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 Post subject: Mystery blanket
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 2:33 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
OK everybody- put on your thinking caps! I found this recently and the only thing I was told is that it might be from China. I've never seen anything quite like it: the colors look to be from natural dyes; the weaving is not real fine, but precise and tight, and it's woven in two panels; the material is cotton; it is about 60"x30". Thanks!


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 Post subject: mysterious
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:52 pm 
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Hi Susan,

A few comments: 1. do you think that gorgeous blanket is sewn in two because of a narrow weft loom? 2. what do you think of the random coloring within the guls? 3. is the blanket backed?

The color patterning is very similar to the use of randomness in T'ai textiles. Not only does random coloring create visual interest, it also express two principles of Theravada Buddhism: impermanence and illusion.

This is a very sophisticated textile; while the swastika is found throughout SEAsia, it is less common amongst the T'ai. My guess, a T'ai group close to India,and /or Southern China but not from a cold area, unless of course, the blanket has backing. Shan? Dong? Dai?

I could be wrong of course.

Enjoy it, it's spectacular.

Sandie


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 Post subject: Interesting Piece
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:54 pm 
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Susan-
I haver never seen any textiles with this combination of iconography and design. The edge swastika design seems clearly of Chinese inflence in terms of how the swastike is woven. The Tai groups in Laos do make traditional use of the swastika. The tribal group in Burma that commonluy uses the swastike is the Kachin, But the Kachin don't use the other designs in the textile. I'm not sure I remember anyone else using it in Burma, but I don't know the variety of styles existing in the Shans.

The reason I mention the Shans is the clear Tai inflence in the birds on each end. The concept of repetative patterns is common in the Tai groups, particularly the Tai Daeng in blankets of the type shown in Richard Mooks topic below "Is it Karen." Comparing your piece to his shows the similarity of styles between the two pieces. I noticed that the design in the diamonds is a little different in each row. I don't think I have ever seen that in repetative patterns like in Tai Daeng blankets like Richard's. This is unlikely because in pieces of this type of repetition the weaver would use the work-saving pattern sticks. See the coffin cloth in GitengerLeffert's book , photo 5.35 page 222. Makes me think this was woven with a loom other than the traditional Tai loom. The Tai will certainly do something fancy, but usually won't waste any time when it isn't necessary or they are not showing-off.


The birds at the ends provide another strong clue pointing to the Tai. This design family is clearly Tai and is different from the zoomorphic designs of the other groups. The biggest similarity to this design, other than the Tais. is that of the Guatemalan indians, but that is a different topic altogether.

In summary I would bet heavy money ($3.00) that this piece is from one of the smaller Tai groups, but one on the periphery of the Tai areas- Yunnan, Vietnam, Burma or even India. A group without the influence of the Lao and Thai Tai.

But then I guess and make up stuff alot, so the above could be all nonsense.

Bill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 4:16 am 
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Sandie- Thanks for the thoughtful answer. Re your questions: I cannot really speculate about the loom, but why else would they weave it in two pieces unless the loom was narrow, possibly a backstrap? It does not have a backing. And as to the coloration of the 'guls' (interesting use of a term I associate with Turkoman weavings), I even wonder if the pale versions of the other woven colors could be hand-applied after the fact as is seen in Sumba supplementary warp textiles (not ikats). I don't have the blanket in my possession, so cannot check right now. Maybe it would be useful to photograph the back too; actually one can learn a lot from the backs of textiles. As to the randomness... it does have its meaning in the religious and spiritual lives of many of the peoples of this region. I, however, am clueless!

Bill- Thank you also for a thoughtful answer. It does have some familiarly Tai qualities to it, but with a twist. I appreciate your reference to the Gittinger text which I am just getting into and now have even more incentive to do so. I also perused my references by Patricia Cheesman who writes a lot about Tai textiles, but have found no examples even vaguely similar, other than the bird iconography and the repetitive center field. I'll not challenge your bet, only your self-deprecation.

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 Post subject: Another similarity
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 3:18 pm 
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I just remembered where I saw that kind of border on a loatian piece. There is a group in or near Houa Phan Province, that I do not think is the Tai Daeng, who weave an unusual weave Tung (banner or funeral cloth to be hung from bamboo). Gittenger calls it a weft-faced compound weave. YYou have to see it to know how unususal it is. A picture of one is shown in the Gittenger-Lefferts book at 134 (the one on the right) It mostly has only a few colored threads (most predominate is Orange). I think that is the only ppic in the literature. Well, while the cloth shown in the book is unusual, it is not similar to your piece. However, I have another piece from the same group that has the same weave, but has several large tigers,surrounded by a border very similar to the border on your blanket. I will try to drag it out from some chest and take a pic.

