Of Rainbows and Dragons: Bhutan East to West and Northeast India

bhutan_photo-1 bhutan_image-2Of Rainbows and Dragons: Bhutan East to West and Northeast India

September 22 to October 9, 2017

This 18 day tour will begin in Kolkata, India. Here we will spend time learning about Kantha embroidery and exploring a local bazaar before flying to Guwahati, Assam. Before driving to the border with Bhutan we have time to visit Sualkuchi, famous for muga and eri silk weaving.  Our tour in Bhutan will focus on its vibrant cultural and artistic heritage with special emphasis on Bhutan’s most distinctive art form: its textiles. Specially patterned fabrics serve as dress, carrying sacks, household furnishings, adornments for sacred spaces, and gifts for celebratory occasions such as weddings.  We will spend 14 days in Bhutan driving west from Samdrup Jongkhar to Paro.  Along the way we will be visiting weavers, witnessing religious festivals and visiting local markets, historic sites, and museums.

Tour Cost: TAC members $4096 based on shared occupancy of rooms with a group of 16 participants. The single supplement is $652. There is an additional $45 surcharge for non TAC members. Included in the cost of the tour are all hotels, meals, ground transportation, entrance fees to historic sites and museums as well as services of an English-speaking guide throughout the tour, and gratuities.  The cost of the tour includes a $400 tax deductible donation to the Textile Arts Council.  Not included are personal expenses such as laundry, etc.  Also not included are international airfare, visas for Bhutan and India and travel insurance, which is mandatory.

Physical Activity Requirements:  In Bhutan, while we will be staying at relatively low altitudes ( 5000’-7000’),we will be traveling on winding mountain roads and going over mountain passes (Donchula is 10,000’)  Participants need the ability to be able to walk on rough paths in to rural villages and climb steps to historic and religious sites.  The hotels in Bhutan, especially eastern Bhutan, are rather basic and not suited for people with mobility problems. Please discuss this tour with your physician to determine if you have any medical condition that would prevent you from actively participating in the tour.

For More Information Contact:
Tour Organizer: Mary Connors, khamsing88@yahoo.com
Textile Arts Council, TAC admin, 415 750 3627 tac@famsf.org

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Textile Arts Council members visit the Philippines

Textile Arts Council members visit the Philippines

By Leslee Budge

T'Boli weaverFor over sixteen days our group from the Textile Arts Council traveled the full length of the Philippines archipelago from Laoag city in northern Luzon, the large island on which Manila is situated, to General Santos, on the southern island of Mindanao. Here we drove to remote T’boli villages near Lake Sebu. We also visited numerous cities on the island of Panay.

Moving thought out this island nation, we stopped at the workshops of indigenous weavers from different cultural groups using fibers as diverse as abaca or banana fibers, pina or pineapple fibers, cotton, silk and cotton polyester. We were fortunate to have the assistance of members of the Custom Made Crafts Center, a Filipino non-governmental organization working towards improved quality of life for forest-dependent communities, in setting up demonstrations at the many workshops we visited.

On the island of Mindanao around Lake Sebu live the T’boli ‘dream weavers’—so called because they dream of the patterns they will weave. As in many cultures there is mythology and sacred significance linked to the t’nalak cloth that they weave. For our first visit, we walked 45 minutes to the small village of Lamkanidang, with threatening thunder clouds closing in. Just as the skies opened up in a cloud-burst we reached the bamboo, thatched roofed house where the weavers were awaiting us. Here we were given a PowerPoint presentation about their culture. Afterwards we saw the full process from harvesting the abaca; removing the fibers from the banana stock, drying; tying the stands to make long filaments; tying the fibers for the tie-dye process to create the ikat pattern; dyeing the yarns; preparing the warp (the fibers that compose the length of the fabric); putting the warp on the back-strap loom and finally the weaving process. This demonstration of the process of weaving was repeated in many of the workshops we visited.

