My fascination for hand-woven fabrics is a renaissance of sorts. It started as a child, when my family would cap off our yearly holiday in the Northern Philippines by visiting the local market before heading back to Manila. Whilst everyone else purchased a stash of strawberry jams or coconut pie, I found myself lingering a bit longer at the stalls where hand-woven fabrics were sold by the local weavers. I was drawn to the lively patterns and textures that were so unique to that part of the world.
Fast forward thirty years and I found myself again enamoured by handwoven fabrics, rather by chance. I had a few hours to kill before my flight back to Melbourne, and I happened to wander through an exhibit featuring traditional weaves. Until then, I had forgotten about how beautiful these fabrics were. I was especially fascinated by a type of weave that I had not seen before. The weave patterns appeared to float on fabric, as though they were embroidered. Unlike the stronger abstract or tribal patterns that I was more familiar with, this weave had an aesthetic that was delicate and dainty.
This specific type of weave has since become the first to feature in our Artisan line of cushions. We designed and produced these fabrics into homewares that suit contemporary Australian homes.
I have since come to an appreciation, not only of the aesthetic beauty of handwoven fabrics, but of the other advantages they hold over mass-produced fabrics.
Slow Fashion Quality
Unlike machine-made weaves that are produced in larger volumes for significantly shorter periods of time, artisan-woven fabrics are produced with more time and care. The product is a durable, high-quality fabric that is scarce, heirloom-worthy and loved for longer. As an example, it takes about two labour-intensive weeks just to transform a batch of weave from thread to fabric, which is then sown into our Artisan cushions. The fabric is made by hand using pedal handlooms, where sticks are inserted on chosen warp threads to create a complicated brocade weave.
Handwoven fabrics are not only beautiful and unique, but also environmentally sustainable. Pedal handlooms such as those used in our Artisan line are made of wood, and do not require electricity or produce pollution. In the absence of automation,weavers have more opportunities to reduce waste and to repurpose materials.
Sourcing directly from home-based artisans means they receive fair wages, and have work conditions that are more self-determined and autonomous, as compared to wage-hired workers in large corporate factories. Buying handwoven fabrics does not only support individual livelihoods, but also strengthens local economies in less-developed parts of the world. Supporting these communities also means that we contribute to the conservation of artistic heritage that is part of the world’s multi-cultural tapestry.
K Kutschker is Creative Director of Home Styling Warehouse, a Melbourne-based furniture and homewares company. Visit www.homestylingwarehouse.com.au.