Paisleys and free flowing arabesques, geometrical forms exhibiting perfect symmetry or royal scenes of hunting – textile design in India tells stories of mythological lands and fantastical empires bygone. Textile design in India dates back to when cloth itself was made for the first time in this subcontinent, three thousand years BCE during the Mohenjadaro and Harappan civilizations. Looked at as one of the most interesting forms of expression, early fabric ornamentation was a way to illustrate and document the lives of the people, heroic scenes, flora and fauna which was found in their immediate surroundings as well as religious motifs or representations of ancestral tales.
Contemporary textile design has elements of both the past as well as the present, taking in influences from the rapidly changing dynasties and rulers that the country has seen. For example, courtly handicrafts of the north are seen to move slowly from Indic motifs to Persian and Turkish blends during the Mughal Empire, soon after which the academic realism of Europe was introduced to the artists under the Colonial rule. In much the same way, almost all the figures and forms that are seen in Indian textiles can be traced back to one or the other historical event or phase.
Arabesques which feature in kalamkari textile, carpets, and many embroidered cloths are a tradition passed down from Persian artisans in the Mughal Court; ajrakh block prints with their center-weighted symmetrical repeat patterns are derived from the Sultanate rulers; whereas appliqué created with pieces of mirror, silver and gold wire, colored threads and patches of small cloth is one of India’s very own forms of fabric which was used in Rajasthan as well as Orissa in prayer and rituals.
The varying geographical regions of the country led to a twist in the textile design in India as a whole. In the freezing north, more wool was incorporated and woven on expensive looms, whereas in the desert regions, extensive use of mirror bits embroidered onto fabric became the norm.
These stories make textile a thematic and atmospheric delight to work with when it comes to interior décor. Just as you would go and buy a work of art from a gallery, a textile with its rich narrative history could act as a work of art of its own, used simply as a curtain or cushion cover. Textile is also one of the ideal ways to add texture to space, ranging from weaves to prints, quilting to appliqué work.
An extension of the use of textiles would be to utilize prints, motifs and imagery from them in other decoration – wall art using tradition folk forms, jali’s made using repeat block print patterns amongst others.
Learn how you can use fabric to change the look of your space – at almost no cost! Read our post ‘How To: Using Fabric for a quick makeover‘. And don’t forget to download the Houzify app for more such updates :D