Introduction and etymology
Art is from nowhere but belongs everywhere is an understatement in the world of Ikat. The art of creating a technique that will fashion a niche for itself among the connoisseurs and also flourish in the roots of the system is a wonder by itself. Ikat is derived from the Malay word ‘Mengikat’ that roughly translates to ‘Tie’ which attributes to the grand and complex tradition of tying or binding a set of threads in order to create a pattern across the canvas.
There isn’t a technique in the modern textile world that is as ancient and relevant at the same time as Ikat. The origin of this craft is varied and doesn’t attach to one particular region in the world. The craft has thrived as a bystander of the trading practices and thus, has travelled the world along the famous trade routes. It was even used as currency in the Silk Road. The craft, although distinctly associated with Indonesia, no historian has been able to ascertain the exact location of origin for this craft. It has evolved and flourished all over the world.
There are two different types of Ikat, Single and Double. The Single Ikat method is where either only the Warp or the Weft is tie and dyed with different colors so as to create patterns. The second and the advanced method is Double Ikat where both the warp and weft yarns are resist-dyed, making the weaving process complex and grand. The Double Ikat is produced only in three countries: India, Japan and Indonesia.
A beautiful Ikat fresco is seen in the Ajanta caves, Maharashtra which is dated back to the 7th Century CE. Throughout the ages, the Indian weavers have defined and reinvented the process suiting the modern sensibilities.
Andhra Pradesh is famous for Pochampally Ikats which were one of the first to receive the GI status from the traditional craft sector and Telia Rumal is another indigenous Double Ikat which has evolved from what it originally was – headgear to Arab Travelers. As the name suggests, the yarns are treated with Oil (Tel) before weaving. Thus, the Telias distinct with red, black and white color, diamond and flower patterns are famous. The craft had seen a major decline in the late 90’s and has in the recent time picked pace due to the unflinching support from handloom lovers and collectors.
Ikat from Odisha called Bandhas are visualized and inspired from Lord Vishnu’s symbolic forms. Motifs predominantly used are Elephants, Lotus, Fish and Rudraksha. The bright colors invigorating elements of earth makes Odisha Ikat unique and mesmerizing.
Ikat from Gujarat is the famous ‘Patola – Queen of Silks’ .The geometric patterns and flaming colors are distinctive characteristics of the Patola. The motifs and colors palette is similar with Odisha Ikat like animals, fish and other graphics in the shades of blue, green, yellow, etc. The Double Ikat woven in Patan or the Single Ikat woven in Rajkot boasts the traditional designs.
Modernization of Ikat
In the recent years, one can find Ikat being adapted and modernized by designers all over the world. The color palette has evolved, designs remain true to the land and the fabric has moved from the humble six yard story to adding oomph and subtle glamour to the home décor. Fashion icons have picked the craft and reinstated it into the high end fashion scene, thus creating a whirlwind of change to the craft. The great designer, Madeline Weinrib has once stated that ‘Ikat is not a print, it’s an heirloom”