I was reading the other day about an Australian wine maker who claimed status as a second generation producer. It got me thinking about history and provenance, and brought my mind to a recent visit to a village in Gujarat, India, where I met a young man whose family has been India’s most prominent ikat weavers since – wait for it – the 11th Century. Assuming a generation accounts for around 25 years, that makes Rahul a 40th generation family member still in the business! One thousand years of passing on and perfecting skills from generation to generation is extraordinary provenance.
The story of Rahul is an interesting one. His family, the Salvi clan, are the only practitioners of double ikat weaving in India. Their works are sought by textile collectors all over the world and are renowned for their beautiful and meticulous detail, with astonishing workmanship. Rahul, although brought up living and breathing Patan Patola, studied architecture upon leaving school, and practiced successfully for some years, including a stint as a lecturer at the local University. He entered the family business fifteen years ago, and says he has only learnt a fraction of the skills required. His adorable three year old son is expected to ultimately take on the mantle - a world of responsibility for such small shoulders.
The ikat technique is a form of ‘resist’ dying – where the yarn is tied in bundles and dyed in patterns before being woven (unlike batik or tie-dying where the finished woven fabric is tied up in patterns before dying) Ikat involves tightly wrapping bundles of yarns in certain patterns so that the wrapped portion of yarn is impervious to the dye. The wrappings are then changed and the yarns dyed again with a different colour. This process may be repeated many times to produce multicolored geometric patterns. When the dyeing is finished all the bindings are removed and the yarns are then laid out on the loom and woven. Because the design is created in the yarns rather than on the finished fabric, in ikat, both the front and back of the fabric are patterned identically.
The Patan Patola scarves we offer at Birch&Loom are single ikat Indian silk. Each is a unique piece where every step of tying, dying and weaving has been done by hand. Each takes around a month to make and are without a doubt pieces to cherish for many generations.