April 1st- Indian Silk Brocaded Womens Cosutumes- Sarees.

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Hi all ! I would like to share some photos of the Indian Silk Brocade sarees (Indian women’s dress) that were exhibited at the National Museum in New Delhi a few months ago. I thought that these were beautifully crafted and interesting to see.The textiles in the pictures are probably all drawloom woven.

In India today, the high quality of textile craftsmanship of the princely quality is dead. I dont care how the shrewd Indian textile businessmen & designers will trying to convince you of their quality but when they are using inferior (compared to the past) materials, time saving techniques and low intellectual skills to manage production of what they would call “princely” textiles, irrespective of what designer label they slap on it, it doesn’t quite cut it. That is why i much rather see modern high quality but given the low skill set & creativity of the textile designers locally and their dependence on low waged laborers to weave, we hardly see high quality creative craftsmanship. Everyone wants to use history for a convenient marketing strategy to make their quick buck!

Also Indian princely textiles were not just limited to Sarees or womens costumes. Nonetheless, enjoy the photos. It was a pleasure to finally see high quality Indian silk brocaded sarees in India!

 

Some textiles at the Isabella Gardner Museum with conservator, Tess Fredette

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Im sorry for not updating my blog regularly! The past few days have been very busy – for one, i am training artisans in dyeing techniques so they can market themselves with more skill sets and secondly, im busy writing essays for business schools (MBA)- For those of you interested in setting up your own luxury brand, you cannot do it without business acumen – so many luxury artisan brands have survived and been successful all thanks to LVMH and Kering (formely PPR) group’s phenomenal marketing strategy. At some point, i hope i have establish my own luxury brand of princely textiles! In the meantime, im going to get some solid marketing experience in consumer goods … hope the MBA programs understand my passion! fingers crossed…ill keep you all updated..

Anyway in December 2015, i visited Tess Fredette (pictured below) at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. Shes another lovely person – extremely helpful ! What a pleasure it was to meet her! She spent close to 2 hours to talk to us about textiles in their collection, restoration efforts & gave us a wonderful tour! Here are pictures of some textiles that i saw at the Conservation lab. My favorite was the polychrome Iranian velvet (it has a metal ground) -what a masterpiece it was!!. I did not examine it because im not too good at examining velvet’s, just yet! I have spent more time examining/reproducing the weft faced compound tabby/twills and other complex structures.

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The other velvet you see was an ikat velvet from around the present day Turkmenistan area … its probably 100 years old but in pristine condition!

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And here’s one of the  Ottoman one

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And the gorgeous courtyard!

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Meeting with Lauren at the MFA, Boston!!

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I was so excited to meet Lauren after 5 years (last met her in 2010) at the MFA, Boston. Lauren Whitley is the Senior curator of textiles at the MFA and the nicest person to meet! She is solely responsible for introducing me to the study of textiles, which I knew very little about when I first met her many years ago! At that time, I could only appreciate the visual beauty of these artful pieces but did not have the ability to differentiate one from another. Lauren was so humble and despite me knowing nothing ( I was a clueless 24 years old with a passion), spent hours with me over several appointments showing me textiles from different parts of the world. Who does this these days? Sometimes museums can be bureaucratic and getting appointments to get this kind of access can be very hard, even for scholars. If Lauren had not given me this kind of access, I could not have furthered my weaving studies in as systematic a way as I did ! Thank you Lauren and the MFA for all your generosity and time. People like you make a difference to our lives!!

These are just some images of the hundreds of textiles that I saw with Lauren. Most are woven in classic techniques, you’ll see some tapestry in there and painted fabric too.

