INDONESIAN Textile Odyssey

By suzi click on Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 in Featured, On the Road. No Comments

Another fabulous trip in search of textiles with Serena Lee of Textile Odyssey tours began in August 2016 from Bali to another Indonesian island –SUMBA.  We went to WAINGPU first and our guide, Freddy, was a weaver, collector and owner of a weaving workshop as well as a resort villa and restaurant.  He also had a shop with a great collection called Indigo Art.  We observed several men working on indigo ikats – drawing the designs on the yarns and tieing the designs with palm leaf fiber and weaving.  In his shop we saw wonderful examples with lots of motifs – crocodiles, roosters, cockatoos, horses, dancers, turtles, nagas, monkeys and lots of fertility symbols called mamuli.


Our next village visit was to KAILUI where the women make indigo dye and weave on a back strap loom.  They use lime and soda ash for a mordant and only women are allowed to make the dye which is a very messy process.  There were lots of kids and barn animals all round.

In MAULIRU and UMABARU we saw lots of large carved grave stones, people weaving songket (a supplemental warp) using bamboo sticks and reeds and people selling textiles at the King’s house where we had to sign in.

From SUMBA we flew to KUPANG, capital of TIMOR island.  We drove to BAUN province and met the King who learned complex dyeing techniques from his mother, some of which are secret.  We were charmed by him, his lovely wife and their granddaughter.  From there were went to a weaving village in Baun called AMARISI.  We were met with singing, dancing, and textile spinning, dyeing and weaving demos by the friendly people.  My favorite moment was when they sang “In those old cotton fields back home”  They are known for their morinda dye – a reddish brown from the roots of a tree.

Our next stop was OEBELO village of people from Roti island near Timor. They were known for making a musical instrument called a sasando – similar to a harp or lute in sound.  It is made from bamboo and palm leaf with 12 strings from goat intestine.   We were given a demonstration and a concert with dancing.  The men wore hats made from palm leaf like a cowboy hat with a horn on it.  They amplified the sasando and serenaded us with songs including Country Roads which we all sang along to – our group and a group of high school students there from Taiwan who knew all the words!  They also sold some ikats by the Ndao people on a nearby island.

From there to BENLUTU where we met a regal older woman named Fransina Baok who brought the Amunaban style weaving to the village.  We saw weaving demonstrations by her daughters and nieces.  This group of weavers is called  Kelompok Ora Etia Bora and Buna style – a discontinuous supplementary weft- is what they are known for.

Our next village was FUTUMNASI in the Molo Valley we were met by the king and his young dancers.  These friendly people gave us weaving and dyeing demonstrations.  They use indigo, cassuarina for red and turmeric for yellow.  They also had a gourd-like fruit they grated for yellow and ground corn for mordant.  Their textiles were called Bunak.

In KEFAMENANU we saw more Bunak textiles at the Papean Pak Coorperative – one of 14 weaving co-ops in the area started in 1989 by Ibu Yoirta Meta.  They support women and young girls by providing access to thread and dye, training in weaving,  dyeing and design.  We also saw a wonderful collection of traditional Boboki textiles

Our last stop in Timor was NIKI NIKI in Amanuban Regency and the village of None. The bare chested men did a warrior dance for us and told us about their history, traditions and their ancestors who were headhunters.

Our next island was FLORES where we went to the village of Bena where the Ngada people, a matrilineal society,  still practice animism in spite of the prevalence of the Catholic religion there. It is a national park and we saw some weavers and  indigo dyers.

Our next stops in Flores were Ende with the Lio people in an Ndona ikat village and the Sikka group. They both use morinda dye and do beautiful work. After that we saw the Watublapi women near the seaside village of Maumere where we stayed. They were my favorite – they did 4 dances for us plus spinning, dyeing and weaving demos and were beautifully dressed in their indigo blouses and sarongs. The Lamaholat village was our last one on Flores where they specialize in kwatek kinge – ikat with seashells.

The last island of the trip was Sulawesi. We landed in Makassar where we saw some dyeing. Then we went to Toraja land, known for their elaborate funerals which we were lucky enough to be invited to. They last for days. We went to the bull and water buffalo market first and then to the funeral. There were elaborate tents with textiles and the relatives were very dressed up in their best textiles and they even had costumed dancers.

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Textile Treasures from BHUTAN & NEPAL

By suzi click on Thursday, February 15th, 2018 in On the Road, Treasure Hunts. No Comments

In November 2017 I travelled to Bhutan and Nepal in search of textiles and found a treasure trove!  Both countries have long traditions of weaving beautiful textiles.

