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Meet the Maker: Mary Restieaux Inspiring Ikat


Mary Restieaux is a master weaver whose beautiful Ikat art is often included in our hotels. In the restaurant at Ham Yard Hotel, Mary’s Ikat weaves take centre stage in a simple black frame.

Ikat, meaning ‘to bind’ in Indonesian, refers to a resist dyeing process when bundles of yarn are tightly wrapped together and dyed to create the distinctive pattern. The result is the recognisable blurred lined design. It is often replicated as a print, but when done properly it is a painstaking process which has been termed ‘Poetry of the Loom’.

Mary has patience, a quality you need when handling an eight-shaft Countermarch Harris loom for many hours at a time.

Mary studied at the Royal College of Art where she was taught by the late Marianne Straub. Herve Leger the fashion designer fell in love with Mary’s killer sense for colour. She worked with him on the colours in many of his collections. Mary later worked ‘doing colour’ for Missoni and other fashion houses, as well as continuing to sell her own fine art pieces.

We joined Mary’s workshop to learn how to create these exquisite Ikat designs ourselves. Mary explained that you must always use silk for an Ikat weave. By binding the silk in cotton you achieve the white ‘zig zag’ design. You then remove the silk from the card and dampen with water. The silk is then placed in the acid dyes that have been bubbling on the stove.

During the workshop, Mary spoke of the importance of understanding the theory of colour. We used yellow, pink and blue as the primary colours, then adding green, grey and brown as secondary colours. Mary recommends using brown to soften warm colours and grey to soften colder colours.

Mary Restieaux is a true colour genius. She seems to understand everything there is to know about weaving and textiles.

At Firmdale Hotels, we often use Ikat fabrics on our lampshades, upholstery and statement headboards.

In the Rocklin Room at Haymarket Hotel we used an Ikat print fabric from Susan Deliss to create lampshades for the table lamps and wall lights. The pink of the fabric gives a warm glow and adds colour around the room.

An Ikat weave takes centre stage in this sunny bedroom at The Whitby Hotel. We have used A Rum Fellow’s Caterina Ikat in Indigo. This fabric has been hand-crafted by a weaving cooperative of women in Guatemala and shows the traditional irregularities and textures.

One of my own fabrics called ‘Ikat Weave’ for Christopher Farr Cloth is a contemporary take on the woven Ikat. The blurred lines and stitched edges refer to the traditional method, while the block colours make this fabric feel fresh and current.

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