Monday, July 16, 2012

Paisley - The Motif of Life!

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Various Ties with Paisley Designs (Credit: Wikipedia)
By Nisha Singal

The artistic representation of the 'mango', 'aam', 'pine' or 'pine cone' eventually took the form of the beautiful oriental motif called paisley now.

The paisley motif has its root in the 'boteh' design.

The 'boteh' or 'buta' means flower; it has been seen as a decorative motif in hand embroideries, paintings, engravings, printed forms on running fabrics, shawls, wall designs, furniture and even monuments.

What began as a simple representation of a flower, evolved over three hundred years into a swirling and graceful motif representing many small flowers, saplings and leaves collectively.

In the west, this famous motif came to be known as 'paisley', based on the name of the town in Scotland where many of the looms were located during the industrialization of the shawl industry in Europe. Ever since, the paisley motifs have been seen in prints, embroidery on fabrics, or anywhere as an expression to represent perennial beauty.

The form as known today, originated in the Mughal period and was not seen before the 17th century. Now the motif itself has gathered a lot of vividness about it; it can seen as a sapling, leaves and flowers in various stages from initial buds to full bloom. Flowering plants, swirling vines, spiraling leaf arabesques are rendered in a natural, graceful style, that attempts to create a garden that is worn.

The gentle hooked paisley makes it look like it is swaying in one direction because of the breeze! Though the name 'paisley' has its roots in the west, the motif itself has connotations of eastern beauty and culture.

The most common usage of this is to be found in hand embroideries on woolen, but moreso, on cashmere or pashmina shawls and stoles. Pashmina shawls are so soft and vulnerable, that it is difficult to do machine embroidering on them (rather it would be a sacrilege to attempt to machine embroider a luxurious pashmina wrap), so these shawls/wraps are lovingly hand-embroidered with many traditional motifs, paisley being one of them.

The other usage in women's clothing seems to be on fabric lengths being printed with mills or hand-screen, and also we see t-shirts/tunics/skirts and dresses being adorned with hand-embroidered paisleys.

All the creativity in the form of embroidery, printing, painting, and engraving is borne out of the artist's desire to recreate the beauty that he/she has experienced in the world around them, paisley being one of them!

To see paisley embroideries on pashmina/cashmere shawls, visit

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