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.
Sumcho Demo silently repeats the Padmasambhava mantra, om vajra guru pema siddhi hum, which is believed to encompass all the teachings of the Buddha. Sumcho Demo, like most Bhutanese, is Buddhist; she believes that her prayers help bring greater happiness to her work, life, family and the world. Here, she clutches a contemporary designed white shawl made from Chinese silk brocade and a kira, or traditional Bhutanese woven dress worn by women. Now 28-years-old, Sumcho Demo began weaving at the age of seven--the same age as her daughter, whom she has also taught to weave small patterns and designs.
"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 22, 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, earn the family's income.
Norbu Lhadon models a cape made from the same natural red dyes that produce the robes of the young monk's who 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 and 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.
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