Saturday, August 8, 2015

Art & Craft

All art demands high craftsmanship, and good craftsmanship is definitely backed with good art -- even if it is sometimes dismissed as "folk art".

Ahmedabad is a major textile center in India, and Gujarat has some unique items. Combine with shopping opportunities, and we've purchased some interesting things in the last two days.

I have admired these fabric horses in museums -- I should have known that they are still made today. To my amazement, this horse is rigid enough for a small adult to sit on. I have no idea what it is stuffed with. I did have to settle for a small version rather than a small-pony-size one -- that would be difficult to put on a plane, and street vendors don't ship!
Gujarat is known for incorporating mirrors into embroidery designs. This piece runs for about 3 1/2 meters, so I should be able to make something interesting with it!
Patan, about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Ahmedabad, is known for its Patola saris. These saris use the ikat method of incorporating designs into woven fabric. ("Ikat" is pronounced "ee-cut", not "eye-cat"!) The threads are dyed before the fabric is woven. With a single ikat piece, only one set of threads (across or lengthwise) is dyed, and the other is a solid color. In Patan, weft threads (the ones that go back-and-forth across the loom) are dyed, and the warp (lengthwise) threads are a solid color. In double ikat, both sets of threads are dyed before weaving. Both the dyeing and the weaving have to be done with skill and precision, and the result is an amazing reversible design. Needless to say, both techniques make for expensive fabric, but double ikat is much more expensive than single ikat.

A detail from a single ikat piece.
A detail from a double ikat piece.
Double ikat saris are made by three families in Patan. There are also double-ikat weavers in Orissa (India), Okinawa (Japan), and Bali (Indonsia). Traditional weavers of single ikat are more plentiful (but uncommon!), and are found from central Asia to Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan, as well as in Latin America.

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