It's all a bit grim here today, heavy snowstorms and positively Arctic temperatures with weather warnings issued for the weekend, even our schools are closed. Time to start thinking about our escape to warmer climes.
When I first went to India twenty years ago I expected to see beautiful women in saris - and I did. What completely took me by surprise were the Lamani women (also known as the Banjara) I encountered in Goa. The Lamani are nomadic tribe, originally from the Northwest belt of India - from Afghanistan to the state of Rajasthan - but now spread out through the entire subcontinent. Many settled in Karnataka, Goa's neighbouring state, travelling across the border during the tourist season to make their living.
The Lamani women specialise in lepo embroidery which involves stitching fragments of mirror, coins and decorative beads on to their clothes. Their jewellery is a mish-mash of scrap metal, old tin and cutlery and obsolete coins, pierced or bashed into shape and strung on scraps of fabric and old rope. Every toe is adorned with a ring, they wear bells in their hair, huge nose rings and heavy bangles. You can usually hear them before you see them.
From the moment I saw the Lamani I was transfixed. I wanted to own some of those amazing pieces. The trouble is that although the women are often traders, hawking their goods around the tourist hot spots of India, they mostly sell tourist trinkets. The clothes & jewellery they adorn themselves with are their own, painstakingly hand-made and highly prized.
It's taken me almost two decades to build up my small collection of Lamani costume and that's through getting to know the ladies personally, helping out with their kids' homework or just sitting and chatting by the roadside. Although they're made from scrap metal, the jewellery can cost hundreds of pounds from specialist tribal selling sites - not that I'll ever sell mine.
Three of my coin belts.
Two armlets and a pair of heavy metal ankle bracelets (I got luck with the armlet on the left of the screen, I found it on another trader's stall at a Judy's Vintage fair).
Ring made from obsolete Indian paise coins and a trio of Rajasthani toe rings.
Late 19th century Century torque and three vintage tribal coin necklaces, all originating from Karnataka.
The bust detail on this blouse indicates it was made in Gujarat.
Hand embroidered sleeves with mirrored inserts.
I found this Gujarati scarf in a charity shop dump bin for 50p recently. It's decorated with a thousand year old tie-dye technique.
Even if our British weather isn't always good enough to wear the clothes, I try and wear a piece of Lamani jewellery every day.
I wonder which pieces I'll be packing to take back with me next time? I think that blue blouse might be a strong possibility.
I'll leave you with these incredible photos taken by Michael Lange. Even without colour, aren't they a beautiful tribe?
Counting the days until I see my friend Laxmi again!
Time to light the fire and crack on with the birthday rum.
Have a fab weekend, folks!
Have a fab weekend, folks!