Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review - Final Lecture of the 2016 Symposium

October 19th was the final lecture of the 2016 series. Traditionally the last lecture is the Threads lecture - a chance to talk about the work of the Maiwa Foundation and to raise money for the Foundation's work.

The evening concluded a trio of events about the Banjara. It followed the exhibition and book launch with a behind the scenes "Making of the textiles of the Banjara." Charllotte and Tim outlined the history of this group of semi-nomadic people, looked at stitches and motifs, and showed video from over fourteen years of visiting the Banjara. 

The evening was introduced by Sophena Kwon, who gave the audience some intimate details and little know facts about the presenters. We are happy to reproduce it in full here.

I have the great privilege to introduce two of my favourite people on this planet.  Charllotte Kwon, my mom and Tim McLaughlin. 

Now, I’m not going to talk about the Banjara… or the many trips to India these two have made together to research and photograph for the book.  I’m not going to tell you about the latest review the book had in this month’s issue of The World of Interiors or that the book has been distributed world wide and was featured on the ‘Staff Picks’ table in our favourite bookstore in London called Daunts Books.  

Instead, I would like to use this great privilege to shed some light on a few lesser known facts about these two.

Some may not know that my mom started out in her early 20’s getting her journeyman’s ticket in printing and ran a Heidelberg press for Hemlock Printers.  She was the only woman in the workshop and was nicknamed Charlie.  8 years into this profession she got blood poisoning from the leads and heavy toxins in the printing inks.  The blood transfusion and a realization that she was not going to return to the profession of printing was the catalyst that began her journey in search for alternative, gentler, more sustainable ways to achieve colour and changed her medium from paper to fabric.  Now she has almost 40 years of Natural dyes experience behind her.  Natural Dye is one of the major building blocks that Maiwa stands on and her fascination with natural colour has taken her all around the world in search of dye recipes and exchanges with artisans keeping the craft alive.

Now Tim.  Some of you may not know that Tim started an undergraduate in chemistry and from there followed his passion for music and stepped into recording engineering.  He ran a radio show for the University of Western Ontario and was deeply immersed in the music scene.  The next obvious move from there … philosophy.  He earned a Masters in Philosophy of Science.

When he had felt like he had reached the finish line in his formal education he hit the road travelling and took a bicycle through Scotland and Ireland and then backpacked through Morocco.  He later moved out west and completed two residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts focusing on Digital Artwork and New Media.  Being in the world of computers and at the beginning of the internet he has a deep understanding of how it all works.

Maiwa needed a computer technician with the love of beautiful things, a sensitivity to textiles and travel, a chemist that could assist in the dye room, a writer, a philosopher, and an talented photographer …

Now I want to look at these two from a more astrological point of view just to shed another light on these two enormously creative souls.

My mom is an Aries Rooster.   If you know the first thing about Western astrology and Chinese zodiac you will understand that these people are natural leaders.  One of my favourite astrologers says that:

“An Aries Rooster is a boiling tea kettle of enthusiasm.  Every single second of life for this character is full to overflowing with activity and eagerness.  They are generous and outgoing, talented, versatile and curious to a fault.  You will never see an idle Aries Rooster.  Lying down or sitting still for long periods of time tends to create a malaise in the ever whirling Aries Rooster soul.  Exoticism magnetizes this subject.  Would you like to go across Siberia to China on foot but cannot find anyone to accompany you?  Ring up an Aries Rooster. “
And Tim is a Libra Snake.  You know who else is a Libra Snake?  Mahatma Gandhi.  Need I say more.  Tim’s calm and competent demeanour, his eloquence and mastery of the word, he inspires, and has an incredible discipline to work on something for long periods of time until he has mastered it.  For example, most recently the art of Spenserian calligraphy.

We, the family, the company, the friends are forever grateful that air and fire are such a good match and that these two found each other, fell in love, they work together, travel together, write together, and tonight, get to share their latest collaboration:  The Textiles of the Banjara. Please help me welcome Tim & Charllotte to the stage.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Textiles of the Banjara in The World of Interiors

The World of Interiors is one of our go-to magazines for inspiration in textiles, arts, and culture. So we were quite proud to see that noted author and anthropologist Nigel Barley reviewed our latest book Textiles of the Banjara. The review is on page 100 in the October 2016 issue.

We liked the review so much we contacted World of Interiors and asked for permission to reproduce it here. We'd like to extend our appreciation to both World of Interiors and Nigel Barley.

(by Charlotte Kwon and 'Tim McLaughlin; 'Thames & Hudson, rrp £29.95). 'The Banjara are a semi-nomadic people of India whose huge baggage trains of thousands of bullocks once served the Mogul armies and the British after them with commendable even-handedness. Yet, as this well-researched and beautiful book shows, there is so much more to them than this. The first section is a subtle but concise exposition of their role through the developing history of India and the Raj, which invested them with romantic myths but which finally fell out of love with them as a 'criminal tribe'. The complex interactions of ideas of race, caste and tribe are brilliantly teased out and documented.

