Saturday, December 16, 2006
Last night we were nicely entertained for a couple of hours by this wonderful double set of DVDs from Janet Willoughby, at Ends Of The Earth. A very thoughtful gift from Pamela Cross, they document a large variety of surviving (some only barely) weaving traditions around the world, and show in detail the use of all kinds of looms and the different techniques employed. Janet has travelled and video'd weavers in Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Bali, Sumba, Burma, Laos, Thailand, India, Ghana, and Turkey (plus others no doubt), and the ingenious variations on the process of combining warps and wefts are quite awe-inspiring- from the mechanisms (looms) to the weavings. These tribal people would be naturals with computers, as these looms are not dissimilar in the skills and expertise required. (Of course, it is well known that the jacquard looms of the 19thc.inspired the first punchcard computers.) Covered on the DVD are all the stages of setting up the various looms: warping, tying the heddles, etc.; then the different weaving methods: warp-faced, weft-faced, supplementary warp and weft, 'pick-up', four selvedge, warp and weft ikat, and double ikats, tapestry, cicim and even carpets. It was interesting to see similarities such as the Guatemalan weavers using the same looms and methods as Karen weavers in Thailand. It was also enlightening to see double ikats being woven on large looms in Gujarat (their origin), as well as Tenganan, Bali, but on small backstrap looms. Needless to say, we learned a lot and will be reviewing the information often. This set, and others, can be ordered from Janet's website.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Long Live The King!
Happy Birthday King Bhumipol Adulyadej!As I write this, it sounds like a war-zone outside as the surrounding villages and towns celebrate the King's 79th birthday. Incendiary devices are going off everywhere: fireworks, fire balloons, firecrackers- the whole arsenal. And on live TV an amazing outpouring of love and solidarity is manifested by a sea of people dressed in yellow (the King's color) and holding candles at a special ceremony in Sanam Luang, the large open area in downtown Bangkok. Here in Chiang Mai, the place to be is the Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk, the world-class horticulture exhibition in honor of the King's 60th Anniversary on the throne.
The King's annual birthday speech to the people was actually given yesterday to a limited audience. It was short, as befits his health-limited attendance at events, and to the point: he spoke highly of the wisdom and experience that comes with age and chastized elderly people who do not use or share their knowledge and insights. No doubt he was referring to his aging advisors and their detractors. Stating that he was "bored" with politics, he also addressed the widespread flooding that has only just receded in the south/central part of the country, and blamed those in charge of water management for the recent debacle. Speeches in the recent past had been used as opportunities to criticize then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, much to the delight of his detractors. With Thaksin in exile, no such fun was to be had.
Much-loved and respected by all Thais, King Bhumipol (pronounced 'Pumibon') has taken a great interest in improving the country for his people. We love the old photos of him out hiking through fields and rice paddies with his ever-present camera and notepad. And we are impressed by his patents for cloud-seeding techniques and subsequent success in rainmaking (unlike another king we have known of, who would consult the royal meterologists and then hold special prayers for rain). This year the refrain 'Long Live The King' means more than ever.