In Bhutan women and men wear traditional textiles that they weave themselves.  The women wear a KIRA and the men wear a GHO.  The skirts and sashes are usually the kushutara weave – a discontinuous supplementary weft – very complex geometric pattern with lots of colors, similar to brocade.

They also use textiles in their prayer flags – both white ones -to honor the dead- and colorful ones.  They all have mantras printed on them and look so beautiful blowing in the breeze everywhere.  The white ones are in groups of 108,  an auspicious Buddhist number.  The colorful ones are blue, green, red, yellow and white – symbolizing the elements of water, wood, fire, earth and iron respectively.  They also  stand for the five dhyani or meditation Buddhas, the five wisdoms, the five directions, and the five mental attributes or emotions.

Textiles are also used in religious ceremonies and dances and as religious decoration in their Buddhist monasteries called DZONGS which have the most enchanting architectural details.

We also visited a school for arts with lots of young people learning the traditional techniques and styles.  It was surprising to see that many embroideries were made by young men and the boots by the young women.

Another important textile used as rugs, bed-covers, or heavy shawls is YATHRA – handwoven, hand-spun wool in large geometric designs.

Almost everywhere in Bhutan & Nepal we saw women weaving (even on their porches),  sewing, dyeing with natural organic dyes and spinning.

In NEPAL we observed the weaving of DHAKA textiles at a weaving co-op.  We loved the rich colors and geometric designs in silk and cotton.

We also visited the NEPAL SILK FACTORY, also a women’s co-op for growing, spinning, weaving mostly raw silk.  Everyone there looked so happy to be there and with our visit and they took photos put US on their facebook page.  We also went to places where they wove with nettles and with banana fiber.

I could not resist purchasing quite a few textiles as you can see here.  The trip was organized by Serena Lee Harrigan of Textile Odysseys  This was my third trip with her – Southwest China, Indonesia and now Bhutan & Nepal – always a grand adventure!


Textile Tour of Oaxaca, Mexico

By suzi click on Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 in On the Road. No Comments

In March of this year I travelled for a second time to the magical state of Oaxaca, Mexico and this time I concentrated on textiles. The tour was sponsored by Traditions Mexico click here specializing in textile and craft tours. Our tour was called Purpura, Silk and Threaded Flowers.

The highlight was Tehuantepec where they make those beautiful velvet and satin floral embroidered huipiles and skirts that Frida Kahlo made so famous. Her mother was from there and they still wear them for their festivals ask they are busy making and selling them in the nearby village of Santa Rosa.

In Huatulco, on the coast, we observed the rare and ancient process of gathering purpura panza, a cousin of murex, used to dye cotton a royal purple color. This was done by a Mixtec man who family has been doing this for uncounted generations. He gathers the small shells that contain the snail-like creatures attached to the large rocks along the shore and gently massages them to release the liquid that oxidizes when it hits the yarn skeins he is holding and turns it purple. Then he puts the shell back on the rocks where he found it. Because of this incredibly time consuming process the purple yarns are usually woven with a lot of other colors – mostly white. But how unique!

We also went to the small silk weaving village of San Pedro Cajones on a hilltop where a family was growing mulberry trees for their silk worms which made the silk they spin, dye and weave into beautiful shawls with knotted macramé fringes. The silk worms they use are descendants of those brought the Spanish centuries ago.

Other highlights included the Textile Museum and the shop Aripa in Oaxaca City. Also Teotitlan del Valle for dyeing and rug weaving demonstrations by Demetrio Bautista Lazo. I especially loved the cochineal dyeing which originated here.

Other great visits were with Macrina Mateo Martinez, the well-known red pottery artist, and her group of women who gather the red clay and make the classic shaped pottery in San Marcos Tlapazola; Yautepec to visit a woman who weaves designs that are so small and delicate she uses a needle instead of a shuttle, and to San Mateo to meet the daughters of the great master weaver Justina Oviedo who invented her own technique for weaving two entirely different designs at the same time on each side which her daughters are continuing to do. In Mitla we saw 2 brothers who use flying shuttle looms to make beautiful textiles and another village where they make elaborate candles.

And of course we loved the beautiful landscape, the ruins of Mitla, the Spanish colonial architecture, the COLOR, the markets, the delicious Oaxacan food and tasting the different mezcals. But most of all the beautiful, talented, friendly people, especially our guide and driver the multi-talented Alex Munuzuri.

