Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review - Masterpieces on Exhibit — Still in Print

Master craftsmen Jabbar and Adam Khatri demonstrated the art of ajrakh in front of a full house at the Maiwa East exhibition space on September 16, 2017. The evening was introduced by Charllotte Kwon.

Jabbar Khatri plotting the lines of a new piece.

The Khatris have been taking the traditional art of hand block printing into new territory with the production of works that are considered to be on the masterpiece level. These works involve the custom cutting of special blocks and the laborious charting of new geometries. Unlike anything which has been seen before in the ajrakh tradition these pieces are ample evidence of the evolution of the art by skilled hands.

Adam Khatri takes over from his father and plots the outline with pencil.

Double sided ajrakh print inspired by islamic tilework.

These masterworks show innovation both in design and in the shades of natural dyes.

Masterworks inspired by the natural world.

Imagery included images from over twenty years of Maiwa's relationship with the Khatris.

Detail of a masterwork showing Jabbar and Adam's flawless printing technique.

At the end of the evening Jabbar reviews the progress of the piece ...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review - The Art of Ajrakh

Traditional block printers Jabbar and Adam Khatri took a rapt audience through the history and development of their craft. It was one of those evenings when one feels privileged to be part of a larger world - in this case that world is printed on cloth using hand-carved wooden blocks and natural dyes. Creatively this art is one of the most remarkable and eloquent ways to pattern cloth.

The evening was introduced by Liberty Ericson who recalled her own visit to the Dhamadka studio in order to set the scene. Here is her evocative text:

Good evening everyone, and welcome to the Art of Ajrakh lecture. Tonight we will transport you into the world of Ajrakh block printing; a tradition that has existed for hundreds years.

Jabbar and Adam Khatri are the 9th and 10th generation of block printers. It was Jabbar's father, Mahammad Sidik, who saw that traditional knowledge would be lost if he did not teach his children. Each of those children Razak, Ismail, and Jabbar has gone on to become a master craftsman and enjoy international recognition for their work.

Jabbar has participated in exhibitions in Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, not to mention numerous exhibitions and fashion shows within India. Now his son Adam is also seeing that all over the world there is great respect for Ajrakh, and for traditional dyeing and printing techniques. 

Like many of you I have fallen captive to the beauty and the magic of ajrakh cloth. From the radiant colours to the intricate designs, one can only stop and think WOW this cloth must have a story; and it does…

In 2015 I was given the opportunity to assist Charllotte on her textile tour in India.Tonight I would like to share an excerpt from my journal of my first experience in Damadka and when I truly learnt what ajrak feels like.

“Today we arrived in Damadka.

As we all stepped off the bus I was met with an incredible heat unlike anything I had felt before … and I thought…”only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun…” and of course … enthusiastic textile lovers. 

A smiling bearded man greeted us, later I learnt he was Jabbar Khatri. As he ushered us in, I became more and more lost in the sights and sounds of this place. The rhythm of the men washing, fabric-twisting, and slapping large pieces of cotton on the sides of giant stone basins.

**Sllllaaap…woosh slllaaaaap woosh” rinsing and slapping…twiiiisting and slapping

The smell of a sweet and smokey fire rising up from under the dye pots.

And In the distance I could see loooong strips of cloth drying on the desert ground, that ground stained with blues and reds…the echos of so many lengths of cloth that had been placed here before.

We continued to where the block printers were pounding and tapping. It was something like: thump tap tap tap thump …  Thump tap tap tap thump…that sound became the pattern upon the cloth on the table…that same cloth I saw drying in the sun just behind us…I realized that this sound was ubiquitous throughout the entire space.

Thump thump tap tap thump thump tap tap… pounding thumping and tapping patterns. Like a sacred morse code telling me a story … the story of the life of ajrakh cloth.

Yes! HERE the cloth seems alive.

All of this is alive.

Now back in Vancouver I realize this cloth is no longer just a bed sheet or a table cloth…but an experience…alive and full of history that has transcended so many generations.

You see, all of the sights and sounds are held within it’s patterns  Every time I hold a piece of ajrakh in my hands I am transported back to Damadka.

Tonight this experience will be passed on to you…through Jabbar and Adam who have travelled far to be here and share with you the story of their family, the story of their ajrakh… 

Liberty Ericson

Inspired? Check out our October Lectures. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review - Inspired by Tilleke Schwarz's Strange Society

Inspired by our Strange Society was the apt title of the lecture given by Dutch embroidery artist Tilleke Schwarz on September 12th. Tilleke's return to Vancouver was welcomed by a full house. THe audience were not disappointed as Tilleke presented a wide-ranging survey of her work and inspiration delivered with her characteristic dry wit. For reader's who might be new to Tilleke's work we are pleased to reprint Bonnie Adie's excellent introduction to the evening.

