Island to Island – Textile Tour in Eastern Indonesia

 

Anklets clanking in time to the drums as the circle dance of welcome gains momentum

Anklets clanking in time to the drums as the circle dance of welcome gains momentum with the Abui people of Alor

How does a journey begin? I know how my early travels in Turkey evolved but in this case this journey began not with a single step but instead with a book. How in fact does a book on  Qaraqalpaq textiles of western Uzbekistan lead to a journey in Indonesia? I met David and Sue  Richardson initially through their extensively researched publication on Central Asian textiles – Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta. As we connected on social media I was intrigued by their technical passion for textiles and an upcoming textile tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands in Eastern Indonesia  that they had planned.  Needless to say, Jack and I marked our calendars anticipating our first travels in this varied culture.
150515_IndoBlog_0018

The Ombak Putih anchored as we visit a coastal weaving village

Sue and David partnered with a company from Bali named Seatrek and were the resident textile experts on board the Ombak Putih. The ship was a 42 meter sailing ship with twelve staterooms and a top notch crew of fourteen men. The service and culture on board was delightful relaxed and helpful. There was great attention to detail, certainly in terms of guest safety on board and transferring from ship to dinghy in varied conditions. Air conditioned cabins, a daily laundry service, housekeeping and awareness of special dietary needs made certain that all were comfortable and well cared for.
Rigging the sails

Rigging the sails

Photo Ops abound

Photo Ops abound

Upview of mast

Upview of mast

As we would return from our shore excursions to various weaving villages we would be greeted on board with cold, fresh squeezed fruit juice and cool,damp towels to mop our brows and refresh ourselves. The weather was hot and humid but being aboard the ship most always guaranteed some cooling breeze.  On a couple of evenings onboard we were treated to the crew serenading us with guitars, drums and song. One lovely star lit evening we had a beach picnic complete with candle light, torches and fresh seafood.  I loved going to the upper deck after dinner, laying on a sunbed and watching the heavens stream by as we motored along.

Drums, gongs, dance - a grand welcome for the Abui people of Alor

Drums, gongs, dance – a grand welcome from the Abui people of Takpala, Alor

The village welcomes often consisted of traditional singing, chanting and dancing. Villagers dressed in their ikat textiles and excited children added to the overall festivities.  We had various demonstrations of local dying and weaving traditions.  Indigo and morinda were the two main dye substances used for the textiles. Each of us came away with a renewed appreciation for how labour intensive both the dying and weaving processes are particularly in terms of producing hand loomed ikats.
Hand spinning cotton with a drop spindle

Hand spinning cotton with a drop spindle

 

110314_IndoBlog_0008

Fluffing/teasing the cotton with a bow

 

Indigo dying of the spun cotton

Indigo dying of the spun cotton

 

Registering/arranging warps on the loom before weaving

Registering/arranging warps on the loom before weaving

Ikat weaving - the pattern emerges

Ikat weaving – the pattern emerges

A local Indonesian guide provided excellent cultural insight in a lovely, relaxed manner all the while organizing the land transport and details in the villages on our daily excursions.  Part of our daily routine was a half hour pre-dinner power point lecture presented by David or Sue with an overview of the regional history, weaving traditions and a schedule for the following day. The lectures accompanied by extensive printed notes were meticulously prepared and presented. For me the handouts will be great reference materials when looking back and reviewing our travels.
Rich in history, stunning in topography and full of traditional culture our travels on these small islands were so memorable.  A journey that had it’s roots in a book about Qaraqalpaqistan led to a network of new friends and colleagues from around the world – America, Britain, Canada, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Taiwan and an introduction to the lush beauty of Indonesia.
Village ikat textiles for sale displayed on clothes lines

Village ikat textiles for sale displayed on clothes lines

David and Sue have a date on the calendar for 2016 for a similar expert led cruise.  I heartily recommend it!
Photo by Beverly Green

Photo by Beverly Green fellow traveler- Sunset from Shore after a Swim and Snorkle

 

Patolas in Patan, Gujarat. Ikat Weaving by the Masters

My Turkish travels and studies of textiles over the years has led me further afield in search of a broader and deeper understanding of global weaving techniques that enhance and inform my understanding of the regional textiles of Turkey and it’s neighbours. That said, just over a year ago, I had the privilege of traveling with a small group in northwest India visiting the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Judy Frater hosted the group.  Judy is expert in local textiles and involved with the newly launched Somaiya Kala Vidya a training institute for traditional artisans.

The highlight of the travels for me was a visit to a small workshop in Patan, Gujarat where a family of weavers were practicing their complex art of double ikat weaving producing silk wedding saris known as patola.

Double Ikat Patola on the Loom

Double Ikat Patola on the Loom

I had handled and sold the wonderful, powerful and graphic ikat textiles of Central Asia which come onto the Turkish market but I had only studied in textbooks the practice of the double ikat weaving technique of this corner of India. The degree of complexity, precision and the labour intensive nature of this technique is a mind blowing.  This practice of extraordinary mathematical precision where both the warps and wefts are resist dyed in a specific pattern prior to their meeting one another on the loom. In a normal (single) ikat the warps are resist dyed in a pattern, put on the loom and the wefts that are interwoven are of a single colour. The warps in a single ikat provide the pattern of the cloth in a ‘warp-faced’ textile. Here in Patan both warps and wefts are pre dyed and then woven into generally small scale repeating patterns although at this workshop a magnificent old textile was displayed with elephants marching across the field.

