Textile patterns can be a language in themseves. As the knowledge of textile making passes from one generation to the next, the motifs in ethnic fabric reflect a cultural identity that is formed over time. Textile patterns reveal the standard of aesthetics, the techniques available, and the way of thinking within a group . The Hmong, for instance, prefer symmetrical and abstract geometric motifs while the Thai often weave and embroider realistic patterns inspired by nature. The Muong, one of the earliest ethnic groups that developed their own civilization, weave onto their skirt belt a wealth of patterns that resemble the layout of the bronze drum – an artifact from the oldest civilization in Vietnam. Like language and culture, the world of pattern is every changing, constantly renewing and reshaping itself in history. Thai women in two different communes developed different systems of motifs while a Muong and a Thai group living close by start to take influence from each other.
I spent a year working on the Books of Patterns project, collecting and recording stories in textile patterns of three ethnic minorities in Vietnam. In this short span of time, I was fortunate to have seen many precious antique pieces guarded by the women themselves, listened to folklores that fabricated each group’s mentality and outlook of the world, and read multiple studies of history, art and archaeology. What I learned not only helped me on my work as a product developer but also marked the beginning of my quest for the meaningful adaptation of ethnic textiles to modern market.
Photos courtesy of Dream Weavers project.