This Meet the Maker post is all about the fabulous Arati Devasher! Arati’s work is beautiful and we are so pleased to be able to share her work and techniques
I’m a book designer by profession and an artist by inclination… the structure required by book design can be restricting so it’s in my artwork that
I express myself uninhibitedly. I make hand painted one-of-a-kind silk scarves and ties, drawings and paintings. I work in several different media
for the simple reason that some ideas need to be expressed in pen, others in watercolours or pastels, and more on silk or other materials.
Describe your process
I’ve never been comfortable planning my work with a sketch or layout… I doodle, and that turns into a finished piece… I do sketch of course,
and that can be the source for a design, though the result rarely looks very much like the point of origin. In drawing and painting I work pretty much
as traditionally as everyone else does… on silk, however, I have my own methods:
I learned how to paint silk using the traditional gutta serti method of creating outlines with a resist and filling them in with dye. I then moved on to
soy wax batik, which suits my artwork and style more; hot wax and dye are applied in layers to preserve areas of colour and create a reverse pattern.
I also work with Resistad, which gives me great flexibility in being able to ‘draw’ on the silk in the manner I would on paper without changing the
‘hand’ or feel of the silk. It’s beginning to be my favourite medium even over and above hot wax batik. Another technique is to spray the silk with
starch to restrict the flow of the dye and simply paint freehand as though it were a canvas.
Ultimately, though, I use all these techniques depending on the design I want to create… sometimes, I will use all the techniques on a single scarf.
Making could take from half a day to several days depending on the complexity. Once I’m done making the pattern, the silk scarf (or tie) is rolled in paper
and steamed at a high temperature for a few hours in order to set the dye to be colourfast. I then wash and iron, hand-hem if needed, photograph for
my records and it’s ready to wear!
How and where did you learn silk painting and batik?
I’ve drawn and painted all my life, but since silk painting isn’t taught at most universities and is considered a craft rather than an art, it was only
a couple of years ago that I quite literally stumbled upon it. And from the moment I tried it – first iron-fix silk paints and then the more vibrant
silk dyes – I was hooked. I couldn’t find a class that I could attend, but silk painters are so helpful, and share information freely… Isabella
Whitworth, Pamela Glose, Ron Gutman and the SPIN silk painters group, are only some of the lovely people who did so, and of course YouTube is an invaluable
help when stuck. Now that I know the basic techniques, it’s just a matter of experimentation in order to achieve what I want to do on the silk.
Do you only work on silk or do you also work on other fabrics?
Currently I only make scarves and ties in silk… and as it takes a great deal of time and effort to make each, it’s appropriate that it should
be made in a luxurious fabric that works in all seasons. I draw and paint on paper and canvas as well, and might be working on wool or cotton in
Where do you work?
Our spare bedroom is my studio for most of the year. It’s kitted out with an eight foot catering table that folds away when guests arrive. And I drew
the yellow mural on the wall to brighten the room on dull and rainy days. Yellow is my favourite colour. So bright and happy!
Describe a typical day in your studio
Because I work from home and also work as a freelance designer, it’s a mix of housework, book design, and art. It varies from day to day in terms of
what I need to accomplish… I run through admin, answer emails, field phone calls from publishing clients, design books, and when all that
is done, turn to my studio to create a piece that takes all the stresses of the day away.
How long have you been making your scarves (and other work)?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child and then did my university degree in art. Silk painting was a chance discovery a couple of years
ago. I then took a leap and opened my Etsy shop in August 2014.
What inspires you?
I read a lot, and also love to people-watch, and from the colours and shapes and ideas I see, my overactive imagination converts them to something
my hand can execute on paper, canvas or silk. I was born and brought up in India, so the colours and patterns I use are influenced by my heritage,
but I’ve a very modern aesthetic in terms of my own personal taste, so I try to mix the two in a manner that is pleasing.
What are your favourite products and tools?
I am addicted to the Pro-Arte sable and squirrel hair brushes… I tend to use those for nearly everything from painting paper to silk and hot wax. Sennelier oil pastels are my favourite. And I love handmade Khadi paper which I use a lot nowadays particularly for my kitchen wall art.
I use Jacquard Green Label dyes for silk… also, soy batik wax flakes as the wax, and gutta by Marabu.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I think I was most proud of the first scarf I made – ‘Spring Garden’ from my Heritage series – using steam-fix dye rather than iron-fix paint…
I was apprehensive about all the colour washing out because I didn’t know whether I’d done things right while fixing it! It was such a relief,
and I was so excited! Such a surreal moment.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
I sell on my website or by contacting me directly. My silk scarves and ties are also
stocked at Things British on the upper level of the Grand Terrace at St Pancras International Station in London.
What will we be seeing from Arati Devasher next?
I’m doing some research into Shibori and Indigo dyeing, and am planning to have a collection of cotton scarves made in these techniques ready for next summer. It’s in the planning stages yet, so hopefully it’ll come along on time! And a long time in the future perhaps a range of apparel.
Do you have any advice for other creatives?
Keep doing what you love, and experiment. It’ll all work out in the end while you have fun along the way.
If you would like us to stock any more of the products that Arati uses please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01243 696789 and we will
see what we can do for you!
(Photographs by Yeshen Venema)