THE ART OF KOLAM
It’s time to discover the art of Kolam! For its latest Summer Editions, Issey Miyake presents Shades of Kolam: two Eaux de Toilette born from an extraordinary journey. It is an unprecedented collaboration between the perfumer Marie Salamagne and the artistic duo Twice Studio. These three creatives came together in India, right in the heart of the Tamil Nadu state in the city of Chennai. Together, they had an idea: to discover the art of Kolam and to draw inspiration from it to reinterpret the iconic scents L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme. Traveling provides the starting point for a unique creative process. It is an unprecedented carte blanche which, true to the spirit of Issey Miyake, has been used to celebrate artists’ savoir-faire.
Kolam is a unique art form that has been passed down for centuries from mother to daughter, generation upon generation. It is a technique which combines artistic expression and mathematical reasoning, as well as ancestral tracing techniques. These geometric patterns, drawn by Indian women using rice powder and colored pigments, form captivating arabesques which interlock in concentric circles to create mandalas. With its manifold shapes interweaving differently in each creation, the Kolam art form pushes artists to be all the more creative. Every piece pairs compelling graphic designs with a vivid palette—just like Issey Miyake creations!
ENCOUNTER WITH MEENA, A KOLAM ARTIST
Meena is a teacher and Kolam artist in the Madurai region. She has practiced the art of Kolam since childhood. For her, Kolam is a ritual that brings prosperity, domestic harmony and welcomes guests into her home. Devoted to this ephemeral art reserved for women, Meena wakes up every morning at dawn to draw the Kolam at the entrance of her house. We asked her a few questions about this unique art.
- What is the importance of Kolam in your life?
We draw Kolam as a symbol to invite prosperity and happiness into our homes. It also protects us from the evil or negative energy. We traditionally use white powder made of rice flour to draw Kolam.
- Does the color & design you create change every day?
Yes, we change the design every day. In fact, traditionally, we used to draw it twice a day: in the morning to welcome the sun and in the evening to welcome the moon. Colors are very important in our patterns; we use a lot of white and red. White symbolizes purity and red symbolizes fertility (as per our belief fertility equals prosperity). During the festival time, we draw elaborate, more colorful Kolam, as it denotes the joy of the festival and welcomes our friends and family who will be visiting us during this time. Another color we use in traditional patterns is yellow, which represents prosperity. We use turmeric for this color, which is one of the most important spices for us because of its antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
- How do you make the colored powder used to make Kolam?
We only use colored powders occasionally, during festival time: we usually use turmeric or red sand powder as natural colors, but also colored chalk powder to make our patterns look vibrant.
- What defines and influences the color and design of the Kolam you create?
There are various factors to it. The base of Kolam patterns is mathematical or geometrical patterns, which depend on the day. For instance, on a new moon day we use red in our Kolam patterns, as it is considered to be a day when we remember our forefathers. The design of the Kolam also depends on how much time we have in the morning. If we wake up very early, the design will be larger than on other days.
- Have you taught Kolam to other women around you?
Yes, I do. It is important for girls in a family to learn the art of Kolam drawing. Normally we learn the art and its patterns from the elders (including our parents) in the family by watching them, and eventually we get a chance to try our hand at it. We further develop our skills and patterns by teaching each other within our family during the festival time. Nowadays, due to the cosmopolitan culture of our cities, we rarely see Kolam in the street, but in the more rural parts of Tamil Nadu, we draw Kolam as a daily routine.
LILY ROSE’S INTERPRETATION
The artist and globetrotter Lily Rose lives in Indonesia, on the island of Bali. She is particularly interested in Indian culture and has worked with L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme Shades of Kolam to create some visuals in tribute to color and the beautiful art of Kolam. She told us more about her inspirations.
- What is the importance of color in your life? We can see that you have a very colorful feed 😊
Color has a huge impact on my life and the way I see things, the way I create. It is my biggest source of inspiration. I think that color has the power to transport you, to inspire your dreams. It is the essence of my work.
- How did Kolam inspire you in your work?
When I think of Kolam, I see an explosion of warm colors, a kaleidoscope of colors. I tried to transpose this feeling when creating these visuals.
- Do you think that colors have a smell? How did you translate each fragrance’s scent in your creations?
I think that colors do have a scent and that it can spark your imagination just like scents do.
For the feminine fragrance, the floral and solar notes inspired me to play with strong hues of magenta and light. For the masculine fragrance, the woody and spicy notes inspired me to create with the colors and textures of blue and ochre.
- If you had to choose a color and associate it with a scent, what would you choose?
That would be orange and its different tones! I would associate it with the scent of travel and exploration, the scent of spice markets.