wearable art





The Weavers of Nuapatna
April 14, 2022 

Nuapatna is located about 70km away from Bhubaneswar, the capitol of the Indian coastal state of Odisha. We set out for our destination in the morning, and arrived about 1.5 hours later in the weaving cluster. Immediately upon arrival, there is thread everywhere you look. We followed a 12-meter long length of warp threads tied between two poles on the side of the street as we rolled into the village. A great introduction to the town.

Warp threads are the threads that run length-wise on a piece of fabric. A saree fabric can be up to 12-meters long, which is far too long to fit in hallway of a house. In order to bind, dye and dry the warp threads, weavers take their work to the streets. 

There are indications of weaving production everywhere on the street. Every family in the village contributes to the weaving economy in some sort of way. Walking through the village, there is hardly a house that doesn’t have a loom tied with thread, a weft stretched on its frame, or a spinning wheel buzzing with motion. 

Finally, we learned about the tie-and-dye weaving planning process. It starts with painted design, which is translated onto graph paper, and then used in the tieing/binding process. The beautiful designs of butterflies, flowers, and houses are revealed as mathematical patterns. 

It is evident that Nuapatna is a spirtual place - there are images of Ganesh on the sides of buildings, a small temple in the center of the street, and locals playing music and chanting throughout the day.

The spirituality of the place is mirrored in the spirituality of the textiles. The tie-and-dye designs are inspired by ceremonial and meaningful imagery. We spent several hours gazing over one particular silk saree that had the names of the seasons woven into its pattern. The letters pronounced themselves along the border of the fabric, while symbols representing the festivals of each season decorated the core of the cloth.

It’s not just the finished product, but the handloom weaving process itself that is intensely spiritual. Working from raw material to swath of cloth, these artisans do everything themselves. And with exclusively hand-powered tools! The traditional craft dates back centuries, and has been passed down through familial generations. The artisan’s practice has virtually remained the same during this time. It hasn’t been corrupted by the modern world and its many demons - the fast fashion industry, capitalism, (ugh) NFTs. It’s pure. From start to finish, it’s not trying to be anything besides what it says it is.

© Emma Fritschel Art 2024