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Sunday, 15 February 2015





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A man of many talents

Experimenting with vegetable dyes to design clothes will not be everybody's cup of tea, but for a person with creative imagination, it is no big deal. Richard Branson once said," it's okay to have crazy ideas, because you never know when they might come true." This of course might seem an odd idea but regarding its' positive results, it's worth while !

If you want to know about a person of many talents, then it should be none other else than Senaka De Silva , famous fashion and craft designer, consultant craftsman , choreographer, interior designer , couturier, all blended in to one.

He has done it again this time with the concept of experimenting with vegetable dyes to give clothes a more natural, and the wearer a healthier lifestyle without any using any chemicals which are unsuitable for one's health.

He leads a a very sedate and quiet lifestyle in his artistic home in a peaceful area in Colombo, so that he can create his work with no disturbance. Travelling and playing his guitar in his surroundings , he is happy and content with himself.

His artistic nature is seen when you enter his simple but elegant home full of crafts, handlooms ,brassware , souvenirs from various countries, wooden plaques, clay pots,cane and bamboo ware.

His home itself is an art gallery. The interior is cool and breezy , calm and quiet.

He has made sure that nature itself is also a part of the house , because there is a coconut tree inside which has been made into a kind of pillar ,without a single damage to the tree itself! In the shady hall, the Sunday Observer was able to have a discussion with this man of wonders, about his career and experiences in the field of fashion and artwork.

The Montage interviewed him to know his ideas and expressions about fashion, and his latest projects.

He started his career at an early age and was always interested in textiles. In school he excelled in the Arts and Design. At 13 , he learned about batiks. He went to the Melbourne Art School to study batik and they were allowed to experiment on anything. After school, he joined the Department of Aesthetic Studies and studied there for five years,learning every aspect of craft and design , ranging from pottery to clay work.

As he spoke he showed us the various creations he made,and showing a shawl dyed with tea stains,he asked, "can you believe this can be done with such ingredients ?" which was stunning indeed.

He adds that even if he goes for a show that he does not need to go to other people for accessories , because he makes them himself. Being connected with nature and doing things connected with nature has always been his passion , thus he has showed his vivid imagination by introducing vegetable dyes to the fashion world. Talking about his latest experiment, he said from the ancient times people have been using clothes used with vegetable dyes.

A Buddhist priest's robes were made with dyes taken from the bark of the jak tree, and clothes from extracts from other plants. He is now trying to see if he can see what colors he can use from experimenting with various plants and taking out their extracts.

He has also tried the same way earlier , with hand painted batiks including tea stains. He has also worked together with Chrishanthi Fernandopulle for three years.

He said it was exiting. Working with the "Laaksha" people to make them create high fashion accessories,encouraging the "sesath" people to make small pendants was really enjoyable. Speaking about the Colombo Fashion Week,he said that he is not interested in going for such pageants. His opinion is that all the universities and fashion designers come there and display stuff which have no creativity . That it's nothing much,really.

He says that he's lucky to work with the NCC. There are a lot of successful stories of many people. He has brought so many things of the past into creativity. Working with the National Crafts Council he got the craftsmen to do a lot of things , using temple art, paper pulp and clay ware.

He showed a miniature souvenir of a traditional drum and a small replica of a "sesath".He said that at first the craftsmen were reluctant to do so and that he had to push them to do such creations. He got the "paduru" people to do small mats and that they are to bring back " kurunis ".

He got them to do contemporary products. The Jaffna people were enabled to make "thalkola" bags .People were encouraged to make little jewellery boxes and bags made of banana fibre.

When asked if there was any recognition for the fashion industry in Sri Lanka ,he said there was no recognition .During the previous regime the importing of materials were banned.

We need to have a textile market.We don't have enough fabrics. People cant afford to buy and sew material for big prizes. In the field of fashion designing and textiles ,Yolande Aluvihare and Dharshi Keerthisena have talent,and they are doing a great job.He said these days people do not dress fashionably.

Developing countries like us export materials but westernised countries pay a lot to buy hand made stuff. What has happened to our fashion industry is we had Thultex , Veytex,but they did not have enough technology.India does not even import a single thread.

He said that when he goes to India he is amazed to see their development. There is such a big market for their products. In between the discussion he showed a bag made of coconut shells,which is so rich looking,and done with such creativity,that one might mistake it for one of these "Gucci" or "Gianni Versace" bags. He further says what has to happen is ,everything has to be marketed and branded properly

.This famous man of all talents said that nobody knows how to match colors these days. If the products can be sophisticated,branded marketed and sold at a better price,then things may begin to develop gradually.

He is a free thinker who directly expresses his point of view. He said the relevant ministries should set up these people and they should be given foreign exposure. Since the tourism Industry has increased, Batiks have come up.

According to Senaka, durability is very important. He said that he was doing some exciting thing at the moment, that they 're branding and packaging the crafts. When we go to the gift and souvenir market we have to have that kind of exposure. While he was saying that he was showing a beautiful book made of wood packed inside a lovely cover. Senaka said that people should have their own value and recognize their talents. All these miniature versions of sesaths and musical instruments they want to sell on line, and said that they can be given to airlines too.

But the veteran said that you have to market it. He feels very happy for at the National Handicraft Exhibition ,a lot of people gave orders. Therefore there will be a lot of entrepreneurs, but they have to put their talents in to action ,without just keeping them hidden in themselves.

That is what a successful designer is, he thinks. He pulls out more of some lovely Batiks in various patterns and designs, eye catching shawls and more handicrafts. When you design, he says , you have to make sure you create something with a few given colors. You must know how to make it. You just can't be sitting there. There is a certain method to be a good fashion designer.

Fashion designing is something mathematical and geometric. Some of the designs are done in a geometric way. It has to be in order, and you have to develop a good technique. One has to learn about colours, first of all. Finally, when asked what advice he would give for somebody who works as a fashion designer , he says , that you have to learn design. Take a present fashion designer, he says .

They only know a little fashion designing is a vast area.

You have to learn about the creations that other people made before you. Even if you design, they can't be impractical. Even if it's maddity, there should be a method. There should be a method to that madness. One should learn how to sew a Maggia sleeve when somebody does that.

It was indeed a pleasure to have a discussion with this renowned veteran f all talents , who has immense knowledge in every field, and having a special interest for folk music. He's not much into Rock music , and according to him there were amazing singers of yesteryear such as Bob Dylan who were folk singers.

Fashion is also a part of Rock, especially when it comes to following fashion styles of whichever particular rock band. Glam rock and Psychedelia were among the most commonly followed styles. He strummed his guitar as he spoke, saying that he loves to play folk music, and also has a collection of guitars too, which he lovingly keeps in his simple yet artistic abode.


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