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Jun 20

Celebrate The Men Making Textiles

In our quest to bring you the best of global artisan textiles, we diverged a bit from our original goal of supporting women hand weaving cooperatives. Our first divergence was expanding beyond weaving since women’s handwork in most developing countries must be portable. The second fork in our road led us to working with men artisans too. Sometimes it was because they are the makers of the tools, or because their work requires non-portable equipment, such as dyepots and printing tables. With Father’s Day approaching, ClothRoads honors the men who continue making rich heritage textiles and pass these skills on to their children or other family members. Let’s meet a few of them.

In India, It Takes a Family
Designer Bina Rao and husband Kesav Rao own Creative Bee Design Studio, a hub of design and fashion activity for local and international connoisseurs of high quality textiles located in Hyderabad, India. Employing more than 400 handloom weavers in many different states of India, Bina’s designs are produced in intricate weaves from several varieties of natural, handspun yarns of wild silks, as well as cotton and line.

Bina and Kesau also set up the Creative Bee Foundation to support this work and train weavers to use their traditional techniques. Artisans receive training and upgrade their skills at the Foundation centers, then go back to their villages to pass on what they have learned to others, thereby “keeping the traditions alive” and providing income for their communities.

As a young child, Dayalal Kudecha’s family migrated to Bhujodi, a weaving village near the district capital Bhuj, in India. Eventually, after seeing the traditional arts of this village, he decided to learn weaving. His brother-in-law mentored him early on and then he studied under a master weaver. Weaving is integrated in his life. His wife and one of his sons work with him, under their own label, For Line. His other son, in college now, helps weave when he can. His mother, sister, and daughter assist in the pre-and-post weaving work. For over twenty-seven years, he has earned his livelihood by weaving traditional and contemporary designs.

Peruvian Highland Men Knit
It’s impressive watching the skillful hands of the Peruvian Highland men as they knit away on colorful hats, working the bicycle-spoke-sized knitting needles, tossing colored yarns to and fro, and nary a written pattern in sight. Knitting was introduced to the Andes by the Spanish in the 16th century. While innovations have prevailed over time, the use of colorful and intricate motifs continues.

The men from the villages of Accha Alta, Chahuaytire, Huacatinco, Pitumarca, and Sallac and co-op members of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, knit traditional hats called chullos. They are responsible for making their own as well as their son’s and/or godson’s. Chullos are worn by men and boys, as well as babies, and frequently worn perched on top of the head versus pulled snugly around the ears. Ear flaps or woven bands with beads may be attached at both sides of the hat.

Tool Makers in Mexico
In the small town of Jamiltepec, Oaxaca live an elderly couple, Antonio and Maria, who still make the malacate, the traditional support hand spindle for spinning cotton. Antonio is one of three men who carves the shaft of the spindle from the mangrove root. Maria makes the “fruit” aka whorl out of clay; she is also the artist and paints the spindles in the traditional colors from long ago–predominantly yellow with red-and-green stripes. The bright colors of the spindles are all the same, but the arrangement of colors and the widths of stripes vary. We were told that these colors are “what’s expected–that other colors wouldn’t sell.”

In the Oaxacan coastal village of Pinotepa de Don Luis, lives Habacuc Avendaño, a traditional purple shell dyer. His son José Avendaño a gourd carver and makes buttons and bowls of all sizes with intricate designs. Many of the spinners use these gourds as support for their spindles. Habacuc’s wife and daughters are weavers, and his sister leads the local weaving cooperative.

Thanks to all of these fine male artisans for preserving and sustaining their heritage textiles. Share your thanks by passing this on and shopping at ClothRoads for Father’s Day.

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