While watching the movie Black Panther, weaver Jacob Monk – a Crafts Council Directory member – found himself more taken by the lavish outfits inspired by pan-African textile cultures than by the Hollywood superhero story. ‘I just loved those costumes and their brilliant colours,’ he says. The outcome of his cinema trip was Shuri, an abstract ikat wall piece named after the fictional princess of Wakanda. Its colours are unexpected and vibrant: mustard yellow fades into purple, punctuated with dashes of scarlet. Colour is a key focus for the weaver, who is steadily making a name for himself with his peacock-hued ikat pieces. These were due to be seen at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week, before the pandemic placed such plans on pause.
From rich jewel tones – emerald green, amethyst purple and ruby red – to the cooler blues he is exploring when we meet, Monk is a man obsessed. However, there’s one hue you won’t find in his workshop at Deptford’s Cockpit Arts. ‘As much as I am influenced by the traditional technique of ikat, I don’t want to follow it, so I steer clear of indigo, that deep blue you associate with it.’ Ikat weaving – found across Asia, Africa and Latin America – appears in many guises, all of which share a technique: binding and resist-dyeing the warp yarns before weaving, creating its pleasingly blurred gradations of colour. ‘Ikat is used to make lightweight silks for garments like saris and kimonos, but I wanted to use it for something different,’ Monk says, ‘so I experimented with framing the fabrics.’