Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Patola at Patan

We visited a small workshop in Patan which has won national awards and is internationally famous for the production of double ikat woven textile or 'Patola'. 
Patola is made from very fine individually dyed silken threads woven together to generate a pattern. The fabric is used to produce very high quality sarees. A single saree, some 6m long,  can take up to 6mths to produce.


Double Ikat employs a process similar to 'tie and dye', the threads are dyed a multitude of times to give different colours. Paler colours are dyed first then covered with tight bindings to resist further colour as further dying takes place. The location of the resistant bindings needs to be coordinated between both the warp and weft threads. 

This process is repeated until the required number of colours is achieved.  Natural vegetable dyes are used created from raw materials including turmeric, marigold flowers, onion skin, pomegranate bark, madder and indigo. It is said that Patola comes with the promise of its colours lasting hundreds of years even if the fabric tears. 

Each thread is individually dyed to produce the pattern, so matching the position of the colour on both the warp and weft is key to a successful design. After dying each thread is carefully strung in position and in order on the loom and then woven together.


The weaving is done on a slanting hand operated loom made of wood and extending across the workshop. Its mind boggling and if one part goes wrong or one thred breaks its back to the beginning. 

The town of Patan in Gujarat was once the wealthy capital of the region. Under the patronage of The Solanki Kings, who ruled from the city in the 11th Century, many weavers were encouraged to migrate to the city. They moved here from Jalna in south Maharashtra. The few families that continue to practice this craft are the descendants of those families who settled here. 

Designs are often geometric in nature even when describing animals and plants, and there is a slightly out of focus feel to the imagery where the dying and weaving allow for a softly defined edge. designs also draw inspiration from the geometric patterns of the Solanki architecture such as the Rani Ki Vav we had visited earlier in the day.