Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bhutanese handloom pattern embroidered

Sorry! Not a very clear picture. It's a small simple piece of art that I'm proud of. The cloth is cheap, cotton, readymade. The thread used is the same that we use for stitching/tailoring. I copied the pattern from my kera (handloom woven belt). What do I intend to do with it? Nothing glamorous. Just put it neatly in a frame (wooden, perhaps) and hang it on the wall of my home. Of course, if I happen to open my own boutique shop, I would then display it in my shop. And, if somebody showed interest and wished to buy it, why not? I'd sell it happily. It would make me prouder of my own creation.
I did some reading of books written on handloom weaving in our country. The thing that caught my attention was the fact that many of our handloom woven patterns look embroidered. I was kinda curious. I thought I wasn't fortunate enough to learn weaving from my mom (who's an expert), having lived with my father (divorced) mostly. But, I did learn a bit of embroidery - on handkerchiefs (mostly), table napkins, table cloth, bedspread, etc. So, one fine day, I got my raw materials together and made the above 'whatever' it may be called. It took me one full day - just working on this and nothing else; not even cooking or cleaning.
For me, it was a fusion of the non Bhutanese technique (not absolutely true, if we think of the embroidered thangkas) and Bhutanese handloom woven pattern. I wanted to put my earned skill to some use, but in a way that respected the Bhutanese tradition, at the same time opening up a new opportunity to display the tradition creatively.
What is it that really matters to 'internationals' about our craft? The technique, raw materials used, or the product? Perhaps, something worth surveying. We know they love our designs, but they are shocked at the prices of the products. They say the prices are exorbitant. The Bhutanese team that went to Bangkok last year to participate in an exhibition (and sale) came back very disappointed. Their products were found to be much more expensive that those of other countries. And, if we are to continue to follow the same old techniques (without use of technology), then the chances that the prices will go down is rather dim.
So, what do we do? This is what bothers me ................
(By the way, the product in the picture above is a trial product only. My idea actually is to do the embroidery on Bhutanese handloom woven cloth, ensuring that the yarn/thread used is natural dyed. The 'internationals' love natural dyed stuffs - that's for sure.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Mawongpa

(picture to the right from my personal collection)

I visited the training institute for thirteen crafts in the capital. I came across a tailoring group of trainees that called themselves 'Mawongpa' (meaning 'Future'). They had a Thai (or Vietnamese?) lady trainer who taught them fashion clothes designs, using a mixture of traditional handloom woven fabric and factory machine made fabric. They seemed to be getting pretty popular, with increasing orders from both domestic buyers and expatriates working in Bhutan. I had a fine silk handloom woven cream coloured fabric that I decided to give to this group to stitch a designer coat for me. I had already spent over Nu.2000 for the yarn and another Nu.1000 on weaving charge for two lengths of fabric. I gave one length of the fabric. I paid Nu.2000 for the stitching charge and Nu.25 for the Indian factory machine made cotton material for the inner lining. So, in total, the coat actually cost me Nu.3525. I haven't yet had the occassion to wear it. I was thinking it might look better on a foreigner (American, British, etc). So, if I were to sell it I would have to charge .... mmm.... The cost price works out to over US$ 75. Now, how much should my profit be? Gosh! I'm no good at all this. I'll need some advice and time to work it out. I hope some day I'll have my own collection and a boutique shop ..........In the meantime, I do hope some of the Mawongpa passouts have been able to start an enterprise of their own somewhere.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

contemporary designs

(picture above from own personal selection)

I happened to visit the Handicraft Emporium in Thimphu not long ago. I was struck by the contemporary design products that I hadn't seen before. Shawls and stoles of raw silk and fine silk in particular. I was told they had been woven by our very own village women weavers from Radhi and Khoma. The former said to be specialized in raw silk. The latter in fine silk. The designs had been taught to them by foreign experts. I liked the fact that the yarn used were natural/vegetable dyed. I was told this is what sells more at the international market.

What caught my attention the most was the inspiration for the designs. I was told a foreign expert got the inspiration from the surrounding nature mostly. There was the design of the fish in water, the flowing river, the basket, etc. I was informed that even some of our daily practices (traditions) could be an inspiration. One example was our tradition of drying meat, which was used as a weave design. How cool!

I went back home thinking we Bhutanese could learn to be more creative in our weaving. We could fuse our traditional weaving with contemporary designs.