I did not know about wild weaving before getting to know Akshata’s work on Our Linen Stories Instagram account (managed, by the way, by John Ennis). It was refreshing to see I could try myself this craft, using threads, ribbons, twigs, leaves, anything I already had at home, and spend a relaxing mindful moment of creativity.
In addition to be a great weaver and artist, Akshata is a very kind person (kindness is so underrated quality unfortunately), therefore, I am so glad to launch a new column in ERIRI’s journal with her interview: Threads Stories.
Hello Akshata, please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Hello! I am Akshata. I am an artist and a designer based in Mumbai, India. I completed my education in fine art, textiles from an art school JJ School of Art in Mumbai, and later on pursued Masters in Textile and Fashion, Wovens from Heriot-Watt University, UK. I work with textiles and specifically tapestry, a woven form of art that I use as a medium of expression. I like to explore sustainable fibres and materials in my practice.
Your use of natural fibres in various ways is particularly striking and unique. What made you fall in love with fibres and why do you think it is important?
I love working with natural fibres. There is a beautiful sense of feel, texture and rawness when it comes to working with natural fibres. You are almost drawn to its organic nature. I feel so much connected to nature and myself when I am working with natural fibres like jute, linen, hemp, wool and cotton and even silk sometimes. Grasses like raffia and sabai also give a lovely texture.
What keeps you inspired?
I seek inspiration from nature, from what I see around, what I experience. I enjoy the act of ‘making’ and I think that is what keeps me going. I like to explore different forms of landscapes and depicting them through my perspective, while seeking inspiration from old masters like J.M.W Turner and also constructions in nature like bird’s nests.
In what way do you apply sustainability in your work?
I have used sustainable fibres like wool, cotton and jute in the past and now I am also experimenting with natural dyeing. In my recent artworks, I have used materials found in nature like twigs, some aluminum wires, palm leaves, paper pulp, dyed fabrics with pomegranate seeds, rose petals and marigold. Through these, I’m trying to incorporate waste materials in my weaving, finding ways to reuse them as well.
How has your own approach to weaving evolved over the years?
When I first started, the idea of using colourful yarns, then dyeing them to specific shades of my painted landscapes and weaving them into tapestries was fascinating. But slowly I started experiencing this process of 'making' in a deeper sense. I started understanding the texture and tactile qualities of weaving structures and tried exploring the knowledge beyond just skill. I’ve realised and experienced that the process of weaving helps to communicate with the self, in a sense nurtures and also acts as a therapy. I see it now as a meditative, peaceful experience that forms the basis of my practice.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I am doing a full-time job where I work with artisans in India on various art and craft products. So developing designs and coordinating with them as they are based in rural areas in India take up most of my time in the day. On some days I conduct workshops to teach weaving. In these processes, I seek inspiration and execute them in my weaving pieces during weekends.
You are passionate about wild weaving, what’s your piece of advice for those looking to start creating?
Be wild! There are no limits when it comes to wild weaving.. Explore, observe, experiment. Explore the endless possibilities. Observe nature, nature’s offerings and experiment and create with the materials you find interesting. Don’t forget, weaving itself comes from nature.
From where you stand, what’s changing about textile art field? Where do you hope to see it go?
I think after the Fiber Arts Movement in the 1960’s, textile art has not been explored on such large scale as it used to be. For example, even the huge tapestries that used to be commissioned for palaces and courts, those were rare pieces of ‘art’ in textiles. Textiles has such a rich history in most cultures, but people have seen it more as ‘craft’ rather than art. More lately, artists are exploring the medium which is good. But the perspective of the public needs to widen to give it the importance it deserves.
What do you do to unwind?
What is it like being a maker right now?
It feels good to be a maker in an era full of digital interfaces. Making gives more connectivity and interaction with my own self and others.
What’s next for you?
I look forward to and hope to receive projects where I can create large-scale artworks, tapestries freely and in open spaces. I am keen on exploring the traditional methods in a contemporary sense. Working with skilled weavers as an artist on commissioned rugs and artworks would also be something I would like to explore.
Interview by Florence I. J. Franks
All photographs courtesy of Akshata Mokashi
Find more of Akshata’s work on Instagram.