He Wove 5,000 Designs in One Saree With Not a Single Repeat

National Award winning weaver Krishnamoorthy spent `3 Lakh and two years creating the 25-metre saree which he says he wants to preserve for posterity

Published: 20th October 2015 05:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th October 2015 05:32 AM   |  A+A-

He Wove

CHENNAI: Arakku red, Vendhiya yellow, Ramar blue, Biscuit brown, Sneha pink, Peacock green — these are all some of the names that fly off his mouth. “I can recount the exact shade more accurately through their number,” he says as he unfurls spools of vibrant-coloured threads.

he.jpgThey are the life-seed of the famous Kancheepuram silk sarees that spill out on numerous counters, shelves, stores and are tucked away safely at homes. “They are 100 per cent pure silk threads,” says B Krishnamoorthy, pointing to a small number inscribed on the side. He is a National Award winning weaver of the famous Kanchipuram silk and has been pedalling away on a loom for years now.  Even on a Sunday, his workshop looks like any business-day. The looms are midway through their weaving – one is lacing the horizontal ‘weft’ silver zari across a plum coloured spread of sheer cloth, while another is punching traditional patterns of gold zari on the thin border of a whole saree with ‘butta’ designs marking the contour of the cloth, giving it a quaint look and an even softer touch.

“This is an old fashioned variety I’m working on; we don’t see these styles anymore,” he rues. “I’ve dedicated four decades of my life to the loom. I’ve seen many weaves, designs and colours fall through the cracks and slip away. I’ve retained a style and kept-alive the trade that was passed-on to me by my ancestors over three generations.”

A big surprise awaits us: it is the one that he poured two years of work into, drawing out the designs, making brown paper-replica and setting up the loom — all of which took over many months, before he began to pedal and weave it into existence. He calls it his “life project”, and rightfully so!

Krishnamoorthy carefully unwraps it from a white cloth (“the safest way to preserve Silk sarees. It should not be wrapped in newspaper or kept in boxes that can contaminate patterns”) and out flows a river of red and gold. It is a temple of designs — ornate animals, swirls, spokes, checkered patterns along with tens of hundreds of different flowers blooming across the length of the silk. He has spent `3 lakh of his savings crafting the designs he had imagined onto a saree, “Not to mount on a pricey counter but to preserve for posterity”, he explains. It is a magnificent work of 5,000 designs embedded in a hand-woven Kanchee-puram silk that rolls out for metres together, enveloping the whole room in its silken zari-filled luster. “Its 25-meters long, five times the size of a regular saree. I haven’t repeated even one design anywhere in the cloth,” he says proudly.

And true to his word, none of the designs have been repeated even once! The months he spent on meticulous planning of models and notes have worked, as the saree is a masterpiece. “I’ve shown it to students from colleges like NIFT, NID Ahmedabad and  Salem Institute of Fashion Technology who come home every year. Besides, I also teach them design techniques. I would like to share my knowledge with as many students as possible,” he adds.

He and his wife Jayanthi, fold back into smaller yards this special saree, which has no predecessor to speak of. “I hope it can serve as a library of designs,” he smiles. The breadth of his passion towards his trade is only accentuated by the frenzy with which he searches for the right saree to explain the different styles that exist.

“It’s like his life source, he forgets everything while sketching and weaving,” chuckles his wife.  Krishnamoorthy also talks about the fading community of silk weavers, the modern implements used in design and what it’s like to be a patron of the art. Fishing out five or six thick-bound books of hand-drawn designs, he points out, “Elephants, yaalis, peacocks, mangoes – most designs are temple-centric. But how they look on a sari and its combination is entirely up to me and my imagination.”


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