This is the last week to catch the Common Threads international textile exhibit at the Station House Gallery. The show, which has been a popular draw for the gallery this summer, winds up on Saturday.
The exhibition, which is on the 2011 Art Walk Show and Sale route, is an incredible collection of hand-dyed and hand-embroidered fabric, hangings and clothing pieces created in traditional ways from places such as India, China, Korea, Afghanistan, Polynesia and Papua New Guinea.
“We have had over 3,200 visitors already this summer, which is about double the amount of summer visitors we have had for the past few years,” says gallery manager Diane Toop.
“People who have been in to see it come back and bring their out-of-town visitors and everyone is as excited about the sumptuous beauty of these textiles and the wonderful way it has been displayed.”
Some of the items were made almost 100 years ago while others in the exhibition date to the 1920s, 60s and 70s as well as more recent creations made in the traditional hand-crafted ways that continue to make the fabrics so valuable today.
One of the centre pieces in the show is an intricately embroidered, stylized hanging depicting a woman dancing, which was hand-embroidered in India.
Marilyn Dickson, who arranged to bring the show to Williams Lake, is also exhibiting some of her own collection in the show.
One particularly interesting piece is a tapa cloth made in Papua New Guinea circa 1988. In Indonesia and Polynesia the inner bark of the mulberry tree is used to make cloth. The inner bark is soaked in sea water for two weeks, then cut into thin strips, which are then beaten using wooden mallets to create wide, soft, workable sheets.
The process felts the bark giving it strength and flexibility while doubling its width.
The pieces are then further felted together using root paste to create a wide cloth.
The wide cloth is placed over pattern boards made of dried leaves and then rubbed with natural dyes.
Lastly the women paint or stencil culturally significant motifs onto the cloth using sap from local trees, turning the patterns black or brown.
Another piece shows the traditional batik process of dying fabric using wax resist to create designs in traditional colours of natural indigo and shades of brown.
Only certain designs are worn by nobility. Traditionally, the wider stripes and the wider the wavy lines in a pattern, the higher the rank.
Another piece in the show is a Laotian silk tube skirt made in 2000 using the silk wrap and weft method of weaving and laboriously hand picked brocade patterns using natural dyes.
Historically the fabric had ritual significance for the maker or was produced for temple offerings.
There are many examples of how natural indigo dye is used to colour fabric and clothing.
Depending on how the fabric is treated and the particular vat of dye is treated, natural indigo can produce colours from the traditional blue-jean colour to deep black/blue, copper and even indigo red.
Pounding fabric after it has been dyed with natural indigo produces a valued sheen on the fabric as well as deeper blue and copper colouring.
One piece in the show is a child’s jacket made circa 1960, which is comprised of seven layers of pounded indigo fabric, each little jacket slightly smaller than the other but working together as one piece.
One hand embroidered bright orange and yellow tunic in the show was created by the Sindh people in Pakistan around 1970. The Sindh tradition of fabric decoration dates as far back as 3000 BCE.
There are also examples of exquisite embroidery circa 1900 typical of items made in China and Northern Thailand and Laos.
There are many other beautiful examples of pleated, tied and dyed, woven, and intricately embroidered scarves, tunics, decorative hangings, hats, skirts, fabric lengths and more to keep the visitor transfixed with amazement for hours.
The show features a collection of fabrics from around the world assembled by the Maiwa Foundation, established in 1997 to help fund practicing and re-emerging artisans in the craft sector. The show also includes a collection of modern day pieces made in traditional ways that are for sale.