From Mindanao we flew north to Laoag city, visiting museums then driving south and back towards Manila. Passing through Paoay we stopped at the Inabel weavers. The art of Inabel weaving is handed down from generation to generation. Next we stopped at the workshop of Magdalena Gamayo, a National Living Treasure awardee for Inabel weaving. Born in 1924, she has been weaving since the age of 16. She continues weaving, teaching and inspiring others to follow her path.

Our next flight took us to the city of Kalibo on Panay island where we learned about creating pina cloth. Pina is made of the leaf fibers from a variety of pineapple. The fiber is very fine—the finished fabric is like a fine silk organza. This art nearly died out 30 or so years ago but has been revived. Like abaca, the fibers are striped from the plant source to create pina fiber. The cloth is woven using silk for the warp and pina for the weft. Pina is used to make the Filipino men’s shirt, barong, and women’s dresses which are still worn for formal State events. Elaborate embroidery is often used to embellish this luxury cloth.

We drove south to the city of Iloilo. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Iloilo was known as the Queen of the South, exporting Manila hemp and hablon, a cotton cloth, woven by the people living in and around Iloilo. During the Spanish time, in the 1800s, Iloilo was known as the ‘Textile Center of the Philippines’. Hablon is a heritage industry in Iloilo. The making of hablon is not just a means of livelihood, it is also a culture, a tradition, an irreplaceable fragment in the whole that is Iloilo. Unfortunately, nowadays it is impossible to find a pure cotton hablon cloth, since the poly-cotton yarns are more affordable. Neither cotton nor silk are grown to any large extent in the Philippines.

Throughout our tour we used Manila as a base. While there we had the opportunity to meet with members of HABI, the Philippine Textile Council who graciously briefed us on the variety of textile we would be seeing and their significance in Philippine cultural life.

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Travel to Morocco in Fall 2016

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Textile Arts Council Tour to Morocco

September 19 to October 3, 2016

The lure of a textile tour to Morocco was so strong that the Textile Arts Council offered two tours to satisfy the many requests. The first tour was from September 19 to October 3rd and the second from October 4th to October 18th.

Starting in Casablanca, the tour traveled east to Fes, stopping along the way at the charming Roman ruins in Volubilis. In addition to exploring the narrow streets of the Fes medina, there was a short drive to Sefrou to visit its market and to have a workshop featuring the intricate buttons created there. These buttons are an important decorative element in a woman’s kaftan as well as the djellaba, or loose fitting outer robe, worn by both men and women. One of the highlights of our visit to Fes was witnessing weaving using a draw-boy loom.  It is amazing that this 16th century technology continues to be used in creating contemporary fabric.

We next drove south, along the Atlas Mountains enroute to Marrakech. There were stops in Erfoud and Rissani as well as the artist’s retreat, Café Tissardmine, where we had the opportunity to try our hand at weaving Berber rugs and tents as well as embroidering Berber haik or head covers. For many of us, the great adventure of riding a camel into the dunes to see the sunset and then spending the night in a tent very similar to the one we had just witnessed a woman weaving was thrilling.

Before reaching Marrakech we stopped at the southern town of Ouarzazate and had the opportunity to visit nearby Taznaght which is famous for finely woven carpets. Both groups greatly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Berber carpet weaving at the Association Iklan Tissage Berbere.  Our drive in the mountains allowed us a unique opportunity to see everyday life in Morocco.  From verdant oasis towns to remote nomadic encampments the vivid tapestry of life was enchanting.  We even came across nomadic goat herders who still make their homes in caves in the Dades Gorge.

Our time in Marrakech was divided between visits to beautiful historic sites such as the Bahia Palace and wonderful museums such as the Tiskiwin and Marjorelle Gardens and Museum. One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to the home of a collector of Berber textiles who generously shared a number of extraordinary textiles with the groups. Of course, there were also visits to the busy Djemaa el Fna, the central square loaded with many tempting treasures.

We were very fortunate to have as our land guide Redouane El Aouan. His depth of knowledge of Moroccan history and culture and his ability to share insights into current affairs as well as his ability to navigate the mazes of the medina in Fes and Marrakech enriched our understanding of who and what we were seeing.  We all came away with a much greater understanding of Morocco and its place in the world thanks to him.

