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 Post subject: A Puzzling Bag
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 1:44 am 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
I have been perplexed trying to find information about this bag. The main body is densely woven silk. The braided strap is cotton. Mostly vegetable dyes, except for some very faded methl violet. I am pretty confident that the reds are lac or madder, but who knows. In any event the pink accents are faded chemically died silk.

My first thought was that it was Tai, although I have never seen the weaving style. This is very densely woven. Mary Conners took a picture of it to Laos, but no one knew what is was. Nevertheless, they thought it was some kind of Tai piece. After calling it Tai for ten years, I am now leaning toward the Hill tribes. The person who I got it from buys alot in Mai Sae, so it could come from anywhere with a lean toward Burma or China. If nobody has seen it in Laos, we can narrow it down a bit. There is plenty of variety in the Chinese Miao. Isn't from Guizhou, but maybe from another province. I am leaning toward Karen, but I have no reasons for thinking in that direction.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Sorry for the bad photos, but my digital is broken, as is my photoshop. The colors are way off.

Bill Hornaday


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 Post subject: we are in suspence!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 9:42 am 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
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Bill,

As you will see, your photo has not successfully attached! I have sent you an email which I hope has some helpful information. Please try again and stop keeping us in supence!!

Good luck,

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 3:57 pm 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
I will make another attempt at unraveling the mysteries of technology.

Bill


Attachments:
ritual_bag.jpg
ritual_bag.jpg [ 98.09 KiB | Viewed 36417 times ]
ritual_bag-detail-gold.jpg
ritual_bag-detail-gold.jpg [ 138.31 KiB | Viewed 36416 times ]
ritual_bag-detail-red.jpg
ritual_bag-detail-red.jpg [ 100.34 KiB | Viewed 36415 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 9:39 pm 
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Bill

Many thanks for sticking with it and posting the 3 photos. What a very interesting piece! I can see the 'Tai' roots in the Naga. I don't really get a 'Miao' feel from it - although I will hunt through my several books on Miao to see what I can find.

You can see how thickly and densely woven it is. I presume that it is quite heavy as it is so solid?

I will be interested to see what Sandie Shamis has to say when she gets a chance to view.

Thanks for giving us a good 'mystery textile'!

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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 Post subject: the mystery bag
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:09 am 
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Location: California, USA
Hi Bill,

I'm not an expert on hilltribe weavings, but let me make a few comments. It is definetely not Tai since the motifs and overall design are not in the Tai repetoire. The oddest segment of this bag is the heavily twisted handle and side seams with tassels. Most of the hilltribe bags that I've seen are joined by stitching on the sides, and/or a simple cloth handle. What do you guess the rope like material is? If it is wool, you may be looking at a completely different weaving world, say Nepal or Bhutan, which is always possible.

Is the work supplementary weft? Or a flat weave? I'm afraid I couldn't really tell. It is also not Karen, since as far as I know the Karen weave in hemp and cotton, and once again the design is not typical. Thus, you are looking for a group that weaves in silk. If this is in silk, the red is probably lac, but may be an aniline dye from China, as is the pink definitely.

My uneducated guess? A Tibeto-Burman hilltribe found in Upper Burma which is closely related to hilltribes in northeast India. Or a hilltribe group who lives in a climate where a heavy rope around the shoulder is not a problem ie. not tropical.

I hope my commemts will generate some interesting information which may be more accurate.

Sandie


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 Post subject: Good thoughts, Sandie.
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 7:06 am 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
The body is silk, the braided strap is cotton. It is lined with a simple home-weave cotton. The pictures are not very color-corrected. The red looks much pinker in the pictures, and is actually very ruby. Of course, the pink is chemical. It is embroidered with exquisite detail and precision. rather than supplimental weft. Not Mien. I have a vague memory of seeing something in Mai Sae about seven years ago that was similarly embroidered, but was in another style. The Tibeto-Burman idea could very well be possible, especially if it came from China. There isn't any wool, as there would be is it had an origin of Bhutan.

I know that this piece doesn't fit in the normal Laos, Thailant, Sip song Panna styles, but I thought it might come from China, and an older Tai heritage. That may only be my romantic impulse. It's like the Miau. You see what they do in Thailand and Laos. It's nice and I appreciate it , but it simply isn't world class. Then you are exposed to Guizhou, and it's mind-expanding.

In any event, it does come from a colder climate, because of the heaviness of weave and the heafty braid. I won't go for the Himalayas, as I too would expect wool. There are some groups near the Chin that aren't in the Burma hill tribe books that do weave heavy pieces.

Hpoefully someone has some info. Anyway, I have always loved this piece exactly for its mystery heritage. I know Mary Conners carried a photo around for a long time trying to it secrets.

