Ikat textiles, fabrics whose designs are dyed onto warp or weft threads BEFORE weaving, are produced in several regions of India. Some of the loveliest ones come from the eastern state of Orissa (also called Odisha). The delicate, often curvilinear motifs, that characterize these designs, require exceptional craftsmanship.
The relative isolation of Orissa's interior, mountainous region, meant that the weavers in this area did not face the aggressive competition from mill-made fabrics that was common elsewhere in India. Consequently, the indigenous ikats retained enough of their local popularity to sustain the hand-weaving industry. Unlike many Indian craftsmen, Orissa ikat weavers have maintained—and in recent years, even improved—their skills.
Today, the biggest challenge facing these artisans is selling their products beyond their local markets. Craftsmen, who typically work individually in their homes, have few avenues for distributing their fabrics outside of Orissa. Government-run cooperatives have proven less then successful in this task.
Not surprisingly, the longevity of this craft, has led to the repetition of numerous traditional motifs. For example, you will often find the following designs in Orissa ikats:
Fish. Although woven in areas far from the sea, the fish is a common motif in these fabrics.
Turtle. In this stylized version, the turtle's head is apparently inside his shell.
Scroll or Creeper Vine
Checkerboard. This pattern recalls a board game's surface.
Conch Shell. The photo shows a very stylized version of this popular motif.
Rudraksh (meaning "the eye of Shiva") is the representation of a large, rough-surfaced seed which is frequently used to make prayer beads.