Thursday, January 27, 2011

Photos from my visit to a Buddhist Temple

Child-like monk sculpture in robe with bowl for alms or offering.

Flower offering on a bright white elephant sculpture.
Tree with brass leaves in the temple garden.
Fierce bird guarding the entrance.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"The Emperor's Clothes" Exhibition at Lost Heavens Gallery

I photographed the stunning robes above on my visit to a recent exhibition titled "The Emperor's Clothes." There I met Toy and Ron Simpson, textile collector, dealer, and curator from Toronto. I learned that Ron knew my previous boss at Cora Ginsburg's in NYC, the amazing Titi Halle, and of Dr. Ginsburg. Before I knew it, he was happily telling me the history of several pairs of Chinese slippers from the nineteenth century. Light, delicate, and teeny as they are, they befitted middle class women with bound feet, a practice which was fashionable at the time but which rendered their female wearers nearly immobile by the time they were twelve years old! But really it only hurt to unbind the feet, so one could still walk. In the photograph above, you can see how sweetly embroidered the shoes were and how non-functional too. I imagine the women lounging around in bed all day waiting for their husbands to come home… who, if they were wealthy, would never have wed a girl whose feet were not bound! Hm.. Could I have done that?!
A passionate collector, Ron loves American quilts most of all. We discussed the growing interest in American quilting in both Thailand and Japan, which he saw recently at an expo and which I noted earlier in my blog. Apparently, quilting in western style has become increasingly popular in recent years, where it’s called sashiko. My first thought was of the beautiful old silk hangings made from patches of kimono donated to temples that I first saw in Terry Milhaupt’s class at the BGC--not sure if they were quilts though. After an online image search I found really sweet quilts with miniature kimono shapes made from recycled pieces of silk. I also discovered that Thailand’s first “Quilt Show” took place in Bangkok this past September. Interesting!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Accessories in Northern Thai Hilltribe Style

The Hilltribe Handicraft Training Center has worked with hilltribes Akha, Yao, Lahu, Hmong, Khamu, and Thai. A few of their products stay true to native forms. Example: the jacket for a small boy trimmed with fluffy red cotton above on the left. Much of the inventory incorporates traditional textiles and patterns into modern and sometimes western shapes.
Loud colors like hot pink and electric orange make an eye-catching accessory out of an otherwise small, less conspicuous pouch. 30THB or 1USD.
Purse or pencil case. Plain weave black trim appears often. Is this because it's affordable (probably mass-produced) or because of the belief in "black goes with everything"?
Though it seems to work here, an alternative, higher quality material for the details would better suit the design and craftsmanship of the fabric, or, alternatively, polish off the look by sharpening it, rather than dulling it down. Perhaps an update would improve their marketability too. Just a thought!
Embroidered with swirling floral vines, this teeny bag will carry your cell phone, card, and cash. When that's all one needs, this is sweet and convenient.
Travel light with something original, colorful and soft. Purchases support hilltribe communities at this store which is run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Thailand. According to its small wholesale catalogue, this religious organization promotes handicraft training among young people, and then markets their work so that they may attend school on their own income.