Friday evening, June 2, 2017, was the opening reception of the PHG Group Show, Fiber Artistry at the Multnomah Arts Center Gallery in Multnomah Village. The well-attended reception opened the exhibit, which features the work of approximately 30 Portland-area weavers and fiber artists. The work spans the gamut from functional items such as scarves, jackets, rugs and table linens to wall hangings and sculptural items. Professional and emerging artists, as well as seasoned hobby weavers, have a chance to show off their work in a beautiful neighborhood gallery, in an exhibit artfully hung by dedicated guild volunteers. Many works are offered for sale; don’t miss it!
I recently finished reading The Amazons, by Adrienne Mayor. What we know of Amazon women comes from Greek vase paintings and Herodotus, the Greek historian. The Amazons were probably Scythian warrior women, part of a society of Eurasian steppe nomads who herded horses, cattle and sheep. Their clothing consisted of coats, long tunics and trousers for horseback riding, and they wore tall felted wool caps with ear flaps. Both men and women wore garments of similar style, and fragments of woven clothing have been excavated from some prehistoric burial mounds, known as kurgans.
Greek vase paintings also show Amazon women wearing close-fitting, highly patterned clothing designs on sleeves and leggings. In the vase paintings, only foreigners wear these designs, not Greek women. However, Greek women are depicted holding frame looms, on which they may have been weaving sprang, a type of textile construction that is stretchy, like knitting, but is woven with warp threads only. Think Mexican hammock.
Dagmar Drinkler, a textile historian who has written about tight-fitting clothing in antiquity, has reconstructed in sprang some of the clothing patterns depicted on Greek vase paintings. While these sprang garments have not yet been found in excavated burial mounds, the reconstructions are startlingly similar to those in the vase paintings. Is it possible that the sheep-herding, wool felt-wearing nomads were knowledgeable of sprang technique as well?
Last November, I had the good fortune to attend the 10th International Shibori Symposium, held in Oaxaca. Three hundred or so participants came from all over the world to gather and talk about tie-dye and related matters. There were exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops, talks, studio tours and assorted opportunities to meet world-renown textile artists, teachers and scholars. After a week of immersion in everything textile, on my way home I felt like excess information was leaking out my ears. Many thanks to the Portland Handweavers Guild for the study grant which helped me get there!
November is a great time to visit Oaxaca, when the tourist load is somewhat lighter, but the weather is comfortably warm during the days and nights are comfortably cool. A lot like late summer is here in the Pacific Northwest. The food was fantastic; I never had a bad meal. Not everyone speaks English, but the locals appreciate when you try to communicate in your rudimentary Spanish, augmented by signing and gestures.
My hotel was two blocks from the zócalo with its restaurants, cafés and nightlife, and directly across from the Museo Textil and neighboring San Pablo Cultural Center, where a lot of the symposium activities took place. I loved being centrally located, within a few minutes’ walk from restaurants, shops, markets and local sights.