Taiwanese artist modernizes ancient textile technique to preserve tradition

In a remote and mountainous village in Taiwan, Shu-Li Lin sat hunched on her floor, weaving hand-dyed threads in and out of a backstrap loom.

Months of meticulous labor resulted in crimson-hued cloaks, ornamented with dangling seashells and coconut buttons; gently padded vests lined with geometric shapes; and navy pillowcases with fuchsia-hued squares and cream-colored stitching.

Lin, 49, a member of Taiwan’s Atayal tribe, will showcase her work at this weekend’s International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe for the first time. One of 162 artists participating in the market this year, Lin hopes her handmade textile designs will help revitalize her country’s ancient weaving culture while modernizing the craft so it remains relevant now and in the future.

“I dedicate myself to not only preserving old techniques, but transforming old techniques into a more [contemporary] design,” she said in a recent interview through her translator, Yuh-Yao Wan.

Many of the old methods have been forgotten, Lin said. “Very few elders know how to weave. … I think this is a problem.”

She wants to meet other artists from around the world who are equally committed to sustaining their nations’ weaving culture, and she believes the 15th annual International Folk Art Market — with a mission of helping to preserve traditional arts in communities around the globe — is a great place to start.

“I want to learn from [the artists] and their technique — how they preserve their culture, their weaving techniques and traditions, and how to promote that traditional weaving culture,” she said.

After learning to weave, Lin spent years studying ancient textiles in museums, talking with professionals and looking at entire collections of antique pieces to “understand the different lines, different colors, different patterns,” she said.

Learning didn’t come easy.

The custom of weaving is generally passed down through generations, so older artists initially were unwilling to teach her. “But I made good relationship with the elders,” she said, and they finally decided to give her lessons.

She now teaches the techniques to elderly women and young girls.

“That’s the great impact in my neighborhood,” Lin said, adding that she established a workshop in her village in 1996 “to promote the continuity of traditional weaving culture.”

She grew up in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, somewhat removed from tribal artworks. But in high school, Lin said, she was drawn to indigenous cultures — Taiwan has 16 tribal groups — and had a desire to re-energize a passion for textile design.

In 1986, she traveled deep into the mountains to attend Pasta’ay — an ancient sacred festival held once every 10 years — to learn more about Taiwan’s indigenous people. The experience was “just like an entrance to another world,” she said. “Since then, I became very enthusiastic to indigenous culture.”

While the ceremony was inspiring, Lin said, it also was disappointing from a weaver’s perspective.

“I witnessed the decline of the culture in weaving traditions for women,” she said, and many commercially produced costumes that were “not properly made.”

Lin hopes that by bringing textiles into public places — in Taiwan and beyond — people will develop a deeper appreciation for the craft.

In May, she went to London, where she was invited to demonstrate her weaving at the British Library.

And in 2017, Lin said, she attended the NY Now market in New York, where she won an award for the best new sustainable product.

“She hand-dyed the materials, the threads, using the traditional backstrap loom,” said Wan, Lin’s translator and former professor. “She sits on the ground and uses her feet to hold the instrument. You need a very strong back.”

According to Wan — who has known Lin for more than 15 years, she was able to take part in a master’s program with only a high school degree because of her distinguished artwork. Lin finished the program in two years and then dedicated herself for at least five years to studying old weaving methods, Wan said.

“She’s like a researcher, not just an artist.”

If you go

• Tickets for the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, with events running through Sunday, are on sale at www.folkartmarket.org. People seeking one of three Donna Karan styling opportunities also should buy their tickets online.

2018 Folk Art Market schedule

Friday: Opening night party, 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Museum Hill, tickets $225

Saturday: Early bird market, 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Museum Hill, $85 (includes all-day market); general admission market, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Museum Hill, $20

Sunday: Community and family day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Museum Hill, $15

Source: The Hans India, India
Friday, 13 July 2018

<< Back To Textile News

Related News