Thanks,

Bill


Last edited by Bill Hornaday on Tue Oct 14, 2008 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: the mystery bag
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 8:19 pm 
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Location: California, USA
Hi Bill,

I checked the pictures again, and on second viewing noticed the cotton lining. It is a typical Tai pattern-bamboo, if I remember rightly. Brighter and newer then the exterior, since you would expect a bag with that kind of wear to have a worn lining as well. Any thoughts? Many traditional patterns of SEAsia are now made commercially. I almost fainted (well, not really) at a local Southern Chinese restaurant to see a woman wearing a commercial cotton sarong in the exact designs of Mien women's trousers. She in fact was Mien, and bought the sarong recently in Bangkok. Despite my pleadings, and my husband's begging in Mien, she would not remove it, although she was wearing pants under it (0ddly enough).

Thinking about the Tai again. This is not from Sip Song Panna, or the Shan of Burma, since the groups there weave in a traditional Tai manner, with typical motifs and structural elements. Looking at the bag again, are you sure it's embroidered rather than a flat weave? What would it be woven on? I know of no Tai group that actually embroiders to that extent. What does the unlined interior show?

On the other hand, there are a few Tai or Tai related groups about. And some scholars feel that the diamond motif was borrowed from Bhutan, and it is ubiquitous thoughout the Tai world. (I don't agree, but it's an interesting route of transmission).

The Chuang people in Guangxi may be a distant relative of the Tai people, but I've never seen anything by them. It could be Li, but Hainan is not close to the area in which this bag was purchased. Also, there are several groups of Tai in the Northwest Frontier of India which is closed to tourists. They are attempting to link themselves closer to other Tai and came to a conference in Bangkok. I was given a sarong, which I'll post when I find it. It was simple bands. The women wore saris, and the language was slowly losing tones. Their textiles showed marked Indic influence.

Sandie


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 8:50 pm 
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I would like to add a couple of quick comments on the mystery bag. I am sure I have seen something similar illus somewhere but can't remember where, perhaps a further search through my books will turn it up. However my overall impression, although I may be quite wrong, is that it is indeed from Laos, or if not somewhere within the same cultural sphere.
In "Handwoven textiles of Southeast Asia" S Fraser-Lu page 127 are illus of a Lao Neua shawl, featuring interlocking motifs including snakes (fig 160) and detail of a similar textile displaying an angular snakes head design page 128 (fig 161) Unfortunatly these are not in colour.
Also see photos in "Textiles of Southeast Asia" Robyn Maxwell page 161 fig 224 showing a ceremonial skirt of the Tai Nuea and page 231 fig 333 a ceremonial shawl. (Are the 2 ethnic groups mentioned above the same people?). These textiles display a wonderful and subtle use of colour and arrangement of motifs and show a certain similarity to the piece in question. Therefore, to me at least, one may not have to look further than the general area of Laos, maybe Thailand or parts of Vietnam for its provenace. Having said this however, research into the Tibeto- Burman areas for its origin would be interesting, eg the various Hani groups of Yunnan. (although it doesn't have the "feel" of Akha bags from Thailand or Burma), possibly the Kachin of upper Burma. Or such "remote" Thai peoples as the Shan of Burma or the Di in southern China.
On a further note research into textiles of Cambodia whould be interesting as I have seen almost no material from this area. Cambodian Hilltribe textiles may prove to be interesting. (Do these hilltribes have a vibrant textile tradition, and if so is it still alive?)


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 Post subject: the bag
PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 10:27 pm 
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The bag reminded me of some of the Tai Muang tube skirts shown in Michael and Kim Be Howard's 'Textiles of the Daic Peoples of Vietnam' - the wide bands - or hem pieces - at the bottom of the skirts. Several feature stylised snakes or the Howards refer to it as 'a large silk worm' (I rather like that in this context!) In the text (p181) talking of Figure 203 the Howards describe:
Quote:
the hem-piece has a ground made of black cotton thread, in the center is a wide band with embroidered patterning using various colors of silk thread, the major motif is a large silk worm (the threads in the center of the worm are warp directional while those surrounding it are weft directional), around it are flowers and diamonds (the threads are all warp directional), just below this band are rows of suplementary weft patterning using white silk thread and featuring diamond shapred patterns, towards the bottom and the top are several plain lines woven with various colors of silk warp thread; made in the late 1980s.

The skirt is attributed to the Tai Muang, Tai Pao sub-group, Yen Thanh village (Luc Da commune, Con Cuong district, Nghe An province, Vietnam). Figures 208 and detail 209 show another 'silk worm' and other motifs echoing those in the bag. Unfortunately the Howards do not show any bags for the Muang.

Both Lao and (Thai traders) have moved across the borders and into Vietnam - Nghe An province in Vietnam borders Laos.

Sandie, the Tai in Vietnam seem adept at embroidering designs to imitate weaving - especially the Black Thai and also these Tai Muang.

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 11:23 pm 
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Wow,

This is getting really interesting. Firstly, yes the Thai Nuea and Lao Neua are in fact the same group. These terminological problems are the unfortunate result of dividing ethnic groups and their textiles by geo-political borders rather than cultural similarities.

