So i have to cover this! I just remembered this conversation and it struck me that it might be a popular belief amongst many others too. I was with a group of textile experts when one of them said “India never really had high quality textiles”. So let me help clarify this myth a little bit 🙂
Its a myth because actually during the days of the Imperial Indian Court (the Mughal rule that spanned about 3 centuries – Mughal aka Mogul – thats where the word Mogul comes from- one of the richest empires if not richest in history) a lot of the arts were influenced by the Imperial court of Iran. And Iranian textiles were fantastic – i think some of the most sophisticated weave structures that Iv ever seen so far. Double cloths, triple cloths, velvets etc. All those structures were woven for the Imperial Indian court too, with Indian variations which meant having up to 4 different structures in 1 textile depending on usage of the textile. Brocading did not have to be supplementary but could also be complementary meaning there was no ground weft underneath the discontinuous weft and the ground weft basically went to the back & floated unbound in the section where the discontinuous brocaded weft replaced it in the front. With the high usage of silver/gold yarns, the end effect of such brocading looked painted – if thats the look that was desired. In many other complex structures too, variations existed. All these fabrics are with museums.
These days when people think of Indian textile, they think of the local folk crafts because that is prevalent in the local market and the other genre of textile is no longer available- Other than textile experts and some members of former princely families, no one really has an eye for princely textile- and the less i say about present day textile designers, the better. They have 0/100 understanding of woven textile and have degrees in textile design with weave specialties ! Go Figure
Since the past few years, i have not yet seen complex structures being hand woven by anyone in India besides 1 person who is a researcher and textile historian. Now, everyone is weaving Brocade in Varanasi- either true brocade (discontinuous supplementary weft) or the cheaper continuous weft that is cut off between patterns in the back to look like a discontinuous weft. Seeing true brocade is also becoming rare – you should see how designers boast about their accomplishments if they do true brocading- its not really that complicated to boast about but oh well.. 😉
So if you want computerized weaving of complex structures, maybe going to Italy & France might be a better option- theyll have loom setups there to weave these “high quality” fabrics. Well, im sure you could in either India or China too- textile manufacturers in both these countries are doing so well compared to Europe that many of them have the best looms and machinery but their minimum order qty.’s are so high that they wont entertain you unless youre a big volume buyer. Just because these 2 countries now have become the manufacturing hubs of the world in most things. The Himmatsinghka grooup in the southern part of the India has the nicest looms but theyre also a very large volume producer for a lot of european and american textile houses.
And ofcourse there is always the favorite Lisio Foundation there- for hand woven textiles !! Theyre easy going people, which is part of the pleasure of being there! Makes life easier to deal with non complicated people 🙂
Also, realize that there are many regions where fabulous textiles were woven- Iran, France, Turkey, Italy, China, India but just because the world has seen such a huge commercialization of everything in India & China, does not mean that these regions never had a fabulous past!
China more so, was actually the leader of the world in many things of very high quality- and look at the situation today: mass producer of the world!
WE, THE ARTISTS, NEED TO SEE THROUGH ALL THE FLUFF, ONLY THEN WILL OUR MINDS BE ARTFUL TO CREATE FABULOUS THINGS !!
Here’s my personal unbiased belief: Ornate textiles have an undemocratic ideology ! Its about differentiation and utmost sophistication -its not about making these textiles as a pass time hobby because you like it! Its about showing power, and being proud of it – but done in a very clever manner. If you enjoy the tedious laborious process, “more power to you” ! 😉 So countries that have had such a history can still weave such textiles – you need that mindset to understand powerful textiles!
This is the most spectacular early Indian silk that has survived, dating from the 16th century during the Muslim Sultanate period. Six concentric circles of lotus petals alternate with foliate motifs while mythical fighting animals-a green eight-legged creature attacking a yellow hybrid-lion-enliven the corners, all framed by a sinuous leaf border in brilliant colors. The imagery reflects a pan-Indian style with Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim elements. This rare silk appears to be the central section of a larger canopy. The interrupted border pattern suggests there was additional fabric at each end. Luxurious canopies were essential accouterments of rulers, displayed as conspicuous symbols of power and wealth while also providing welcome shade.