Posts Tagged ‘weaving’

Photo: Tim Tai
The Dancing Monks of Assam rehearse in Philadelphia.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I take tai chi chuan for exercise. The practice is also what is sometimes called a “moving meditation.”

Another kind of moving meditation is performed by the Dancing Monks of Assam in India.

Nancy G. Heller wrote for the Inquirer about an April visit that a group of monks paid to Drexel University.

“The Dancing Monks of Assam live on a remote river island in India and devote their lives to celebrating the Hindu god Krishna through the arts. Eight of them visit Philadelphia this week on their first-ever U.S. tour, initiated by a Philadelphia dance company with roots on that same river island. …

“Unlike dancers in the better-known Bharatanatyam and Kathak styles, ‘Sattriya dancers do not stamp their feet or wear ankle bells, [co-artistic director of Philadelphia’s Sattriya Dance Company — Madhusmita] Bora said. ‘Their movement occurs mainly in the torso.’ …

“At home at their monastery on the river island of Majuli, in India’s Assam state, the monks have the same religious obligations as members of any monastic community. But they also receive rigorous daily instruction in traditional singing; how to play drums, cymbals, flutes, violins, and conch shells; plus mask-making, yoga, and dance. They often join the monastery as children.

“Everyone studies everything, and eventually each monk chooses an area of specialization.”

If you are interested in weaving, you can also learn about Assam’s “Cloth of Vrindavan” here. The Inquirer article describes it as “an elaborate silk cloth once woven in Assam. It uses the now-extinct lampas technique to tell stories from Krishna’s life through stylized images and ancient Assamese text.

” ‘Growing up in Assam,’ Bora said, ‘everyone heard about this cloth.’ But no one saw it, since the textiles themselves, and records of their whereabouts, had long since disappeared.

“Then, in the 1990s, a British textile curator chanced upon several 17th-century examples in London, Paris — and the  Philadelphia Museum of Art. …

“Thanks to support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and some other sponsors, the ancient Assamese script on the Philadelphia textile was decoded as part of the dance project. Bhabananda Barbayan, an Indian monk, translated the cloth’s images into movement.”

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Photo: Andrea Pasquali
Chiara Vigo harvests byssus without harming the clam and uses the sea silk to weave special fabric “for outcasts, the poor, people in need.” She keeps this clam for educational purposes.

Have you heard of “sea silk”? I hadn’t either, until I saw this on Facebook. It’s stories like this (and friends’ photos) that keep me from throwing in the towel on Facebook.

Max Paradiso wrote for the BBC, “Silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms — but there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam. Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold.

“Villagers stare as I knock on the door of Chiara Vigo’s studio, otherwise known as the Museum of Byssus, on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco. …

“Vigo is sitting in a far corner of the room surrounded by yarns and canvasses, holding hands with a young woman …

“Then she hums a song with her eyes closed and fixes the bracelet on the girl’s wrist. She reaches for the window and opens the shades to let the sunlight in and instantly the dark brown bracelet starts to gleam. …

“The bracelet is made of an ancient thread, known as byssus, which is mentioned on the Rosetta stone and said to have been found in the tombs of pharaohs.

“Some believe it was the cloth God told Moses to lay on the first altar. … It is extraordinarily light. …

“Every spring Vigo goes diving to cut the solidified saliva of a large clam, known in Latin as Pinna Nobilis.

“She does it early in the morning, to avoid attracting too much attention, and is accompanied by members of the Italian coastguard — this is a protected species. It takes 300 or 400 dives to gather 200g of material.

“Then she starts weaving it, but as the sign on the door says, it is not for sale.

” ‘It would be like commercialising the flight of an eagle,’ Vigo says. ‘The byssus is the soul of the sea. It is sacred.’

“She gives the fabric to people who come to her for help. …

” ‘I weave for outcasts, the poor, people in need.’

“A steady stream of [them] arrive throughout the day. If they bring a child’s christening dress, she will embroider it. …

“According to Gabriel Hagai, professor of Hebrew Codicology at the Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes in Paris, Vigo is ‘the last remnant’ of a combination of Jewish and Phoenician religious practices that was once far more widespread in the Mediterranean.” More here.

Perhaps this is silly comment to make, given the religious associations of Viga’s silk, but I can’t help thinking about the magic thread in the Little Lulu comics of my childhood. One thread could make tubby Little Lulu a glamorous little girl, but it took a bolt of the magic cloth to turn Witch Hazel into a pretty woman.

Photo: Andrea Pasquali
The loom belonging to the last weaver of sea silk.

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I’ve followed countertenor Terry Barber’s Artists for a Cause for several years. He lines up musicians who, like him, believe in the importance of sometimes donating their talents to a worthy cause. I heard him perform in Rhode Island (check this 2011 post).

Lately, I stared wondering whether other sorts of artists and craftsmen were doing this sort of thing. So I Googled “crafts for a cause” and discovered that someone had used those very words to name a website:

“In 1975, Hetty Friedman first traveled to the Highlands of Guatemala to learn back strap weaving from a Mayan weaver. After that time, Guatemala entered a period of intense political unrest. Thirty two years later, Hetty was able to return. In partnership with Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, a Fair Trade Weaver’s Coop, she is designing unique woven products, training weavers and leading tours. Together they produce a line of hand dyed, hand woven items that are being marketed in the USA.”