 

 

 

Invitation to artists interested in Drawloom weaving- 2014 project

I have been quite busy since the past few months – Besides working on textile projects, i m thinking of business school but personal reasons dont allow it right now !!! Since the past few years, I have studied structure and gone various places to look at centuries old imperial textiles. And finally i feel somewhat confident of working on a drawloom to weave the structures that i am fascinated with. I have pondered over whether to work on the French draw loom or the Indian draw loom and i feel that the Indo- Iranian draw loom would be best just because it can be setup without heavy bulky wood and is much more flexible to use than the French draw loom is. The most sophisticated structures ever woven in the world were woven in Iran at the height of various Imperial rules on this setup so its not in any way less worthy than any other draw loom!

The structures that i first plan to execute are brocading (with its variations) & other structures that require an additional warp system – lampas and variations & weft faced compound tabby/twill with variations. Im not doing Velvet at this stage- perhaps once this is done, i will think of setting up a Velvet loom.

I would like to invite textile artists from around the world who are curious and want to weave such structures on the draw loom that we setup. The nature of weaving is slow when you weave detailed patterns with very fine quality yarns so you will have to factor that in to your decision of pursuing this opportunity.

I will not accept anyone without prior weaving knowledge or loom setup. This is a very serious project as im VERY passionate about textiles and want an intellectually curious person to also be able to challenge me. The workshop will be in New Delhi and i can help you with finding the right accommodation but i cannot host anyone at this stage, unfortunately!

So you want to weave princely textiles? Part III

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Lets talk structure here, its much anticipated ! Iv already recd. a few emails from people in the past few days asking for advice. But im glad that my blog is helping people. I recd. emails from high school students researching on historic textiles, textile design students from around the world, and enthusiasts.

To study structure, please get a good teacher otherwise youll be thoroughly confused. And a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! lol you get the point ! – There are a few people whose works you should def. read on structure:

Milton Sonday- He is just fabulous- what more can i say about his work. I could follow his writing very easily though youll have to read carefully and slowly. His work on Safavid Iranian textiles is amazing- read his work on Lampas & Velvet if you get a chance.

Rahul Jain- Another fabulous author- hes also worked on Iranian & Indian textiles- excellent excellent publications on structure!

Eva Basile- she should really teach you the first course on Analyzing textiles & structure – unlike Rahul who is a researcher & practises drawloom weaving & Milton, a former curator who has published articles, Eva teaches analysis and Jacq weaving- ! She is patient, will go over the same thing 10 times till you get it, and makes her class fun to be in. You can schedule private or get in touch with her at the Lisio Foundation in Florence. Its a pleasure to have someone with such a rare skill set to teach structure- and also such a good natured person! Iv bothered her enough over the months but i will be learning more from her in the near future hopefully as time allows!

If you can access the MET museum NY and ask the library there, they might have all publications by Rahul & Milton.

Also you must be wondering why i have not discussed French textiles given that Lyon has such a huge textile tradition. I just havent found excellent work on French textiles published in english with diagrams on structure as i have on Iranian/indian/Turkish textiles. Look at work done by Milton Sonday, Rahul Jain, Walter Denny, Louise Macky, Carol Bier on those textiles and its just superb. Actually, Gabriel Vial has written some great books on weaving but theyre all in french most probably other than 1 or 2 scholarly essays in English. And i strongly suspect (just because iv seen some 19th century french fabrics) that his publications mostly cover industrial Lyon textiles and not really imperial textiles but given his expertise, you may find some good work done by him. Post Jacquard, i dont find French textiles very interesting materially speaking.

I really like a book called Samite & Lampas published by the AETDA (now Musee Guimet, Paris) in which Gabriel Vial & Marie Helene Geulton (both from CIETA Lyon) explained structure with diagrams but it wasnt on French textiles! All the french books that iv seen from the past have been from old Lyon textile mills with swatches and diagrams and stuff but none of those textiles compare to the most part (in my eyes) to their previous drawloom counterparts  or to the fabulous drawloom produced middle eastern textiles.

