Monday, January 13, 2014

Threads of memories and intentions

Sunday, January 12 2014

A year ago today I stepped off a plane into the coconut tree landscape and smoky, spice-laden air of Kerala, South India. Was it really that long ago?

Another stay in a country that intrigues me; this time for three months to study and create textiles – another of my joys.

 I returned to Tasara – translation ‘the weaver’s shuttle’- a weaving centre in the small village of North Beypore, about half an hour’s rickshaw drive from Calicut.  Previously I stayed with the family when a group of us were in India for yoga and Ayurveda studies. I knew I would return.


This time it was complete immersion in Indian life. With other textilers from Sweden,  Australia, Greece, England and India I ate with the family, learned Indian cooking, shopped in the village shops, showered and washed clothes in cold water, lived with spiders and other assorted creatures  and worked.



I arrived early and my first weekend included an invitation to a temple wedding. About a thousand guests and the finery of the women’s’ saris was a feast for my fibre artist’s eyes. During our stay the group was lucky to attend another wedding, this time a simpler affair, but still gorgeous clothes, at a neighbouring house.



Weaving is no longer a paramount business at Tasara. But I could never afford a full-size loom anyway, nor do we have room for one. The techniques we learned are mostly ones I can do at home – some only in warm weather. Almost seven days a week we did hot wax batiking,  fabric painting and dyeing, block printing, screen printing, shibori and wet felting. The two latter my absolute favourite processes.

Arashi is a form of shibori; quite simple really. Tightly wrapping a wet cloth around a rod or tree branch (several of my best pieces were done this way), you then dye it, rinse, undo the string and voila. The excitement is the unknown pattern that results, then what you do with it. I added sequin ‘bubbles’ to my fish cloth which now hangs in our bathroom window.


Making felt from scratch with bubble wrap, soapy water and rovings was a great joy f0r me. It’s quite hard work but seeing a lovely piece of soft fabric emerge and then knowing I will embroider and embellish it is incredibly satisfying.


Not every day was textile day. I spent two weeks at a peaceful tea garden estate in the Western Ghats, had a full Ayurvedic massage, taught yoga to family members and others in the group. I was fortunate to attend a concert of classical South Indian vocal and tabla music,  find a dancing Shiva for my yoga studio and, one of my greatest joys, visited an elephant sanctuary.


All too soon it was goodbye to colour and warmth and a return to snow.

A spring session of yoga followed. During the summer, wanting to downsize, we put our house on the market – no surprise, no sale!  In the same spirit of de-cluttering I spent several months at a local Sunday flea market. Also created some mixed media works and attended a three-day movement workshop. The year ended with another yoga session to teach.


Now our winter session is underway and I’m looking ahead.

My plan is to spend as much time as possible when not teaching to work on the large bundle of textiles I brought back with me. I need to do this for myself,  for my creative spirit and fulfilment. Next year I hope to return to India to continue this thread.


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