Mohammad Ayoub Lone, resident of the Seer Hamdan area in the Anantang district has been working for several decades as a shawl designer, an art that passed to him from one of his relatives, Abdul Aziz Dar of Khanabal, Anantnag.
Inspired by the magnificent work of Abdul Aziz Dar, Lone dropped out of school to learn shawl design from him. The inclination towards shawl designing, says Lone, was purely out of passion. It was his passion that made Lone switch from academic studies to design.
In a field full of veteran artists, Lone has successfully carved a niche of his own by designing unique shawls that look like paintings.
He explains that the handloom industry in Kashmir is worth crores, and if an artist fails to upgrade their skillset, they are likely to perish altogether.
Lone did not want to suffer the same fate. He started experimenting with his designs and thus came with a unique blend of natural and historical designs.
From flowers, birds and animals to pictures of Mughal emperors, his eye-catching shawls are full of life. They have not only got him handfuls of customers but have substantially increased his income and made him one of the most sought-out craftsmen in Kashmir.
A handful of art enthusiasts from different parts of Kashmir began to admire his skills and were eager to learn from him. This prompted Lone to dedicate a couple of hours of his daily work towards the training of art lovers. He has so far trained more than 200 artisans and is very proud that he has contributed in keeping this age-old legacy alive.
Now a well known master craftsman or wusta in his area, many people including young artisans admire Lone for his skills. The veteran artist tells The Citizen that he was always more inclined toward paintings of nature and animals which got him fame among people.
Lone believes designing shawls is a most respectable job but over the past several decades, craftsmen were neglected by the government and public systems which did not support them the way they should. "Although many schemes were initiated by the government their benefits were only provided to selected persons," he explains.
Kashmiri shawls have a rich history and have been in vogue around the globe for centuries. However, technological limitations in the market have led to the decline of the authentic Kashmiri design.
Of their five-member family, Lone along with his wife and daughter are striving hard to keep the legacy alive. His daughter has taken the lead in learning the unique art and is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies.