Posts Tagged ‘embroidery’
If you’re the type who notices recurring patterns, it is hard not to start noticing a concentric diamond pattern all over India. The pattern is most common in the north, especially Kashmir, Rajasthan and the Punjab, but I’ve seen it everywhere. While you sometimes see a plain diamond pattern (eg. the simple wall mural near the bottom), it’s more often a concentric diamond, a flattened diamond lozenge, or a diamond with a single dot in the centre. This shape is sometimes referred to as “eye of nightingale.” A friend in textiles here also told me it is called chesm-e bulbul (sometimes written chesme or chasme bulbul) or “eye of the bulbul,” the bulbul being the Indian nightingale. But that complicates things, since chasm-e bulbul or “Çeşm-i Bülbül“ more commonly refers to a type of glassware that originated in Turkey after its craftsmen came in contact with Venetian glassworks. The lattice pattern on the glass produces interstitial diamonds that mimic the bird’s eye.
I have been told, though I haven’t had it confirmed, that etymologically bulbul itself also refers to the eye or blink of the eye (can anyone confirm this?). The nightingale’s eye is an important motif in Islamic story and beyond. If you know more about this motif, its use and cultural history, please comment below—I’d like to learn and it’s difficult to find consistent information.
At top is a hand-woven phulkari (embroidery) piece from the Punjab in India or Pakistan. This piece would have been used by a bride to cover her head and body during a traditional marriage ceremony. Its origin is probably Persian and its use extends to all traditions in the Punjab including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Its base fabric is hand-loomed cotton with heavily embroidered pattern done in raw silk. Via here and there’s more phulkari fabric below. Do a google search on Punjabi phulkari you’ll notice how common the diamond pattern is.
I have some sort of fixation on Punjabi textiles for their colour and geometry. Maybe this partly results from growing up in Vancouver, which has a large Punjabi population whose culture has formed part of my visual repertoire, but I think I also just innately like the geometric hot pink and light red/orange combination. Fortunately, those colours are all over the place over here. As mentioned in the previous post, Diana Vreeland observed that hot pink is “the navy blue of India.”
Above, well-used bag from Rajasthan. Below, eye of nightingale pattern appliqued on the seat of a tuktuk taxi.
Below: true pashmina shawls look like a plain flatweave from a distance, but in fact upon closer scrutiny they reveal a tightly woven diamond pattern, each diamond with a dot centre, sometimes referred to as eye of nightingale. This is one method of identifying a true pashmina (though there are true 100% pashminas without the diamond weave). Pashminas are from Kashmir, made from the soft underfur of kashmiri goats.
On pashminas via here: “A less frequently-seen weave done only on pashmina, covers the surface with tiny lozenge shaped squares, earning it the delightful name of ‘chashm-e-bulbul,’ or “eye of the bulbul.” As this weave is a masterpiece of the weaver’s art, it is normally not embroidered upon. Kashmir shawls were first worn in fashionable circles in the West in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, and by 1800 the shawl trade between Kashmir and the West was well established.” By the way, that diamond weave gives the woven wool far more integrity, similar to the way the diagonal twill weave in denim jeans adds more strength than a straight warp-weft flat weave. But the diamond weave is even stronger, allowing for the shawl to be extremely light while extremely pull-resistant.
Above, you can clearly see the diamond shape around the eye of the black bulbul. This is missing in the very inaccurate print below, but I include the print because it’s charming. Bulbuls have a beautiful song and are much loved here in the north of India.
PS : The day after I posted this, my last day in Delhi, I found an antique Punjabi phulkari for sale. It only has a minimal amount of hot pink, sadly, but it does have a lot of orange and gold, and the pattern consists almost entirely of chesm-e bulbul.
The weirdest part is that I’ve actively disliked diamonds as a pattern all my life. Until recently.
Takashi Iwasaki‘s March show in Vancouver was postponed, so we’re doing our own little show here. Iwasaki, who was born in Japan and studied in both Japan and Canada, also produces paintings and drawings but it’s his embroideries that are particularly interesting, not just because it’s nice to see embroidery being done by a male artist, but also because of their unconventional, non-fussy style – he somehow bends the medium to make embroidery lines appear loosely hand-painted or drawn, so that there’s an interesting disjunction between method and effect. The embroideries are also reminiscent of the work of many artists who have worked in a similar candy-coloured palette: Takashi Murakami, Brian Wildsmith, Paul Klee and others.