I’m Laurie Fairman, a long time friend of Julie’s and I had a tough time deciding what aspect of textile appreciation I would focus on when she invited me to say a bit about my love of fabrics. The photos shared here (except for the man’s attire) were taken at Honeychurch Antiques, our shop of 40 years in Seattle.
I have had the most incredible opportunity over my lifetime as one of the owners of Honeychurch antiques and Glenn Richards to have seen and held textiles from Asia and beyond whose profound beauty fed my insatiable curiosity. Of course the subtle esoteric beauty of Japanese indigo lives on in a special place in my heart. The Japanese use rice paste rather than wax to resist the dye, but whether hand drawn or stenciled; the designs are both compellingly seductive in their simplicity, and impressively complex in their construction.
One of my favorite places to find wonderful antique indigo is at Gallery Kei in Kyoto: http://byrios.blogspot.com/2010/02/gallery-kei-in-kyoto.html
But it is the Ethnic minority embroidered costumes of Southeast China that became a particular favorite of mine early on. The people who made these things were women who had little time to themselves when the long grueling day of tending to the family’s needs were done. The art of decorative ornamentation on cloth defined women from an early age. The finer the needlework, the more patient, virtuous and desirable a girl is considered to be. Such women are heroines, toiling under rigourous conditions, without electricity in remote areas where all the tools needed to create these garments are hard won; they sometimes enable whole ecosystems to thrive.
The Miao, the largest ethnic group among the many that encompass the Chinese ethnic minorities had no written language. Defeated by the Han Chinese thousands of years ago, theirs became a life of nomadic movement.The symbols woven into their decorative costumes spoke volumes of where they had been, where the aspired to going. Most importantly, they preserved the wealth of cultural heritage that defines a proud group. The costumes are referred to as “totems that are worn on the body, and epic poetry that is recorded on the clothes.”
My love of antique cloth taught me to look more closely at hand crafted garments. Over decades of travel in search of them, I came to realize that many of these time honored traditions were being challenged by modern times. The young generation in areas we visited; China,India, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines often wanted to move to the bigger cities where, it was usually assumed, more glamorous jobs awaited them. In my trips to buy for my shop, Glenn Richards, I sought villages and artist coops that supported women who chose to stay and carry on their craft. But that’s a different story. More about contemporary fabrics another time!