Monday, September 27, 2010

The art of weaving.

A
fter we left the National Memorial Chorten, we headed over to the Gagyel Lhendup Weaving Center. After having seen weavers in Darjeeling and Gangtok, I have to admit that I was not too keen to visit yet another weaving factory. But my attitude is always to keep an open mind and I was so glad that I did because Bhutanese weaving is truly a work of skill and art.

There were about 8 women weavers, sitting on the floor,  in a small room that was dimly lit by natural light.  I don't remember seeing any overhead lights.


They do use looms but unlike the weavers in India, these women were weaving with thread....some were using cotton thread and others, silk.

Some patterns were simple geometrics like stripes and others were quite complicated in design.  The amazing thing was that regardless of the design, none of the women were using printed patterns as a template for the design they were weaving.  It looked like they were creating as they went along.

There was little chatter going on in the room.  Several of the women had earphones on so I think they were listening to their iPods :-)  Except for the conversation from visitors like us, the only other noise was the clunking sound of wooden beaters.


For the more complicated designs, the weaver would use wooden pick-up sticks to literally pick up single strands of thread to weave through.  Strands at a time they would weave.  The result of their handiwork is a very finely woven piece of cloth that in some cases looks embroidered. Just beautiful. 

One woman, in particular, was working on piece that looked deceptively simple.  Eleven vertical colored stripes that on closer inspection were eleven colored stripes each with a different geometric pattern. I don't know how she kept track of  what the pattern for that particular stripe was, how many strands to pick up and what color to weave through.  I asked her how long she had been working on the piece which I estimated to be about 6 week in length and she said 3 months!  Based on that, I estimated she had about another month of weaving before the piece would be completed.


On the second of the factory was a small retail shop selling woven products created by the women.  I picked up a piece that was nowhere as detailed a piece as what the woman in the video was weaving and the asking price was $1000!!  Sounds so expensive except it's really not given how much labor is involved.  I guess you really have to see the weavers at work to fully appreciate the level of effort required. If it was a piece I made, it would be marked as priceless and it would never leave my hands :-)

After my brief visit to the shop, I headed back downstairs for one last chance to watch the weavers before getting back on the van.  I wish I could have stayed a bit longer but Tenzing that we were headed to a handicrafts school next and that got my attention! :-)