Good evening. All of us here tonight are so grateful we have Maiwa in our City providing us with the opportunity to enjoy so many wonderful lectures. Tonight is the third in this year’s series and I know you will be fascinated by what Tilleke Schwarz has to tell us – albeit without oil lamps and candles.

The title of this lecture is ‘Inspired by Our Strange Society’. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Society is a large group of people who live together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing work that needs to be done.

Over the centuries, societies have been depicted by writers and visual artists so that we today can learn about what societies from the past were like. We have all read or been read to fairy tales which originally began as simple stories orally passed through generations followed by the written word and illustrations. The significance of these is that the evolution of the fairy tale tells us about ourselves and our changing society.

Our very own First Nations and aboriginals throughout the world illustrate to us traditional meanings and personal stories through carved totem poles, drawings and dress.

But what about those who have commented on society through stitch? The Bayeaux Tapestry, a 70 metre long embroidery depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but within that work, we see their ships, their animals and the way of life in those times.

The women in many countries of the world historically told stories of their lives through a language of stitches, colour, and motifs stitched on their garments and from those one could garner their observations, experiences, trials and tribulations.

Opus Anglicanum in 13th Century Britain was a most opulent time in embroidery, depicting society in both the religious and secular senses.

In Medieval times in England, highly prized personal documents were created in needlework, including heraldic imagery declaring pedigree through ancestry and marriage. Wealth and taste were expressed with exquisite craftsmanship.

More recent depictions of society in stitch is The Quaker Tapestry – a series of 75 separate crewel embroidered panels and is a ‘celebration of insights that have motivated the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) since their founding in 1652 and the Great Tapestry of Scotland which is comprised of 160 panels, a story of the Scots and stitched by over 1,000 of their people.

Throughout the world you will find stitched tapestries from which we glean so much history of societies, past and present.

This evening will allow us to follow the personal embroidery adventures of Tilleke Schwarz and take the opportunity to be inspired by a great artist who uses a needle and thread on cloth and gives us her interpretation of our society today. 

She uses ancient and traditional techniques with a contemporary eye. Her ‘stories’ are graffiti like, inspired by traditional samplers, the mass media, daily life and cats and full of graphic humour and text. They are ‘maps of modern life’. I wonder what those who follow us will think of our current society as they view her work in the future.

Tilleke’s work is extensively exhibited, and she lectures and teaches in her home country and abroad.

And here is a little known fact about Tilleke. Although she is from the Netherlands, she hates cheese. Now isn’t that interesting?

Bonnie Adie

Inspired? Check out our October Lectures. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review - Mo Kelman's Tenuous Balance

Mo Kelman brought the audience along on a journey of artistic discovery on September 7th. It was, to quote a surrealist inspiration, as beautiful as the chance juxtaposition of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table. Mo is known for her skeletal frameworks which are suspended tethered to the wall and covered with a skin of textile. Sometimes the skin is shibori but sometimes it is a more literal skin. 

The lecture went on under adverse circumstances as Granville Island was without power that night. About two hours before Mo was due to take the stage a transformer blew and completely eliminated power on the island. Maiwa rigged up a generator, added some candles and lanterns and the lecture wend on. It was, in fact, a most beautiful and magical evening.

For those of you who could not attend the lecture, there is an exhibition of Mo's sculptural textiles at the Silk Weaving Studio. It will remain up until September 22nd. We strongly encourage you to see it to fully appreciate her stunning work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review - Woven Symbols Global Patterns

Sara Goodman (left) and Mary Zicafoose (right) with the Goodweave Project.

On Wednesday September 6th Sara Goodman and Mary Zicafoose presented a joint lecture titled Woven symbols Global Patterns. It was a brilliant opening to the 2017 lecture series. Sara spoke about the GoodWeave Foundation and the remarkable work being done with symplocos - a plant based mordant (also known as a bioaccumulator of alum).

Sara was well matched by Mary who had the audience enthralled from the moment of her opening comments. Few lectures have carried the inspirational punch that Mary delivered on opening night. Mary has generously permitted us to quote from her talk and we selected her concluding remarks. Here they are:

In our field there is a mighty lust over materials; a love affair with the very sculptural form of our equipment. And fierce battles are fought over the political correctness of scale and the definition of self in relationship to technique. 

We must remember that the over and under manipulation of individual fibres into cloth is neither a heroic nor is it a precious activity. It is a simple repetitive process, which when plied with intention, artistic vision, and inspired craftsmanship becomes the agent for textile objects of legend. 

So, in closing tonight I must emphasize that creative work, your creative work, is not a selfish act, or a bid for attention, it is a vitally important gift to the world and every being in it. your unique personal voice exists to inspire and nudge the human race one millimetre further along on its path. 

