In August (2014), I was in North Sumatra for less than a week, but I had a few precious hours with my beautiful daughter, Lasma Sitanggang. Poor dear gets terribly car sick, but she came all the way from her Simalungun village to meet me in Pematang Siantar.
|Lasma had become more grown-up. She is bright
She was bursting with news. I have never seen her so charged with ideas. The topper was that she had finished weaving her first textile. She carefully unfolded it to show me, trying to be nonchalant while she was electric with excitement. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had kept her work as a surprise for me.
We scrutinized it together. She had done a remarkably good job. The selvedge edges were straight and even – a sign of an experienced and good weaver! She showed me where she had repaired yarns that had broken. She knew from our travels together that only sloppy weavers just cut the broken yarns; good weavers repair them in special ways (the Batak have ancient prescriptions and proscriptions concerning broken yarns and the spirit world). Her mother, once an excellent weaver, had coached her. And not just her mother! Older women apparently yelled out their advice as they passed by her window. All of them are experienced in the art of weaving. Her work had inspired them, she said. They want to weave again if there is a market! The weaving of her textile had taught her that if she put her mind to it, she would be able to re-kindle weaving in her village. Her first textile was so much more than a first textile; it represented new insights and it gave her inspiration and energy.
Also new learning. The stripes in Lasma’s textile were not all of equal size although they all had the same number of warp yarns. This meant that she had not distributed the warp yarns evenly across the breast beam -- something she would keep in mind for the next textile. She was itching to get at it again – and also to learn about supplementary weft. Enough women in the village want to teach her. This, while at the outset finding a teacher was her greatest challenge!
Lasma hadn’t had time yet to finish the fringes of her first textile. The fringes are going to take some effort and time. She explained precisely how she wants to do it, including the techniques involved. I won’t give away her secret; I shall wait until the textile is finished to make pictures of it. It will be an innovative and unique textile. And it will be a kind of craft baptism.
Lasma has received her first textile order! How exciting! I plan to help her locate some indigo-dyed yarn. It would be wonderful if all of her products could be environmentally friendly.
Congratulations dear Lasma! Your first textile is a launching pad. I hope that you have found an outlet for your creative powers and that you will find satisfaction always in your ancient, beautiful art. May it be a stepping-stone to a future of your own making.
|Lasma wearing a Hill Tribe hair ornament that I brought to her from
Thailand. Here she is with her church friends with whom she teaches