Id like to bring to your attention a slight change in aesthetic of drawloom period vs jacquard period textiles. A lot of the Lyon textiles that iv seen are very nice , no doubt, but they dont look as rich or as jeweled as the textiles made prior to the 1800s. Not that a Jacquard loom is incapable of producing grand textiles, its probably just an overall change of aesthetic that took place during the Industrial Revolution in Europe. So what Prelle (company in France) makes now is nice – i would NOT say that its fantastic just because it lacks the jeweled qualities that existed during a period in time. I guess thats why technical experts are more drawn towards Iranian/Turkish/Mughal Indian fabrics/ Italian velvets because they look VERY extravagant and rich in appearance.

Would love to see some pre 19th century french textile publications with technical analyses but i just have not come across any so far. Milton Sonday wrote an article on an Italian velvet once i think but again im looking forward to coming across publications on pre 19th century Italian textile with detailed technical analysis …

Also very interested in Chinese textile- look up work done by Dr Zhao Feng ! I have yet to read his work but look forward to!

So you want to weave Princely Textiles? Part 2

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I am sorry for such a delayed post but iv been busy with a lot of reading and planning. The nature of studying structure/looms is such that there is constant studying to be done till you understand all the components that go into making an elaborate textile- from creating good pattern repeats to understanding structure to understanding loom setups.

Now that youre completed (hopefully) everything that i mention in Part 1, I think that youre ready to study structures of compound textiles- meaning those with more than 1 warp. At this stage, id recommend reading about Draw looms and then Jacquard looms – JUST THE BASICS of their mechanisms. The books id recommend for drawloom basics are- “Luther Hooper- Weaving Plain & Ornamental ..” – download from  (     http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books.html  ) – read the introduction and then go straight to Chapter XVI- The Drawloom & thread monture. ONLY READ THIS CHAPTER AND NO MORE TO GET AN IDEA OF THE DRAWLOOM conceptually. For Jacquard Loom- theres an author called Fred Bradbury – again you can download his books from the link mentioned above too. Only read his most basic chapter explaining the Jacquard Loom and its components (should not be more than 10 pages at most)- i think that his book is for engineers interested in Jacq looms so dont get too crazy with the details !

An FYI- drawloom setups differed geographically- but again very similar conceptually! But at this stage reading the above is enough!

Keep in mind the basic difference- Jacq looms were really created for industrial purposes and to ease operations- with ease comes convenience and quickness and i guess human beings get too lazy with convenience. After the Jacq loom took over from the Draw loom, textile art really went down- everything became automated and now the textiles look nothing more than just another commodity. However these days people who use Jacq hand looms do so to create more artful textiles which is kind of interesting because they do have options to switch to very fast computer stuff but they realize the drawbacks too that computers bring along with them- i think that they end up looking like plastic in the end ! I have nothing against Jacq looms though – what im trying to say is that if you want to get into studying historical fabrics you must understand Drawloom weaving- all the really cool pre 19th century textiles were all created on Draw looms ! However, to expedite learning structure- Jacq looms (hand operated ones) are good too! STAY AWAY FROM COMP LOOMS PLS at this stage!

Once all this is done- youre ready to understand structure. But first i recommend spending time at museums seeing the fabrics- either VA London, MET NY, Boston MFA or other European museums. Without seeing fabrics you wont know what you like !

The authors whose books i recommend are Alfred Barlow, Watson & Luther Hooper (EXCELLENT !) But these are good for clarifying basics. If you want to learn more about looms only, try The Book of Looms by Eric Broudy- you have to buy this, its not a free download but its good! walks you through the evolution of looms from most basic looms to the most complicated looms- with diagrams and basics- i love this book!

My next post will follow- on Structure!

**!The Superstars of Execution!**

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As i always say- there are many curators who study princely textiles but few who have the capability of designing them! We must be thankful to the curators and researchers too who make their studies available and who allow artists to view collections but it takes many more years of trial and error on the looms before one can create high caliber textiles. Such textiles would be worn by royalty (there are hardly royal families anyone anywhere who life the way as royalty did earlier) or used for furnishing imperial palaces (reproductions for palaces run by govt. or for 5 star hotel decor) or places of very high aesthetic, and also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the scale. Unfortunately these days with low level of know how, i was horrified to see some absolutely ghastly work by a top textile producer in France-  it looked like it was produced off a computer loom made with industry (textile industry) quality yarn (the yarn used by textile industry is very sturdy meant for automated machine looms) – looked like a perfectly printed piece of work which totally ruined the look of a woven textile. It had NO depth!

