my teacher was out in the desert
We are happy to introduce you to MOOWON an online magazine unearthing noble values of the past, capturing the essence of a place, and inspiring respect for the ways people make or do things. Its stories connect readers to the unique, extraordinary people and things of our world: masters who revive vanishing arts, ideas and places that embody beauty and authenticity. The following is an excerpt from its story on Erroll Pires, the last living master of ply-split braiding.Enjoy!
In the ancient modernopolis of Ahmedabad, India, lives a singular man of towering guru-like presence, godly white ponytails, and two extraordinarily long thumbnails. Erroll Pires has devoted his life to ply-split braiding, a traditional technique utilized to make camel belts. He has refined, transmuted, and reinvented its usage for over 30 years in what some would call an obsessive dedication, purposefully refusing the boundary between art and object. His repertoire now extends from traditional camel belts to avant-garde three-dimensional objects and seamless dresses. His tools: his hands. His universe: the magnificent explosion of braided colors.
How had a man who once led the hectic and pressured life of a textile designer, so gracefully transform into an ancient soul embodying the simplicity of the desert and the generosity of a guardian angel? For those of us willfully enslaved to today’s reality of ‘too many’ — choices, devices, interests, tasks to accomplish—, this is a curious disposition that is both aspirational and enviable.
The confluence of events and people in life often instigate profound change and compels us in directions previously unimagined. For Erroll. the impetus came from the pre-eminent British artist and master weaver Peter Collingwood, his beloved mother, and his ply-split braiding master Shri Ishwar Singh Bhatti of the Jaisalmer desert. The camel belt, as a result, became his story and a force that has shaped his life philosophy as a craftsperson. Persistence, wisdom, simplicity, patience, and generosity were his guiding principles in his long path to the mastery of the art form.
Erroll Pires is a celebrated contemporary ply-split braider based in Ahmedabad. He was a faculty member of textile department at the National Institute of Design (NID) of Ahmedabad for 27 years. His work has been exhibited in United States, and several countries in Europe including United Kingdom, and his pieces are part of the permanent collection in Whitworth Museum in Manchester. Currently, Erroll « splits » his time between a meditative state of transmuting the traditional 2D technique into 3D, and conducting conferences and workshops in art and design institutions internationally.