Posts Tagged ‘weaving’

Mick Jagger in Peru

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Cuzco - woven mantas in antique weaving shop

Cuzco Mick Jagger textile shop

I was talking to the very knowledgeable owner of a shop of antique weaving in Cuzco, Peru, and after a while he mentioned that Mick Jagger had been in the shop two years before. When I asked if Jagger was in Peru to do a gig, he said no, he had come to see Machu Picchu. I guess he he missed it the first time he was in Peru, when he came to shoot Fitzcarraldo with Werner Herzog in 1980. Sadly—or not depending on how you feel about Jagger’s acting—he didn’t make it into the final film. Jason Robards had originally been cast as Fitzcarraldo and Jagger was to play his sidekick, but when Robards developed amoebic dysentery and had to bow out, thus delaying shooting, Jagger could no longer continue because the Stones were cutting an album. In a way I’m glad because I think Robards was spectacularly wrong for the role. Watch the video if you want to see his hammy and lightweight performance. But Jagger seemed promising as the simpleton sidekick. Some disagree. In the end it was probably fortunate that the role went to Kinski, and I can’t imagine Jagger tolerating Kinski’s on-set tantrums and quasi-criminal manic episodes.

The textile collection in this shop should be in a museum. The Peruvian government should consider paying the market price for its entire collection and displaying it all. It’s a crime that these pieces are slowly leaving the country. They represent multiple eras from every region of the country, and every one contains a message. What appear to be geometric designs are often animals representing family and cosmological origins and relationships. There is so little hand weaving left in the world. Much as I would like to collect more of it myself, it seems wrong to see it scattered to the winds even if that means Mick Jagger’s place.

Fitcarraldo - Mich Jagger and Jason Robards inIquitos

Peru Cuzco textiles shop weaving

Fitcarraldo Mick Jagger and Jason Robards in Iquitos, Peru

Jagger playing the fool in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo

Arhuaca mochila bags of Colombia

Sunday, April 13th, 2014


I first noticed these cylindrical handwoven bags in Medellín, Colombia, when I saw them worn by a couple of delegates at the UN World Urban Forum. I noticed them because they looked unusually sturdy, very finely handwoven in wool, with beautiful geometric patterns. After I arrived in Bogotá I realized they are actually common. They’re called arhuaca mochilas and are a traditional artisanal bag made by the Arhuaca people in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Maria mountain range. Traditionally they were made either from agave fibre, hemp or wild cotton, thought after the arrival of the Spanish they were also made from various wools. You can  also see synthetic fibres used (see top left in second photo below) as well as disappointing mass-produced versions. Traditionally the patterns indicated families via their totemic animals, often very abstracted.

“Starting in the 1960s, the arhuaca mochila left the geographical arhuaco, penetrated large Colombian cities (especially Santa Marta, Valledupar and Barranquilla), and is used primarily by young people today as a way to claim their indigenous culture. In 2006, the backpack was nominated as the Arhuaco cultural symbol of Colombia in the contest organized by the magazine Semana.” It now seems that the bag has more generally become a symbol of Colombia and have been adopted by a wide range of people dressed in varying degrees of casualness. More here.

These bags are not cheap in Bogotá, by the way. They’re cheaper in towns where they are made such as Santa Clara, but frankly they shouldn’t be. As with most weaving, it takes many days and an enormous amount of labour to make a single bag and the weavers should be paid appropriately.

The bag I bought is the minimalist white one at right in the very last photo.

Textile museum, Bogota

Mochila bags, Bogotá Mochilas arhuacas - via Wikipedia Photo above via Wikimedia Commons Arhuaca mochila bags of Colombia IMG_5420mochillax Mochila bag, Colombia The one above is particularly beautiful. Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, colombia Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, Colombia

Bogotá - mochila

Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, Colombia Mochila bag, Colombia

This one is a bag in a different style and from jute:

Mochila type bag, but of jute

Bogotá - Arhuaca mochila bags

mochila (& UN Habitat bag)




Bogotá - mochila, Cafe Color

Bogotá - Arhuaca mochila

Bogotá - men with mochila

Bogotá - mochila


Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience

Friday, May 18th, 2012


“If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away. His nesting places—the activities that are intimately associated with boredom—are already extinct in the cities and are declining in the country as well. With this the gift for listening is lost and the community of listeners disappears. For storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained. It is lost because there is no more weaving and spinning to go on while they are being listened to.” —Walter Benjamin, from “The Storyteller,” Illuminations, P. 91

(All of these photos were tagged “boredom” or “weaving” or “spinning” on Flickr and are all from the Creative Commons. Please click on photos for photographer credits.)

