We might as well start with this;
I’m not ‘Crafty’.
A confession that might come as a surprise to some, as I’m a visual person who can draw and paint passably well, but you would be very, very wrong in assuming this translates to ‘craftiness’, at least in my case.
Have you seen any photos of that hot pink antique lantern yet? Say no more.
When I do attempt something in the crafty vein it usually takes me about 974 hours to complete the task and I’m seldom happy with it.
I never even learned to sew or knit.
It’s all my mother’s fault.
I was instantly reminded of this when taking photos (this one in particular) at the silk weaving centre we visited in Myanmar last week. A flashback to ‘Mom’s Sewing Kit’ growing up. It was small and oval shaped in green brocade-they used to be called a “Train Case”, complete with tiny mirror and 4 lipstick holders sewn under the lid. It ran a very sad popularity race against her infinitely more exciting ‘Manicure Case’ and housed a thread monster much like this one. More than anything though, the sewing kit was a repository for safety pins to hold the things begging to be sewn together and more importantly, as time moved on, pimple-popping needles. Sorry, but The Truth isn’t always pretty.
I did, only because it was mandatory, study sewing in Home Eck. in junior high. I might have mentioned this before (I’m like my mother in more ways than one :-) ) Our big project was to design and sew a stuffed animal-draw and cut the patterns and everything. I sewed a snake. I glued on spots, eyes and a long tongue and failed the class. Seriously-how long did she expect that tongue to stay on? Aren’t snakes supposed to shed their tongues anyway? Personally I thought my stuffed animal was pretty edgy. I don’t think I ever finished the second assignment; an apron ( micro mini of course) but I did learn to type, whipped up a ferocious Baked Alaska, achieved my future sun damage like nobody’s business leaning against the back wall of the building and sold one of my paintings to the Industrial Ed. teacher for $100.
A stellar scholastic year to be sure.
So, you can imagine my shock and awe when we visited a few of the Burmese craft houses I’m sharing with you here.
Did you know that thread has to be made??
Like the individual strands of thread are M-A-D-E ?
As in there’s no such thing as a Thread Forest.
Here Lotus plants are harvested from Lake Inle
Each individual stalk is cut several times and the fibres are gently pulled away by hand and rolled…
Check this out; (video might take a minute to load- but patience is everything, as this perfectly demonstrates)
After the lotus stalks are cut and the thread has been removed, the rest is fed to the pigs.
Of course there is also the controversial Mulberry tree silkworm spit method of creating silk but we did not see it being done here.
The threads are then dyed and the weaving process begins.
Bags of dye waiting to be mixed. This part looked like fun to me but you can’t even imagine how hot these rooms were.
Seeing the process from start to finish truly gives you a newfound appreciation for this timeless art.
If your travels ever take you to Burma, I think Lake Inle appears to be one of the best places to buy silks and lotus leaf fabric.
Heretofore I would have picked up a lacquer bowl and said with all certainty it was made out of…lacquer.
With no irony. I’m not proud, but there it is. I expose my foibles for the sake of honest journalism.
It actually involves, oh, about infinity different stages and starts out as bamboo.
You probably knew that.
Here, starting from bottom left to top right and snaking back, you can see some of the stages that the bamboo passes through, each one by hand, before it becomes the finished product.
Here the bowls have received an initial coat of lacquer and are being sanded for the next coat.
These gentlemen are working on the lacquer table in the following photo
After each coat of lacquer the pieces go down to a very hot, dark and dust-free cellar to dry.
The finishing touches being made to dinner chargers. We ordered some of these to be shipped back home. I was never really that attracted to lacquer before. Now I can barely stand to wait the 7 months it will take to receive our chargers and set a chic Burmese themed table!
(yes, 7 months)
This particular lacquer maker ships to clients all over the world- including a very well known, upscale store in San Francisco which we won’t name, but starts with G.
and ends in umps.
I think this might be one of my favourite photos-even if I do say so myself.
Ladies quietly carving and painting the lacquer bowls.
This is just one of the reasons why I love traveling so much. It’s both inspiring and humbling…
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place You occupy in the world.” Gustave Flaubert
PS. I’ll add the name of the silk & lacquer makers as soon as I find the receipts!
PPS. Does anyone on WordPress know how to make the new video format smaller?!
This time last year… Opulence Moroccan Style