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