We've just installed an exhibition in the main Maiwa Store on Granville Island. Living Blue is an exhibit of indigo textiles and dyeing from Bangladesh. While at the ISEND Conference in France, we had the pleasure of meeting two representatives from the Living Blue project. The textiles that they had on display were stopping everyone in their tracks. Dyed with indigo from one of the best indigo producing regions of the world they were, each and every one, an individual work of art.
When the conference was over we bought the entire stall to bring it to Vancouver. We felt that the North American audience should know about this project and see these textiles. We have installed it in our display window and in the store. All the items are all for sale. The Living Blue video is playing on our monitors. To give a bit more information about the project here are some excerpts from the Living Blue brochure. You can download the complete pdf here.
About Bangladesh Quilts
Quilts made in Bengal are known as kanthas, but in rural areas they are simply known as khetas. In the neighbouring region they are also known as sujni. Made for one’s own use, they are simple, coarse and robust in nature. They are used and abused daily, cycled and recycled, become frail with age, are mended and repaired, get thinner and thicker with time, and contain the history of the users and their families. They have a life.
In Bangladesh, almost everyone owns a kheta and almost every woman – young, old, poor, rich, rural, urban – seems to know how to make one and has her own individual interpretation. Generally, khetas are made for multiple purpose use from old, worn, torn and frail saris that are quilted together to give them a new lease of life. They can be made for simple daily use or for special occasions, like the birth of a child. Almost everyone receives their first kheta when they are born and the thick, quilted layers and the soft cloth keeps them happy.
The artisan's approach
These khadi khetas epitomize and celebrate ‘hand-made’, where the women artisan’s creativity – mind and understanding, eyes and hands, heart and soul – have worked in conjunction over a period of several months to create these individual textiles that are worthy of a serious textile collection. The rendering of the dheu quilting technique and the resultant textural rippled effect on handspun and woven khadi cloth, express the individual’s sensibilities and illustrate her method of conceptualization. Be it as a spontaneous or a planned exercise or the quilting starting points in the khetas. The multiple directionalities and the division of the kheta surface that create random, deliberate, or abstract patterns speak to the individuality of the artisan and the innovation required to work in the spatial constraints of living conditions in rural Bangladesh.
The ‘kheta-kume’ range, as we call it, represents the meeting of the Bengali and Japanese cultures through experimentation, exploration, and innovation with two different techniques: the dheu kheta and nui shibori. The nui shibori, or stitched shibori, works through the application of stitches to the fabric, pulling threads, tied tightly, and immersed in a dye bath. This achieves the mokume, or ‘wood, or the curly grain’ pattern. It is visually similar to waves or ripples. By applying threads once again through the dheu kheta technique, the quilt becomes three-dimensional and tactile in nature, reinforcing the dheu and also the mokume effect.
The best examples of this syncretism are the experiments that bring together the arashi shibori and dheu kheta techniques. The stripes rendered through the use of the arashi shibori represents intersecting linear patterns ‘of color in the sky through the interplay of wind and rain following a storm’. A similar interplay takes place when the ‘dheu’ quilting superimposes on the arashi pin stripes with use of similar or different colored quilting threads.