Don’t undermine your gifts. Whether they are behind a loom, a laptop, a garden, or a soup kettle. Don’t hold back your vision. Don't cheat the world of your unique contribution. Create the life and the body of work that you and only you were born to make. Unabashedly. With not one apology, excuse, or bow to conformity. The clock is ticking and it is just time for all of us to do it. 

As of this posting there are a dwindling number of tickets left for The Art of Ajrakh with Jabbar and Adam Khatri on Thursday Septemeber 14.  Get your tickets here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Silk Ajrakh Shawls - Visit the New Collection!


Ajrakh is the name of a cloth that has been blockprinted in the traditional method using natural dyes such as indigo, madder, and pomegranate. The ajrakh process is a long one, involving several steps of washing and scouring the cloth, then additional steps to mordant the cloth, and still more steps as each colour is either directly blockprinted or resist blockprinted with natural dyes. The order is of utmost importance as the layers of colour are built up and the traditional geometric ajrakh patterns emerge.

Producing an ajrakh involves entire communities: block cutters, dye farmers (for the many natural dyeplants), cloth merchants, and of course, the ajrakh craftspeople themselves (those who mordant, print, dye and design the cloth). While we assist in procurement of raw materials, maintaining high standards of quality, and product finishing, designs remain in the realm of the craftsperson.

Don't miss your chance to meet the artisans.

Jabbar and Adam Khatri's lecture and exhibition are this week.


Thursday September 14th
$15 - Netloft Granville Island - 7:45pm (doors open at 7:30)

Traditional ajrakh block-printing is one of the most iconic crafts to survive into the twenty-first century. But ajrakh, as practiced by the Khatris of the Kutch Desert, has done much more than just survive; it has flourished and expanded to become a craft with a keen sense of tradition and a vision for how this tradition can be taken into the future by a new generation of ajrakh artisans.



Saturday September 16th
Free Admission - Maiwa East  1310 Odlum Drive - 7:30pm Opening



Join us for an exhibition of ajrakh masterworks. Jabbar Khatri and his son Adam are members of the famous Khatri block-printing family, a family that can trace its artisan heritage back over nine generations. See the finest examples of printing and technique worked in natural dyes on cotton—double-sided ajrakh with expansive circular designs. The pieces are truly unique and cannot be seen anywhere else. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Wholesale Prices on Natural Dyes

 Natural. Honest. Colour.

It's time to stock up for the artisan and craft fair season!

Sizes from 30g up to 2.5kg. Our large sizes are priced at wholesale rates so that all artisans can participate in the magic that natural dyes bring.

Take advantage of free shipping on orders of $200 or more
within Canada and the Continental U.S.A.

U.S. Customers - don't forget the exchange rate works in your favour, it's like an extra discount.

Maiwa's Natural Dyes

Colour is unlike anything else. As an artist, to make colour with natural dyes is to experience a direct connection with your materials. And each of these materials, each dyestuff used, can be a doorway to a new world.
Putting natural colour on cloth involves the use of leaves (such as indigo and henna), barks and woods (logwood, osage), roots (madder), flowers (chamomile, marigold), fruits and nuts (walnut, myrobalan, pomegranate), minerals (alum, iron), and insects (cochineal, lac). These are just some of the classic materials that have been used for thousands of years.
The aromatic steam that rises into the air from the dyepot, especially when working outside on a cool morning, is one of the most compelling aspects of the dyer’s studio. Indeed, working with natural colour is such a sensual experience that many artisans work with natural dyestuff for the sheer pleasure of making the vat. The saturated colours of the immersed materials are also highly photogenic—as is the entire dyeing process.

Maiwa’s obsession with natural dyes is well known. What is less well known is the work that we do behind the scenes each time a shipment of natural dyestuff arrives in our warehouse.

Our role is a bit like that of a master vintner who evaluates multiple grape harvests to make an exceptional wine. We do a complete set of sample tests to evaluate the shade and strength of our shipment. Dyes from natural sources will change with each season. If there has been only little rain one year, the concentration of dyestuff in the plant will alter. So we often combine and blend stocks from multiple years to ensure that the raw dyestuff will yield consistent results. 

At Maiwa our policy is to acquire the raw dyestuff in its most elemental form (wood chips, roots, petals) so that we can ensure purity. We then process it into the form (usually a powder) that works best for the artisan dyer. We use natural dyes extensively in our own production, so we can ensure that each package contains a product we would be proud to use ourselves.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Inspirational Evenings Not To Be Missed

- Lecture Series -

Featuring top artisans & crafts people from around the world.



