Lao Textiles

14 Apr
Lao Textiles / Carol Cassidy weaving (Topic Asia Magazine)

Lao Textiles / Carol Cassidy weaving (Topic Asia Magazine)

Synchronicity is an overused word, and the fact that Carl Jung defined it as “meaningful coincidence” makes it seem even more overused than it is. “Meaningful” is in the eye of the beholder—a synchronicity is the correspondence of some external event with an internal state of the psyche, and therefore extremely individual, and not easily shared.

I think what follows, though, is one of the more convincing ones.

Here I was, at 1:30 this afternoon, doing a quick check of the wonderful ClubFreetime site to see if there are any events I’ll want to go to tomorrow. I had no plans to go into Manhattan today, but I skimmed today’s listings anyway.

Whoa. In the shop of the Asia Society, Park Avenue at 70th Street, 12:30 to 3:30: “Woven Silks of Laos with Designer Carol Cassidy.”

The Asia Society's AsiaStore

The Asia Society’s AsiaStore

Carol Cassidy

Carol Cassidy

About a month ago, someone in Laos commented on my post, “Remembering Nicole Carstens,”about someone I’d shared dream synchronicities with after meeting her in a dream group; the commenter was a friend of Nicole’ s who had lost touch with her. The novelty of hearing from someone in Laos sent me looking for some basic tourist-type info online, as well as trying to figure out whether there are any Laotian restaurants in my mostly Asian neighborhood. (I know of Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Filipino, Himalayan…but I haven’t noticed, and haven’t yet found, Laotian. In 2010, at least, the Village Voice was listing Lao as one of “Nine Cuisines Missing from NYC.” The New York Times fills us in on cuisine in Laos by going there [“To Eat in Laos“].)

My search results a month ago for the country of Laos included, yes, Carol Cassidy’s company and weaving studio, Lao Textiles, “three blocks from the Mekong River in downtown Vientiane, the capital of Laos.” Her website says:

Carol Cassidy’s Lao Textiles workshop, studio and gallery creates woven art. Specializing in 100 percent hand-woven silk, Carol and the 40 Lao artisans she employs produce exquisitely crafted wall hangings, scarves, shawls and custom furnishing fabrics. Carol’s pieces are displayed in galleries and museums throughout the Unites States: The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

American Carol Cassidy has been weaving since she was 17 years old. Having worked in virtually every continent from America to Africa, she arrived in Laos in 1989, as a textile expert with the United Nations Development Programme. In Laos Carol discovered a “weaver’s paradise”: a country with a rich history of weaving and an elaborate vocabulary of design motifs.  A year later, she started Lao Textiles, among the first commercial weaving workshops in Laos.

Weaving Tradition: Carol Cassidy and Woven Silks of Laos

Weaving Tradition: Carol Cassidy and Woven Silks of Laos

The strength of the coincidence of Cassidy appearing on this side of the world a month after I had read about her studio in Vientiane got me into the shower and onto the subway to go meet her. She was in the Asia Society’s AsiaStore to sign copies of Weaving Tradition: Carol Cassidy and Woven Silks of Laos, by Dorothy Twining Globus, curator of Lao Textiles’ traveling exhibition.

When I arrived at the Asia Society with not much time to spare, Cassidy was chatting with several people who’d visited her studio on their trip to Laos. When she turned to me, I told her that I’d recently come to know about her website, and then, today was amazed to find that she was here. A Connecticut native, she’s warm and kind and seems very down-to-earth

I wasn’t aware of the scope of her reputation (having forgotten the website info I quoted above) until I got home and started looking for links to write this post. Imagine Peace, the website where I first found the photo of Cassidy above, is copyrighted by Yoko Ono. The photo is posted there with an invitation to a weaving-related 2009 summer benefit:

We gather to honor Carol Cassidy, an American weaver and great friend of mine who has spent more than a decade in Vientiane, Laos. Carol Cassidy is today the most prominent of the Good Americans continuously working with artisans of the Developing World. She lived and worked with rural artisans in many parts of the world. For decades now she has lived in Laos to design and direct weavers and dyers revitalizing ancient craft traditions. She has helped increase local pride in these ancient arts and, in doing so, earned recognition and international exchange for a small, remote land.

In recent years she has frequently left Laos to direct a Cambodian weave workshop set up to train amputees who are victims of the hundred thousand land mines still bedeviling this war torn land. Because these physically challenged people are also discriminated in employment because of their disabilities, their long-term, gainful employment with Weaves of Cambodia creating Carol’s beautifully colored silks is particularly meaningful. Like Jim Thompson in Bangkok before her, Carol Cassidy in Laos is now legendary to visitors and expatriates alike as the local toastmaster. Global travellers find their way to her Studio in Vientiane and are charmed by her passion for weaving. Best of all, she is a fine designer sympathetic to the people she works with. Year in, year out, she brightens the world with her colors, creativity and compassion.

A fellow weaver, Tien Chiu, has posted a number of pictures of the looms and weavers working at Lao Textile.

Long House Preserve

Long House Preserve

That benefit was for Long House Preserve in East Hampton, Long Island, founded by Jack Lenor Larsen, “internationally known textile designer, author, and collector, [who] is one of the world’s foremost advocates of traditional and contemporary crafts.” LongHouse has limited visiting hours, but I’m adding it to my list of places to visit because of dream-related inspiration. The organization’s site says:

Through its arboretum, sculpture gardens, and educational programs, LongHouse brings together art and nature, aesthetics and spirit, with a strong conviction that the arts are central to living wholly and creatively. Dedicated to quality and integrity, LongHouse programs encourage a broad concept of learning.

Writing this post also reminds me that I’ve been wanting to add the Museum at FIT to my list of New York places to visit, too.

2 Responses to “Lao Textiles”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lever House and Laos, linked by a dream symbol « - June 14, 2012

    […] appearance at the Asia Society, I hurried into Manhattan to meet her. Later that day, I wrote a post about her and the “meaningful coincidence” I had experienced. Exploded land mines(from […]

  2. In the wake of my Hollis hip-hop post « - April 24, 2012

    […] me that, earlier in the week, I had done some reading online about unexploded ordnance because of my most recent post before the Hollis one. about Carol Cassidy of Lao Textiles, who, as described on Imagine Peace, also directs “a […]

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