Vacation by Video
Someday I hope to go on lots of textile tours of exotic countries, but for now I am just exploring the documentaries available from Amazon. Most evenings, I watch a few minutes of a streaming video on my Kindle before I fall asleep. There is not a lot of description available so I just pick them by title – most of them are produced in other countries, and I enjoy getting that new perspective along with the craft information. It makes me feel like I really had a mini-trip to another locale. If you like craft and costume, you might like these videos:
African Secrets: Visual Arts and Craft – 26 minutes. This one was produced by a Zimbabwean organization. The emphasis is on stone and metal sculpture. Even though there is very little shown about textiles and baskets, I still found it inspirational. There was a huge variety of work shown, with very little repetition, and the interviews with artists and gallery owners were interesting.
Men’s; Women’s Weaving in Africa – 39 minutes. Yes, that is the actual title. This one seems like someone’s homemade travel movie, with lots of background noise, and yet I liked it, because it shows so many different weaving styles that I don’t know much about. There is a lot of emphasis on throwing the shuttle, but very little information on how these different looms are warped. I really wished I could have been prompting the videographer with questions, because he seemed very interested in documenting weaving, but it seemed like he just didn’t know enough about the process to ask questions that would draw the craftspeople out.
Costumes of Ethnic Minority Groups in China Chinese Imperial Costume Chinese Cheongsams – 1 hour 30 minutes. Another awkwardly named documentary. This one has cheesy-looking cover art that reminds me of a knock-off James Bond film, but I tried it anyway, and it was my favorite. It seems to be an educational TV mini-series in China, and has three completely different episodes packaged together. The first one showcases the costumes of some of the different ethnic groups in China – showing their home territory, native costume, and a cultural festival. I especially enjoyed seeing the different regions of China. The next part is a light history of imperial Chinese costume, and it too is very interesting. The third one is about cheongsams, the form-fitting silk dresses. It glosses over the Cultural Revolution, and it’s a little repetitive, but I still learned a lot.
Throughout, the photography is beautiful. There are a couple of minor faults – for one thing the script could have benefited from a once-over by a native English speaker, and there are some humorous mistakes, such as “The cheongsam is doomed to be part of Chinese culture forever.” Also, apparently within the last few years there was a fashion show of Chinese costume in Paris, and although it was a gorgeous show, that footage is replayed constantly throughout the video.
Cultural Trilogy – Charm in a Yard of Cloth – 46 minutes. This one is part of a series made in Korea, comparing aspects of culture in Korea, Japan, and China. Most of them are about food, but this one is about traditional clothing and textile arts. It shows natural dyeing of ramie, and hand-stitching to make the hanbok, traditional costume of Korea. In Japan, it shows weaving of the obi and dyeing of fabric for kimono, and in China, it shows a village where hand embroidery is still done for the traditional silk dress (for which they use the term chipao instead of cheongsam). For each garment, they tell a little of the history, and its place in today’s society as well. The only bad thing about this video is that the narrator sounds overly dramatic about everything, with a voice that reminds me of the Godzilla movies of the 1950s.
So, until I can get over to tour the Kyoto Costume Institute or Renaissance weaving studios in Tuscany, I will at least be able to tour the textile world virtually!
You sound like me. Traveling just isn’t in the plans (or budget right now), and I have begun watching documentaries on Amazon, too.
It seems like all the channels I used to like – like National Geographic, Travel Channel, etc. – have just turned into endless pop culture reality shows – so I am especially grateful to be able to watch things I’m actually interested in!
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