Rahul Jain in India and Eva Basile in Italy are 2 superstars of execution! I call them superstars because both have spent years experimenting on looms to develop expertise in creating lavish textile structures.

Rahul is an expert and authority on middle eastern, central asian and indian silk woven textiles and has constructed draw looms to produce his works. His expertise on executing complex weave structures (with more than 1 warp) on draw looms is rivaled by almost no one in the world – Hes the closest you can come to when you talk about rivaling production of historic imperial textiles..

Eva is an expert on analyzing European weave structures and uses Jacquard hand looms at the Lisio Foundation in Florence to plan elaborate structures. Unlike a lot of weavers that i have interacted with, she understands the vocabulary of princely textiles which itself is really hard to grasp for most people to begin with! So her skill is absolutely rare and priceless and that’s why i think shes a superstar!

Here you can watch her weave

Both these artists should be commissioned by top collectors to create one off & ground breaking works of art. And both these people are VERY easy going to deal with; it helps a lot if you have the right attitude and im thankful that iv had the pleasure of interacting with both on a one to one basis!

The current crop of textile design students coming out of university programs are trained for mass volume industry textile production and their ways of thinking have “time efficiency” and “ease of operation” drilled deep into their heads. No matter how good those kids are with drawing and painting, VERY few might have the mind set suitable for creating princely textiles.

Collectors of silk textiles in the art market : What to think of before buying ?

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I have spent the past many years, off and on, researching about and looking at historic woven silk textiles. My education included field trips to museum collections, hours of reading technical books written by former curators and textile experts- from weave structure to loom technology, and formal weaving lessons in both simple and complex weave structures. At this point, I can truly say that I have a very good understanding of woven silk textiles though my objective is to become an expert in the execution of the most extravagant and laborious weave structures that machine looms cannot replicate. I now work with Rahul Jain…I have to start executing myself independently but this cannot be hurried- art projects are never hurried ; business ventures may be so but im in this for the development of art, not utility oriented textiles made for rough day to day use.

What do I think that collectors who collect textiles should focus on? Personally, I have a disclosure to make- I have no interest in printed textiles or rugs. Embroidered textiles are OK. Though I do not dislike rugs, I do dislike printed textile- and the rugs that I think should be collected are elaborate and not of the tribal genre.

What should collectors collect now?

I think that current textile collections should really focus on newly made textiles for the art market because most of the old textiles are in museums and their technical structures have been identified and the very old ones are not in very good condition any more. I do not understand the beauty of cut up fragments of 1500 year old textiles – but I do feel that if someone can recreate a fabulous weave structure with a similar level of ornamentation, then that textile should be favored to the 1500 yr old fragment. Let the museums hang on to the old fragments because they have resources to preserve them well and also make them available for textile fanatics (like me) to study when we want to! We could not access these pieces in a private collection due to logistical issues and if we don’t have access to them, the art textile profession should may as well come to an end!  I am sure there are tons who may disagree with me here but if you cannot enjoy the beauty of the textile, there’s really no point having it! And for those who say fabulous textiles cannot be made anymore- that is NOT true- yes, they can! But the technical weaves should not be copied straight away from the past- a truly artful textile (according to me) is one that takes inspiration from the past in technical construction but allows the designer to introduce modifications (as was always done through history) – that way a continuity gets established and a new vocabulary gets developed.

The laborious and exhaustive nature of this exercise will, by default, limit production to just a few panels per year but these few panels would be the masterpieces of the 2000’s for the next generations to come. There are VERY FEW professionals in the world who have the expertise to create such pieces- and even those people don’t have ready made formulas when they modify textiles structurally- they need to experiment on the loom. And that’s how magnificence is created!