Regarding her tours: “Adventurous travelers are provided with a unique exploration of the Guatemala Highland pueblos, Antigua, a Unesco World Heritage City, and visits to various artists and fair trade jewelry and weaving co-ops. Join Hetty on an intimate tour of Guatemala’s fabulous cultural heritage. Lots of guacamole gets eaten.

“Small group travel for women. Meet Mayan artisans, visit Antigua, a Unesco Heritage site, and travel on Lake Atitlan. Great food, wonderful hotels and good company.

“Call 617-512-5344 or email hetty.friedman@gmail.com for details. Contact us to get put on the list for 2018 travel.”

From the nonprofit that Hetty is supporting, “The objective of Asociación Maya de Desarrollo is not to just provide an income for families in post-conflict communities. Asociación Maya also aims to provide an opportunity for women harmed by the war to become leaders in the cooperative, their homes, their communities, and of the Mayan tradition.”

I am filled with admiration.

More at Hetty Friedman Designs, here.

Photo: Hetty Friedman Designs
Weaver Hetty Friedman says, “It all started at age 13 when I took a weaving class at summer camp. It was like a miracle to me.”

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Sari weaving at Kanchipuram — a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

One Instagram account I follow is The_Deepaks, which today posted a video about silk weaving that fascinated me. Instagram doesn’t make it easy to share posts, so I hunted around YouTube until I found another video on silk weaving.

The text accompanying the YouTube video is not in perfect English but is worth reprinting. “The saree is an unstitched garment worn by the women India, that reflects the vast aesthetics to suit a women’s need for adornment and cultural identity. It is a traditional wear across India of different styles depending on the region and occasion. Silk sarees (Pattu sarees) are renowned for their intricate work and adds value through Zari work which is considered to be special.

“These are characterized by huge contrast border offers an ethnic look along with appealing color combination, made through the inclusion of checks of varied colors and geometric patterns. Fine stripes as well as checks in both horizontal and vertical manner add to the relish of the fabric. Traditional motifs found are peacock and parrot with colors in mustard, brick red and black.”

Other videos I found bemoaned the dying art of silk weaving. It’s really unfortunate that the sari weavers, inevitably competing with machines, can no longer make a living doing the work by hand.

I wonder if some of them could earn a living teaching Westerners who appreciate handcrafts. I could imagine tour buses full of people coming for courses by skilled craftsmen and craftswomen.

More at Wikipedia, here.

Video: Dsource Ekalpa India


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Today I walked down to 300 Summer St. for one of the Channel Café’s great lunches and to see the latest in the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery.

The exhibit, a touring show organized by Terra “Touria” Fuller, features unusual carpets woven by Zahra, a cave-dwelling nomad in Morocco, and Mouhou, a subsistence farmer.

Touria also created a documentary. In “Living with Barbarians and Cave Dwellers … Fuller moves to the pre-Saharan desert plains of Morocco from 2008-2010 and integrates into an Amazigh village and learns the survival skills necessary to live with a family of cave-dwelling nomads on the edge of the village. Over two years, she follows along and documents their lives. This is a rare look into a private and fiercely independent nomadic people made possible by the patient friendship Fuller built with the villagers and cave dwelling society.”

More about the Boston show here.

Touria also is bringing two master weavers on tour this year, and you can learn about that at Kickstarter.

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Both because of my job and because of the jobs of many friends and family members, I keep hearing about small business. Suzanne’s birthstone jewelry business is one successful example, and you can read more about its history on the Luna & Stella site. Suzanne’s brother is an entrepreneur, too, in the optics field. And where I work, a number of my colleagues collect data on small businesses and work to improve conditions for them.

At lunch, I heard about an English woman who used to work on GIS mapping for environmental groups in Rhode Island, where I am staying this weekend. Today the woman lives with her husband and children in northern England, where she is into a whole new field (one that benefits the environment, but differently from GIS mapping) — she weaves local wool into scarves, blankets, cushions, and throws.

From a UK site called Keep Trade Local, I learn, “Green business ideas that might benefit the Yorkshire Dales National Park are being offered a cash grant to get started. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) – now in its seventh year of operation – aims to support new business ideas, community schemes and environmental projects that demonstrate ways of living and working in the Dales and that benefit the National Park and its communities.”

The site notes that support was “given to local businesses producing locally-sourced produce, such as the Sedbergh-based Laura’s Looms. With two grants from SDF, Laura has been able to develop and expand her business creating high quality woven ‘Howgill Throws’ using Bluefaced Leicester sheep fleece obtained from farms in [nearby] Garsdale and Dentdale. She is now selling them both locally and on her website at www.laurasloom.co.uk.”

Laura writes, “I create exquisite handwoven silk and wool scarves  and I design and produce The Howgill Range, an exclusive collection of luxurious wool throws and scarves woven from organically processed pure British wool. Beautiful woollen baby blankets and covetable wool cushions can also be found in my online shop, along with the occasional appearance of my one-off, highly textured handwoven throws. I love to weave!”

An aside: Laura’s husband teaches in the international business school where Suzanne met Erik. 🙂

Comments should be sent to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com. And I wouldn’t mind having a photo of bluefaced sheep I could post. It sounds like something out of a fairytale.

Asakiyume answers the call with a photo she found at theshadowsheep

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