We’re overJOYED to introduce to you our debut artisan on board, Asif Shaikh; a master embroiderer with a penchant for refined weave-work, relentless devotion to detail and aesthetics, and tremendous love for reviving the exquisite art of traditional Indian textiles that once kindled the East India Trade.
A. I was born to a middle class family in the city of Ahmedabad in 1968, already famous as a textile hub. I had 3 siblings, two sisters and a brother—and was third in line.
I used to observe my own mother transforming plain pieces of cloth into objects of beauty using embroidery, and got hooked from young. After finishing my tertiary education at the School of Interior Design (CEPT), I continued to pursue my fascination with embroidery—always having a deep sense for aesthetics, detail, and discovering how it was produced, from learning about weaving techniques to printing and dyeing, natural colours, threads, apparatus and embellishing finishing techniques.
Q. So you’ve been doing this for a long time! What do you think drove you to keep at this?
A. Yes, for over 22 years, I’ve been experimenting with countless textiles and embroideries. My journey has just started however, and I have a long way to go and many more things to do! I have a passion for breathing life and new meaning into textile from the 21st century, and reinventing the art—instead of copy-pasting things.
We must not lose the fabric of our past—the aesthetics, techniques, and quality craftsmanship of embroidery that made Indian textile renowned and precious throughout the world at its heydays—to post-industrialisation and mass commercialisation. Generations ahead of us should inherit the legacy, rarity and appreciation of embroidery.
In order to achieve this, I have worked with master crafts persons throughout India, helping them to understand what it means to create world-class embroidery and go the extra mile by continually honing their skills and technique. By passing on the love of embroidery making on to individuals I am in touch with now, I will be able to touch the lives of generations around the world I have not met—through the art. And this is what drives me.
Q. Share with us on some of your greatest achievements or career highlights to date?
In 2012, I redesigned the Karchob or the scroll frame, which simplifies the tedious task of mounting fabric on the frame for the best embroidery results, saves time and is fabric friendly. A year later, ‘Resurgence’ was launched at the IGNCA-New Delhi followed by a world tour. This featured a collection of textiles created by master crafts people under my guidance, showcasing great Indian textiles that caught the imagination of the west and brought them to our shores centuries ago.
Every ‘Resurgence’ has something new to offer, and every crafts person gets their due credit—as I would like to see them grow in recognition and make a name of their own. In 2015 I have also re-introduced real Kasab gold thread and used beetle wings for embellishing special pieces of embroidery of fabric woven from peacock feathers. Sari, my own brand, has been launched and will be available soon.
Q. What differentiates your embroidery, in your opinion?
A. Every ‘product of Asif’ symbolises the culmination and coming together of natural fibres, detailed weaving techniques, natural colours and dyes and exquisite embellishments like sequins, beads, precious stones, metal threads and other precious elements. These are sustainable pieces of art and craft, some of which can even be worn and set the wearer apart.
Q. We’re really overJOYED to be partnering with you to spread the love of embroidery far and wide. Any parting words for your fans?
A. While it is good to be recognised on the world platform and exhilarating to win awards by the World Craft Council and UNESCO, there is still a lot to be done at home in India. My journey has only started.
Apart from Asif’s illustrious list of world-wide exhibitions, trade shows, speaking opportunities and publications on embroidery, he has garnered the following awards: