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September 13, 2017

Talking Ikat With Thailand’s Dr. Sittichai Smanchat

Text by Sharmi Ghosh Dastidar

“The idiosyncrasies of various ikat looms intrigued me and I collated information to pen books on their traditions”

Talking to Dr. Sittichai Smanchat, one is enlightened with ancient knowledge about the rich history of the Mudmee ikat weave from Thailand. He tells us that the indigenous ikat uses traditional patterns and resisted dyeing techniques. The motifs depicted on the ethnic ikat textiles of his region were derived from Buddhist myths, plants, flowers, serpents, lions, peacocks and other animals as well as raindrops, tiered umbrellas and various fruits. The intricate patterns are woven on luxurious silks and lend a glamorous sheen to the personality of the wearer. Generally, the colour scheme of the Mudmee ikat revolves around black, red, crimson and their ilk.

Dr. Smanchat has been associated with the Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand and has kept studiously at the revival of the Mudmee textile for more than 15 years. “I started collecting my own samples and travelled to different weaving centres to delve into the intricacies of the technique. I learnt that unlike the Odisha ikat loom, which resembles a fan shape, our is the straight rectangular loom. These idiosyncrasies intrigued me and I collated information to pen books on the traditions of ikat. During this journey, I also helped the weavers of my country develop their skills by discussing several patterns and designs with them which would allow the ancient craft to gain a contemporary edge. We have a market for subdued colours so my patterns are based on those. The Mudmee is a revered textile in our land and the fact that Queen Sirikit was a regular patron goes on to show how beautiful the fabric is”, informs the professor, who takes immense pride in donning stunning ensembles created out of the local ikat himself.

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