Majeda Clarke

About

“The act of making cloth connects me to a long line of weavers whose tradition is vanishing in a world of mass production,” says Majeda.  “It is the space where storytelling, making and memory meet.”  Her grandmother’s Jamdani sari started Majeda on her journey into cloth.  She became fascinated by the stories of Jamdani woven for the Moghuls.  Those stories prompted questions about the weaver’s relevance today and the dynamics of heritage. Textiles evoke memory; the contours of the wearer remain where cloth sags, frays and stains. Majeda still has that original Jamdani sari, lovingly hand woven all those years ago.

“I am intrigued by the imperfections in hand woven fabric, the randomness of pattern and faded narratives embedded in cloth,” says Majeda. “Flaws give a cloth value, signalling the hand of the maker.” This theme is reflected in her own handmade pieces, often dyed to seep colour and expose the threads where warp and weft fail to meet. She says her work can be “traced back to the event of a thread”, as sections of warp come away from the cloth and then rejoin to reveal the hands that make it continually deconstructing and reconstructing the same cloth.

By highlighting the geometry of weave and playing with strong colour inspired by her own cultural journey from Bangladesh, Majeda likes to bring a modern aesthetic to an ancient craft. Her work is often influenced by the sharp lines of Modernist Bauhaus design interwoven with bursts of vibrant colour. The pieces have a duality about them that can’t be placed, such as the ethereal Jamdani muslin scarves which create a sense of light and space but layer with solid, dark motifs, or her contemporary but cosy blankets.

There is an emphasis on the local practices that sustain communities, tell stories and remind us of the value of making. Majeda points to communities such as the Jamdani weavers of Dhaka who weave what the Romans once called “woven air”, a thousand-year-old technique that has UNESCO World Heritage Status. Her UK mill-woven pieces also explore a lost weaving heritage, manipulating traditional double cloth techniques without traditional patterns. “I never compromise on quality,” she says, “and my British blankets are woven in a Welsh Mill with yarn spun in Yorkshire that feels like cashmere.” The relationship between people, place and environment are essential elements that run through her work. All her pieces are sold with a card that carries the signature of the weaver and a map of their heritage, because she believes  beautiful things take time to make and build on the skills of a past generation. “A crafted piece is to be cherished forever,” says Majeda.

 

Portrait photograph by Michael Heffernan

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