When We Work with Weavers

by - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2009 Maiwa Textile Symposium

Sunday October 25, 2009 at 7pm
Vancouver Museum (MacMillan Space Centre Auditorium)

This evening has three themes.

The first is a personal theme. Bappaditya Biswas (Bappa) was destined to manage tea plantations in East India. Because he is the only son in an established family, it was inconceivable that he should become what he is today: an artist, a designer of innovative textiles, an accomplished weaver, and the founder of Bai Lou studio.

The second is a vast theme of displacement and migration. The lands around the Bay of Bengal were once united by geography and traditions. But the land was severed, first by the British, then again by partition, and yet again by Bangledesh’s independence. Yet weaving traditions flow through the region, and styles trace paths of cultural origins.

The third theme is a combination of the first two. Bappa works closely with the weavers and knows their history and stories. He is equally comfortable sitting beside a weaver at the loom picking at threads as he is showing new designs to Bollywood stars and the elite of Kolkata.

Join us as Bappa tells his story, the story of weaving in Bengal, and of how he works with handloom artisans to create both traditional and cutting edge pieces.


Bappaditya Biswas (Bappa) studied batik, wood block printing, and textile design to complement his love of weaving. While he was still a student, his natural facility at the loom caught the attention of many and he was sponsored to attend the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia.

Wandering the streets of the USA, looking into shops, attending museums exhibits, and interacting with other artists, he became convinced that Indian craft had a great and unexplored potential.

At the same time the weavers outside Kolkata were pushing Bappa to find markets for the projects they had tried. With encouragement from the weavers, his own vision, and the support of his future wife, Rumi, Bappa left his job and started Bai Lou Studio.

“I started going to the village and staying there to work on ideas and designs. Sometimes I had to sit on the loom and show them what I wanted. Sometimes while watching them weave, a lot of ideas would creep into my head. It became a very interactive platform. Rumi would come in every evening after her work and inevitably get pulled into Bai Lou’s work. Bai Lou has benefited from her clarity of thought – especially in financial matters.”

Bai Lou specializes in hand weaves and techniques like jamdani (extra weft), double and triple cloths (extra warps), fine and coarse cotton muslins, and plain tabby weave. The ability to weave different textures and fabrics has been combined with the much bigger responsibility of keeping alive the tradition of weaving. Bai Lou has been awarded the UNESCO Seal of Excellence for Handcrafts.

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