Tribal Trappings – Asian Ethnic Art, Artifacts, Textiles and Folk Art Tribal Trappings – Thoughts about Thailand, Chiang Mai, things tribal including textiles, artifacts and folk art <data:blog.pageTitle/>

Friday, December 05, 2014

Long Live The King!

Happy Birthday to Thailand's King!
Long Live The King!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fresh Threads

Currently on show at Studio Naenna's gallery is a display of sculpture for the wall, or 'architectural functions in textile', as the invitation provocatively states. Comprising sticks, seed pods, mud-dyed woven hemp, felted wool, silk, and using natural dyes, the exhibition lives up to its title: 'Voice of Nature'. Alfa Hugelmann, the artist, has created these pieces during her artist-in-residence tenure at Studio Naenna and has made good use of the strengths of this famous Chiang Mai textile resource. Her use of natural dyes is fresh and creative: especially interesting are a trio of continuous-warp hemp weavings which she has dyed with indigo, orange, and finally purple on the open warps, allowing the background to peek through.

Several pieces utilize woven hemp with a continuous-warps; such textiles are often considered sacred in parts of the world that still find meaning and power in textiles for ritual use. She honors this concept with her thoughtful use of natural color.

Brilliant red from sappan wood colors some panels of silk overlaid with felted wool in a loose grid, and rich grey felted wool contrasts handsomely with white silk that becomes silvery under lights. Several of the pieces were designed to not just hang on a wall, but to move with the slightest breeze, creating shadows and shimmers that enliven the space.

Her use of felted wool is a surprise here in the tropics. Brought from Europe, the wool has been dyed with natural color and in another piece is combined with slim black sticks in different lengths. It evokes many things: from a backbone and ribs, to a native American ceremonial chest plate. The shadows created by its movement are an added visual bonus.

Another piece incorporates long seed pods which form the weft for a warp of thick threads bunched together. It's natural, tribal, and architectural all at once, as well as being quite sculptural.

Alfa shifted gears a bit, and geography, with a trip to Africa and the result is a handsome, mud-dyed piece with tribal resonance. In keeping with her theme, it incorporates natural elements of sticks and odd bits of bone, in addition to the beautiful 'terra' coloration.

Although small in size, the gallery is full of inspiration with this 'mixed-media' show: fresh use of materials and coloration is the major theme, and the viewer leaves with new thoughts on the idea of textiles for display, the space they inhabit, and meaning imparted. This was a welcome jolt out of our usual textile world.

The exhibition will continue on Saturdays from 10am - 3pm, or by appointment (085/707-7008), through 16 August at Studio Naenna Textiles Gallery in Changkhian.

Monday, May 26, 2014

More Lost in Translation

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lost in Translation

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Iran Revisited

I'm sure that you've been to places that have ingrained themselves in your mind and heart. Iran is one of those places for me. Since 1997, when I was there in May and again in September, the memories have beckoned me to return and explore more.  Alas, I've not been able to do so, but I do enjoy revisiting it via my photographs, and am amazed at how sharp those memories are. I hope you will enjoy this armchair journey too.

My first trip began in Mashad, in the northeast near the border with Afghanistan, and home to Iran's best saffron. We arrived the day before a major election - the one that a moderate, soft-spoken contender named Khatami won. For some reason we spent election day climbing a mountain outside of town which overlooked a military training camp that we were not supposed to look at or photograph. But someone in the group did and we were accosted, with some cameras being confiscated (I recall hiding my Leica down the front of my abaya, thinking I'm not losing my pride and joy for this!). Thus began our adventure, but actually it was downhill (pun intended) from there. A day was wasted with our guides going thru official channels to explain and redeem the offending cameras. Nobody was locked up and the rest of the group was free to wander around Mashad, which is also known for its roses that were proudly on display in numerous small parks around the city. Me... I came for saffron! To this day, I have a small stash in my freezer, and tho it is not as potent as in 1997, it is still better than what I can purchase new here.

Spice store in Mashad
 From Mashad we headed west, not too far south of the border with Turkmenistan, in search of some nomads that our guide had previously found in the area. On the move from lower pastures to higher ones, they took a while to find. Our little bus went through a few remote mud brick villages along the way and occasionally we got out and stretched our legs. Below was one such village. In one of these villages we discovered through our guide that only a teacher there spoke Farsi, with the rest of the village speaking the local dialect. We were also surprised to find out that they had never heard of Americans(!). So much for stereotyping a nation and its people. These villages have probably not changed much over time: there was minimal electricity, but no satellite dishes or cars. A few motorcycles were seen, but not even the ubiquitous 4 cylinder Land Rovers that we saw elsewhere in Iran. Fields surrounded the village and we saw sheep, but there was little evidence of any other activity.

Villagers with election posters on doors- Khatami is on the right-hand one.

