Take the silk road to market

Danette Dooley
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Culture Nova Scotia women bring fabrics of Southest Asia weavers to Anna Templeton Centre

Two women living in Nova Scotia have partnered to help women in Thailand and Laos earn extra money and remain in their own rural communities.

Under the banner TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles, Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase will host a slideshow presentation and textile sale at the Anna Templeton Centre Thursday evening.

Two women living in Nova Scotia have partnered to help women in Thailand and Laos earn extra money and remain in their own rural communities.

Under the banner TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles, Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase will host a slideshow presentation and textile sale at the Anna Templeton Centre Thursday evening.

The presentation tells the stories of these Southeast Asian women and show how they make silk fabric from plants and cocoons.

The slide show is their way of bringing the women's situation to life, Kase says.

"Most of these women live in rural areas where they are rice farmers. Traditionally, during the time of year when they're not busy farming rice, they weave," Kase explains.

The women use simple equipment and a technique passed down to them from their grandmothers and elders in the communities.

"They start out by growing a Mulberry tree and they pick the leaves to feed to the silkworms that they raise. The silkworms weave the cocoons which they then unreel to give them a continuous filament of silk," Kase explains.

At the sale, which continues Saturday afternoon, there will be a variety of handcrafted, naturally dyed silk and cotton scarves, shawls, bags, artwork, fabric, tableware and other products.

All products were created by women's weaving groups in rural Thailand and Laos. Located northeast of Thailand, Laos is one of East Asia's poorest countries.

Kase says Agger's interest in weaving dates back to the early 1980s when she first travelled to Guatemala, and their idea to help the weavers resulted from a trip they both took to Thailand several years ago.

When the women there told them they could not take any others into their weaving co-op because of low sales, Agger and Kase knew they'd found a project they wanted to back.

As a commitment to the women, they brought over 1,000 products from the weaving groups with advance payments. They are now selling the textiles at special events such as the one taking place at the Anna Templeton Centre.

Getting to know the women and relating to them on their turf sometimes meant sleeping on the floor and eating bugs, Kase says.

"That's a way to show them that you're polite visitors," she says.

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles not only supports the women by selling their products, it also helps build long-term trade relationships with these artisan groups.

Ensuring the products find their place in other countries also means younger generations will see the benefit of continuing in their elders' footsteps, Kase says.

The events at the Anna Templeton Centre begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and noon on Saturday.

Products can also be purchased online at www.tammachat.com.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Anna Templeton Centre

Geographic location: Thailand, Laos, Nova Scotia East Asia Guatemala

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