Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
Strange & interesting bits and pieces have been used as textile embellishments.
In the decade of collecting textiles, I find that non-textile embellishments are most common in South Asian Hilltribes and in the Gypsy tribals of the Indian subcontinent.
The reasons for adding embellishments vary.
1a. Value Addition
For obvious reasons, thread using precious metal content such as gold and silver are often found in silk textiles used by Royals, Noblemen and wealthy traders from Indonesia, Malaysia & parts of India. The addition of gold thread is a declaration of grandeur and high position in society.
1b. Distinguishing an Individual
Grooms of the Lambani tribe are made to wear a textile adornment embellished with lead and other materials to distinguish him from the other males in the groom’s party at the wedding. Others of the marriage party wear textile embroideries but the piece that marks the groom is heavily adorned with metal and other bits.
Lead & Cotton Decoration to be hung from the groom’s waist.
This is an example that comes to mind immediately but I am sure other examples can be found.
While several embellishments are used simply to add beauty & make the piece attractive, others are used fro their cultural symbolism.
Cowrie shells: Prosperity & Fertility
While the reasons for their inclusion in the crafting of the textile vary, the result of their inclusion is the same: they make the textile artwork unique & more beautiful.
Presenting below a visual journey that offers a glimpse into the various embellishments that were common to regional traditional textiles in Asia.
2. RANGE OF MATERIALS
2a. Precious Metal Strip
In this Tatibin Ship Cloth the metal strips have been taken out … but a few bits can still be seen.
2b. Three-Dimensional Padding.
Unique Padded embroidery creating a 3-d effect on wool tie-dye Ludhis. These pieces are about 2 cm tall.
Mostly in Western India but also seen sometimes in textiles of the North West Frontier Province
2d. Cowrie Shells
2f. Tin embellishments
2g. Gold & Silver Thread
2h. Job’s Tear Seeds
2i. Glass & Plastic Beads
2j. Cow Dung
Used as a base for painting on canvas, cow dung is used extensively in the villages of India as a basic plaster for home floors & walls. Although this is not strictly an embellishment, it is unusual and deserves a place in this note.
2k. Beetle Elytra
Of all the beautiful things used to embellish textiles, none is as strange or perhaps as attractive as the elytra (wings) of Beetles. Valued for their iridescence, the wings are sewn onto hilltribe textiles from Northern Thailand & used to bejewel royal textiles in India.
2l. Cloves, Gems and more
– Cloves are woven into beaded textile adornments or home items. Their original purpose apparently was to ensure the good health of the home and ward off evil.
– Kundan or gem studded textiles are seen in traditional Indian textiles in antique royal and not-surprisingly contemporary traditional textiles made for the wealthy!(Pictures to follow sometime soon – once I get back home to my archives of photos) And finally, going a whole yard further in embellishments is the Naga textile Art that may be seen here.
There is so much to be enjoyed & explored in the art & craft of textiles that I doubt that I will ever feel satiated or bored with this category!
By Jaina Mishra