Weiss learns ikat weaving technique from master

Oct 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Employee News, Oct. 21

Wendy Weiss fulfilled a dyeing wish in India.

On sabbatical as a Fulbright scholar, Weiss studied ikat, a specialized and traditional dyeing technique, from weavers near Vadodara, Gujarat, India from January to May 2009. Ikat is a textiles technique where threads are bound tightly prior to dyeing. The process is similar to tie-dye, however through preplanned binding, ikat weavers create patterns in the textile.

“Ikat is a technique that requires a great deal of skill in preparing the yarn so you end with a repeating pattern across the fabric,” Weiss said. “Conceptually, it’s easy to understand. But, procedurally, it’s a very difficult process to master.”

In recent work, Weiss created patterns in textiles by painting the yarn while it is on the loom. However, the ikat technique — known for its vibrant use of color — drew Weiss in. She researched the process, testing ikat techniques, primarily those published in a book based on Indonesian styles.

“I followed the directions and pretty much understood the process,” said Weiss. “However, I was unable to get the tension set up where it needed to be.

“I really wanted to explore ikat more, get a better understanding of the process. The color variations the process produces were something I wanted to incorporate into my work.”

By obtaining a Fulbright scholarship, Weiss’ wish was granted.

Weiss worked as a Fulbright Nehru Research Scholar in the textiles and clothing department at the Maharaja Savajirao University of Baroda. Her primary goal was to document ikat techniques from an artist’s perspective. The project included working with first-year master’s students to develop ikat designs.

Weiss interviewed double ikat weavers in Baroda and the village of Somasar. And, with the help of Anjali Karolia, a teacher from MSU who is currently at UNL as a visiting Fulbright scholar, Weiss established connections to key individuals in a crafts cluster initiative organized in five India states by the National Institute of Fashion Technology.

Through those contacts, Weiss visited the rural area of Surendranagar, where several villages participate in the crafts initiative. Weiss said crafts created range from saris and dupattas to cushion covers, stoles and scarves.
In Surendranager City, Weiss met master weaver Vaghelu Vitthalbhai. She worked with him to document the ikat process in April 2009.

“He spoke only a little bit of English and I didn’t speak Gujarati,” said Weiss. “I didn’t have a translator for a great part of the time. I observed and took notes about the process.
“It worked out well because our common language was weaving.”

The relationship with Vitthalbhai and other weavers around the area grew into a consultation and potential market for ikat designs developed by students at Maharaja Savajirao University.

“We took the students and their designs on a field trip to get feedback from Vitthalbhai and other weavers,” said Weiss. “The weavers and staff favorably received the designs, saying they would produce them on a trial basis for potential development into new products.”

Weiss plans to continue to foster the relationship between the students and weavers. She also hopes to expand the collaboration to include design students from UNL.

Since returning to UNL, Weiss has continued to hone her ikat technique. Her first designs were featured in recent exhibitions that opened as supplements to the Textile Society of America’s biennial symposium, Oct. 6-9 in Lincoln. Weiss helped organize the conference and incorporated ikat and related work into presentations and exhibitions.

Her recent designs are on display through Oct. 30 in the “Transformed Traditions in Ikat” exhibition at Modern Arts Midwest, 800 P St., No. 300.

“I had a great opportunity to document something that very few people have had the opportunity to experience,” said Weiss.

For more information on Weiss’ Fulbright experience studying ikat, go online to http://ikatweaving.net. The website was designed by UNL student Angela Rasdal through UNL’s UCARE program.

– By Troy Fedderson, University Communications

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave Comment