Bill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 4:57 am 
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I'm familiar with the funeral cover in Gittinger/Lefferts (also Howard) and have seen several. They are woven differently than this blanket. I've looked at it again and it's continuous supplementary weft with some clearly handspun thread- others were more even- and the birds may be discontinuous weft and are in silk. It's even more faded than my photoshopped version posted.

I did come across some Tibetan wool pieces with very similar borders, as well as a Kirghiz reed screen which in addition to the swastika border had six-sided 'guls' of the same shape, tho without similar designs inside.

Some thoughts about motifs: the swastika tells us that it's not from a Muslim area, tho guls often are. The swastika border motif is widely used in old Chinese and Tibetan carpets, but this blanket is cotton not wool, and is not backed. The randomness of the coloration and center design of the guls could be linked to Buddhism.

Let's keep looking! Thanks for all the thoughtful assessments so far.

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 Post subject: is it Vietnamese?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 9:57 pm 
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Hi Susan,

I was reading "Patterns on Textiles of the Ethnic Groups in Northeast of Vietnam". On pages 12 and 13, the author describes two textiles produced by the Tay and Nung (two T'ai groups)-blankets, and then baby carriers.

The textiles are not reproduced completely, and those shown clearly use chemical dyes, but they share a structural similarity with your blanket by using all around borders with different motifs from the center "guls" (oh, I do love "guls"!).

The blankets (or room dividers-the author doesn't make a distinction) can consist of from two panels to six. And of course, there's always the expectation that natural dyes were used in the past, and may still be used; also, the border patterns may evolve, or be influenced by other weaving traditions. But it's an interesting possibility.

Unfortunately, my scanner is still on the blink, so I've asked Pamela to post those pictures for me, but if you have the books and scanner, that would be great too.

Cheers,

Sandie


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 Post subject: Tay and Nung 'Tho cam'
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:48 pm 
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Further to Sandie's post about designs in 'Patterns on Textiles:of the ethnic groups in northeast of Vietnam' published by the Cultures of Nationalities Publishing House, Hanoi in 1997 I have scanned a couple of designs from page 12.

Just to add to the information given by Sandie I thought that the introduction paragraph on page 11 was quite interesting:
Quote:
Compared to some other ethnic groups, Tay and Nung clothing is less colourful and less elaborately embroidered. Some kinds of Tho cam, such as Phai bjooc and phai lai, are pre-planned with the designs fixed on the loom. There are even craft persons who specialize in weaving only one or two types of Tho cam. This explains the similarity in form and quality of thier products. In order to produce the Tho cam pieces in series for certain uses, the weavers will arrange in advance the fixed patterns on her loom.

We can discern four main types of utilitarian Tho cam items (mainly the Tho cam of the Tay people):

- Blanket cover (npha pha). The blanket cover has all over dimensions of 1.4 m x 1.5 m and consists of four Tho cam brocade sections which form a square in the centre. Each of the four is called one pac. In order that the pieces will have a straight and even seam when they are joined, the weaver must work in four stages or use two different looms. One loom weaves the two rear pieces which will later be jointed, with pattern in the middle of the two other pieces. One piece has a design on its right hem and two ends, another one at the left hem and the other two ends. The second loom weaves the two middle pieces. Only the two ends will be hemmed, so that these hems fit exactly when they are joined together with the two rear pieces. When the four pieces are sewed together they will form a complete blanket cover surrounded by decorative designs.


Sorry that the images are not very good quality. The paper of the book is thin and not of a quality to take images well.

Thanks, Sandie for this one and food for thought Susan?


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tay_blanket.jpg
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Last edited by Pamela on Sun Jan 02, 2005 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2004 11:36 pm 
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Good find Sandie- I saw the same pics and didn't put it together. But you are right about the possible connection. My thought was more directed at the similarity to Guatemalan textiles- in particular those from Chichicastenango.

One question. The book emphacises that these groups are not into color as much as the other groups. I thought they used the brightest colors in the whole book. What do you guys think the author meant?

Bill


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 Post subject: colour
PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2004 10:37 am 
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Bill

My thoughts exactly re colour! I hunted through those pages in the book to find a specific text reference to figures 4 and 5 but could not find it as.

However, the comment of less colour specifically relates to clothing and yet the photos are of blankets. Do you think that this might be where the apparent contradiction lies? It could also be that traditionally the colour was less but an enthusiasm for newer chemically dyed thread has got rather out of hand.

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 Post subject: T'ai Dam costumes
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 1:42 am 
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Hi one and all,

I think the authors may have been refering to the simple T'ai Dam costume, since that ethnic group is also animist. The extensive illustrations of shamanistic gear however, doesn't shed light on their daily wear.

