Thursday, March 11, 2010


Dreams to inspiration, to dreams. I have been so blessed with children. My children are dreamers. Dreamers, who are inspired to go out and live their dreams. Children, who then dream some more, and help others live their dreams. All of the "kids" have traveled, or still travel. Some close to home, other to far off lands. During some of their "down" time, they seek non tourist "treasures" to bring back home. Much of the time I am the recipient of some "treasure". Recently, one daughter traveled to Mali. She brought back several pieces of textiles. There seem to be two kinds of cottons that are most often found in the markets. You see them stacked above.
The finer cottons are what a Malian woman would use to make an outfit for herself. There, you don't by fabric by the yard. You purchase it by the piece, about 12 yards. That is the amount needed to make a traditional outfit, always with matching headpiece.

The finer cottons are actually woven in England and sent to Mali for dying.

Mali is famous for it's bright designs. Also for it's indigo dyes. Indigo dye is more difficult to achieve and is more expensive.

Cotton fabric woven in Mali is much heaver. The spun cotton fiber in rather rough by out standards. It is not woven in the wide widths we are use to, but in 4"-6" strips. The piece above was woven using two colors, then sewn onto more white strips. You can see it in the top picture. Some strips are dyed then sewn together to make wider pieces of cloth.

Some are sewn together, then dyed to make a large pattern. This is mud cloth. Not quite as rough as our burlap.The Bozo people in northern Mali make this traditional cloth. The white parts are non dyed areas. The people gather dark mud and let it ferment in a container for a year, then use it to paint the designs on the cloth.

A piece such as this might be used as a covering for a doorway. Or it might be the covering on a sleeping platform.

This is large enough to be a bed spread. Again, narrow strips were sewn together, then dyed. Then the indigo edging was added. The color varies in intensity over the whole cloth.

The Malian people still use traditional methods their people have used for centuries. Gathering from the earth around them, blending, manipulating, experimenting for a verity of colors, and creating great beauty.

From another part of the world, Panama, one daughter brought this shawl. Woven, using fine threads, native Indian woman create these incredible designs. Traditionally, the tribal women would wrap these around themselves to wear, their only garment, in the humid, intense, heat. Now, the women sell their weaving to people who travel to the remote mountain regions of that country.

India is another country rich in fiber. A wonderful silk shawl.

The Indian people in remote areas densely embroider strips of fabric. Later, it is pieced together to form a large decorative piece.
I am privileged to receive many different fabrics. I marvel at the different kinds of beauty, the different skills, the different mediums and techniques. Each one so different, yet all using many of the same "ingredients " and tools. Spinning wheels, looms, dyes,and needle, all products of hard working hands. I wonder about the dreams each creator had in her mind. Did she envision the completed piece in her mind even before starting? Did she "wing it" and see how it developed as she went along? What was the inspiration for each design? Did she dream about what this completed piece would do for her family? Would her child have shoes, or books for school? Was it letting part of "herself" go. Does she wonder where the labor of her hands is now? Would she be surprised that I think of her as an artist? I would love to tell her that what she dared to dream, then create, has inspired me. Her artwork does not end. It has created new dreams.


Krista said...

This is a wonderful narrative. Thank you for giving voice to the cloth!

Look beyond the picket fence said...

You are a very lucky woman to have children who think so much of you and know you so well. I consider myself also very lucky in that department. I am a lover of fabric, these peices are beautiful.