Artisan Siju Shamji Vishram was born into a veritable weaving dynasty. His hometown of Bhuj, India, is a hub for textile artisans, and in the middle of the twentieth century, his father began a weaving cooperative with the goal of preserving ancient techniques that were losing ground due to the effects of modernization.
Today, Vishram is a master weaver, who focuses on traditional, centuries-old creative methods that result in uncannily modern-looking garments and accessories. In addition to using indigo dyes, Vishram employs a technique with long regional roots, which is known as lac dying. He has revived the method and applied it not just to wool –the traditional basis fabric—but to other fibers as well. With the introduction of mass-produced textile industries, lac dying was in danger of extinction. Vishram, determined to continue generations-worth of creative traditions, learned dying techniques from Rabari tribal women. Using local sheep and merino wool, as well as indigenous cotton and several varieties of silk, Vishram creates a range of luxuriously soft items such as stoles and scarves, which are phenomenally well-constructed and feature an array of eye-dazzling color. From start to finish, this is a collaborative process; while Vishram may determine pattern and fabric, warping, for instance, is done by women in the family and tasseling by other community members.
This genre of weaving was introduced to Rajasthan by ancient Meghwal Marwada people centuries ago. Skills have been fastidiously preserved and passed on from one generation to the next. Before the cash economy, there was a barter system between small communities, but in the later part of 20th century, power loom and synthetic textiles were introduced to the region, which were not only cheaper but more readily available. Thanks to the dedication of artisans like Siju Shamji Vishram, Rajasthani textiles are being understood and cherished by regional and international audiences alike.