Textile Experiments: Drop Cloth

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

One year in the making, our Artist’s Table Collection, launched 7th April 2020, is crafted from the drop cloth created in the Kolkata studio of a young textile artist named Aparupa; a partner of House of Wandering Silk since 2016.

Update: This collection has sold out. We're able to produce about 12m of cloth per month, and hope to be able to launch the next collection in early 2021! Good things take time :-)

The Artist's Table Collection

Aparupa developed a fervent interest in textiles when she was attending design school in 2011. While she dabbled in the various textile mediums, particularly weaving, it wasn’t until she discovered clamp dyeing, Shibori and resist techniques that the endless possibilities for experimentation really opened up to her and she knew she’d found her lifelong passion.

Aparupa in her design studio, Kolkata

Inspired by expressionist art and everyday life, she works with block prints as a primary technique, but often merges or layers it with hand painting and various texture manipulation processes. She advocates for the beauty of the handmade; the subtle warmth and imperfections that come with the human hand, and the individual’s story that brings character to each piece of fabric she produces.

In the course of Aparupa’s work with her small team of Bengali block print masters, conducted on three 6 meter printing tables in an airy workshop in South Kolkata, splatters and flecks from the Print Master’s blocks and brush strokes work their way down into the protective layers of cloth that pad and absorb pigment seepage on the printing table - what is known in the industry as drop cloth.

Aparupa, Print Master & the workshop, Kolkata

Aparupa noticed that these layers of fabric acquired a completely accidental and unusual expression of color. The results were painterly, avant-garde even. But wearable? The coarse cotton canvas standardly used was stiff and hard, so Aparupa swapped out the second layer of drop cloth with a soft silk crepe. She continued her job work over it, occasionally checking to see how the remnant layers of print and pigment were building.

In 2018, when House of Wandering Silk was visiting Aparupa’s studio to discuss ongoing projects, we discovered a small cutting of this fabric: we were in love! We asked her to use a layer of silk crepe under all her work, but the process was slow. Really, really slow... We waited over a year to receive just 31 meters!

The first cutting of silk crepe drop cloth

Most of our clothing styles are designed to let the textile take center stage and for this capsule collection we picked our most heroic staples. Our pattern maker and design partner in Delhi was then tasked with placing the pattern across the randomly patterned cloth so cohesion and harmony could be coaxed from these accidental expressions. The result is a handful only of rare and unusual works of art that can never be repeated in the exact same way.

The Artist's Table Collection

In discussion with Aparupa about her design process.

House of Wandering Silk (HOWS)What brought you to textile design?

Aparupa — I developed a passionate interest in textiles and the creation and manipulation of surfaces while I was learning and discovering the various aspects of art and design in design school. I found myself being able to enjoy, express and emote more spontaneously with textiles through their structure, tonalities, hues and shades. The interplay of the warp and weft of weaves, in varying thicknesses, quality and colour, brought to surface new textural dimensions. As I dappled with print, shibori, clamp and resist techniques, I began to enjoy the experimental outcomes of overlapping hues of multiple colours, ‘accidentally’ reproducing new hybrid tones. I realised the possibilities of expression were endless and I knew this was going to be an affair of a lifetime!

HOWS What inspires your approach?

Aparupa — My inspirations are varied: from the incredible variety of Indian textiles to everyday musings, nature, the work of Expressionist artists and subtle Japanese aesthetics to name a few.

HOWS — How long have you been working with textiles?

Aparupa — I’ve been working with textiles since 2011 and I started my studio venture in 2014.

HOWS — What are your favourite tools to work with?

Aparupa — I love working with hands. I believe in the beauty of the handmade, the imperfections and warmth that comes with it. I work with block printing as a primary technique on fabric and often merge or layer it with hand painting and texture processes. I feel the slight colour variations or design difference add a human character to the fabric and tell an individual story.

Small Vishwakarma mandir in the workshop of Aparupa.

The Hindu god, Vishwakarma, is known as the divine architect. Vishwakarma puja is generally celebrated on 17th September every year mainly in the eastern states of India. The festival is observed in factories and industrial areas as well as by artisans, craftsman, mechanics, welders and so on. Workers also worship their tools on this day and shops and factories usually remain closed. Following the puja, a feast is prepared which is then eaten by workers and their families. All block print and weaving workshops celebrate this day in West Bengal.

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