Monday, June 24, 2013

Tussar Silk

She tapped me on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, could I ask your opinion?"

I looked up from the tussar silk shawls I was examining.  She was tall, taller than I which is rare in India.  She was probably in her forties, dark brown hair pulled low into a bun, subtle, well-done eye makeup, and gold earrings heavy enough to indicate that she was well-off but still suitable for a day of shopping. Her skin had a golden cast to it that set off the jewelry.

I nodded.

"Which do you think is better for me?"  She held up two saris.  They too were tussar silk, for that is all this small stall in Dilli Haat offered.  They were similar, rich, subtle, multicolored silk with narrow purple borders.  One was a bit brighter than the other.

"Where will you wear them?" I asked, curious.  

"Oh, everyday silks in the winter."  In India, silk is a warm winter fabric, and Delhi can get cold. Tussar silk is made from the cocoons of wild silk moths,  unwound by hand, dyed and woven by hand.  It has small slubs and often many subtle colors of thread in the final product. 

She held them up to her face.  One doesn't try on saris when shopping, because they are all one size. Color, pattern, and quality of fabric become all-important in making a decision.

I hesitated.

"I like this one, " I said finally, pointing to the slightly brighter of the two.  The border was mulberry, the body of the sari silvery-grey with threads of purple, yellow, black and royal blue that were almost invisible to the eye.  The effect was muted and rich, appropriate for a woman of her age and status, yet brighter than the other she was considering.

"Why do you prefer it?"

I tried to explain.  "There is less contrast between the border and the rest of the sari on this other one.  I think when you wear it, the bottom will just look as if you walked through a puddle."

She looked a bit startled.  

"I think I'll take this one," she decided, looking at my preferred one.  

Well, I thought, she asked.  

After she left I kept looking at tussar silk shawls, choosing three to take back for myself and friends.  I wondered what I would wear them with.  I wondered what color choli (sari blouse) the woman would have made to go with her new sari.  I thought of how stately and beautiful she would look in the sari, and hoped I could have a bit of that.

Last weekend, an incredible artist couple made pictures for the store I plan to open.  I sent them some of my favorite things from India to use in the photos, and one of them was a shawl I bought that day.  Somehow they captured the beauty and stateliness of that piece of hand-woven silk and of that day in Delhi. I dream of owning a store that will do for others what that shawl, and that picture, did for me.
Photo by Brennen Reece.

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