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Selvedge Magazine - Issue 118

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This issue goes to press hot on the heels of my return from the Selvedge Textile Tour of India. I want to
take this opportunity to thank my team for going above and beyond in putting the magazine together in my
absence, to Katerina, Catherine, Florencia, Kate, and Ella – without your dedication; this issue simply
would not have been possible. I also want to thank Param Pandya and Ravi Ramswami in India and all of
the hundreds of artisans, designers, and curators from Ladakh to Kerala who invited us into their homes
and hearts – your warmth and hospitality will stay with us forever.

Leading a tour has highlighted the importance of teamwork, and in this issue, we focus on working
hand-in-hand with others. For instance, the special relationship between teacher and student is explored
in Nicola Miles’s article about her teacher and mentor, Lou Taylor. In this article, Taylor describes the
pleasure of watching students encounter historic garments for the first time. In another story, we discover
how Nike Davies-Okundaye balances the pleasure of solitary work and what she gains from sharing her
skills by burning the midnight oil!

Successful collaborations come in many forms and involve different levels of cooperation. Madrid-based
Milliners Maleza joined forces with Claudy Jongstra in her LOADS project – the resulting hats were the
outcome of discrete contributions from both designers. Similarly, when designer Odette Blum invited 27
artists to respond to a theme, she gave them a free hand – the project culminated in a book that
celebrates their different visions. As Elizabeth King, Head of Costume Production at the Royal Opera
House in London, explains, collaborations with more rigid external parameters require more skilled
negotiations. Yet, when costume designer Sandy Powell realised a director’s vision, ultimate insight,
intuition, and even greater communication were needed.

During my time in India, I came face-to-face with collaborations between artisans and designers where
both parties were equally respected. From this position of strength, they could overcome the challenges
facing the craft community. The information age has brought new opportunities and the promise of a
better quality of life, but it also threatens the survival of the intangible cultural heritage of hand work. Thao
Phuong shares her account of how artisan Phan Thi Thuan navigates the symbiotic relationship between
tourists and craft in Vietnam by contributing to the greater interest in lotus-silk weaving and deftly
demonstrating how crafts can survive hand in hand with tourism.

Rakesh Manon of Save the Loom warns in Vinita Makhaja’s article “Hope for Handloom” about
“handmade being positioned on the premise of charity.” He notes, “Most who venture to support continue
to play this card, damaging the sector. Handmade is the ultimate luxury and needs to be positioned and
marketed in that realm.” Views shared by Madhu Vaishnav of Saheli Women, a co-operative based in
Rajasthan. In a round-table conversation, Makhaja’s panel contributed insights into how technology can
be used in tandem with the craft sector for mutual benefit. I leave you with the thought that perhaps to
save craft; we must collaborate with technology.

Polly Leonard, Founder

East Lansing

325A Grove Street
East Lansing, MI 48823


3933 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048

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