YOURE PAYING FOR SUPERB EXECUTION, CRAFTSMANSHIP & BEAUTY! Let that be the principle that guides you to build your collection!

So you want to weave princely textiles? Whats the first step?

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Id request you to first read my post “Weaving a princely textile…”  If you’d like to be creating these textiles or even interested in curatorial (analyzing in museum setting), i still think you should take time out and do the following- again, all of this is based on my years of “jumping around” learning various things from various people. I did not go to any university or do anything remotely related to fine arts. But here is what i suggest:

1. Get a university text book ( FABRIC STRUCTURE: BASIC WEAVE DESIGN by MARILYN GOUTMANN- get this from Philadelphia University) and review Plain, Twill and Satin weaves in detail. Study the derivatives of those 3 structures too. You dont need to do the last few pages/chapters) These are the foundation to learning about patterned textiles. You must know how to draft these on paper, even their derivatives… dont skip weft faced satin’s too- learn to draft them quickly! (For more advanced drafting on basic plains/twills/satins (weft faced satins etc, satin shifts etc)- refer to Oelsner’s A Handbook of Weaves- again only do pages related to those 3 weaves- you can omit the fancy twill patterns at this stage- you can download the book here : http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books.html ) This is a free resource for downloading old weaving/textile books.  BTW: OLD WEAVING BOOKS ARE FABULOUS – MUCH BETTER IN EXPLAINING CONCEPTS THAN ARE THE NEW ONES – thats what i think at least.

2. Try getting access to a local weaving studio and insist on following the above mentioned curriculum. You need to weave those 3 weave structures – basics from Goutmann and more advanced from Oelsner on looms now. When i started, my weaving teacher made me do an overshot ish project as my 1st and the draft was made on the computer! It was a big mistake, as i was not a recreational weaver doing this to be part of a social group. Insist that youre doing this as a means to an end and not for “fun projects”. At the studio, start with either a 4 shaft or 8 shaft table loom and then move to 4 or 8 shaft floor loom.On a floor loom, you will get introduced to using treadles (with your feet) which table looms dont have. Its just good to get the rhythm.  Execute only the structures that i mentioned above on these looms, looking at those books. And please insist to setup the loom yourself- its a backbreaking job, esp if you make mistakes but it increases comprehension & gets you to think like a weaver!

DO NOT USE A DIGITAL LOOM FOR ANY OF THIS! YOUR PURPOSE AT THIS POINT IS TO START GETTING ACCLIMATIZED TO WEAVING- USE YOUR BRAIN – DO NOT LET THE COMPUTER DO THIS FOR YOU- IT WILL BE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEX STRUCTURES ONCE YOU GET AN INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF HAND WEAVING BASIC STRUCTURES!

This will give you a basic understanding of weaving.

3. Now look at the CIETA methodology and pay special attention to the Satins- they have something known as decochment and interruption. Understand how to draft a satin if someone uses either of those 2 terms. Youve already reviewed this in Oelsner by now but still, try getting used to what those terms refer to. John Becker’s Pattern & Loom has these drafted in the chapter on Damasks. Download the book ( http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books.html ) just to look at the diagrams of the Satins in the damask chapter – pls dont read the Damask chapter at this stage.

All of this is VERY important- to analyze fabrics at museums or to get into weaving historic structures. Especially if youre interested in European textiles and/or live in the western part of the world, all the curators use the CIETA methodology. In the end if youre making elaborate textiles, youll stop caring for terminology but for now, just follow it !

Once done, you are in a MUCH BETTER position to analyze historic patterned weave STRUCTURES or getting into jacquard/ draw loom weaving- but before getting access to Jacq loom or Draw loom, you can still study structure! My next post will be on studying Structure and looms used for patterned cloth: Drawlooms or Jacq Looms.

