Fellow blogger Style Court is on fire these last few weeks, writing about everything I am interested in from dhurrie rugs to Laotian weavings. I have been meaning to do a quick post on textiles, with some new and old discoveries, and she has inspired me.

A few months ago I came across a new publication called Textiles Asia, founded by Bonnie Corwin in 2009 and published 3 times a year. The journal is aimed at both experts and novices and was started to fill the void left by the closing of the Textile Society in Hong Kong. Recent issues have featured everything from articles on the Mitsui family’s collection of Kosode (kimono) to Aboriginal Batik. The format is clear, the articles well-written and it has an impressive board of contributors. Subscription information can be found on their website and Tokyo locals can find it at the Tokyo American Club or the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum.

Floating Fans paper pattern and robe, Wedding Uchikake, Mitsui Collection, 19thC

The May 2010 issue has an article about traditional Lao wedding ceremonies and the significance of the dress worn on that day. Laotian textiles are some of my favorites, particularly after visiting there. Laos is one of the few places left in the world where intricate hand-woven fabrics are a part of everyday life. Traditional weaving techniques were almost lost to the chaos of the war, but have been revived and are now flourishing.  Much of that revival is due to Carol Cassidy, who opened her workshop in 1990 and brought a new worldwide focus and market for these products.

Cassidy’s work is a contemporary take on this ancient art form. “I start with traditional patterns and techniques and I modify, interpret, translate, adapt…” Using vintage and antique pieces, such as the Lue people skirt below, Cassidy stylizes, expands and modernizes the motifs, creating her own art. Cassidy estimates that about half of her patterns have been inspired by the different woven bands in this exact skirt.
The scarves below have a band with a signature motif that she uses all the time, found in the skirt above. In addition to personal items like shawls and scarves, Cassidy and her weavers make wall hangings and she has also collaborated with interior designers and architects to produce fabric for upholstery, using a special wide loom.
I have a number of her pieces, including this large weft ikat laying over the back of the chair. If you look back at the skirt, you can see that this piece is a stylized version of the large band of zig zag ikat on the top of the skirt. On the other hand, the pillow is made from a woven textile bought in the marketplace, not from Cassidy’s atelier, but still you can see the use of the traditional motifs.  I had it made into a Laotian sarong. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, it was never a good look for me, so I had it turned into a pillow.
For more on Carol Cassidy and weaving in Laos see American Weaver Revives Old Laotian Art and In Laos, It’s all About Weave in The New York Times. Cassidy also has a number of publications including the one shown above, Beyond Tradition: Lao Textiles Revisited and Weaving Tradition: Carol Cassidy and Woven Silks of Laos. Best of all, go and visit and see them in person!
Image credits: 1. Textiles Asia, 2. from Textiles Asia January 2010, images courtesy of the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum, photo credit: Tamiko Tanaka/Tami Art, 3-4.  from Beyond Tradition:Lao Textiles Revisited, photo credit: Irving Solero, 5. Asia Store Blog at the Asia Society, 6. me.