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2013: Textiles and Cultures of Western India

2013: A Textile Tour to Western India
Trip Highlights by Leslee Budge


October 14th – October 31, 2013

India-travel-with-TAC_800wThe Subcontinent of India has produced sophisticated textiles since prehistoric times. There is evidence of textile production in the Indus Valley from about 3000 BCE, though few examples have survived the monsoon climate. In the 1600’s with the arrival of the British and Dutch, textile began to be traded directly with Europe where they became highly fashionable. A number of words that are in our English lexicon give evidence to the popularity of Indian textiles: calico, pajama, gingham, dungaree, chintz and khaki. Today, textile production is the second largest employer in India.

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The Textiles and Cultures of Laos and Cambodia

The Textiles and Cultures of Laos and Cambodia

February 4 – 19, 2015

womanYou are invited to join Mary Connors, experienced traveler and author of Lao Textiles and
Traditions for a 17 day exploration of the vibrant textile scene found in Laos and Cambodia.
Tour participants will have the unique opportunity of sharing Mary’s extensive connections
with the Lao and Cambodian craft communities as well as her Southeast Asia textile expertise.

The tour will begin in the enchanting LuangPrabang, former royal capital and now a World
Heritage Site. With more than 60 Buddhist wat or temple complexes tucked into its tree-lined
streets, the town retains its regal charm. Over the past 20 years there has been a craft
revival. We will be visiting artisans who will demonstrate weaving and dyeing, gold thread
couching,silversmithing and papermaking.

Vientiane is home to a number of highly regarded contemporary textile artists including
Carol Cassidy. We will spend a few days here exploring several weaving studios before flying
on to Pakse in southern Laos. While in southern Laos we will drive to the Boloven Plateau,
home of many ethnic groups such as the Katu who continue to weave their traditional clothing
using back strap looms. There will also be an opportunity to visit lowland Lao villages where
women weave intricately patterned ikat fabrics. Before flying on to Cambodia we will visit
the ancient WatPhu, a Khmer temple that pre-dates the structures found in Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap is the town associated with the world famous Angkor Wat complex of temples. Throughout
Cambodia there has been a revival of textile traditions. We will visit a number of organizations
promoting weaving and dyeing in this area and as we drive from Siem Reap to Phnom Penhvia
Kompong Thom.

While in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, we will visit remarkable sites such as the Royal
Palace and the National Museum, home to the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculptures.
We will also drive out into the countryside to visit villages where both silk and cotton
textiles are being woven.

Tour Cost:TAC members $3480, non-TAC members $3515.

The cost is based on shared occupancy of rooms and a group of 16 participants. The single
supplement is $827. The cost of the tour includes a $400 non-refundable tax donation to the
Textile Arts Council. The cost of the tour may change depending on the number of participants.
The maximum number of participants is 16 and the minimum is 12. The cost is based on the
internal airfare at the time of the original publication of the tour.

The price includes all hotels, meals, gratuities, services of an English speaking guide,
internal transportation, including in-country air fare and the flight from Laos to Cambodia,
entrance tickets to sites and museums included in the program. Not included are personal
expenses such as laundry. Also not included are travel insurance, which is mandatory, Lao
and Cambodian visas (available upon arrival) and international airfare. The tour will begin
in Luang Prabang, Laos and end in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Physical Activity Requirements: participants need to be able to climb stairs at the historical
sites in Laos and Cambodia as well as to walk up and down river banks to board boats on the
Mekong River For more information and to register for the tour please contact:

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2014: The Textiles and Cultures of Oaxaca, Mexico


The Textiles and Cultures of Oaxaca, Mexico

November 6 – November 19, 2014

weaverThis is a unique opportunity to join a specially designed tour to Oaxaca focused on the
Zapotec and Huave weavers of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, sericulture in the Sierra Madre,
weaving and natural dyeing in the central valleys of Oaxaca and textiles of the Mixtec and
Trique peoples of the Upper Mixteca. Working in conjunction with Eric Mindling of Traditions
Mexico we have created a tour designed to appeal to a wide range of Textile Arts Council
members.

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