There is nothing that travels quite like clothing. Couple this with the resilience of textiles and you have a material that not only travels, but travels well. Its innate portability combined with the curiosity of the human spirit cumulates in the diverse art of patterning cloth that can be witnessed the world over.
It is also at the heart of the earliest of international affairs, very likely the result of interactions occurring along trade routes, most notably the Silk Road. From approximately 120 BC to the 1450s, this vast network connected regions spanning from Africa to Asia. Maritime as well as land travel were used to trade a wide range of goods that included the route’s namesake alongside the exchange of language, culture, aesthetics and skills. Among the myriad motifs of the textiles that traveled these journeys, one stood apart.
Ikat, a term used to describe the technique of patterning cloth by “resist dyeing” selected threads, is a prime example. Resist dyeing refers to any number of ways dye is allowed to color selected areas of a thread or fabric. Tie-dye is perhaps the most familiar: the dye resist is created where the cloth is tied, treating a whole piece. Ikat is the result of a resist technique commonly applied to bundles of threads prior to being woven. It is an elevated art form that could take months to fabricate. The presence of ikat in diverse cultures suggests it was likely developed among these groups in geographic isolation and spread through trade...
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