Indian textiles and traditional printing and dyeing techniques lie very close to IKEA designer Akanksha Deo’s heart. For the coming LOKALT – a collection of home textiles designed to create jobs in collaboration with social businesses in India, Jordan, and Thailand – Akanksha decided to go back and look at the quintessential Indian textile traditions, like the use of frame looms, and find overlapping elements and practices with other cultures.
“I wanted to use the traditional ‘punja’ loom technique, but create a very graphic, playful and modern expression with the textiles. I played with different scales and colours with the techniques to create an exaggerated 3D effect,” says Akanksha.
Akanksha and Gyan Devi with sketches for the rug.
Punja is a traditional manual loom technique for rugs and dhurries and one of India’s oldest weaving techniques. The artisans sit in front of a vertical frame loom, and usually keep the design in front of them and use a tool with metallic fingers to beat the weft tightly into the warp. Akanksha started working on the rugs and pillowcases design when she first met the other three designers for the LOKALT collection during a workshop in Thailand. With form, function, quality, sustainability, and cost in mind, they came up with a modern and expressive take on traditional handicraft full of quirky details. Akanksha sent sketches to the rug weavers in India to interpret the same.
Akanksha was also inspired by the “kantha” embroidery stitch, traditionally used in India for both garments and quilts, and added an enlarged interpretation of the running stitch effect to one of the smaller rugs.
Laxmi, Vandana, Seema Devi and Akanksha working on a rug sample.
With product ideas and research in hand, Akanksha went to see the artisans and finalize the design.
“Then I finally could meet the craftspeople and see the prototypes in real, and we could discuss how to make the design even better. It was a lot of hands-on work with many trials and errors to find the right construction and material for the right price for a given product. Improvements were being made till the end of the design process.”
You also developed a loop technique for one of the rugs. How did you come up with this technique together with the supplier?
“It was a lot of fun developing the loop technique. The supplier had made something similar, and I liked the idea of how they made it, but I wanted it to be something more. We experimented quite a bit with the numbers of yarns, the yarn’s thickness, and the kind of wool. I wanted something that gives you a fuzzy tingly feeling when you walk on it, a statement for your home with a slice of humour.”
Sampati Devi with the IKEA designers Akanksha Deo and Maria O’Brian.
The result is a technique where multiple yarns being made into one whole loop, making the pattern extend outside the rug.
What have you learned from working with LOKALT and meeting the other local designers and social entrepreneurs?
“One important thing I’ve learned is how it is essential in today’s world to collaborate and share ideas and listen to stories coming from different people and regions. The world can collectively become a better place if we all listen and learn the good things from each other’s cultures.”
Akanksha holding one of the early prototypes from the factory floor workshop.
The LOKALT collection will be available in selected markets, June 2021. Social businesses contributing to the LOKALT collection are Jordan River Foundation in Jordan, Doi Tung in Thailand, Industree in India, and Diamond carpets female weavers in India.