Rezia Wahid MBE

“That is why my inspiration has always been fine yarns… the white cotton kurta of my grandad’s. Those things came through in my work, without sort of realising”

– Rezia

Since achieving BA (Hons) in Woven Textiles with a first-class degree in 1998 from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, England I have been passionately working with absolute determination and inspiration to revive the heritage of traditional weaving in the contemporary art world.

As a student, my creative and personal artistic voice was born from finding a field full of dandelions seedlings during a walk in the greens of Farnham in 1996. When I walked into the delicate, ethereal and tranquil moment with the magic of air and light, I knew that I wanted to capture this feeling in my weaving. But how do I capture a ‘feeling’ when weaving with yarns? Feelings can only be written, heard or explained. So, I decided to write the words in my sketchbook, captured the seeds in a clear container of Ferrero Rocher – my favourite chocolates. And this is how I began to write and express thoughts, feelings and stories with yarns!

My interest in handwoven textiles led me to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. where I found an immense collection of handwoven fabrics from ancient traditional to modern contemporary and from all over the world: where you can see different cultures, religions as well as similarities and variety in technique. This was the first time where I became absolutely fascinated by the handwoven fabrics of Bangladesh, Jamdani. In my research I found that Christopher Columbus had described these fabrics being so fine that one piece of cloth can pass through a signet ring. These fabrics were woven in Dhaka, what was in East Bengal, India (now Bangladesh).

I then had a moment of nostalgia, and immediately went to visit my mother’s house to go through her wardrobe. Of course, I found a few Jamdanis and was given permission to study one! I explored the saree with a linen tester and matched the yarns with what was available in the yarn cupboards at my college. I produces many study pieces to find the right set and balance in the fabrics I was weaving. Whenever, I tell this story it makes me shiver – the history contains an immense beauty alongside many painful truths. I create my pieces with thoughts of being close to the fairies who wove the magical fabrics and long the country of my birth, yet I continue to remember the sadness they experienced when parting or selling the pieces to the British. And then slowly, not being able to create.

As a contemporary weaver my passion and fascination with these fabrics kept growing and I made it my mission to find out how they were hand woven and where the designs originated from. These fabrics were handwoven using the traditional Jamdani handwoven technique of Bangladesh where the motifs are inlayed by hand, and due to the Islamic heritage of the country it used traditional Islamic geometric patterns. This is the reason why these fabrics are so unique and the Bangladeshi weavers are still trying to keep this unique craft alive.

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