Phulkari is the folk art of needlework practiced by the Punjabi women of North India, the origin of which can be traced back to 7th century. This paper introduces a modular grid-based method of generative form-making, derived from Phulkari Embroidery. In it, a modular grid formed by a network of orthogonal lines is used as a generative tool to construct symmetric compositions. First, I show how the grid-based method is used to generate symmetric motifs in Phulkari embroidery, including the structure, rules, sequence, principles, and types. Second, I show the use of this method in generative form-making practice by inputing different sequences from a set of shapes into the grid to produce variations that are iterative, additive, repetitive, and multiplicative. As a design educator and graphic designer, I am challenged with sharing design history, methodology, and tools with students that are not confined to the western design heritage of the Industrial Revolution. This research brings forward a female-specific canon of South Asian women’s creative heritage, including the intimate relationship of the Phulkari artists with the modular grid, as these women explore what it means to connect art and pragmatic reason. I argue for the value of Phulkari embroidery as a domain for generative methods research, and discuss the research problems that are highlighted while operating in this new domain. This work contributes to an inclusive design heritage that shapes the politics of decolonization in design and creates a dialogue with social constructs of identity and power in design.
Assistant Professor of Design, Graphic Design/Art, California State University Los Angeles, California, United States
GRID, DESIGNED OBJECT, GRAPHIC DESIGN, GENERATIVE ART, FOLK, SOUTH ASIA