The fibre that they weave with is silk and the looms were prepared to weave three sari lengths on each loom, approximately 18 meters in total. If a picture is worth a hundred words hopefully these images will give you some insight into complexity and labour intensive nature of this technique.

 

Warps and wefts wrapped before resist dying

Warps and wefts wrapped before resist dying

 

Wrapped warps and wefts ready for resist dye

Wrapped warps and wefts ready for resist dye

 

Patterned resist dyed warps on the loom

Patterned resist dyed warps on the loom

Silk weft pre dyed on the shuttle.  Wrapped fibres are retracted into the bamboo casing.

Silk weft pre dyed on the shuttle. Wrapped fibres are retracted into the bamboo casing.

 

Two weavers working together

Two weavers working together

 

 

Metal tool used to align the pattern with tiny brushing strokes

Metal tool used to align the pattern with tiny brushing strokes

These weavers were so graciously welcoming and understandably very proud of their skill and focused in their commitment to continuing this age old art.  Here is their contact info if you should find yourself in Gujarat.  I am so thankful not to have missed visiting this workshop.  I was wowed by the process.  Having traveled halfway around the world I was so thrilled to be seeing and learning in the presence of such masters of this weaving technique.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 3.42.12 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainy Day Outing to Istanbul Market on the Asian Shore

A pre-planned visit with friends to Istanbul’s Sali Pazar or Tuesday Market on the Asian side of the city ensured that I headed out in a torrential morning downpour to wade through puddles and sift through piles of textiles in one of Istanbul’s largest biweekly markets. Although named the Tuesday Market, the market is now held twice a week on both Tuesday and Friday. The market has relocated from a massive parking lot in Kadikoy to another open space in the neighbourhood of Hasan Pasa.  As we jumped in a taxi does seem slightly strange to announce our destination as the Tuesday Market even though it is Friday.

140508_SaliPazar_0002

Rainy Setup at the Market

Shoppers braving the rainy day

Shoppers braving the rainy day

Shopping for home goods, ‘seconds’ in clothing lines, produce, cheese, nuts, spices, fabrics and all manner of oddities; the market is both a visual delight and an audio assault as vendors shout prices and encouragement to the shoppers to take a look at their wares.  Today the overriding challenge was to avoid being drenched by unpredictable deluges as the tarps covering the goods were filling with pools of rainwater which would dump without warning on whoever happened to be close to the edge of the overhead tarp.

Tarps overhead collecting rain water to dump on unsuspecting shoppers

Tarps overhead collecting rain water to dump on unsuspecting shoppers

The market is a great place to visit with a camera.  Even if one only strolls through the produce the colours, textures and smells and the diffused light because of the overhead tarps makes for no end of opportunity to get  great images.  Today we warmed up along the way with a small cup of tea – some caffeine, sugar and we were good for some more stalls.

Even the Tea Pot is Wearing a raincoat...

Even the Tea Pot is Wearing a raincoat…

My shopping ‘finds’ today included an Ottoman textile, a traditional pestemal.  Pestemals are towels although these old pieces generally do not have a looped pile that we associate with the word towel.  Often these decorative towels were a part of a woman’s hamam accessories taken to the Turkish Bath with other women as a way of show casing their own needlework or their ability to buy fine court workshops pestemals.  The one I purchased is a hand loomed cotton with a silver thread embroidery.  The textile has a centre seam where two narrow widths of fabric have been joined together. The embroidery is done with a metal wrapped thread.  After the design is embroidered the metal thread is pounded flat.  With time and age the silver oxidizes and the design becomes a dark silver-pewter colour on the light coloured textile.  This particular textile has tiny glass bead that adorn the delicate hand worked fringe at either end of the towel.

Ottoman Textile - a Pestemal

Ottoman Textile – a Pestemal

I also bought a number of old hand blocked Turkish cotton scarves with oya around the edges. Oya is a decorative edging that is either worked as a needle weaving or a crochet technique.  Still in rural Turkey women wear scarves decorated with this edging – in many cases it is hand worked although scarves with machine made edging are also in use.  As with carpet and textile motifs oya patterns are regional allowing the scarves to be designated to varying locations.

Detail of the hand worked Oya trimming traditional hand blocked cotton scarves

Detail of the hand worked Oya trimming traditional hand blocked cotton scarves

I Iove the fact that the textiles I purchased today represent two distinct societal entities – the urban with the pestemal and the rural with the head scarves with the oya.

We thawed out with a bowl of chicken soup at a nearby lokanta after a couple of hours in the market. Soggy but never disappointed by a morning (literally soaking in) the delights of Istanbul markets.

