Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Khadi Papers

It all started with art, really. Barbara Macfarlane is a professional artist who lives and works in the UK. Most of her output is on handmade rag paper sourced from India. Her medium is pigment on paper. Working often on a large scale, she makes the texture of her handmade rag papers play an important part in each image. Contrasted against the intensity of oil paint, the lambent brightness of water colour, the calligraphy of charcoal lines or scratched marks, these artfully deployed expanses of naked paper provide both a unity and luminosity to Macfarlane’s work.

The husband and wife duo, Nigel and Barbara Macfarlane, would purchase the handmade papers for the artwork from the Handmade Paper Institute in Pune, way back in the 1980s. Established in 1940, based on Gandhian principles, and run under the aegis of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, the institution works towards training and research in handmade papers and also towards promoting the cause.

Not only for their own use, the Macfarlanes soon started buying art papers from the Pune institute and started selling them to artists at the various London art schools and artists in the UK. This is when they met Vasudevan, the manager of the institute, in 1984. A friendship was struck, and this is where it all started.

Today, Khadi Papers, run by Nigel Macfarlane, is an importing and distribution company based in the UK. On the other hand, Khadi Papers India is a proprietary company based in India. Together, they promote Indian handmade paper on the world market.

“It started really through a friendship with Vasudevan,” says Nigel Macfarlane. “In 1994, Vasudevan started Khadi Papers India with financial support from our side and with the guarantee that we would purchase the product. The amazing thing is that this has all been done and achieved on the basis of trust. We have a close relationship with our ‘Indian family’.”

The process is simple. The papers are manufactured by Khadi Papers India in a mill located outside Hubli in Karnataka, and then are shipped to a warehouse in London, from where Khadi Papers distribute the products all around the world. Though the company sells the papers online, it also has established art supply retailers worldwide. The production is around 30 tonnes per annum.

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