Monday, 23 May 2011

Saami quilts

The area I am drawn to for this textiles of the world assignment is an indigenous group from India known as the Saami people.

This indigenous embroidery belongs to the tribal community of snake charmers in the Thar Desert region. The colours, motifs used, and the texture (given by the quilting and stitches) reflect the influence occupation played in traditional art and craft practices.

The quilts are made by lots of different women in the tribe. They work in family groups and dye the old salwar kameez and rip them up and sew them back together. They use cheap fungicidal chemical dyes The quilts are padded with old rags and the quilts are backed with old scarves and saris. Often old antique materials and silks are found on the reverse of new quilts.

The quilts are usually made as a wedding present so are not often for sale to the public. If they ever make one not specifically for a couple they are sold on the open Market in Karachi.

The quilt I have chosen is a bright blue and green quilt. It has little in the way of prints, designs and patterns but the closer you look the more detail there is to be found.

I first of all did a pastel drawing of this piece. I was aware it might not be the best one to use because of the lack of pattern but I was so drawn to the colours and stitches that I knew no other piece would grab me in the same way. It made me fall in love with the whole assignment.

As we are asked to choose three to copy from initially I also investigated some quilts that have pictures on. I like fabrics that tell us something about the history or area that the piece has come from. So my next choice was this piece -a Kantha quilt depicting fish, fowl animals and buta cones with a lotus in the centre.

The Kantha quilts are from Bengal. They have figures and narrative spread across the quilt. Up to seven layers of saris are quilted together to make warm weather quilts. The embroiderers use lots of different colours of thread to build up the colours in the quilt.

I was very excited about using this project as a means to teaching myself some new skills - namely dyeing.

I had already decided that I was using the first Saami quilt for my detailed piece and so I wanted to dye some cotton to achieve the depth of colour seen in the quilts.

I also tried some tie dying and wax blocking which is where you put wax on to prevent the dye from taking in some areas. The wax is called a resist.

Tying the stones or rice into the material in balls with the string. The string acts as a resist.

The spots are wax on the material which is turning blue. This is going to be the piece I used to replicate my trousers.

This is the copy I made ( below) I made a Lino cut of the shell shape and printed it on top of the wax relief.

I love all the new skills I've been learning on this assignment. It feels great to amalgamate skills learned from previous assignments too such as the Lino cut.

Following this dyeing process I used the fabric I had dyed to create the replica quilt.

This is my finished interpretation of the Saami quilt.

The next part of the assignment was to create a piece out of waste materials. I used cut up magazines, bits of wool and cumin. The cumin is not waste material as it is but I have simply by passed the cooking and not eating part! The Indian tribes people use turmeric to colour yellow so I thought I'd add a spice to my picture.

The next part was to create something in 3D inspired by the quilt. And what better 3D medium is there but paper mâché. So I made a blue horse......

He is in the colours of the quilt. But I also used the horse image as these tribal people would use horses or donkeys to get around.

This is the much smaller textile piece which is the next interpretation we are asked to produce.

And finally the Useful artefact inspired by our chosen textile. A tent.

I have really enjoyed this assignment and am really pleased again to have learnt some new skills. Dyeing is now firmly featuring in my work. I have wasted no time in trying this out for assignment five.......

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