Alibi V.27 No.28 • July 12-18, 2018 

Culture Shock

Stitching New Vocabulary

Rattler uses symbol to create pieces with power

Tiran Sahar
Tiran Sahar, maker of all things Rattler, in one of their garments showcasing powerful symbols
Erika Burleigh

The moon was waning, but still visible on the morning of July 2, as I scrolled through a series of images from Tiran Sahar's handmade clothing line, Rattler. Here, indigo fabric was hung against the background of dry, straw-colored blue grama grass; crescent moons hung low on the sleeves of hand dyed cotton shirts, and hammered bronze rings adorned each of their maker’s fingers. For Sahar, who moved to New Mexico about a year ago from New Orleans, this line grew out of a personal practice from which they derived strength.

“That's how it started,” they described. “I felt really uncomfortable in my body and people were hassling me all the time and I'm just trying to move around in space, to get from one place to the next. There was an opportunity in what I was wearing and bringing forward in myself—not for the other person, but for myself—to feel strength from within.” For Sahar, this started a practice that has, in turn, provided similar feelings of armorment for others. Sahar—who has always been creative and is armed with a degree in printmaking—says the design process grew out of looking for meaning in the symbols that had surfaced again and again in their life.

“If I can see my life as a series of patterns,” they began, “and find symbol and omen in my narrative, the moon shows up, and snakes show up.” These are some of the images that find prominence in Sahar's garments created for Rattler—talismanic motifs that might summon all sorts of things in their wearer—from strength to an increased awareness of the natural world to simple aesthetic pleasure. “Everybody really has [these symbols] if they want to look at their life that way—to think: What gives me power? What do I access that has meaning for me?,” they said.

studio
The studio in which Tiran Sahar designs and creates by hand the pieces for Rattler
Tiran Sahar

Living in New Mexico (currently Silver City, where they also study herbalism) has generated new elements with resonance for Sahar, like water and mountains. “What I like about water and the moon,” they explained, “is that they are really ungraspable, but they are also easy to point to.” Elements such as these have long been directional—carrying weight for humans across history, from mystics to navigators. “Look at them as metaphor,” Sahar suggested. “Look at these throughout time and history. … I think they have a way of bringing understanding of how transient our lives are here. How quickly the cycle of life and death happens, … just like how quickly the moon phases change, or when we start noticing the level of water in a river.”

Part of the power of rich symbols are that they are wordless. That quality is part of what makes art such a vital means of exploring topics that are just as much understood—if not more so—through feeling as opposed to the precision (and sometimes the narrowness) of language. “I don't usually have words for a lot of the ways that I feel for these things,” Sahar said. “I've been thinking a lot about how our language falls short in that way—particularly in regard to nature and resource. If everything is 'it' and 'that,' instead of … a pronoun that speaks to consciousness, then it's easy to make [something] an object. … In that way our language objectifies and defines things in a way that's kind of crass.” Working outside of the parameters of language, Sahar can instead move fluidly through history and personal and time-worn mythologies. In this way, they aim to evoke some of the inexpressible—to conjure the depth that art, when made with thought and care, can help us realize. In Rattler, we can see new, visual vocabularies emerge.

“Mostly I frame it as a moving meditation,” Sahar said of their process. “There's a way in which my consciousness gets pulled out of me. In that way it is a meditation, and I learn a lot doing it.” Sahar's work also allows for “the integration of the mind and body, which are so fragmented so much of the time.” Which speaks to why so many people seek out their clothing, or why any of us make the choices we do of what to hang on our physical forms. “Maybe it’s just the desire for a connection to our bodies that motivates these things,” Sahar mused. Which underlines the subtle but profound effects that come with clothing—what it signifies, how it makes us feel and how, in turn, that affects the way we move around in the world. “At first I was doing it for myself,” they said of the creative practice that is Rattler, “that was its own healing process. But having something to offer to make others’ experiences in the world a little bit easier is wonderful. There are ways in which I feel it has shortcomings, but if I can give anybody a better experience—that's great.”

Connect with Sahar and the breadth of work that is Rattler via their website (rattlerthread.com) or on Instagram (@rattlerthread).