Sunday Afternoon in Istanbul
A walk on the seawall in Kadikoy

What could be more natural for a woman originally from the North Shore of  Vancouver, BC than to go out for a walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the seawall.  Spring is arriving in Istanbul and I had some time to myself so out I went to get some exercise and enjoy the warmth on the seawall in Kadikoy in on Istanbul’s Asian shore.

Sunday Afternoon on the Kadikoy Seawall

Sunday Afternoon on the Kadikoy Seawall

As I shared the public space with so many others I reflected on the commonalities of a walk on the seawall in Kadikoy or in West Vancouver.  I also could not help but notice some details that are unique to a walk on the seawall in Istanbul.  In common on the seawalls was the diversity of people of all ages.  Benches along the way here were well used as people basked in the sun, eyes closed and the therapeutic heat erasing some of life’s cares.  There were super playgrounds for the kids, lots of parents with strollers, elderly couples arm in arm, and young couples sitting on the rocks overlooking the Bosphorus enjoying some privacy away from their parents.  There were cyclists, skate boarders and inline skaters weaving (more…)

HOLI – A Celebration of Colours

Culminating my tour in NW India with a group of textile enthusiasts we ended our time yesterday together in Jaipur. The last full day of our scheduled time  fell upon Holi; the Festival of Colours. This holiday is celebrated at the vernal equinox welcoming spring.  It is also known as the Festival of Love and from it’s Hindu beliefs celebrates  embracing a time of reconciliation, letting go of grudges, forgiving of debts and broad sense of inclusiveness between people. In the contemporary Indian culture they refer to ‘playing Holi’; trust me there is a very strong element of play involved as people enter in to the festivities with awesome degree of abandon.
On the night of the full moon bonfires are lit and crowds gather. The fires are symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Women light green branches from the fire and take the ashes into their homes.

Some 'players' and fellow travelers

Some ‘players’ and fellow travelers

The following morning the celebrations begin.  We celebrated in the garden of our hotel with about fifty people.  There were three year olds and seventy year olds; and everyone in between.   (more…)

Gobekli Tepe – Worship in the Neolithic Era

I am rarely happier than when traveling in Eastern Turkey. The culture, art, people and history of the region have wooed me, won me over, heart, mind and soul. This past fall trip was even more exciting for me when we as a group visited the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe. I had read, seen images and had imagined what this relatively newly discovered archeological site might hold. Nothing had prepared me for the magnitude and beauty of what is the oldest temple or religious site known to mankind.

Bas relief carving on the face of a pillar.  A fox?

Bas relief carving on the face of a pillar. A fox?

Seven thousand years before the ancient pyramids of Egypt; six thousand years before Stone Henge of England; in 9500 BC Gobekli Tepe was erected. Eleven thousand five hundred years ago, before mankind had settled, before the age of pottery and agriculture, this massive centre of religion was raised on the Mesopotamian Plain. The German archeologist, Klaus Schmidt, who has partnered with the Turkish (more…)

NE Turkey – Sites Seen and Unseen

Uzungol (Long Lake) from the heights

Uzungol – Long Lake. High in the Kachgar Mountains

Eastern Turkey beckons once again and we land in Trabzon ready to start our trek south following the borders.  Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria all share Turkey’s eastern border and stretch out before us for the next fourteen days. The Black Sea laps at the city’s shore along the ribbon of new highway spanning the north coast of Turkey.

 

Although Trabzon is familiar to me from previous visits sadly on this visit there is one site that we will not be visiting.  The church of Aya Sophia of Trabzon has been recently converted from a museum to a mosque.  This 13th c structure is a wonderful (more…)

An Unique Retreat on Turkey’s South Coast – Peter Scholten’s Lycia House

 Anatolian Kilim above Terrace Door

Anatolian Kilim above Terrace Door

 

Who loves Turkey more than me? What feeds my soul more than the beauty of carpets, kilims and textiles? What are some of my most restoring activities? A long swim, a hike through the quiet of archeological ruins, a day at the beach or just relaxing in beautiful, peaceful surroundings with a good book are all ways that I love to unwind from the daily routine of city life.

Jack and I have found the perfect place to settle for a week of rest and relaxation. We are guests this week at Peter Scholten’s newly opened Lycia House on Turkey’s south coast. Located high above the Mediterranean in the small village… (more…)

Turkey – Getting a Visa has Become a Whole Lot Easier – The Online Solution

TurkeyVisa

Back in the city that feels like my second home. Istanbul welcomed me the night before last and for the first time  coming to buy carpets and textiles I was able to purchase a entry Visa online. Countless times I have stood in a line-up (before the BIG lineup to clear Passport Control) waiting to (more…)

Carpet and Rug Cleaning after the Calgary Flood

Riverdale Avenue

So many old and antique rugs sourced by Leah and I in Istanbul have come to call Calgary, Alberta home.  Now after the record flood in Calgary we have had a call inquiring how to deal with the silt drenched carpets that were on the floors of homes recently flooded.

Before I give some input on the question of what to do with soggy rugs let me say that Jack and I are so amazingly thankful that our own little late 1940’s home just several hundred metres from one of Calgary’s main rivers weathered the onslaught of the flood.  Our basement is (more…)