The moment of memory happened while ironing the Circle of Fire Eclipse Scarf created by Abdul Aziz Khatri of Kutch, India. This silken wrap transported me to March 29, 2006, in Anatalya, Turkey, where I viewed my first solar eclipse. The colors of deep indigo, vermilion, and almost black washed across the background of the silk just as the sky did during those four minutes of darkness eleven year ago. In a flash, I was on a hilltop with thousands of others, struck speechless with a feeling that this is how the world could end, without the sun, no world, nothing. I shook myself before burning the fabric. How Aziz achieved this effect in a silken piece of cloth is what makes him a master artisan, a master dyer, and maybe a magician.
A Master Path
It’s the strong pull that tactile sense–it calls forth memories. And for Aziz, it was the learning of bandhani, the Indian name for a resist-dyeing technique, at the feet of his elders that permeated his tactile senses, beyond spoken words, a connection to cloth, an imbedded cultural meaning. His grandmother’s and mother’s skilled hands taught him the fine tying and binding of traditional patterns. From his father, he learned the technical art of dyeing. But Aziz’s passion for learning continued beyond his family.
A few years ago, Aziz began innovating on the traditional classics of bandhani designing stitched, as well as folded and clamped “shibori”, a Japanese term for these techniques. He achieves complex patterns by folding and clamping the cloth multiple times and dyeing it in successive dye baths. He’s also taken to handpainting some of his cloth before starting the resist patterning, adding another layer of color interest. The Eclipse scarves were made using clamping along with handpainting.
At this year’s International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, Aziz was featured in a new category called “Innovation Inspiration”, an area established for those artists who are creating culturally relevant pieces that also reflect the 21st century. His new designs are inspired by nature and the world calling his collections, Monsoons, Galaxies, and this year, Eclipse.
Experience a Solar Eclipse
Author Annie Dillard wrote about her personal experience of a solar eclipse in Washington State in 1982. “Total Eclipse”* first appeared in her landmark collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk (Harper and Row, New York, 1982), and was recently republished in The Abundance (Harper Collins, New York, 2016), a new anthology of her work. It’s this section from the essay that touched that place in me that only experiencing a solar eclipse can. It’s what Aziz’s eclipse imagery captures:
“…In the black sky was a ring of light. It was a thin ring, an old, thin silver wedding band, an old, worn ring. It was an old wedding band in the sky, or a morsel of bone…”
I’ll be somewhere on a dirt road in Wyoming on Monday experiencing another buckling of the knees. And you?
*The Atlantic is offering the Total Eclipse essay in full until the day after the ‘Great American Eclipse’ on August 21.