Monday, October 20, 2008

'Paracas Headband Textiles Revisited' with Rodrick Owen


Rodrick Owen is a leading expert on Pre-Columbian and Japanese braids known for his seminal book 'Braids, 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru and Beyond' published by Interweave Press in 1995.
A friend gave me a hardcover copy when it was published. I browsed through the book, considered some of the techniques, but kept to my methods of braiding at the time. I had discovered braiding through nautical knotting books in the mid 70's and only heard of the term 'kumihimo' in 1978 when I met Jules and Kaethe Kliot while exhibiting at the San Francisco American Craft Council Show. The Kliots had published a booklet on kumihimo the previous year. Jules Kliot owns Lacis in Berkeley.

I have since then revisited Rodrick's book several times when playing with kumihimo at first with a maru dai, then recently when trying out braids with nylon cord, the kumihimo disk and EZ bobs.

It was a great pleasure to meet Rodrick in person last Thursday at his presentation at the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild. He started by tracing the movement the people who came over the Bering land bridge 30,000 years ago and then showing various sites where excavations found signs of civilizations and textiles in burial sites. In the Paracas necropolis, mummies were bound in place by cords and wrapped with many layers of intricate textiles, such as tunics, mantles and headbands.

He took us then on a visual tour of Paracas and Nazca textiles from around 600 BCE to 400 CE, stunning us with braids, weaving and embroideries of such complexity that no one now knows how to reproduce them. Visually, some pieces were like modern art. One textile design depicted abstractions of windows and modern buildings in the style of a Hundertwasser's. Others had interconnected designs precursors of M.C. Esher's tesselations.

We got a chance after the presentation to see some of Rodrick's samples of interlaced, fingerwoven braids. Go to Rodrick Owen's website at http://homepage.mac.com/billgreene1/owen/owenhome.html



What a treat to look at ancient textiles and modern creation of forgotten fiber arts!
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