Woven Symbols, Global Patterns

Sara Goodman & Mary Zicafoose

A Tenuous Balance: Sculptural Textiles

Mo Kelman

Inspired By Our Strange Society

Tilleke Schwarz

The Art of Ajrakh

Jabbar & Adam Khatri

Inspired Displacement: Translating Travel into Textiles

Lisa Klakulak

The Marlinespike: Roped Into Art

Tim Whitten

Kantha Quilts of Bengal

John Gillow

Marvels & Wonders: Geometric Design in Cairo During the Mamluk Sultanate

Eric Broug

The Craft of Travel - SOLD OUT

Charllotte Kwon & Tim McLaughlin

Lectures Start September 6th.

$15.00 each

Tickets purchased online after August 20th will be held at the door.

Tickets available online at
or in the Maiwa store on Granville Island

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

New Bedding from Two Block Print Traditions


Maiwa’s kalamkari bedding is block printed by hand on 100% organic cotton using natural dyes. Floral motifs and geometric embellishments invoke the Persian influence found in traditional kalamkari. The bedding is a sumptuous combination of line and colour.


Bagh block printed bedding adds character and depth to any room. The patterning is a beautiful balance of figure and ground that allows motif and colour to sing together. Printed on 100% organic cotton using natural dyes and traditional techniques.


What is Kalamkari?

The mordant-dye technique resulted in brilliant, fast colours that could withstand washing. These were exported from the port of Marsulipatnam (on the east coast of India) where, between 1600 and 1800 they formed the basis for one of the largest international trades in textiles ever known. To increase production, carved wooden blocks replaced pens. In the European markets both printed and painted cottons became known as “Chintz." Today the term refers to almost any textile with floral patterning, but at the time "chintz" denoted a cotton cloth, usually with a white ground, printed or painted with natural dyes.

The European market was not the first, however, the port of Marsulipatnam previously exported kalamkaris to the markets of Safavid Persia. The Persian influence has remained in the floral borders, motifs, and geometric design of the patterning.

Today Marsilaputnam is still a centre of kalamkari block print production. The original natural dye knowledge is still applied and the results are just as beautiful as they were centuries ago. First the cloth is bleached by "dunging" — a treatment with buffalo or goat dung after which the cloth is dried in the sun for a few days. The cloth is mordanted with myrobalan, a tannin bearing nut which grows nearby. Black outlines are printed with an iron solution and areas that will be red are printed with an alum mordant. The various colours are achieved through printing resists, mordants, and then immersion dyeing with different dyes. When using wooden blocks to print, gum is mixed with whatever substance is to be delivered onto the cloth.

Maiwa is dedicated to keeping the art of kalamkari alive. We carry kalamkari bedding, pillows, cushion covers, and we use kalamkari in our clothing designs.



What are Bagh Block Prints?

The graphic impact of a Bagh block print is due to the dramatic use of of red and black; a style which originates with the Bhil and Bhilala cultures residing in Madhya Pradesh, India. The printers of Bagh are Khatris who migrated south from Rajasthan during the Mughal incursions. They remained to take advantage of the high copper content of the Baghini river. Today, a few small studios still follow a traditional block printing process.

Light and medium weight cotton cloth is scoured and prepared with a complex mixture containing tannin. The cloth is printed with mordants, but as the mordants themselves give no colour during application, a bright pink dye is added - traditionally from the dhawda (flame of the forest) flower. This dye permits the artisans to check registration of the patterns and align overprints. Areas which appear pink during this initial stage will appear deep red when the cloth is finished.

Traditional dye methods include the fermentation of iron-water to give a black colour. Horseshoes and other scrap iron is added to a jaggery-water mixture in a process which can last between fifteen and thirty-five days. The distinctive blocks are carved from hardwood and can print thousands of impressions before needing to be recut.

Washing during the various stages of the printing process is still done by the riverside. Lengths of unfinished cloth with the distinctive pink colour are evidence of traditional artisans at work.

Maiwa works with Bagh craftspeople using traditional block printing techniques. The bold patterns are a proud and dramatic statement of the cultural heritage of this area.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Maiwa Lecture Series

- Lecture Series -

Featuring top artisans & crafts people from around the world.


Woven Symbols, Global Patterns

Sara Goodman & Mary Zicafoose

A Tenuous Balance: Sculptural Textiles

Mo Kelman

Inspired By Our Strange Society

Tilleke Schwarz

The Art of Ajrakh

Jabbar & Adam Khatri

Inspired Displacement: Translating Travel into Textiles

Lisa Klakulak

The Marlinespike: Roped Into Art

Tim Whitten

Kantha Quilts of Bengal

John Gillow

Marvels & Wonders: Geometric Design in Cairo During the Mamluk Sultanate

Eric Broug

The Craft of Travel - SOLD OUT

Charllotte Kwon & Tim McLaughlin

Lectures Start September 6th.

$15.00 each

Tickets purchased online after August 20th will be held at the door.

Tickets available online at
or in the Maiwa store on Granville Island