Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


In many areas of the world, traditional textile cultures are being ‘kept alive’ or revived through the marketing of products for export and tourism. In some cases, marketability seems to be synonymous with the idea of a living textile tradition, as if a tradition cannot survive without participating in the global marketplace. This raises the question of whether marketing innovative, modern designs based on traditional skills is actually preserving traditional heritage. This question will be examined from a variety of angles in this presentation. Transformation and adaptability are certainly signs of being alive, but what of the original contexts and motivations for creating certain forms and designs? The integration of textile production in the traditional village lifestyle is a factor that may be lost in the marketing of new products. If techniques are extracted from their environment and put to use as income generation, are they still traditional techniques? Conversely, is the impulse to preserve textile culture intact a patronizing and unrealistic ‘outsider’ view? The marketing of traditional knowledge may honor and promote textile culture in ways that benefit the community and encourage preservation of heritage in a dynamic, changing environment. This presentation will not seek simple answers, but will give examples of traditional textile arts in the modern marketplace and examine several different perspectives on the complexity of textile traditions interacting with tourism and global trends. The approaches of traditional art centers such as Ock Pop Tok in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, Kala Raksha in Gujarat, India, and the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in Peru will be compared and considered. Photo caption for uploaded image: Tourists learn traditional Lao supplementary weft silk weaving at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. A one-day weaving student poses with her teacher and finished piece.