Spinning wool


Spinning Yarn at the Bus Stop - Iza, Colombia

Japanese interiors – updated traditional farmhouses

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Japanese country interior - lo res

The photo above shows the central living area of a rural farmhouse on the border of Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures. The house was restored by Kenji Tsuchisawa who bought it as a rundown heap when he was only 20, after seeing a photograph of a traditional Japanese farmhouse on a Tokyo magazine cover. He bought the house before realizing it was situated just one village away from the house in the magazine.

Many Japanese traditional farmhouses have now been restored and modernized, but the layout of these houses is so clever in terms of use of space and comfort that when they are updated, the original layout is often retained. It’s a house model being studied by North American and European architects aiming to produce smaller but more functional houses. Traditional Japanese houses are not large, but they seem larger than they are thanks to their well-thought-out layout. And their serene, warm version of minimalism makes them comfortable and functional. The use of natural materials and repeated colours makes the rooms feel balanced and uncluttered, and so does the fact that most objects have a real function. Decorative elements exist, but not to excess. When these houses are modernized carefully, the main alteration is usually the replacement of the original exterior doors and windows, and trading the sliding shoji screen doors and windows for more sturdily framed glass doors, windows and skylights to let in more light and keep out the weather.

Japanese country interior - lo res

Both photos above show the traditional indoor fire pit known as an irori, which sometimes sits on a raised seating platform, though in the photo above the irori has been traded for a more efficient (and safer) wood stove. The beautiful half-frosting on the glass screen doors in the photo above provides some privacy from the fairly public courtyard for people seated inside. Photos are from a book I think is really worth buying: Japan Country Living: Spirit, Tradition, Style, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, photographs by Shin Kimura, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan, 1993. Kimura’s work has also appeared in Met Home and Paris Vogue.

Checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo

Above is a checkerboard textile of indigo-dyed, handwovern hemp by Hiroyuki Shindo, on the verandah of his thatched house. It provides privacy (it appears opaque from outside, see here) and yet admits light and the view. Below, a functional modern kitchen produced by making only minor changes to the original.

Somewhat modernized kitchen in traditional Japanese rural house

Traditional Japanese scarecrows

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Traditional indigo textile scarecrow, Japan

Traditional indigo textile scarecrow, Japan

The bottom photo shows a functioning scarecrows made of indigo-dyed hemp. The original book caption reads “The bold design of this piece of shibori-dyed hemp by Seizo Ishikawa, a farmer, seems at home working as a scarecrow by a newly harvested rice field.” The birds in Japan must have been accustomed to seeing farmers in real Japanese indigo yukatas, waving their arms. In the top photo, however, the proximity to the house suggests mainly the traditional Japanese method of drying kimono, yukata and other garments, but it probably conveniently doubled as a scarecrow. The target design is interesting, perhaps suggesting part of an eye? From the excellent book Japan Country Living: Spirit, Tradition, Style by Amy Sylvester Katoh, photographs by Shin Kimura, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan, 1993. Kimura’s work has also appeared in Met Home and Paris Vogue. Also see their excellent book Japan: The Art of Living.

Playing with Tradition rug by Richard Hutton

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

“Playing With Tradition” carpet designed by Richard Hutten for I and I's Strawberry Fields project.

Textile looms and computers share a common history; Babbage used punch cards in his Difference Engine after seeing a Jacquard loom at work. This carpet by Richard Hutten is called “Playing With Tradition” and it plays on the historical relationship of looms and computers by looking exactly like a digital image that has been pixel-stretched. (Along similar lines, see this.) Hutton has designed furniture and other products for Droog and Sawaya and Moroni, among others, and this rug was designed for I+I‘s Strawberry Fields project. Some of the other pieces in that project are below, and at least two of them make use of computer imagery or computerized loom capabilities. This came to me via blprnt (resident digital expert and man about the studio, whose mom is also a weaver) via quasimondo via today and tomorrow.

Rugs and carpets in in I+I's Strawberry Fields project