Our Own Private World Wide Web

If life hadn’t taken an unexpected pivot, we would be in China right now with a group of friends. This very day, we would have been visiting a village that specializes in folded embroidery (my favorite kind), and we would be on our way to a workshop in that technique and others at the Sun Drum Museum in Kaili.

World Wide Web
Folded embroidery artist Li Jin Ying. Photo by Joe Coca from Every Thread a Story.

World Wide

But of course we are not. Even so, our connections to our authors in China remain strong. We hear from Wang Jun, author of Every Thread a Story that after weeks of being sequestered in his apartment, he can now venture to his office one day a week. Since there’s no tourism to be planned or managed, he and his co-workers, those who are allowed to show up, spend their time creating cheerful little videos of the beauties of Guizhou Province. It’s positive, creative work, even if it has no audience at present.

Wang Jun explaining indigo dyeing in Matang, Guizhou. Photo by Karen Brock.

Meanwhile, in Huaphon Province, Laos, just about 550 miles away to the southwest, Souksakone manages her group of dyers and weavers, sending them templates and hand-reeled, natural-dyed silk yarn so they can keep producing their splendid sashes, scarves, and ancestor cloths. We stay in touch with Souk and her friends via the Facebook posts of Maren Beck and Josh Hirschstein, authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos.

Here I am giving Souk a copy of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos at the International Folk Art Market. Photo by Karen Brock.

Maren and Josh’s son Ari, meanwhile, spent weeks stranded in Cusco with his girlfriend when air service out of the country was cancelled. We hope that while he was there he visited Nilda Callañaupa at the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. Nilda, who has authored or co-authored a bunch of Thrums books, has her hands full these days seeing to the needs of the 400 or so weavers in her network of highland villages. With tourism, and consequently textile sales, reduced to zero, their need for basic supplies has become critical. We’ll be sending half of the money we receive this month in sales of our Peru-related books to Nilda for her emergency fund. In Cusco, you might run into Nilda’s brother Angel Callanaupa who illustrated Libby Van Buskirk‘s charming collection of Andean folk tales Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu.

Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez helping a young weaver while we were photographing Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands. Photo by Joe Coca.

Traveling the Web

North of Cusco by about 2321 miles (wouldn’t that be an amazing road trip?), the Maya women of Multicolores in Guatemala have just finished a fund-raising auction of their splendid hooked rugs. Each rug in the auction expresses the artist’s vision of what well-being means to her, and the proceeds from the sale of each rug will afford the artist and her extended family a year’s worth of basic health care. What a long road these women have traveled! You can read about it in Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation. And right in the neighborhood, right there in Guatemala City, you could find Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordón. They partnered on Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, and Deborah soloed on A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala.

While we’re in the neighborhood, we can pop over the border into Chiapas, Mexico, and say hello to Carol Karasik. Carol co-authored Maya Threads and A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas, and soloed on Maya Gods and Monsters. This is my all-time favorite book of myths and legends, both for the brawny text and the magical illustrations. Just get this: “Back in the time of shadows when the earth was a nervous monster—rumbling and shaking mountains and all the creatures that crawled or swam—serpents ruled the world. Yes, their dreadful fangs could bite, cause sickness, and even death. But snakes possessed one awesome feature. They were able to shed their skins, and this gave them the magical power of transformation.” That resonates!

Mysterious Thread
The Earth Monster, illustrated by Alfonso Huerta from Maya Gods and Monsters

Leaving Chiapas, you can head straight north on our world wide web, zoom over Oaxaca where Eric Mindling’s Zapotec friends are spinning, weaving, dyeing, making pots, making tortillas, making chocolate, making mezcal, just like they do in his splendid book of stories and photographs, Oaxaca Stories in Cloth.

Oaxaca Stories in Cloth
Antonia Vera Enrique. Photo by Eric Mindling from Oaxaca Stories in Cloth, Thrums Books 2016

Eric’s not there, though—he’s back in the States, maybe in Santa Fe, where he could (if he were) be hobnobbing with travel writers Sheri Brautigam and Cynthia LeCount, authors of Textile Fiestas of Mexico and A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia, respectively. Mary Littrell is in Santa Fe, too, and she’s our best connection to her co-author, Rangina Hamidi, in Kabul, Afghanistan. They collaborated on Embroidering Within Boundaries, the story of Kandahar Treasure and the women who sustain themselves and their families with some of the finest embroidery on the planet. Rangina is currently running an international school that accepts girls (including her lovely young daughter, Zara). We had looked forward to seeing them both at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe this summer until it was, alas, cancelled.

Bringing the World Home

That brings us close to home: just 50 miles down the road, Lynda Teller Pete is putting finishing touches on the second book she is co-authoring with her sister, Barbara Teller Ornelas, How To Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons From Spider Woman, due out this fall. Who did we miss? Oh! The women of Susan Schaefer Davis’s Women Artisans of Morocco! Susan had the foresight to create on-line sales for Moroccan women’s rugs many years ago, and now the Berber women, high up in the Atlas Mountains, can post their goods online with their cell phones! And Keith Recker’s True Colors is a world wide web in itself, pulling together the stories of artisans from every continent except Antarctica.

When I think of this network of traditional artisans and their record keepers, this global community of makers and sustainers of culture, I can’t help jumping back in place and time to China, 6000 years ago more or less, and the wisdom of Sun Tzu: “When there is chaos, there is opportunity.” Hold that thought.

—Linda Ligon


Thrums Books–The World in Textiles
All print books are 20% off during our Spring Sale. eBooks are 50% off!






11 thoughts on “Our Own Private World Wide Web

  1. Jennifer Chung says:

    I am so happy that you share all your adventures and knowledge- I get to benefit from your experience. What a wonderful world we live in!

  2. Ellen Aronson says:

    Strange that your notice today about how you would have been in China … embroidery … etc uses a photo from Mexico and the beautifully embroidered huipil this indigenous woman is wearing.

    • Karen Brock says:

      Ellen, We have so many images it’s always hard to pick! Plus, the post is about all of our books and authors, not just missing the China trip.

  3. Kathy says:

    wow! thanks for putting it all in print for those of us who will live and learn through your books!

  4. Mary Anne Wise says:

    Nice ‘trip’ and lovely thought to hold, thanks. (A small hastily scribbled quote posted on the wall of my studio- now quite faded: “Crisis in the crossroad of opportunity.” Must’ve come from a similar source!)

  5. Mary Anne Wise says:

    Nice ‘trip’ and lovely thought to hold, thanks. (A small hastily scribbled quote posted on the wall of my studio- now quite faded: “Crisis in the crossroad of opportunity.” Must’ve come from a similar source!)

  6. Angela says:

    Please tell me if there’s a package offer on purchasing all these books in your post today. They seem like an awesome collection of cultural artisanship! Thank you, Angela

    • Karen Brock says:

      Angela, all of our books are 20% off now, and the eBooks are 50% off. We have a few bundles available, such as for our travel guides and our books about Peruvian textiles, but we don’t have a package for all of our titles.

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