Artisans and Handicrafts of Arunachal Pradesh

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is SHOP. I love seeing what unique item comes from that area and get it as a souvenir that I’ll actual use, wear, or display in my house. I tend to go for jewelry or fabrics. I bought amazing Khadi in Karnataka and had adorable dresses made here in Goa.

Because  tailors each tour a little bit for the client, I said I was interested in learning about the handicrafts of Arunachal Pradesh and what I could buy that was homemade.

We went to two craft centers and two emporiums (government shopping places, with a fair fixed price). First in Tawang then in Ziro Valley. And I did come out with some AMAZING material!

Craft Center and Emporium in Tawang

handicrafts arunachal pradeshAt the craft center there were different rooms where things were being made to be sold in the Government Emporium. The girls are paid a set monthly rate, not by how much they sell. Women do have looms at home and make things on their own time to sell at whatever rate they feel like to tourists. You can choose how you would like to shop, but Government shops are often the best rate.
handicrafts arunachal pradeshThey are using these hand-weavers with a strap around their back to make the smaller fabric for shirts and bags. They’ll also make traditional menswear. The bags are traditional to this area and not made “for tourists”. You will actually see all the women using these on the streets and in the fields at work. They also make the fabric women will wrap around them to carry a baby.
handicrafts arunachal pradeshHere you see a woman making a much bigger piece of fabric which is done on these big looms. They use a combination of their hands and feet to make this machine work. It’s a long clanking noise and is exactly how I saw cotton made in South India and Mysore silk being made. They keep it old school in India!
handicrafts arunachal pradesh

Here is a woman making a traditional Thangka painting which is Tibetan. Keep in mind Tawang, the area I’m talking about, was once Tibet and the Monpa tribals keep their culture very alive. Everything about them except their language is Tibetan; the Monpa speak another dialect.handicrafts arunachal pradeshThis guy is making masks which take about two weeks he says. They will be used by monks during festivals and actually worn, while others will be sold to tourists.handicrafts arunachal pradeshInside the shop you can buy most of what you saw a lot of wicker and knitted items. There were so many types of hats from the different tribes in this area of Arunachal Pradesh. I tried a few on thinking I’d get my dad one, but in the end they were quite expensive.handicrafts arunachal pradesh

Craft Center and Emporium in Ziro Valley

artisans of arunachal pradeshThe colors in Tawang were so bright and bold… it was magnificent and I just KNEW I’d be buying something. I was at lunch at our hotel, the Ziro Valley Resort, when I said Where did you get your table runners…? I went on a goose-chase, found the shop, but they didn’t have the nice colors in stock. I tried to buy them from the hotel but they didn’t want to sell!

I absolutely love watching the fabric be made. You can see women just untangling threads and others getting the looms ready. When you look at one side it’s all just threads, then on the other it’s a sheet of fabric- like magic.

artisans of arunachal pradesh

artisans of arunachal pradesh

artisans of arunachal pradesh

artisans of arunachal pradeshSome men in the Ziro Valley craft shop were doing metal work, maybe small animal figurines and laughing. I think they found us pretty amusing but were fine that we were there taking photos.

artisans of arunachal pradeshWe walked into the Emporium to this scene. I saw the small bits and pieces first and the women at work knitting things then turned and saw the most wonderful thing of all – a wall of fabric!

artisans of arunachal pradesh

artisans of arunachal pradeshThe bright pinks caught my eye, but by the end I didn’t get the pink. I bought 4 meters of the black and white, 4 meters of a tan cotton, and a 4 meters of a white cotton with tribal pattern on it. With that I can make SO many clothes and those pieces together were 1000 Rs. ($15 USD) ! It’s going to be amazing… and is on my to-do list. I’ll post on IG once I make them.

I also bought 2 traditional tribal women’s skirts that are kind of the size of a towel and are wrapped around. They had the most amazing prints on them and I’ll be cutting them up to make them into something else. One of really intricate and the other a little more simple. Together they cost 4,000 Rs. (60 USD) which is a lot but not really when you see the fabric and I can make probably 3 items, maybe 4 out of it.

Some of the women in Ziro Valley were making menswear in their homes and this woman invited us up to take a look. She brought out one of her finished pieces which was gorgeous. Every man in the tribe will have at least one of these traditional pieces and unless family makes it for you, they are VERY expensive even for the tribals.

artisans of arunachal pradesh

artisans of arunachal pradesh
It was a huge success and I’m so glad Sange had patience while I sifted through literally every single piece of fabric in the shop. I even bought some little half meter pieces for 100 Rs. ($1.50) that I could use for crop tops! I was one happy camper!

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2016-10-13T09:47:55+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

7 Comments

  1. Nicole March 31, 2016 at 6:20 am - Reply

    Sure brings a different meaning to shopping, such an experience! Looks so fun.

  2. SandeepaChetan March 31, 2016 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel, What an experience! It is complete shopping experience with tremendous learning opportunities. You are collecting all the perks of travels :-)

  3. Shalini March 6, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Hy, Do you have the co operative’s ? I would like to purchase fabrics too..

  4. Charly March 19, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    would love to see what you tailored out of these arunachal pradesh pieces – i’ve bought so much fabric from india with exotic beautiful prints – but i just dont know what to do with them – not a crop top kind of girl but the khadi ive bought is super stiff. off to nagaland / arunachal pradesh soon and i know ill be back with a suitcase full of beautiful woven material i havent a clue what to do with..

    • Rachel Jones March 20, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Hey Charly – I used the tribal prints as like additions for example a leather skirt with the tribal print as a front panel – or a satin silk dress with the tribal print running up the back of it – then I did some kaftan style things, and the crop tops!

      • Charly May 6, 2018 at 3:04 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the reply! Got some gorgeous pieces from the emporium in Ziro valley. I’ll look into piecing them as panels into a dress for example. You should make more posts about how you customise/get pieces tailor-made. Although it’s common practice in India (got so many ikat dresses made in Delhi, it’s ridiculous) the rest of the world hasn’t cottoned onto this yet!

        • Rachel Jones May 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm - Reply

          Hey Charly – I think part of why it’s common here is its affordable to get something tailor-made while in the USA it’s $10 just to hem some jeans or $50 to take in a bridesmaid dress :( But for mine, I give them to a local designer who takes them to her tailor and I show her what I want to make. She then works with him to get the right design. It’s good to have a middle-man like that who knows what fabrics go well together, unless of course you know a really good tailor!

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