The Welsh connection
At a talk today, renowned textile designer Cefyn Burgess will speak of his personal project and the link between Wales and North East India
The mention of the country Wales in Mumbai echoes a familiar sight: The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, or the erstwhile Prince of Wales Museum. But what more do we know of the country famous for its rugged coastline, friendly people and the great painter Kyffin Williams? The place, in fact, has a longer history with India that we think. And that's what noted textile designer, Cefyn (pronounced "Kevin") Burgess, the first weaver in residence at Paradise Mill Silk Museum in Macclesfield, will speak about at a talk presented by the Association of British Scholars Mumbai this evening with ARTISANS' gallerist Radhi Parekh.
Burgess, 59, has worked on jacquard woven fabrics as well as Welsh tapestry blankets , quilts, throws and cushions. He has also redesigned the textiles for the Liverpool Cathedral, recreating the 13th century-old coat of the last Welsh prince. Burgess voices his admiration for India and has been here about twenty times as a tourist, simply because it makes him happy. This is his first work trip.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Your talk is titled Building On Welsh Traditions. What does that entail?
I've come to India on a personal project that is supported by Wales Arts International and linked to the Presbyterian Church of Wales. I will be visiting Shillong and parts of Mizoram, and will draw, paint and engage in textile study. Wales and the North East have a historical connect dating back 200 years. The Welsh went there as missionaries, independently and not as part of the British Empire. In fact, Welshman Thomas Jones recorded the Khasi script, which was an oral
That being said, my project will be a collaboration with the locals and I don't wish to appropriate their art: Indian art belongs to the Indians.
What drew you to textiles?
There's no history of textile (design) in my family although the wool industry has been important to Wales. At university, I went to study art and took a liking towards jacquard, which was more figurative than tapestry or embroidery. Weaving for me meant creating something — a physical process as compared to printing. It was a means of expression; I reach out for a thread instead of a paintbrush.
What characterises the textiles from Wales?
I come from a country of peasants which in no way shares the language or culture of England. You see bold geometric patterning in the tapestry blankets which are traditionally made by men. The quilts, created by women, are made of fine wool. Wales was such a poverty-ridden country that these crafts are coming to the fore only now.
On Today, 6 pm
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