Waterwork: Fabric used for wall hangings or curtains. Commonly painted with colors and formerly made to resemble tapestry.
Batik postcards will be the craft at the PM @ The TM: Spring “Staycation” event on May 23, but we want you to be able to join the fun at home! Follow these instructions to create your own batik postcard or make on with us on Thursday. Tickets and more information here.
Strike: Term used to describe the fast, initial, and usually uneven absorption of dye by fiber, yarn, or fabric.
In Their Own Voices: The Artists of Out of Southeast Asia
This April, The Textile Museum presented a panel with the exhibiting artists of Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains. The program offered a unique opportunity to hear their perspectives on the relationship between the region and their work. Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam were visiting from Indonesia, while Carol Cassidy flew from Laos, and Vernal Bogren Swift made the journey from Canada. Following their diverse presentations, the artists responded to audience questions. Two selected questions follow, and the remainder were published in our summer Members’ Magazine.
Q: As a married couple, what is the importance of collaboration to your creative process?
Agus Ismoyo: “My work expresses the culture of Indonesia. Because of that I believe there is something of destiny in the work. In my culture life is like a tree. I’m like a tree which needs to integrate with the dirt and sky to breath, and which has the destiny to grow. I’m very happy and interested in collaborating with other trees, like a garden in the world.”
Nia Fliam: ”I always have to tell the dark side of the story. You can picture the hot, steamy studio in Yogyakarta – and I’m creating pastel colors, and my husband is brown and blue, brown and blue. Aesthetic warfare, all in the name of collaboration. Sometimes I think I understand why there are wars in the world, because if we collaborate with the intention of becoming one and we are still fighting over brown and black and blue and pastel colors, then we can imagine why people who were never committed to collaborating can go and kill each other.
But now the mystical side of the story. From the beginning, when Ismoyo and I met we always intended to collaborate with each other…At the heart of it, the technique of batik as taught in Java is a collaborative process. So in the exploration of that tradition as I understand now—but I didn’t understand at the beginning—it is very magical that we would want to construct a collaborative process. In our studio it is not just Ismoyo and I, but there are twenty-five people working together, who each have a mastery of some part…All of these people play an integral part in what we produce, so we’ve never said that it is just Ismoyo and Nia, but we are a batik band, as it were.
At the heart, I understand now that the desire to collaborate is to try to shape in some way how we can live in the world and realize our interconnection. In our life experience in America we’ve become very individualized. I think part of the attraction for me in collaborating with Ismoyo and living and learning and taking Indonesian culture as my teacher, is that in Indonesia, this collaborative spirit, this way of living so closely together, is still very much alive and well. I feel in my heart that as Americans we have to learn also how we can live together and be conscious not only of our individuality but the intrinsic interconnection between all of us.”
Agus Ismoyo is from Java, and his family has a long history of making batik. Trained at Pratt, Nia Fliam came to Indonesia in 1983 to learn batik and never left.
Q: This is a time of great transition, and as the economy provides other alternatives, the question on all of our mind is: Is creating traditional textiles today sustainable?
Carol Cassidy: “I wish I had a crystal ball. There was a comment at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) traditional textile conference in Hanoi by a scholar who said to us that it was his opinion that there would not be traditional weaving in five or ten years. He came to that conclusion through his travels in the mountains of northern Vietnam and Laos, and it is true. There was an article in the Vientiane Times a couple weeks ago about the decline in Lao weaving and the use of traditional skirts. Weaving in the region is under threat. That is a fact. But there is a movement among those of us who have been daily engaged in this. In my own experience it started out as my passion, and Lao craft and passion, and in merging that, I’ve found a way for the staff to own the future of what we make.
There is no clear answer, the currents under us are changing so fast in Southeast Asia. And a profound change in traditional societies is sweeping over us. What I’m hoping is that through the forum of ASEAN, like the EU or NAFTA, we will be able to prioritize traditional skills like weaving, basketry, etc and have a national and international effort to prioritize showcasing these arts.. We hear it from politicians, we hear it from others—it is very popular right now to talk about empowerment, gender issues, sustainable employment. But to keep traditional textiles alive is a huge herculean task, which is why I am hoping is that there will be a venue, a way that when those of us who are getting older are able to pass the knowledge on—both the skill itself and the institutional idea that these are vital traditions that need to be preserved.”
Carol Cassidy knew she wanted to devote her life to textiles from the age of twelve, when she saw a woman with a spindle in Oaxaca, Mexico. Since then, she learned how to weave in Norway and Finland and eventually established Lao Textiles, a workshop responsible for a revitalizing an interest in traditional Lao weaving.
Rag Rug: A rug, which is made from strips of cloth that are torn from woven or knitted fabrics.
It’s a wrap!
Textile Museum staff have concluded a monumental initiative to survey our collections in preparation for the museum’s 2014 move to the George Washington University—finishing up with this intricate seventh- to eighth-century textile fragment (top).
Gently packed in an acid-free “passive mat,” whose hinged flaps secure the piece without contact (bottom), and stacked in a box, this artifact is already fully equipped for a safe journey to the museum’s new conservation resource center, currently under construction at GW’s Ashburn, Va., campus.
Through the collections survey, TM staff have identified more than 10,500 additional objects (roughly fifty-five percent of the museum’s entire collections) as “move-ready.” Next up, our team will use survey data to determine travel needs for the remaining collection pieces and make recommendations for the configuration of the new storage space.
Read more about our collections survey here.
- Islamic fragment, Iran/Iraq, 7th–8th century. TM 73.609. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1949.