Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
I was a novice weaver when I began constructing a Rakusua-Buddhist ceremonial garment-as an initiation into a spiritual community in my hometown. Years later, in the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam, I was drawn to an early 19th century Tallit Katan, a ritual silk undergarment that had been made for a Jewish poet who later converted to Christianity. I had just inherited my father-in-law’s prized collection of silk neckties. He was a troubled man who had embraced his faith late in life. Those ties became the weft for three works-a handwoven tallit, a woven timeline, and a small keepsake for his widow, which accompanied her to her grave. In that same period, at our local flea market, I noticed a small image in a book depicting an 8th century Buddhist silk Altar Valance from the Silk Road, part of the Stein Collection held by the British Museum. Its row of streamers resembled modern neckties, its precious silk scraps spoke of humility and thrift. It was a communal artifact punctuated by individual prayers. Both the Tallit Katan and the Stein Valance have been carefully researched and documented. I learned much from that material. But, for me, understanding both the making of those pieces and my own absorption inn them required a physical engagement over time. My paper describes this process.