This month’s focus is on design inspired by my adventures in India in 2008. Our adventures were based in Gujarat and Rajasthan. I have very vivid memories of bright colours that zing and yet also being amazed at the white costumes of daily life and the notion of keeping them white. Memories of textiles in a multitude of techniques: bandani (shibori), ikat, wood block printing, embroidery, mirror work, natural dyeing including indigo, simple and complex weaving patterns. Then there is the echo of over ornamentation that crosses over into decoration on houses and public places. India is rich, diverse visually and an overwhelming feast for the senses.
As a starting point, I decided that I needed to select 2 motifs: a very difficult task. The criteria were that they had to have some significance for me and that the primary source was not textile. I did have a lovely time looking back through images and remembering. These motifs would then be converted into woven designs. My intention is not to reproduce Indian textiles but rather use them as inspiration.
I spent a lovely day with a friend who was living there and with some of his Indian friends. I visited their home and saw marble screens with decorative carving to let in the light and keep out the heat. We saw a number of exquisite and very diversely patterned screens in various castles where they were used to separate the women’s quarters so that the women could look out but no man look in. A whole subculture existed there. The concept of looking through and community appealed. I have chosen a screen pattern and squared it to suit my purposes.
A common image used in various forms relates to the peacock. This sacred bird was declared the national bird of India in 1963. It has a very long history of design motif usage both in architecture and textiles. The shape of its tail is used extensively to frame windows and entrances. I came across this glorious example in a wonderful palace courtyard in Udaipur. The fact that feathers are universally used in design was also of influence in selection.
The following are some of the pieces I have woven using both motifs.