“We aim to highlight the people and the processes behind the textiles”, says Gunjan Jain, designer and founder of Vriksh Designs, a studio working with ikat and jala weavers across Odisha, a state located in eastern India along the Bay of Bengal.
Odisha traces its history to ancient times and its heritage is manifest in its indigenous communities, temples, textiles, crafts, literature, dance, music and festivals. Among its textiles are beautiful weft-ikat weaves that stand out for their delicate curvilinear motifs that speak of the skill of artisans who tie-dye the yarns and weavers who skillfully weave them for ritual purposes and garments.
Odisha’s rich multi-facetted heritage inspired Gunjan to explore the state to understand its culture. She then went on to collaborate with weavers to co-create weft-ikat saris, dupattas (drapes), stoles and yardages whose techniques are true to tradition yet bear a contemporary expression through their compositions, motifs and patterns, and colour combinations.
Gunjan encouraged weavers to return to jala-weaving tradition with a fresh and innovative approach. The jala is a mechanism (hung above the loom and tied to the warp threads for lifting warp yarns) that allows for complex motifs/patterns to be woven.
Inspired by vintage Odia textiles, Gunjan worked with artisans to have yarns hand-spun and hand-dyed with natural dyes for a soft, natural look for the weaves. Cotton, mulberry silk, tussar silk and recently linen yarns are used in the weft, while cotton, mulberry and tussar silks in the warp.
She reinterprets traditional Odisha ikat motifs like the fish, flowers, birds, text as well as geometric patterns in new ways. From time to time Gunjan designs special collections that are inspired by Odisha’s culture like its ancient sea-faring trade that led to cultural exchanges with countries in South-East Asia.
"We create each Vriksh textile as wearable art, a textile that enables and empowers a conscious lifestyle choice, of opting for the handmade and slow fashion, even as it nurtures a precious textile legacy.”
Written by Brinda Gill