Mystique of ethnic weaves
SENSOUS SILKEN weave, its textured beauty, a metaphor for the incomparable perfection of the textile wealth of India, which made it such an exciting destination in the Silk Route of yore.
In the Aashavalli sari, which finds mention in Mughal chronicles, the Patola double ikkat weave reached its apogee of perfection, with weavers accomplishing the feat of tying and dyeing warp and weft yarn. Incidentally, the ikkat weave travelled from India to the South East Asian countries, where it is still considered a "magical revelation". But the double Patola ikkat remained India's proud preserve, the incredibly woven birds, flowers, vine and geometric motifs prove the extraordinary skills of the Salvi families of Patan. And among the Patola ikkats, Aashavali reigned supreme. By the late 1970s, the six-yard beauty vanished from the scene. But for the untiring efforts of Mumbai's young textile revivalist, Bela Shangavi, it might have become extinct.
What made you take up the task of reviving the rich texture?
Though I am from Gujarat, where the Aashavali saris originated, I saw the sari for the first time in the Los Angeles textile museum. Its beauty and workmanship moved me and I decided to work towards its revival. I began researching to know more about the sari. It took me two and half years of going through innumerable manuscripts, family histories, libraries, old lithographs and photographs to rediscover this traditional weave. Fortunately, I came across two Aashavali weavers. I bought them looms, supplied them with yarn, innovative design inputs and helped them restart their life and work.
What kind of designs have you introduced?
The team of designers working for my firm, `Avartan', co-ordinate with the weavers and work on the designs. We prefer the traditional Aashavali motifs and sometimes make changes to suit contemporary tastes. In fact, I created a funky line of this traditional wear for Liberty's of London. From two to 300 weavers with their own looms, weaving the most exquisite creations, we surely have come a long way.
Have you been able to create a market abroad?
Recently, I was invited to speak on Aashavali textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, which was holding an exhibition of `Aashavali in Mughal times' by putting together a stunning collection. My work was also included and that was the most satisfying moment of my life.
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