Phulia is located in West Bengal, a few hours drive from Kolkata. It’s a village of weavers who weave almost any type of handloom plain fabrics but specialize in the most intricate jacquard and jamdani textiles. Their meticulous weaving techniques produce feather-light enchanting fabrics, that are soft to the touch and discreetly ornamented.
In the 18th century the French weaver, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, developed the Jacquard programmable loom, a mechanical loom that works on a system of punched cards that compose intricate patterns and in modern times inspired computer coding.
Then you have another technique, Jamdani- blew my mind as it results in some of the most regal textiles I have ever come across. The design process which involves no mechanical devices is completely left up to the weaver’s artistry, who as he weaves plucks threads from the weft with a bamboo stick to create the motif. The motif or pattern is repeated to create a pattern that appears to float on the surface of the fabric. A masterful art form, that I felt very privileged to have been able to view and commission.
Both types are fine and appealing textiles and jamdani is also referred to as muslin. They’re discreet, their patterns tonal, their shimmering subtleties give the impression of being hidden secrets, they are also so soft to the touch that you worry they might vanish.
Phulia was mind-blowing, I’ve seen a lot of weaving, as for spooling it was a first, the way the weavers spool their thread when they weave is outstanding.
The entire area consists of different communities of weavers, but sadly, most, have had to give in to the power loom, the destiny of so many artisans. It was very special to spend time looking through their archives with swatches of the most incredible fabrics. I decided to develop a range of fabrics with them and loved every minute of the process. Prashant Ji, a weaver and son of a master weaver generously spent time with us to help me with the process. When I asked him which of the fabrics from the hundreds of swatches was his favorite. He rummaged and pulled out a short, ultra-fine muslin of multicolored threads, apparently of no importance or intricate design-wise. I looked perplexed. He told me: “the most talented designers come to me, they choose their colors, their motifs. We make them. In the end, we are left with hundreds of multicolored threads, I weave them into one piece that comprises all these different talents”.
(Images courtesy of Nur Kaoukji)
You can read more about Nur’s adventures in Phulia in last year’s article about Phulia