Americans’ perception of Laos has changed dramatically since Peter Greenberg, renowned travel writer and Today Show contributor, wrote about the country in April 2008: “Laos is a true magical mystery tour. Few Americans visit. Fewer understand it.”
Since 2008, the veil has lifted, revealing not only a beautiful country, but also a weaving tradition with a growing fan base of art connoisseurs across the world. The 1995 exhibit “Lao Textiles Revisited” at New York City’s Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology introduced Americans to the complexity and crafts[wo]manship involved in the weaving of these exquisite textiles.
In this exhibition, DARA Artisans is proud to feature some of the finest in Lao silk textiles and handicrafts. All of the textiles are handwoven or hand-embroidered and reflect the highest standard in artisan excellence. The structure of the weave and the visual appearance of the fibers collectively reflect the superior quality of these textiles. Each textile features individual yarns and varying patterns woven with intricate cohesion. We hope the collection conveys a deep understanding and appreciation for these incredibly talented weavers.
Our exhibition comes at a crucial time for Lao weavers, who now find themselves competing against the large-scale quantities of polyester print fabric that China exports into Laos. The polyester fabrics mimic the colors and patterns of traditional handwoven silk skirt material, but they cost a tenth of the price. It is difficult for Lao textile galleries and weavers to compete. Here at DARA Artisans, we want to support the tradition of handwoven Lao textiles and preserve it from the impact of commercialization.
As Ellison Banks Findly writes in her recently published Spirits in the Loom: Religion and Design in Lao-Tai Textiles, “Weaving connects Lao-Tai people through time and in community. As an art, there is none that is as central, and so fully shared among the people, as the woven textile. The exquisite and complex motifs of the textiles have been around for at least a thousand years, and their power and longevity contribute substantially to the generation of meaning through culture.”
Written By Peter Whittlesey
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