Hundreds of years ago, ancient trade routes between Western China and Europe created powerful images in British minds of silks, spices and stories, inventions and fabled personae - routes that became known as the Silk Road. Today, many of the countries of Central and South Asia along this route have become mysterious or misunderstood in the West. , aims to use the arts traditions of the region to make these places seem vivid again, and to address negative stereotypes with a creative energy that is independent of politics.
Over the past three years our Architecture, Design, Fashion department have developed a programme of events in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with the current focus being a series of residency exchanges that combine the unique craft skills from the region with the contemporary visual language of designers from the UK.
Melanie recently spent two months on a creative residency at the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture in Kabul. The residency was supported by the British Council in partnership with Turquoise Mountain, who hosted Melanie for the duration of her stay from September to December 2010.
Melanie delivered a series of design workshops and briefs to students at Turquoise Mountain, working with them to explore contemporary approaches to jewellery which incorporate or reference ideas of heritage. Melanie also had the opportunity to study traditional Afghan techniques and spent time developing her own ideas and practice during the residency.
A jeweller from Afghanistan will return to the UK for a similar creative residency in London.
Basso & Brooke
Bruno Basso & Christopher Brooke are renowned for producing unique and inspired textiles and prints. Having travelled to Uzbekistan on one of four exchanges initiated by the British Council, the duo recently presented their new collection inspired by the journey at the Design Museum Tank in London, UK.
The UK-based fashion design duo were the first to participate in the series of residency exchanges. In October 2009 they spent ten days on a research tour of Tashkent and Samarkand, which coincided with Uzbek Fashion Week where they attended a number of catwalk shows and gave several interviews.
They then spent three days working with weavers at the Yodgorlik silk factory where they were joined by Ruth Greany, textile designer at Woven Studio. Ruth provided the link between the designers and the mill, helping Basso & Brooke transform their ideas into three unique black and white Ikat prints. All of the fabrics have now been digitally printed in the pair’s characteristic style and will be on show at the Design Museum.
Two Uzbek weavers came to the UK in spring 2010 for their residency, visiting the designers’ studio and working with Woven Studio.
Woven textile designer and artist Ismini Samanidou undertook a two month residency at the College of Textile Engineering and Technology in Bangladesh where she gave valuable design workshops to students and hosted a series of seminars and working with local textile practitioners. During her residency Ismini worked on her own creative practice using the College’s weaving materials, drawing on the skills and traditions in Dhaka to inspire her.
As part of this project Ismini and the British Council Bangladesh will identify one textile craftsperson (a weaver, natural dyer or any other practitioner determined appropriate) to return to the UK and undergo a similarly formatted residency with the Textile Department at Falmouth University.
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