Arts and Crafts in Ecuador

By suzi click on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 in On the Road. No Comments

ECUADOR is a beautiful country where I recently travelled with 5 friends and discovered some wonderful artists and craftspeople making unique and wonderful things from the natural resources there.

My favorite was Carmen Orellanos a master weaver of vibrant ikats.  We visited her workshop outside of Cuenca.

Also very impressive was Eduardo Vega, world renowned master ceramic artist who has done some amazing murals in public places.  We visited his beautiful gallery and workshop perched on a hill above Cuenca.

In Cuenca we also found the panama hat workshop of Homero Ortega where we saw the laborious process of weaving with toquille straw (from the toquille palm) and all the finishing processes involved.  Needless to say we all bought hats.

In Riobamba we visited Marco who showed us how he crafts tagua nuts into other objects.

We also visited a workshop that works with balsa wood to carve, burn and paint figures of the animals that inhabit the country,  parrots being the most popular.

Also a favorite were the Canelos Quichua ceramics in the Madre Tierra workshop in Puyo.  The geometric designs which they paint on with a brush made from own hair and then rub with leaves and fire on a wood kiln are truly beautiful and entrancing.  I recently saw a fabulous exhibit of these ceramics at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento called Rain Forest Visions.

to see more about this exhibit click here


Guizhou, China – Miao Festival

By suzi click on Thursday, June 4th, 2015 in Events, On the Road. No Comments

Every year the Miao, one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China, have a festival called the Sisters’ Meal Festival in Shidong. It is a festival for young lovers who pass messages to one another thru sticky rice packets-the color denotes the message- and some have gifts that also send a message. But the best part is all the great costumes and jewelry they wear for the festival – layers of it. I also like that it started with the older women playing the drums and the way the young girls have updated it with their fancy high heels.

Ethnic Fashion in CHINA

By suzi click on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 in On the Road, The Look. No Comments

On my recent textile tour of China which was focused on the Guizhou and Yunnan regions, home to more than half of China’s 56 ethnic groups , I saw many women, especially the older ones, weaving, embroidering, dyeing and embellishing as well as still wearing their unique costumes. The type of adornment identifies which of the groups they belong to. Here are some of the more interesting things I found there.

Marston House & Gardens in San Diego

By suzi click on Sunday, November 30th, 2014 in On the Road, The Artful Life. No Comments




I recently went on a tour of this Arts & Crafts Style house built in 1905. One of the architects was Irving Gill who went on to become well known for his mid-century modern style. It was built for George Marston who founded the famous Marston Department stores in San Diego.  He was an important contributor to the development of San Diego and quite an important philanthropist to the city’s cultural heritage.  That earned him the title of “San Diego’s First Citizen”. His daughters (he had 5) lived in the house until their death at which time it would become owned by the city.  The oldest lived to 108.  I love the arts & crafts style, especially the pottery and furniture, and the house has many modern features that were ahead of its time.  You can go on tours and find it at the northern end of Balboa Park.



Creating an Artful Life is the Essence of Balinese Culture

By suzi click on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 in On the Road, The Artful Life. No Comments

-Bali and Java were on the ancient trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, India and China. They have absorbed influences from all these civilizations. It is reflected in their art.

-Everyday they make offerings to their HIndu gods of good and evil. These gifts are made from palm leaves with fruits, flowers, incense and assorted sweets.

-Elaborate ceremonial decorations grace the temples and religious processions that take place every month.

-Food and drink is artfully presented using flowers, fruit, wood, and stones.

-Both ancient and modern interior spaces use wood, stone, painting and floral arrangements. Multiple living levels in their homes reflect the beauty of the terraced rice fields.

-Men and women wear beautiful batik and ikat sarongs. These weavings are a traditional art form.

-All Balinese are artists. Even farmers and bankers are part time musicians, dancers, wood carvers and weavers.They live with a sense of joy and pride in their world of The Artful Life.


On the Way to Santa Fe

By suzi click on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 in On the Road. No Comments

On the way to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market I stopped in Winslow, Arizona with my friend Leslie Rakestraw
for lunch at La Posada, a recently restored architecturally significant landmark hotel designed by
Mary Jane Colter in 1930 and part of the famous Fred Harvey chain that helped pave the way for the
development of the southwest. I want to go back there and stay and eat again in the wonderful restaurant –
the Turquoise room. I highly recommend it!