up various coloured fabrics which are then sewn to the surface of another foundation fabric. But essentially it has now developed into a needlework technique in which smaller pieces of fabric materials like small mirrors and other forms of embroidery are sewn onto a bigger piece of the cloth to create.
Appliqué is art, a process of cutting coloured cloth into shapes of animals, birds, flowers leaves gods, goddesses and other decorative motifs and stitching them on a piece of cloth. On one hand, the village showcases the intense involvement of the men, and especially the women, in the applique production. Machine stitching has also caught up with the artisans of this town which is a proud achievement for these workers. But the people of this town are mostly proud of their handcrafted achievements because that is the purest way of keeping their art heritage alive.
The traditional appliqué items are mainly used during processions of the deities in their various ritual outings. Items like umbrella, Tarrasa – a heart-shaped wooden piece covered by appliqué cloth and supported by a long wooden pole and Chandua – an umbrella shaped canopy are usually seen during the processions. Another popular item is a sort of frill which is used as a border to canopies and also independently as a decorative piece.
In modern pipli applique work motifs used consist of stylized representations of flora and fauna as well as a few mythical figures. Of the more common of these motifs are the elephant, parrot, peacock, ducks, creepers, trees, flowers like lotus, jasmine, half-moon, the Sun and Rahu (a mythical demon who devours the sun).
Flat design are first cut from cloth and then superposed on the base cloth in a predetermined layout and sequence. The edges of the motifs are turned in and skillfully stitched onto the base cloth or stitched by embroidery or without turning as necessary. Craftsmen use straight stitch, blind stitch, satin stitch or buttonhole stitch for attaching the pieces of cloth.
Artisan sulochana who is 75 years old is involved in Pipli applique work from her childhood and she is currently working under Pipli applique society. There are 55 people who are working under the Pipli applique society. Embroidery work is mostly done by women and cutting works by men. These applique work are used in the flags of Jagannath temple, and during the rathjathra festival. Sometimes orders will be given by the companies to make a pipli applique work with their logo.
She works on both hand and machine. They earn more profit in machine work. Whereas the hand embroidery work are more time consuming and less profit. All the materials required for the embroidery work such as needle, threads, mirrors etc will be provided to craftsman by the organization by whom they get regular embroidery works. These pipli applique work is done on the different types of fabrics such as cotton, velvet, organdy and satin.