I wish someone had mentioned all of these points to me when i started as i would have saved myself a lot of suspense in figuring things out. But when i was surrounded by hobbyist weavers in Boston, no one did or remotely knew anything about the genre of princely textiles. Also 1 more thing: I cannot emphasize this more: try seeing as many textiles as you possibly can in museum collections… its helped me tremendously!

Watch out for Part 2 now!

Princely textiles & Our modern world …

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Though iv mentioned in previous posts that its important to understand the princely lifestyle in order to create the silk textiles suitable for such a lifestyle, a true princely society suitable for such lavish tastes does not exist any where anymore! Even in countries where you have monarchy, you still dont have the level of artistic patronage that came with past princely rules. The social structure even in those places with monarchy today is very different than that of the past – can you compare the significance of an Ottoman Sultan wearing a textile robe of gold and silver for a ceremony at the royal court to Mr/Mrs X wearing such a robe for dinner at the nicest restaurant in town? Even a hollywood star for that matter wearing such a robe at the Oscars?  LOL – you cant…the hollywood actor wants to look Sexy and not necessarily sexy in the same way that the Sultan wanted to look sexy! and so the question arises: Is there still need to apply the same rules to create princely textiles as were applied earlier or should we adopt a new set of rules now?

This keeps me thinking of how one can create grandiose works of textile art suitable to our modern times- when i say modern times, i dont mean suitable to MOST PEOPLE in modern times, i still mean suitable to the very top of the elite of our times. Why? Because its just the nature of the craft- its too much work and effort from artists and designers and not worth it perhaps- no mass recognition that most designers/artists seek today! Today, artists and designers want to collaborate with top companies for product lines so if they work on such highly customized projects and cant continue making money off these projects, then someone else might try copying their designs and mass producing them to gain recognition ! People these days have just become unethical and blinded by money and so, art has suffered…  Artists must be comfortable but not rich socialites .. a little struggle sometimes creates the best art ..!

Anyway so how should one adopt a new set of rules. These are definitely not facts, just my thought’s for which this blog was created … – for one, copying designs from the past is just bad news and no self respectable designer should attempt that – not because its copying and undermines art – but because it loses meaning for today’s time. Unless its for reproducing a classic piece or for a textile fanatic or collector like myself. This gets me to the point that luxury textiles today don’t have any meaning in their art as was in a lot of princely textiles. Is there really a need for symbolism though? You need to think about this- or is it just about ornamentation and a generally decorative pattern? Well, textile designers today are doing a great job with computer software to create designs for print -is that enough? Can the print design aesthetic (not entire pattern due to constraints of weaving) be also applied to woven textile? Also tastes change, people change and so an old design may just not do the job – look at Indian bridal wear designers- they’re the biggest plagiarizers of everything art and should not call themselves designers- they’re at best, copy cats !

So one needs to constantly think- if a truly princely society existed today- lets say in France, or Iran or Turkey- with the same level of pomp and opulence- what would one create for them today? Would one only work on imagery? Perhaps build new state of the art looms? But this could get easily replicated …assuming that a world existed outside this country where high volume and mass production was the model of trade. Or would one hire the brightest minds to create works that could not be rivaled by industry- all these art works are about human skill- hiring the brightest minds in art & design would probably be most suited, I THINK..

And so… my advice for anyone who wants to create such textiles… you need to be one of the brightest minds in design… work your brains off and accumulate as many skills as you can – study past history and understand the context in which these art works were created, technically learn the skills YOURSELF even if you want to hire the right people eventually- there will be few “right people” who will have such knowledge in any case…- computer skills, hand drawing skills, pattern repeat skills and everything and anything you can think of, that i have not mentioned…. when i mentioned learning history- i dont mean mean that using themes from history will create a modern princely textile but its important to understand periods in history and the arts in context to those periods- this may give designers an idea as to what period we are in now and possibly lead to a set of new principles pertinent to our time…

Only then can a truly modern princely textile be created !