Today the Banjara are scattered across India under a plethora of religions, names and occupations. Modern myths link them to European Roma, who have the same gift for adaptability and maintained separateness. Nor are they entirely unknown to fashionistas, for their beautiful textiles and jewellery are the source of those elaborate appliques, incorporating mirror fragments, that haunt Indian restaurants.and the 'gypsy chic' embroidered skirts favoured by hippies in the 1960s and 70s. These are the matter of the main part of the book.

Not surprisingly, Banjara textiles are all about the signalling and maintenance of identity. Women still wear largely traditional dress of rich, vibrant embroidery and jewellery, each element correlated to regional origin and marital status; male attire is blandly non-distinctive by comparison. The authors show how Banjara female dress has become politicized and controversial in much the same way as Muslim women's dress.being seen as a mark of both cultural strength and oppression.

What follows is pretty much a classic, material culture catalogue with analyses of style,, technique and classifications of product - everything from bullock-horn decorations to fancy bags - and all given a human face by biographies of individual artists. 'textiles are depicted in various stages of completion to demonstrate process, and canonical works are drawn from a mixture of old and contemporary collections to show a Iiv­ing tradition undergoing change and adaptation. incorporating new techniques and addressing new markets. The book is generously illustrated with gorgeous photographs that show objects both in isolation and as worn. The strength of The Textiles of the Banjara lies ovenwhelmingly in the way it has brought together the insights of personal fieldwork experience and private collections in a book that goes beyond the academic to tell a tale both accessible and moving •  NIGEL BARLEY is an anthropologist [>

Here is a link to a PDF of the page.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Maiwa 2017 Spring Workhops — The List is Out!

Next week these will be mailed out to everyone. It's the course catalogue for our 2017 Spring Workshops, and it contains a formidable roster of great courses — with one or two surprises.

Can't wait for the mail? Not to worry, we've put everything online at

Registration opens on Monday December 12th at 10am.
See you in class!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Granville Island - Help plan for 2040 on October 15th.

Maiwa has two stores on Granville Island. We are proud to call Granville Island the "artisan heart of Vancouver'. There are big changes on the horizon and Granville Island is asking for public input. The Maiwa community has been active on Granville Island for over thirty years. This is the time to add your voice to the future of the Island.

On Saturday October 15, The Future for Granville Island in 2040 will take place. It is a free event with registration through an Eventbrite page. Follow the link below for full details.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Amy Putansu Wakes the Divine

On October 4th Amy Putansu took the Maiwa audience through a meditative consideration of her weaving. With reference to the work of such artists as Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko, Amy outlined her motivation and her desire to create within a minimalist aesthetic.

Two days later on October 6th, Amy's exhibition opened at the Silk Weaving Studio on Granville Island.

The exhibition is a great chance to see everything that Amy talked about materialize into fabric. The description of the show states:

"Using a rare handweaving technique called ondulé Amy Putansu maneuvers threads out of the strict grid and into wave-like patterns and lines. The elegant simplicity of a stripe (shima) is natural to weaving, yet for centuries textiles of this type were solely imports into Japan. Eventually home-weavers developed uniquely Japanese striped patterns.

The textiles in this exhibit are inspired by striped cottons from Japan. Amy reinterprets these patterns in silk, using her signature textile techniques to create one-of-a-kind scarves and shawls. Stripes now emerge as waves within woven interlacement, or become textural as well as visual elements in organza."

Highly recommended. The show will be on until October 19th, 2016.

Silk Weaving Studio, Granville Island

Weaving by Amy Putansu - Silk Weaving Studio 2016

Weaving by Amy Putansu - Silk Weaving Studio 2016

Weaving by Amy Putansu - Silk Weaving Studio 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

EARTH&WEAR - its about to happen...

Maiwa is participating in  EARTH&WEAR

A one-night event

Tuesday September 27

The Gallery of BC Ceramics,
1359 Cartwright St
Granville Island, Vancouver, Canada

Fashion & Clay

See you there!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

BANJARA - photos from the opening.

For our readers who live too far away to visit our new exhibition. Here are some photographs taken during opening night. The show remains up in the North end of the Monte Clark Gallery until October 1, 2016.

The pop up shop and the Monte Clark Gallery are both open:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 5:30pm.
525 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, Canada

Charllotte Kwon and Tim McLaughlin introduce the show to a full house.

Charllotte Kwon points out some aspects of the design process.

Sophena Kwon admires one of the largest embroideries.

Tim McLaughlin signs a book.

Outside of 525 Great Northern Way, the entrance to the pop up shop in the dusk.

The pop up shop - full of Banjara embroidery.

This room was set up for opening night only. These pieces are now in the pop up shop.

Neelavva watches over a poster of herself.