This was in another, slightly less remote village where chadors were worn

Finally, the next day, we caught up with the nomads! They had a small settlement with one rock building and some tents, one of which was over a space dug into the ground which served as a kitchen of sorts. This is where the dough for our bread was made. No weaving was in evidence, but they did have floor coverings of felted wool. Consistent with the unspoken rules of nomadic hospitality , we were treated like long lost friends. They made us freshly baked bread in a tandoori-like oven in the ground and also served a yoghurt drink flavored with fresh herbs. We were entertained in the block building: a plastic-covered tablecloth was put on the floor and bowls of fresh yoghurt, butter (homemade of course) and honey accompanied the long, flat rafts of bread. It was a feast!

The nomad's encampment is on the left, with a beautiful valley filled with flowers between them and our camp

The oven was a hole in the ground, seen between the women

Our feast!

 The following day we headed out and found more nomads with their flocks. A proud shepherd kindly allowed his photograph to be taken. Here you can see the source of that lustrous wool out of which their rugs and trappings are made.

Later in the afternoon we camped in an area with rich, dark soil and rolling, barren hills. A short walk away was a Kurdish encampment of black goat hair tents (not in the photo). We provided them with the night's entertainment: I was elected to be dressed up in Kurdish fancy dress and then to help make yoghurt. I could have 'kidnapped' the baby lamb in my arms!

More memories of Iran later... it's a rich feast, best to be savored slowly!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Out and About - South of Chiang Mai - Part 1

The new year began with yet more visitors: Chiang Mai has been the destination du jour, especially for Chinese tourists, but we have also had numerous visits from occidental friends and clients. One such group wanted to see textiles being made and other cultural attractions, so one Saturday we headed south toward Chom Tong. Our first stop was the water buffalo market in San Patong. A Saturday-only rural market, it is so well-attended that it has now crossed the 4 lane highway, causing ongoing traffic to slow to a crawl. We always find fun things at this market and also enjoy the people-watching, as it brings folks out of the hills from miles around. On offer are mostly useful items: baskets of all sorts, tools, clothes and of course, food. This time we saw ducklings, but were too late for the buffalo trading.

handmade brooms, fish traps, trays, traps, etc.
3 for 25 Baht... for your three-footed baby...?
Handmade knives and slingshots
The Monsters are here!
Sweet treats

Further down the road, in Chom Tong, we stopped at the venerable Wat Chom Tong. Newly restored, it is quite a masterpiece of interior decoration. All the beams, columns and walls are painted with gold stenciled designs. Large umbrellas help define the space and an ornately carved altar forms the backdrop for the main Buddha figure. We especially like the beautifully-carved wooden 'tung', or vertical banners, that are given to a temple to make merit. This one, below, depicts intertwined nagas, and is gilded and uses mica for the mirror elements.

 At the entrance to the vihaan we noticed large honeycombs hanging from the eaves (see the two left of center). Further investigation rewarded us with the amazing sight of a tree full of honeycombs (!). The bees here seem happy!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Out and About - South of Chiang Mai - Part 2

No trip south is complete without a visit to the weaving cooperative Ban Rai Pai Ngam. South of Chom Tong, near the 68km marker, it is also known as Pa Da Textile Museum. Located along the Ping River, it is a beautiful site, with the entrance via a lane canopied by bamboo. Your arrival is heralded by the vision of a handsome two story, generously-proportioned, dark-stained wooden house. I recently learned that this fine home was once the summer home  of a Chiang Mai ruler, back in the early 20th century. This explains what I've always thought of as its 'refined' quality: large rooms, good layout, nice details, and even an indoor kitchen. I don't know when it became the home of Mrs. Bansiddhi, but she formed the weaving cooperative that works on the ground floor, under the main house, after WWII. Their weavings are famous for the use of innovative patterning, lovely textures, and use of natural dyes. A previous blog post shows more of the house and textile-making process.

Cotton skeins showing colors from natural dyes

This lady is setting up the warp threads prior to putting them on the loom
(above and below)

Weavers at work

 Hungry for lunch, we headed back to Chom Tong, but turned right on the south side of town, toward the river where we found the Rim Nam restaurant (053/826-154) at the end of the road. We'd eaten here in the past and been pleased with the fresh fish and well-prepared Thai food; their 'yam plaa duk fu'/fluffy catfish salad is stellar in our memories.

Our next stop was to satisfy the 'culture vultures' in the group: the Ganesha Museum. This was a first for me, but I'd heard of it several years ago from a Ganesha collector and had wanted to visit ever since. One of Thailand's wonderful, eccentric private museums, this should be in every guidebook. 'Mike', aka Khun Pundhorn Teerakanon, opened the museum in 2009 to house his 2000+ figures. His interest in Ganesha has taken him all over the world and the collection includes items from his travels. Ganesha (or Kaness, as pronounced in Thailand) is the Hindu deity with the human body and head of an elephant. It comes in many forms: multi-armed,  on horseback, even as a female, and he has them all.

In a buggy, with his loyal attendant 'Rat'

A modern version

On horseback, in stone
As a female, in ceramic

The pagoda was closed

Pagoda entrance

Ganesha can even be found in nature

Shiva as hermit

The sun was setting and the museum closing

A rich day of culture and the marvels of northern Thailand left us all amazed and stimulated by the wondrous sights. This is why I've yet to get bored living here!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,