The Magpie Anthology

Travelling the Silk Road

Sometimes serendipity and just being in the right place at the right time is where a brilliant project begins and this is where Ali Pretty from Kinetika found herself, in Murshidabad, amongst silk weavers using 18th century skills.

The team learnt that in the 18th century Murshidabad was world- famous for the heavy, durable but amazingly supple silk that was worn by the Moghul nobility and exported across the world by local merchants and traders to the South East Asian markets. The silk travelled to Europe, exported by the French and subsequently the British East India Company. Kinetika were very keen to work with this exquisite silk and through the Crafts Council of West Bengal (CCWB) were able to connect directly with the local weavers who still had the old looms and the required level of skill.

Ali and her team of silk painters fell in love with the exquisite silk from Murshidabad whilst working on the 2017 Silk River project which was part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence. Murshidabad silk has a rich, durable texture, an ability to hold bold, bright colour and is of a very high quality. Realising that there was a risk that the silk weavers’ skill could be lost, Kinetika began working with the weavers, using and promoting the silk in the UK to order to keep the traditions and skills alive. The Crafts Council of West Bengal said, “It turned out to be a great revival project as the weavers were contacted, convinced through a series of negotiations that it would be a wonderful opportunity to recreate the superior quality silk on a pilot basis for an international project. The weavers rose to the challenge and the silk for the scrolls was woven on looms that had not done so in recent memory. The success of the Silk River scrolls in telling the story of the British connection to India, from the past to the present will restore Murshidabad’s place in the history of Empire – as a centre of trade and a producer of exquisite silk.

An internationally renowned outdoor arts company based at the High House Production Park in Purfleet on the Thames Estuary, Kinetika was started by artist Ali Pretty over 20 years ago and has established an unrivalled reputation for bold design and innovative inclusive events, bringing communities together and creating a sense of pride in a place or organisation. Kinetika is now moving into producing and selling luxury silk items. Ali Pretty’s Silk River Collection for Kinetika uses the Murshidabad heritage silk for cushions and scarves which show designs inspired by the production process of the silk. All profits from the Kinetika Design Studio go to the charitable arm of the company, Kinetika People, to support community projects such as the annual walking festival T100.

Kinetika is also working to support the silk weavers in Murshidabad by ordering quantities of the silk to open up the UK market, making available to UK craft makers and designers a limited supply of the raw, undyed silk. The silk can be purchased directly from Kinetika by the length (6 metres) or by the metre. For prices and further details, please contact Kinetika also specialises in bespoke design. Previous commissions include the stunning Deloitte silks for the Royal Opera House. These 11 12foot long silk banners illustrated the history of the Opera House. The banners can be seen HERE 

Currently Kinetika is working with ladies and girls at the Neasden Temple to create silk flags for International Women’s Day in March.

If you would like to find out more about Kinetika, please go to

Words & Pictures: Kinetika


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