INTERVIEW WITH RAVI PANKHANIA: CURTAIN MAKER EXTRODINAIRE

I’m thrilled to introduce a new category to my blog: Interviewing My Heros.  I’ve been in the custom & couture window treatment fabrication field since 1989 and have met and taken classes from many of my heros.  It’s been a long-time dream of mine to interview some of my heros and post their answers so that others can learn more about these talented people.

Ravi at Work in His Studio

I’ve been following Ravi’s website and blog for years and was honored to meet him two years ago and have had the privilege of taking a couple of classes from Ravi at the Custom Sewing Institute in Houston Texas, in 2010 and 2011.  Ravi’s creativity and workmanship will blow you away.  Check out his site and blog! Without further adue, let’s meet Ravi!

RAVI, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND?

My Name is Ravi, I am a curtain maker in Vancouver. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to Vancouver when I was twelve. I studied tailoring and patternmaking for ten years before realizing that I didn’t want to be a tailor. In a moment of near economic collapse I was bailed out by an order for cushions and realized I could use my super sewing powers for good… My soft furnishings business was born!

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR FIRST JOB AS A DRAPERY MAKER, IS IT A FOND MEMORY OR A TERRIFYING ONE?

Definitely terrifying… Our very first drapery jobs were made by others and there simply was no trust from me in their skills. Moving forward and finally making our own I was absolutely paranoid that they wouldn’t fit, or the colour was awful etc etc…. Everything worked out just fine.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS?

Actually sewing. I make dozens of samples and concept curtains. This is where I work out my creative process and is most inspiring. I enjoy taking a concept from idea to completion and then selling it.

Ravi's Grommet Noren

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FABRIC TO WORK WITH RIGHT NOW?

Linen. Closely followed by wool and some alternative materials. I have been using nylons, tyvek, mesh, etc. Linen is a fantastic cloth which has an incredible hang and subtle textures… AKA wrinkles. I prefer cloths which are very stable and can be manipulated to create some of the incredible artwork we fabricate. I can also appreciate taking fabrics and experimenting with them, altering their structure their opacity, their properties to make something entirely new and unique.

HOW IMPORTANT IS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF NEW IDEAS TO YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?

Our company only exists because of our extensive research and development. Although this seems strange for a company that makes curtains we are constantly redesigning and refining our methods and our work. Only just last week we designed and fabricated a set of heavy interlined silk panels in an entirely new way. It is not enough to do just enough… Ever. Generally when it comes to research and development I start by drawing new concepts, making notes, and then making samples…. Lots of samples.

WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK RIGHT NOW?

Probably my family. I have to look after them, that makes things very serious even in a fun and creative atmosphere. Although I like to indulge myself the possibilities of trying new things and really pushing the boundaries of my limits I do most of it for practical reasons.

WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO SPECIALIZE IN COUTURE DRAPERY MAKING?

I really enjoy making curtains. I love the entire process especially knowing my curtains will bring an incredible amount of joy to a person’s life for years to come. I am thankful for the opportunity and the responsibility that people give me to beautify their most intimate living spaces.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE TYPICAL PROCESS THAT YOU WOULD TAKE WITH A CLIENT FOR WINDOW TREATMENT DESIGN?

Generally people come to me because they want something very different and unique. I start by introducing them to some interesting fabrics and ideas through sewn samples. From there we decide on particular styles or fabricate new ones. Once they are approved we quote the curtains, take a deposit and start sewing!

WHAT DESIGN BOOKS OR DESIGNERS DO YOU LOOK UP TO AND RECOMMEND TO OTHERS?

There really are so many talented people out there…I recently enjoyed reading  Inside Outside, by Petra Blaisse. I love the Merrick and Day publications and the quality of their work. I am really loving books on Japanese design at the moment. I am a big big fan of the natural aesthetic and materials. I am an avid collector and reader of Selvedge magazine… Wonderful publication. It’s really hard to single out any one or even several. I find that I learn something from everyone, some things are even useful…

IF YOU COULD SIT DOWN WITH ANY OF YOUR HEROS, DEAD OR ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ASK HIM/HER

I probably would like to meet someone from Fashion, maybe Gianni Versace, but I doubt I would have much in common with him, so I might just ask him for the time. Perhaps it would be nice to meet someone who had made curtains for their entire lifetime, I have never met anyone who has… I am sure they would have some very interesting things to share….

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PASTTIME?

Probably thinking, which I do while working and wile relaxing. I am an avid reader too, and of course sewing.

WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO IN YOUR FIELD?

There are definitely some specific people but I am also very much energized by the people in the background. I congratulate anyone who is working hard to earn a living in this beautiful trade, we all know how difficult it can be and it is important for us all to have each other’s support. Women and Men who really push the boundaries of their skills and abilities. Those who work tirelessly to improve their skills, sell themselves, juggle the curtains and the kids and a home life. Those are my real heroes.

WHAT PIECE OF WORK ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?

Probably our banner shades. These priceless pieces of textile sculpture have been by far and wide our most popular product and blogged about worldwide, continuously since we made the first versions in 2007. These were the beginning of our foray into concept drapery. Really radically changing the way curtains look and function. Humble beginnings!    — Ravi

Ravi's Banner Shade

Click here to visit Ravi’s Website

Click here to visit Ravi’s Blog

ENJOY!