In Patricia's book "Costume and Culture" page 7 illustrates the costumes of the T'ai Dam ("Black" T'ai) in Laos. In fact, the women are simply dressed in (relatively) plain shirts, black pha sin, and a green waist sash. The only real woven pieces of distinction are their head pieces, a black woven textile with various manifestations of diamond shapes in supplementary weft, identical patterns at each end.

Since the T'ai Dam are a prominent ethnic group in Vietnam (along with the T'ai Khao, or "White T'ai), I'm assuming that their female dress is similar to that in Laos.

Getting back to the blanket, the book on Vietnames textiles goes on with interesting examples for several more pages. On pages 14-15 are some pieces with an angular border pattern that can be considered a T'ai simplification of the swaztika.

Sandie


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 Post subject: T design or swastika
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 1:05 pm 
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See one of the designs from the 'Patterns on Textiles' book to which Sandie refers:
Quote:
On pages 14-15 are some pieces with an angular border pattern that can be considered a T'ai simplification of the swaztika


Sandie - re T'ai Dam head coverings. All the ones that I have in my collection - although superficially looking like woven designs - are actually embroidered. Some I collected myself direct from the Black Thai women who made them - including one who said she embroidered it 40 years prior to 1995 when I bought it from her (and it was simpler in design from the more ornate ones embroidered by the women today) - and others which look older and possibly contemporary with my 40 year or a bit older whcih I bought from Susan Stem. I had hoped that these latter might have been woven - but I have looked carefully and they are not - as I feel that originally the head coverings were woven but more recently the women have realised that it is much quicker and easier to obtain complex woven-like designs via embroidery. (The background indigo dyed cotton cloth is, of course, woven, but not the patterning which gives the appearance of being supplementary weft but is embroidered). The Black Thai are still weaving but lengths of cloth for bags, mattress covers, curtain edges, baby carriers etc. See gallery: http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Galleries/Black_Thai.htm various shots (Son La, Tuan Giao and Ban Vay all in Son La Province and Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau Province.) Also see http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... /BTE28.htm for 40 year old headcloth - Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau Province and http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... /BTE26.htm of a girl who was surprised whilst working on the embroidery (but you cannot see the needle!!)

all of which does not relate to Susan's 'mysltery blanket' but diversions are always fun on the forum!!!


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Last edited by Pamela on Sun Jan 02, 2005 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 11:35 am 
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Concerning Susan's initial post she states she was told the mystery textile may be from China. In view of this I looked through my books on Chinese minorities and came across a small volume with the attractive title of "Nymphs of folk songs: the Zhuangs". Fig 27 shows a textile described as a brocade cushion which is almost identical to the textiles from the Tay and Nung groups shown above ("Patterns on Textiles of ethnic groups in NE Vietnam"). The textile has similar bright colours and border design with interlocking "T" shapes which have a similar "feel" to the Chinese swastiika in Susan's textile. Another border inside this has randomly coloured diamonds which is very Tai, and the inner main body of diamond designs has stars and other patterns inside them the color scheme being mostly bright greens and oranges. Altogether more brightly coloured than Susan's textile as are the other examples illustrated in this post although the general ideas are somewhat similar.
The Zhuangs live in Southern China in Yunnan and Guangxi and are, I believe, a Tai people. They are a very large group, possibly China's largest and may be made up of numerous different tribes, with slightly different costumes. (My book only deals with those in Yunnan and maybe Susan's textile could originate with another branch of this people on which I have no information).It is possible that some of the Tai tribes of northern Vietnam may extend across the border and be catagorised in China among the Zhuang nationality.


Last edited by siriol richards on Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: thanks all!
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 3:59 am 
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Many thanks for the helpful comments! I, too had seen the photos in the book on Vietnamese patterns, but had not made the connection. I think we may be getting very close, as I have since been told that this piece was acquired in Vietnam. My suspicions are that perhaps it is from far north Vietnam, or came down from China, which is next door. The designs could have evolved into the more recently-woven blankets shown in the book. I also wonder about the very bright colors in the book and suspect that perhaps this is the result of over-saturated photographs, tho tribal people do love their bright colors! I'll keep trying to get more information from the original owner.

Siriol- I'll look into the Zhuang, tho I've not got access to your book. They are not Miao are they? Ah, a new interesting tangent to pursue! Many thanks.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 4:02 pm 
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Everybody has responding to Susan's query with great ideas. I am especially intrigued by the Zuang. I suggest we take another approach. Let's make a list of what tribal groups use swastikas. The ones that first spring to mind are the Yao (Mien or Dao) and the Kachin. These two groups don't seem to be responsible, unless there is a Kachin subgroup that I have never seen. I personally have never seen a Tai group use swastikas, but it is possible. How about anyone else?

Just a thought about an alternative investigation.

Bill


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