Have you had this experience? You get to know someone who is so refreshingly different, at the same time talented, and you wonder what makes them the person they are. Is it in their genes or the upbringing or the opportunities that came their way – which of these had a say in making them shine?
Meet Vaishnavi Ramesh, just such a person. She completed a 4-year Bachelor of Visual Arts in Stella Maris, Chennai in 2018 and is pursuing a PG Diploma in Professional Photography in Light and Life Academy, in Ooty.
This is the second in our series on weavers who bring a lot of passion into their art. The first post was on Julie Kagti, a tapestry weaving artist.
Vaishnavi Ramesh with her heddle loom weaving with Muezart’s Eri silk yarn
So, what is special about Vaishnavi Ramesh?
At a young age many facets of her creative talents and her intense interest in outdoor activities are finding expression. She is a Visual Arts graduate, currently doing her post-graduation in photography. She is a passionate, self-taught, weaver.
- She found her love for weaving while still in school. Started by weaving covers for books.
One of her first weaving project - A woven book cover made while in school
- Found her love for photography thanks to her father who is a keen photographer too. Here is an example of her work.
Vaishnavi went on to win an award in an international competition for her entry, while still in college. In the year 2017 she entered ‘The Beautiful India Photo Competition’ organized by Global adjustments. She won the first prize in the category ‘Places’. Here is her award-winning entry.
You can see her mastery over the technique and with the camera.
- Vaishnavi went on a solo trek to Dzongri peak in Sikkim after completing her college – to discover things for herself.
On a Trek to Dzongri Peak in Sikkim
- She discovered her deep interest in weaving and plans to launch her own brand of hand-woven fabrics and products made with them.
- She is into sailing, rowing and surfing too. She represented her club, the Madras Boat Club, at the 77th ARAE - FEARA Rowing championship Jan 2019 in Pune.
Would you not like to know more about Vaishnavi?
We bring you her story – as told to us over an interview via email.
1. Tell us the story behind you doing a visual arts programme and that too in Stella Maris, Chennai.
I have always been connected to art - I am a very creative person. Visual arts seemed the perfect choice for me because it gave me the chance to explore various mediums of art. Stella Maris college is best known for visual arts. As I live in Chennai I was looking only at options in the city.
2. How did you get interested in weaving?
It started when I was in school, in the 8th grade. I used to do quilling art, so I had a lot of paper lying around me. One day I had a flash of an idea – why not make cool book covers using the paper pieces I had – something different. That's when I tried to weave with the quilling paper strips that I had. When I got down to weaving something stirred in my heart – a feeling of joy and possibilities. It was like an eureka moment for me and I got in touch with my love for weaving. I started with basic designs and then went on to weave more complex ones.
This red and green weave piece was Vaishnavi’s very first weaving project!
“I wanted to make a book cover. I didn’t know the names of the weaves when I started, but I learnt them over the years”!
Here is another book cover she made when still in school.
She wove this book cover immediately after her visit to the Taj Mahal.
“I draw inspiration from around me. Most of my projects are very personal as my experiences influence what I end up creating”.
Vaishnavi continued, “My interest became a true passion when my grandparents gifted me a rigid heddle loom in 2017. I owe them a big thanks. With that loom I started to explore more about this handicraft. Over the years I have experimented a lot with weaving.”
This is the loom Vaishnavi’s grandparents gifted her
3. Which type of loom do you use?
I use frame looms, cardboard DIY looms, but mostly the rigid heddle for the bigger projects.
4. Which fibers have you used in your projects?
I mostly weave with cotton yarns for scarves and bags. I have experimented with wool and jute for smaller projects.
5. What has been the most satisfying thing to weave?
I don't think I can name any one as the most satisfying weaving project, but I love the process of weaving, right from choosing the colours to designing a pattern to weave.
A fulfilling project was the one I did for Co-optex Chennai. It was a small project but felt it was an honour to work for such a reputed organization. I designed bags with their handloom fabrics. It was more a designing project.
Here are some of Vaishnavi’s designs for bags for Aslii Thari – her own brand that she is establishing.
6. How do design ideas come to you? Do you draw them out ahead of weaving?
I don’t have any formal education in textile design. But my visual arts course has given me a strong foundation to think from multiple perspectives before arriving at one design. I am always on the lookout to find something that inspires me. Inspiration comes from anything, comes from nature, the food I eat, the clothes, TV shows, absolutely anything under the sun I must say, it is all around us - we just have to stop and observe.
I usually sketch my weaves to get a basic idea of what my product would look like. But I do make changes along the way. My sketches are just the starting point for me - I don’t restrict myself to it. But these help me to get started.
7. Did you know about Eri Silk before you got to know Muezart?
I had no idea about Eri silk, I was very surprised i must say. I have always been an environment friendly person. When Miranda reached out to me, I googled about Eri silk and looked at all Muezart’s posts to understand that it's an eco-friendly fiber and I was so thrilled to see that.
I love the feel and the story behind Eri silk. The fact that it is called ahimsa silk caught my attention and I think more people must be educated about it.
8. What was the first project you did with Muezart’s Eri silk yarn? Share some details
This soft pink fabric was the first of the three scarves Vaishnavi made using Muezart’s Eri silk.
