Textile creations tell a story
It all starts with a thread, which when interwoven and intertwined creates magic, covering metaphorically and literally anything from life's journey to the physical being of a human - complex, yet simple.
"Textile and fibre arts, to me, are intriguing because it's like taking an extended walk through time," said Camille Dookie, textile artist and decorator.
"When I study a technique," she said, "I have the opportunity to see heritage and traditions passed down through history from generations and ethnicities, so I can appreciate the art form for what it is; the history of our lives."
Textiles, Dookie said, is at the centre of the historical developments and confluence of nature's resources with mankind.
"The history of textiles begins with the first fibre ever made from natural resources," she said. "It continues through time in some of the most controversial episodes in the history of mankind, such as slavery in the Caribbean, revolutionary movements in India, and influence on Western attire and decor."
History, according to this textile artist, forms an integral yarn of influence in her work, and, of course, it has seeped into her DNA. "I'm inspired by my family's history, particularly my East Indian heritage," Dookie said. "I don't know as much as I would like to and so I have been trying to piece it all together and capture that journey."
Her journey finds roots in the land where Mahatma Gandhi spun yarn, weaving more than a mere piece of cloth, a symbol of empowerment and the thread to India's freedom movement.
"I have always felt a kinship with textiles and the opulence of the culture," she said. "I would not choose to be anything other than Jamaican, but I appreciate my background."
Dookie employs several techniques for her textile creations, primarily batik prints and appliquÈs - which, like any art form, is a mix of a heady flight of imagination, copious amounts of creativity and perspiration.
"I usually start out by sketching my ideas so I get the image out of my head," she said. "When creating a quilt, for example, I tend to work on the layers or pieces separately and then put them together."
She draws the templates or patterns to create each bloc and cut them out. An image transfer is the step she begins with to place the motifs and proportion them correctly. These are then printed or dyed to create a background or used as is.
The detailed pieces that make up the top layers are hand-painted and embellished with embroidery at this point, to accent or emphasise the features that are to stand out. Once that is done, they are cut out and appliquÈd (a stitching process) to the background to create the final composition for each bloc.
Once all the blocs are completed, they are assembled or joined into one piece. The underside of the quilt is cut out to match the dimensions of the top and the stuffing or wadding is also cut to the same size. The topside and underside are joined and turned inside out, then stuffed with the wadding and stitched closed. The final step is running stitches along the pattern or lines of the quilt to add another design element, as well as to hold the layers of the quilt together securely.
"The scope of work depends on how far back in the process you wish to begin," Dookie said. "If my commentary has elements that I believe are better described as intertwined, then I like to take it literally and weave the foundation of the piece, which will then be dyed, stitched, and printed or any other treatment I choose to apply, so it takes a long time to produce a piece that you're putting your heart into."
This hard work, she said, is sometimes not appreciated or recognised; which she attributes to the lack of knowledge about this art form.
"I find that most people do not regard it as an art form," Dookie said. "So it does not receive the kind of support it should because it is seen as an accompaniment to interior decor or fashion.
"In actuality," she added, "it is a medium of expression for any intended purpose, whether functional, decorative, or commentary."
Textiles form an integral part of life and have found their place of honour across many cultures as far back as the existence of mankind, linking the mortal being to the omnipotent and omniscient. In the words of Gandhi, "I believe that where there is pure and active love for the poor, there is God also. I see God in every thread that I draw on the spinning wheel."