Saturday, September 29, 2012

Textiles Day 3

First impressions of Washington: People are very helpful. I noticed this earlier having received emails from staff at the Smithsonian but, well, it can be easy to convey kindness, thoughtfulness, friendliness and helpfulness from emails. More importantly, I found it to be true in person. Doormen, security guards, hotel clerks, curators. They are all friendly, relaxed and helpful. Even in the National Museum of the American Indian cafeteria where there was a lineup of people desperate for coffee and food, a potentially stressful situation for the workers, but no, they took it all in stride. The were relaxed and just kept producing and serving all the while with a calm smile on their faces. This was also true of the corner Starbucks downtown, where the lineup went out the door. People seemed happy.
Second impression. Washington DC is a professional, urban city. Lots happening, lots of culture, lots of government buildings, lots of suits and ties, lots of slim working women and a ton of tourists who just may learn something from the locals.
[Photo: National Museum of the
American Indian]
I rented a bike from one of those bike stations scattered about the city. This is the way to see Washington! Although, I also saw groups of people both young and old, scooting around on Segways, those two wheeled stand-up vertical scooters.
I biked over to the National Museum of the American Indian which is a stunning building. Designed by the same architect that designed the Canadian Museum of Civilization. See my blog post about that building here.  
Built into the wall of the atriums' 4 story high lobby are prisms aligned perfectly to cast their rainbows into the bulls-eye centre of the floor at summer and winter solstice.
[Photo:Salish spindle whorls]
While there, a drummer sang and beat his drum in the centre of the atrium. It was a powerful performance with the beat of the drum going right through your being.

And it was wonderful to see, right in the entrance of the atrium, four Salish spindle whorls from home, three old ones, and a new modern glass one 'Sacred Circle' by Susan Point. One of the wooden whorls is from Snuneymuxw (top right)1840-1900, the others are from Cowichan one whorl with salmon and raven carved onto it and the other with a double-headed serpent design both from 1800-1860.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Textile Week day 1

Day 1 was get-to-know-Washington and I started with the Eastern Market. Part farmers market (the local white peaches were mouth watering good), part flea market (costume jewelry is big), part flash back to the 70's (incense, leather goods) and part international (Mali mud cloth clothes, Indian scarves and shawls). But of most interest to me was a little shop next door to the Eastern Market, 'Woven History' - Silk Road Tribal and Village Rugs.
The small, wrought iron fenced front garden was draped in colourful carpets from Turkey, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbeckistan and half a dozen other ---stans.  Inside, carpets were stacked along 2 walls and in every corner.  Camel bridles, saddles, blankets and decoration hung on the walls, there were even shoes made from hand-woven fabrics.  I tried every pair on, hoping that the size 12 mens, or the size 6 women's might be a mistake and fit me, but alas, not one pair fit.  I felt like Cinderella, except I was looking for two woven shoes.  It was too much to take in one one visit so I plan to go back and find out more about the hand spinning that goes into all the rugs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Textiles - full immersion

I have been blog absent for a few reasons. There was the usual summer R&R where the brain went on holiday and then the business of the university fall term starting up.  But a main reason/excuse is because I was preparing for a trip to Washington DC for a week of fibre. Three appointments with two museum research centers, a one day workshop on SouthWestern Textile Identification and Analysis and the 3day Textile Society Of America biennial symposium.
All this involved much research into collections databases, emails to collections managers, travel arrangements, scheduling and juggling appointments, etc. Then, a day before leaving I received a pre-reading list! I did a lot of reading on the airplane and have more to do.
You know when they tell you to turn off your electronic devices on planes because you will cause the engines to come to a full stop and the plane will crash and everyone will die a horrible death?  Hogwash.  Or so I thought until I sent a quick message just before take-off.  Well the engines stopped.  All of them.  It was a good thing we were still on the ground.  They had to get a mechanic in to do a reboot (of the engines, not my Blackberry).  I am not sure it was my email that did it but just in case, from now on I will be sure to turn my cell phone off until we are safely in the air.
So I arrived save and sound 9pm last night to find I made a mistake on the hotel reservation and only reserved for the last 3 days and the hotel was full! Luckily the one across the street had a room and at a very good price. Tomorrow is a free exploring day.