Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tarim Desert Inspiration

Inspired by the Tarim mummies, the vestige of a mysterious people who lived a nomadic life in the Tarim Desert, along the Silk Road. The desert is also called the Taklimakan, and the area is now home to the Uyghur people.

The ancient Tarim textiles are especially interesting, with some of the oldest known examples of felting and braiding. A study of their artifacts reveals so much that is enlightening about human history: they bridged the dawn time when livestock were kept for textiles rather than slaughter only, showing modern people just how important is the cloth on your back, especially in a high altitude, alternately freezing and baking desert. There's evidence that the development of felt and braiding are rooted in a nomadic lifestyle, since furniture for weaving would not be required, and trampling hooves in a coral would have created the first felt, which was then taken up and put into boots, and with much gratitude. Flash of inspiration!  Don't eat the sheep!

After that, selective breeding selectively produced the long haired goats and sheep we know today.  Imagine ur-sheep with short coats which would explain felting long preceding spinning and weaving.  Well, I diverge, but that's inspiration.  Among these people, finely worked textiles were a sign of wealth, and they were sumptuous, indeed.  And inspiration for this evocative, sumptuous neckpiece, that can be worn in several ways, since the hand dyed kumihimo braid that is its foundation is 40 inches long (oh hours and hours of braiding).

Fascinating beads, too:  contemporary Indonesian glass head (looks very old, though), painted pottery, woven fiber, found shell fragment, ostrich shell, wood fired pottery, recycled African glass and an antique trade bead.  Just listed in my Etsy shop.  I think it would be glorious tied over a hip scarf with all those tassels flying about on a dancer in motion.


  1. did you do all that braiding??? yikes so time consuming and neat.

  2. What a showpiece. I love hearing about the individual pieces and how you quite literally tie them together. Bold and exciting, warm and wild!

    1. I did the braiding with one of those slotted disks. It's a good activity for movie time.