Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cardamom Collective and the tale of the indigo ikat

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I am so happy to feature my friend from far away, Kelly Moe - Rossetto on Handmadetalks today. Kelly and I virtually met via Instagram, and have formed bonds of friendship that transcend miles and distance. We share a passion for ikat textiles, good chai and a common goal of sustainable living. I requested Kelly to share a little about her venture Cardamom Collective, ikats and the inspiration behind her work. For everyone who nurtures a dream of starting their own venture, but can't find that spark, will find Kelly's story especially inspiring. 

Read along...

You never know the change a tiny packet from India will bring to your life.

Last October, I was on the brink of realizing my first line of block printed textiles, a collection that had been in progress since I’d visited India the spring before and the completion of which I could hardly wait for. It was a year of transitions and I wasn’t sure exactly when I was headed next. It was a month before a planned trip to Peru, and my job, home and career were entering into what would be a year- long process of growth and change. As excited as I was for these scarves to debut, I wasn’t sure which path to take next. One a day especially gray and windy, a tiny package arrived from India. Out came a simple but beautiful indigo stole of handloom ikat. Small traditional movements across the fabric made it rhythmic and wearable. Fine Indian cotton with enough of a shimmer to to save for something special but washable, practical and carry -on stuffable! A travel essential. Something lit up in me and I saw then a new path had appeared.

I’ve always been a seeker of art and knowledge and for the year or so leading up to that day it had centered on primarily Indian textiles as I’d been working at a beautiful museum like store full of them called Khazana in Minneapolis.  I was familiar with ikat and had begun recognizing it’s painterly patterns in different places. I’d even had the honor of wearing my boss and friend Anju’s Patola sari and come to love all those that were woven in the ikat pattern. Still, I didn’t quite realize the presence ikat held in the world of textile history. In the months following the indigo ikats arrival it became a talisman for me, a constant at my side through interviews and large events, lectures at colleges, and international airports. Its traveled each trip with me since and serves as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of discouragement.

It has also attracted other blue ikats from all over the world into my life, the first breadcrumb along what I like to call the ikat trail. I received that package almost exactly a year ago and in the time since traveled to Peru, New York, Italy, France and Montana. Through books and dreams of textile encounters I’ve spanned the globe, always with my eyes wide open for that next glimpse of ikat. Interestingly enough, though ikat has been found around the world (the earliest piece I have seen with my own eyes was a 10th century scrap found in Yemen) the United States does not seem to have a history of it in our weaving traditions, at least that I have come across. In countries like India, Japan, and Guatemala it remains a mainstay in the current folk arts, and others like France and Scandinavia where it is now found largely in museums, private collections (and the odd thrift store remnant if you’re lucky!)

Each part of the world has it’s own place name for ikat, though “ikat” a Malay word meaning tie or bind, is widely recognized as a universal term. Curious what word to use in the markets and museums around the world when seeking this magnificent resist dyed weave? Here’s a list of the terms I’ve found so far! The Uzbek word for an ikat “abrband” may be my favorite as it describes the weaver as “one who ties the clouds”

Uzbekistan: Abrband
Guatemala: Jaspe
Thailand: Mutmee
Japan: Kasuri
France: Provence Flamme
Cambodia: Khmer Hol.

My favorite thing about ikat is how it continues to reveal it self, in old scraps of fabric or in scarves I’ve had for years but am only now just seeing the familiar brushstroke weave. There is such joy in discovering images or fragments of ikat in a place where I had missed it before, a bit like a treasure hunt. Recently I was sorting through old photos and found one I’d taken years before of a traditional Swedish folk costume that hangs in the American Swedish Institute in my hometown. Sure enough, running through the apron over woolen layers and skirts were tiny indigo and white rivers of ikat. A conversation with a Swedish friend and textile historian confirmed these weavings had once flowed across traditional dress there.

Perhaps most importantly, ikat serves as a talisman and a temptress for me, keep seeking and keep pushing forward into the world of adventure and knowledge. Victoria and Albert curator and textile historian Rosemary Crill shares in the Maiwa Textiles podcast Voices on Cloth that the bits of Patola ikats in Indonesia were sometimes burned and the ashes smeared as protective blessings and remedies for those experiencing serious illness. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing that now as Patolas have become some of the most expensive and sought after textiles in India and I believe the world, but wearing one is still seen as something saved for special and sacred occasions.

Although I do not yet own a Patola, in the past year blue ikats from Cambodia, Thailand, Japan and Guatemala, and France have come in to my life and I treasure each one for its story and the journey it took to find me. Still, my simple indigo ikat remains my favorite and has become symbolic not only of a moment of change but the friendship that grew out of it, between me and dear Kriti over the oceans! This roller coaster of a year in life and business has been supported and enhanced by her presence and for that I am forever grateful to her and my little blue ikat. A few weeks ago I began a new job, a new career really, as an elementary school art teacher. It’s a position that will be rewarding but certainly very challenging, and my first day of school filled my stomach with butterflies and even a bit of doubt. Can you guess what I wrapped around myself as I stepped through the door of my classroom?

Thank you Kelly! 
Follow Kelly and her work via Instagram, Facebook or her website 

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