Generations of Bhutanese Weavers
A Slideshow of Local Women Artisans in Bhutan
These photographs were taken for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Bhutan as part of a documentation and celebration of innovative Bhutanese weaving. The project encourages an integration of local Bhutanese designs with contemporary techniques as a way to increase product sales and improve incomes for local artisans.
"The pink hues of this one sleeve stole reflect majestic evening light on weaver," says Sangay Choden. Sangay has been weaving since the age of ten. Now twenty-two, she feels ready for a luxurious life of retirement: "My dream is to become Home Minister-a woman who stays at home and looks after managing household affairs," she said with a half-serious confession. Though she enjoys weaving, she thinks that the ideal life would be to retire early and let her husband, who is still in school and completing the 12th class, earn the family's income.
Norbu Lhadon models a cape made from the same natural red dyes that produce the young monk's robes that surround her. Norbu Lhadon is an accomplished mother of four children as well as a prize-winning weaver and farmer: she has come in first place for her vegetables as well as for her weavings in competitions held in her native village of Khoma. She hopes to use her knowledge and abilities to one day start a training center in Khoma. The center, she believes, will give equal opportunity to girls to learn viable skills and earn independent incomes.
Dechen models a silver-gray silk embroidered shirt inlaid with designs representing boulders and water. The design draws inspiration from Bhutan's strong, young rivers that flow from melting Himalayan snows. This innovative design is among Dechen's favorite contemporary weaves. The pattern, she says, is so different from traditional Bhutanese weavings, yet draws from her country's natural landscape. Dechen, now twenty years old, began to weave at the age of twelve and is the third generation of weavers in her family. She hopes to one day become a world-class designer of Bhutanese fashions.
The scarf shown by 15 year-old weaver Wangmo is one of the new designs introduced to Bhutanese weavings: the tones represent Bhutan's rich autumn colors, and are created using natural dyes made from local bark, stems and vegetables. Wangmo is just starting to learn the art of weaving and dying textiles. The youngest of three children, she watched her mother weave and found her talents inspirational. She now dreams of becoming a weaver.