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Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

The Scent of a Textile

It is easy to be struck by the beauty of the Textile visually.

But sometimes the stimulation extends to realms beyond the visual.

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Today I received an antique shawl from Kohistan – that brought with it the scent of the wearer’s life. I could smell the animals she herded – a smell similar to unrefined yak butter – distinct but not foul. It carried with it the stories of the woman’s life -stories that I can only imagine and most likely will never see! I can imagine how the shawl was made – amidst her daily chores of household duties of cooking, child-minding, herding and milking the flock. I can imagine the woman wearing it as she sat around the hearth late at night and taught her daughters life-lessons while tending to her old mother. Or sitting wrapped up in the double layers of black as a senior wonan, listening to her man and her sons discuss worldly events of the world around.

I am transported to her enchanting world simply through the scent of her textile.

Textiles that contain such a life-scent are rare. And I look forward to stumbling upon this bonus dimension of stimulation.

A very senior very respected textile collector in India had told me recently ‘to experience the textile completely, hold it close to your cheeks – feel the sense of touch not only on your hands but also on your cheeks. The textile will reveal itself in a fresh way through this touch.’ I did not quite comprehend his words at that time. But today I am beginning to see what he meant.

Jm
Mar 2014

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