The textiles cited in the Fraser-Lu are very traditional, recurring motifs of the "naak" (from "naga" Sanskrit), variously translated as "water serpent", "dragon", "snake. They are much more elaborately woven and integrated. Check my new (thanks, Pamela) web page for other examples. http://www.tribaltextiles.info/S_Shamis ... ection.htm

I better start reading again, I never knew that the Tai embroider, since almost all that looks embroidered in Tai pieces, is in fact supplementary weft, or rarely, supplementary warp.

Almost all the Tai Buddhist peoples have mixed feelings about the Silk worm, which must be killed to produce silk. Many weavers in Thailand buy their silk from the Lao, including the Lao within Thailand, who are considered a bit rustic. Not only do they kill the silk worm, they deep fry and then eat them.

Once again, the bag must come from a mountainous or cooler area. No one who has lived in Thailand would ever carry a bag with that heavy strap.

I'll check further, it could also be Cham etc.

Sandie


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 10:33 am 
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Thanks Bill for sharing such an interesting piece with us. It has really stimulated my interest in the textiles of the Tai proples, I just love the intergrated motifs picked out in subtle colours. I have been through most of my textile books on southeast Asia avidly seaching them out and will make an effort to find more literature on this textile tradition. I can't wait to get the Michael Howard book Pamela mentions above, on textiles of the Diac peoples of Vietnam which I have on order at the moment. I don't know why I did' nt think of getting it earlier.
I would love to see these textiles and wonder if the British Museum has a large collection or if there is anywhere else in London which displays and/or sells them.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 10:55 am 
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Siriol

Given that you and I live within 1-2 hours drive of each other we really ought to get together! I can pull out a quite a few pieces of Thai (Tai) textiles from this region and I have the Howards' book(s) and several articles which they have publised on the subect over the last few years. (Being typically reserved Brits, of course, we have preferred to communicate via the forum!)

I don't know of any material in British museums - not because I have searched but probably because I have not! We should perhaps plan a campaign to identify likely museums and try and compile a study/reference list. If you take Tai in its broadest sense to include Shan then Michael Howard has identified a couple of museums in the UK.

I have become more and more interested in the textiles of this ethnic group and have been adding to my collection affordable pieces as I find them. I got my first pieces in Vietnam in 1994 from a tiny shop in the old quarter in Hanoi from a Russian woman married to a Viet who was quite passionate about Tai weaving. Of course this means that the attribution is not defined but that is where the reference books come in. I think that the Howards' work on the Tai is their best material focusing on the ethnic groups in Vietnam and is based on several years of research. Of course Kim Be Howard is a Tay (with a Black Thai mother) from Son La province so this must allowed them to get a special insight - linguistically at the very least. I shall now be looking for a 'silk worm' Muang hem (somehow the 'silk worm' reference in the Howards' book had not sunk in but I really like the idea - even if it isn't true!) - I already have an example of circular flowers/suns.

Bill

Thanks very much indeed for your mystery textile! Our 'mysteries' are always the sparks which get the forum going and from which I think we all learn as well as making the most of our reference libraries.

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 4:27 pm 
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Sandie.

The lining of the bag is home-spun cotton plain-weave. What you are seeing is the cover of a book that was put on the bag to hold it down when I put it on the scanner.

Everybody has so many great thoughts. Have to run right now, but will respond to all your thoughts later.

Bill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 4:36 pm 
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Bill,

A very nice bag indeed! My first inclination is that it is not originally of SE Asia origin. To me it looks very Northern Persian, possibly 19th century. Cotton and silk weavings used in bags were common in tribal groups such as those around Qarabagh. I would agree with Sandie’s observation of the heavy strap being of a non-tropical area. The cotton lining could have been added at a later time. It was and still is not uncommon for textiles to travel long distances and be modified for other uses as available and as needed. There are a few visitors and members of this forum that have the in depth knowledge that could take this discussion to a much higher level than I am capable of. My advice would be to seek out an expert in Central Asian and Middle Eastern textiles to either extend or dismiss these observations. Best regards to all. Richard


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 6:35 am 
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Folks- I couldn't resist weighing in on this one as my 'gut' feeling was that it is definitely not Thailand or Laos, but perhaps China, Tibeto-Burman, or even perhaps far eastern Central Asian, based primarily on the naga motif, the unusual braided strap, the materials (the absence of wool does steer one away from more northern areas), and the other rather unusual design motifs. In perusing my reference books I came across something similar, sans naga, in Dr. Howard's Textiles of the Hilltribes of Burma; p.163, #120. It has the same kind of plaited shoulder strap and decorated upper portion, followed by a lower portion of banding. Perhaps the weaver was not as interested in decorating as making something to use, so the lower half is without a motif, tho it appears to not be plain-woven either. The size is 26cm x 32cm. It would be interesting to know the size of Bill's bag. Also, about the dyes and which are chemical vs natural: I have seen some brilliant pinks that are natural and must question the possible chemical dye attribution. This is a lovely old bag and perhaps could also elicit a discussion of certain design motifs which if not quite universal, seem to be fairly ubiquitous, as is the naga/naak; as well as the panel divided into quarters (which is seen in Laos) and Central Asia, and probably lots of other cultures. Any thoughts?

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