The poster box. Opening night guests interact with images of the Banjara women.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cat Bordhi Interview by C. Labonte-Smith

2016 marks the first year that we have had Cat Bordhi teach at the Maiwa School of Textiles. Cat's reputation precedes her. She is a bit of a legend in the knitting world for her rethinking the architecture of knitting and her whole hearted dedication to the craft.

One of our workshop participants, C. Labonte-Smith, arranged an interview with Cat once the workshop was over. She has posted A River Journey with Cat Bordhi on her blog, The Gibsons Girl. We are happy to link to it here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rosemary Crill Presents Curating the Fabric of India

Rosemary Crill speaking at the Maiwa School of Textiles

In Victorian England, during the heady summer of 1851, an estimated six-million people visited the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” (better known as the Great Exhibition) under the vitreous rooftops of the Crystal Palace, during the six months of it tenure in Hyde Park. During this time it realized a profit of almost two-hundred thousand pounds, enough to purchase 96 acres of land in South Kensington and to fund the construction of what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. This fund also gave birth to the Museum of History and Science, The Royal Colleges of Art, and Music and the Royal Albert Hall.

Today the V&A’s holds the greatest collection of Indian Textiles in the world. As Director Martin Roth pointed out in his introductory notes to The Fabric of India, it is surprising, therefore, that there had never been a major exhibition of them, nor had there been a comprehensive volume such as The Fabric of India.

Now, such an undertaking is never the work of one person. Nevertheless, there is one person who did have a pivotal role to play in bringing these textiles to public view and championing the importance of such an exhibition. That person is Rosemary Crill. She has recently retired from her position as Senior Curator, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Rosemary is a paradigm of modesty and understatement. A favourite trick of hers, which she uses to field a question about textiles, is to speak as if you were giving her the answer. “I don’t know ... South East India isn’t it? Northern Orissa perhaps? What do you think? An ikat from say ... well ... maybe early twentieth century judging by the dyes and colours ... does that seem right?”

Our mutual friend, textile collector and author, John Gillow once described her in the following words: She’s incredibly sharp. She knows absolutely everything, but she’ll act like she doesn’t know any of it.”  This is not false modesty, rather it belies her deep conviction that what matters most is not her erudition, but the object itself.

Rosemary is a gifted curator, by which I mean she is able to organize objects into collections that make intuitive sense. She then augments this curatorial ability with deceptively simple prose.  And so she uses her subtle gifts to give a voice to the object. We are made to feel that the textiles of history are speaking directly to us.

From the introduction to Rosemary Crill's lecture by Tim McLaughlin.

See also Maiwa's review of the Fabric of India Exhibition and Tim McLaughlin's review of the Fabric of India Book (some of which is repeated in this introduction).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Opening of BANJARA - Monte Clark Gallery

Meet the Banjara through image and stitch.

Thursday September 22, 6-9pm
Free Admission
Exhibition runs until October 1, 2016

#105 - 525 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

BANJARA is an exhibition of photography and textiles focusing on the semi-nomadic
Banjara tribe of India. Distant relations of the European Roma, the Banjara are a formidable
cultural presence beset by the forces of modernity.

For the Banjara, embroidery as cultural expression is worked within a set of oppositions:
the communal and the individual, the historic and the contemporary, the traditional and
the modern. Materials, motifs, colours, and execution are combined to create utilitarian
artifacts that have both talismanic and auspicious powers; works are made to act as
highly visible displays of wealth and artistic skill.

Tim McLaughlin’s photographs invoke the tensions of visual ethnography — the spectacle
of the other and the necessity of understanding the play of difference in the construction
of identity. Stylistically indebted to the early work of Irving Penn, the portraits
are often made on-site with a portable studio. The resulting decontextualization isolates
the subject and removes the touchstone of reference.

The Banjara, as an ethnic group, were the site of conflict between colonial and tribal
powers during the reign of the British Raj in India. Medieval merchants operating on a
grand scale, the Banjara controlled most inland transport routes through the deployment
of pack trains of up to one-hundred thousand laden oxen. Construction of railways and
paved roads ended Banjara autonomy and the group were criminalized by the British
in 1871. The Indian subcontinent, however, is far from homogenous and many Banjara
continue to live untouched by modern influences.

BANJARA is also the occasion for the North American release of the hardcover book
Textiles of the Banjara: Cloth and Culture of a Wandering Tribe by Charllotte Kwon and
Tim McLaughlin, Thames and Hudson, 2016.

CHARLLOTTE KWON is the owner of Maiwa Handprints and the director of the Maiwa
Foundation. She is a documentary filmmaker and author and is internationally recognized
as a specialist in natural dye use.

TIM MCLAUGHLIN is a photographer and author who has published works in the United
States, Canada, and Great Britain. His previous book, Portraits: Found and Taken
received a silver award in the 2014 Paris Photo Prize. His works have been reviewed in
the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and The Globe and Mail. His work has shown at Le
Mois de la Photo and he features in the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. For over
fourteen years he has collaborated with Charllotte on numerous Maiwa projects.