For this scarf she used up-cycled yarn of Muezart
“I Ioved the feel of Muezart’s Eri silk yarns. When I finished weaving the scarf, it had its own story to tell, since the entire process was made with so much love - right from Rida spinning the Eri silk yarn in the Muezart studio in Shillong, and me weaving it in Chennai using a loom gifted lovingly by my grandparents”.
This one, using Indigo dyed Eri silk yarn, was the second scarf Vaishnavi made using Muezart’s pre dyed yarn. Muezart uses only natural dyes.
This lovely brown shawl was the third.
Vaishnavi has shared the designs for these scarves with Muezart. Are you interested in receiving Vaishnavi’s designs for this shawl using Eri silk yarn? Download here.
“I am looking forward to more collaborative projects with Muezart” says Vaishnavi.
9. Eri silk is supposed to have thermal properties – cool in summers and warm in winters. So, we asked Vaishnavi to share with us the feel of these shawl in hot Chennai!
“The pink and the brown shawls are little too thick to be worn in Chennai. I can’t wait to wear them in Ooty (where she is completing her photography course). The indigo one is nice and soft and perfect to be worn as an accessory in Chennai.”
Vaishnavi used Eri silk for both Warp and Weft – as it gives a very soft feel and can be worn in hot places like Chennai too.
10. Do you think there is interest in India in taking up weaving as a hobby?
I cannot say whether there is increased interest in weaving or not. But, if you ask me, taking up weaving as a hobby would be the best decision for most people. For me weaving is therapeutic. I think weaving can help improve concentration – so introducing weaving to kids/adults could be a game changer. They need not work on large projects, but on smaller projects like a wall hanging, coasters etc. I am planning to offer weaving classes for all age groups.
11. Tell us about your skills in Photography. Have you done any professional assignments? What is the most satisfying aspect of being a photographer?
I have been shooting ever since i was a kid, shadowing my father. I used to go on photo walks with him. He is my inspiration. He too started photography when he was a child. So, I guess photography runs in my blood 😊
I have done a few professional shoots, I have shot for multiple clients, covered events, shot for home bakers and also sport events. I usually shoot my own products too. Photography has always helped me enhance my art.
I love shooting food and products. There is a lot of artistic planning that must be done before actually shooting the picture. I love planning the shoots, in terms of props etc.
12. What are your other interests?
So many of her interests literally tumbled out, waiting to present themselves!
“I love the water! I row, sail and surf looking forward to scuba diving soon.
I rowed for almost 5 years with breaks in between. I represented my club at the national level rowing regatta in 2019 - it was a wonderful experience.
Vaishnavi on a sailing trip in Chennai
I am a total outdoor person, love the mountains. I love to trek. I did the Rupin pass trek in 2019 and the Dzongri peak in 2017. Love to travel, cook and all things fun. Love to learn new things, experiment and explore.
13. Wow! So much at such a young age. Did opportunities come your way, or you made them happen?
To be honest, I was a very confused child. With so many interests and hobbies I never knew which to concentrate on. But, I owe it to my family for the freedom and the support my parents gave me – to support me to follow my passion and do what makes me happy. After college I wanted to go on a solo trek and they let me. I went to Sikkim, on the Dzongri peak trek. I am happiest when I am in the mountains or the beach. if you ask me to choose between the mountains and the beach, I would be very confused. 😊
14. What will be your message to the young college students of today?
I believe you cannot go passion hunting. You just do what you like and keep following your dreams – do what makes you happy and things will eventually fall in place. Don’t worry about your future.
15. How do you manage your time, to balance all that you do? Do you spend a lot of time on social media – or keep that under check?
I am a very punctual and organized by nature. I love making a To Do list and ticking things off. Little things motivate me to do better than I did yesterday.
I try not to spend too much time on social media. I stay active and update my followers but I do draw a line. When I am weaving, I am in my own world – chill music while I weave is the norm for me.
16. We understand you have a plan to launch your own business called ‘Aslii Thari’? How come a Hindi-Tamil name? When did you start? Tell us about it.
I have something super exciting planned for Aslii Thari and I'd like to keep that as a surprise, I will be launching it sometime in early 2021.
I chose to mix ‘Thari’ a tamil word for “Loom”, with ‘Aslii’ that translates to ‘Real” in many Indian languages, to show that weaving is for everyone. There is no barrier.
17. Can you tell us about your family?
I have an elder sister who is happily married and settled in Pune. My parents support me in everything I do. They’ve been my constant motivators. My dad is a retired banker who is a passionate photographer - now you see how I got into photography! He has been my biggest inspiration. My mom is always there by my side willing to help me in anything I do. Lately she has been helping me warp my weaving projects.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Vaishnavi Ramesh as much as we did. Some of her insights made us pause and introspect. There is something so special about her.
Muezart is collaborating with this talented, young, Visual Arts graduate, and a qualified photographer with a passion for weaving to offer you designs to get you started on weaving projects using Eri silk from the hills of Meghalaya.
Are you interested in receiving Vaishnavi’s designs for the shawl that you see below that you can weave using Eri silk yarn? Download here. You can expect more such original designs to be released through the collaboration between Muezart and Aslii Thari.
Are you passionate about weaving and have an interesting story to share? Contact us and we may well feature you!