Of Fibre and Loom: The Indian Tradition, is the product of collaborative work between a designer weaver and an ethono-historian. It is through this joint research that the full range and depth of the textile tradition of the subcontinents brought to view. Tier mastery over the roils of technology and the discipline of ethno-history has created a synergy. Which has allowed the development of unique focus in the investigations highlighting little known facts relating to the shaping of Indian sensibility.
The Fibers converged include all varieties of silk, cotton in different counts, beast fibers such as ramie and jute as also animal fibers such as goat hair came hair and wool. The Book begins with exploration of the different kinds of looms, weaving mechanism, the technology, and processes involved before and after weaving, found in India. It then proceeds to trace the gradual refinements effected in loom technology, emphasizing the changes that were brought about in the weaves weave structure and pattern.
The book also provides a detailed analysis of the products of the loom against a historical background of the various types of clothing and clothing accessories worn by men an women. The work closely knits the connection between loom technology, the variety of fibers used, the end product and the end user. This approach is bound to excite the interest both of ethnographers as well as textile historians. The loom is analyzed as a cross-cultural artifact.
Lotika Varadarajan is an art and cultural historian and author of international repute with a varied background, all of which finds expression in her current work. Having spent her early years imbibing tribal culture in Assam, she pursued her higher studies at the Universities of Delhi and Bombay, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK. She has been associated with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad and National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), New Delhi. Widely travelled both within the country and outside, she has number of articles and books to her credit.
Design Consultant and design educator, Krishna Amin-Patel is an alumnus of the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India. Having specialized in Textile Design, she joined and served as a full time faculty member at NID from 1980-1999. As a design consultant, she has an enviable record of having been a member of creative design teams, led them and worked in areas of designing for the Indian market as well as for export. Currently residing in the USA, she has completed her Master of Fine Arts from the Arizona State University in 2002. She has in addition been a member of many important committees and visiting faculty at the Nottingham Polytechnic, UK, at Rhode Island School of Design, Penland School of Crafts, USA.
THE REFINEMENTS in loom technology have been recorded along with the changes brought about by end use requirement of the products. Invaluable detailing of the costumes provided along with the historical background will prove to be a record for posterity of styles of draping and sewing, which have over the years, gone out of use. The traditional knowledge system of spinning, weaving, dyeing, and loom development are anchored in our roots as can be noted from the history of the trade in Indian textiles. Over time, Indian textiles influenced the design and development of textiles in the rest of the world. This work will be of immense interest and value to students of design, teachers, researchers, art historians, textile/art collectors, museums, ethnographers and also to the textile trade and exporters.
MD has invested a great deal of time and funding over the years to support the painstaking research and arduous work that has gone into this book. Several faculty and student projects have generated a large number of documents in this area which have been an invaluable resource to the two scholars who have authored the book. This backup from MD along with the intensive and wide ranging independent research by the authors has produced a comprehensive and pioneering work, based on rigorous field study and analysis.
The publication of this landmark work augments the continuity in the search for new interpretations in textiles and weaving.
The Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms has supported this project as a major initiative in the field of documentation for the sector. We are happy that the excellent work done by MD in bringing out this publication will strengthen our close relationship and see many such projects coming to fruition in the future,
HIS PROJECT WAS INITIALLY conceived as one in which the focus would be on attempting to identify the core of pre-Islamic weaving tradition in India. While Indian loom tradition has always been varied, it was felt that since Islamicized taste in textiles and costumes constituted a specific mix, the advent of demand created by the Islamicized elite could be taken as a cultural marker. The adaptation of the jacquard and the fly shuttle to suit Indian requirements at later dates could be considered in the same vein. It was important for us to understand the pre-Islamic mix so that we could analyze developments of the loom in later periods. Turning to fibre, it is known that much has been written on the subject of Indian cotton. It was; therefore, felt that Indian silk weaving tradition also solicited attention. This could not be done without analyzing indigenous sources of silk. The wool weaving traditions of Kashmir, Kullu and Kinnaur were brought within the ambit of this research because initial interest had focused on the double interlock tapestry weave of kani paimina and the dovetailing procedures present in the ornamental Kullu-Kinnaur woollen product. Having adopted the approach that loom, fabric and costume were to be studied as cross-cultural artifacts it became very difficult to define thresholds of liminality. The geographical confines accorded to the term Deccan has been that of the entire stretch of peninsular India south of the Narmada rather than the narrower one restricting the meaning to the plateau region between the rivers Narmada and Krishna. The field generated data was gathered essentially over the 1980s and the early 1990s.
Looms that have been selected show a progression from the simple to the complex. Complex weave structures however, can be achieved on the simplest of looms as is evident from the products of the loin loom/body tensioned loom in north-east India. Looms such as the multiple shaft and pedal loom of Gujarat have no equivalence in other culture horizons.
The Indian loom is to be read as a cross-cultural artefact. Additionally, the end usage of the product also determines loom procedures and techniques. Costume and styles in living cannot, therefore, be abstracted from the content of the study of the Indian loom. Given the multi-cultural contours of Indian society, attempts to introduce standardization could prove self-defeating. The transversal exposed end section of the sari could be called pallav in Gujarat and anchal in Bengal. However, the term pa//u is the most widespread in common parlance and has been retained in the text. Standardization of units of measurement has not been possible. Additionally, many different linguistic sectors have been scanned in course of investigation and it would be an arduous task to transcribe each linguistic unit in terms of the Roman script specific to it for purposes of transliteration. Moreover, since the technical analysis is essentially based on field generated data, local terminology has been generally used free of the constraint of an overall standardization. Diacriticals have been used essentially for Sanskrit and Sanskrit derived words. For Chinese terms used, concordance has, on the whole, been closer to the Wade rather than the Pin Yin system.
As material has been drawn from diverse sources cutting through barriers of chronology, there is also an absence of uniformity in nomenclature of place names used. This has also posed a problem in the preparation of the maps. One of the most difficult tasks has been that of attempting to synthesize information drawn from a variety of sources in which the element of time has played a volatile role. Given the highly developed oral tradition of India and the distinct area of non-verbal methods of transmission of skill, the ethnological present can simultaneously constitute the historical past. Such sources have been used despite inherent methodological problems. The decision not to frame a glossary has been consciously taken. The emphasis in this book is on processes and procedures and these defy simple alphabetical listing. However, since the text defines terms used, judicious usage of the index would serve to fill the gap of glossary.
The book embodies an effort to synthesize the discipline of design with that of ethno-history. This has not been an easy task. It was only after much hard work that the delineation of socio-cultural narrative could be made to cohere to the hard data of loom analysis in a contemporary context. This interdisciplinary approach has made it possible to deal with synergistic developments which may otherwise have eluded the net of enquiry. A case which can be cited in this context is that of the Banaras loom. This artifact has shown steady technological progression from gatthua to fella and thereafter to the adaptation of the jacquard mechanism. However, innovation has been carefully grafted and the Banaras weaver sees little justification in discarding the paggia while adopting the jacquard.
The looms of India richly portray the changing context of India's past. Loom and fiber have sustained the eco-friendly Khadi movement. Given the mastery of the humble Indian spinner and weaver over natural fibres such as cotton, silk, and paint, among others, Indian weaving tradition has played a significant role in the contouring of indigenous knowledge systems. It has also shaped methods of technological refinement and transmission of skill. At the same time such processes help to define the parameters within which factors such as creativity and articulation of innovation have operated. Present day modernization should not seek to break this chain of transmission. It may also serve to point the direction to be taken towards the path of sustainable development leading to a less painfully fractured future.
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