Tai­wanese artist set to show­case her tex­tile de­signs dur­ing first visit to In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket | Santa Fe

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIELA CAM­POS/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN By Olivia Har­low ohar­low@sfnewmex­i­

In a re­mote and moun­tain­ous vil­lage in Tai­wan, Shu-Li Lin sat hunched on her floor, weav­ing hand-dyed threads in and out of a back­strap loom. Months of metic­u­lous la­bor re­sulted in crim­son-hued cloaks, or­na­mented with dan­gling seashells and co­conut but­tons; gen­tly padded vests lined with geo­met­ric shapes; and navy pil­low­cases with fuch­sia-hued squares and cream-col­ored stitch­ing.

Lin, 49, a mem­ber of Tai­wan’s Atayal tribe, will show­case her work at this week­end’s In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket | Santa Fe for the first time. One of 162 artists par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mar­ket this year, Lin hopes her handmade tex­tile de­signs will help re­vi­tal­ize her coun­try’s an­cient weav­ing cul­ture while mod­ern­iz­ing the craft so it re­mains rel­e­vant now and in the fu­ture.

“I ded­i­cate my­self to not only pre­serv­ing old tech­niques, but trans­form­ing old tech­niques into a more [con­tem­po­rary] de­sign,” she said in a re­cent in­ter­view through her trans­la­tor, Yuh-Yao Wan.

Many of the old meth­ods have been for­got­ten, Lin said. “Very few el­ders know how to weave. … I think this is a prob­lem.”

She wants to meet other artists from around the world who are equally com­mit­ted to sus­tain­ing their na­tions’ weav­ing cul­ture, and she be­lieves the 15th an­nual In­ter­na­tional Folk Art Mar­ket — with a mis­sion of help­ing to pre­serve tra­di­tional arts in com­mu­ni­ties around the globe — is a great place to start.

“I want to learn from [the artists] and their tech­nique — how they pre­serve their cul­ture, their weav­ing tech­niques and tra­di­tions, and how to pro­mote that tra­di­tional weav­ing cul­ture,” she said.

Af­ter learn­ing to weave, Lin spent years study­ing an­cient tex­tiles in mu­se­ums, talk­ing with pro­fes­sion­als and

look­ing at en­tire col­lec­tions of an­tique pieces to “un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent lines, dif­fer­ent col­ors, dif­fer­ent pat­terns,” she said. Learn­ing didn’t come easy. The cus­tom of weav­ing is gen­er­ally passed down through gen­er­a­tions, so older artists ini­tially were un­will­ing to teach her. “But I made good re­la­tion­ship with the el­ders,” she said, and they fi­nally de­cided to give her lessons.

She now teaches the tech­niques to elderly women and young girls.

“That’s the great im­pact in my neigh­bor­hood,” Lin said, adding that she es­tab­lished a workshop in her vil­lage in 1996 “to pro­mote the con­ti­nu­ity of tra­di­tional weav­ing cul­ture.”

She grew up in Taipei, the cap­i­tal city of Tai­wan, some­what re­moved from tribal art­works. But in high school, Lin said, she was drawn to in­dige­nous cul­tures — Tai­wan has 16 tribal groups — and had a de­sire to re-en­er­gize a pas­sion for tex­tile de­sign.

In 1986, she trav­eled deep into the moun­tains to at­tend Pasta’ay — an an­cient sa­cred fes­ti­val held once ev­ery 10 years — to learn more about Tai­wan’s in­dige­nous peo­ple. The ex­pe­ri­ence was “just like an en­trance to an­other world,” she said. “Since then, I be­came very en­thu­si­as­tic to in­dige­nous cul­ture.”

While the cer­e­mony was inspiring, Lin said, it also was dis­ap­point­ing from a weaver’s per­spec­tive.

“I wit­nessed the de­cline of the cul­ture in weav­ing tra­di­tions for women,” she said, and many com­mer­cially pro­duced cos­tumes that were “not prop­erly made.”

Lin hopes that by bring­ing tex­tiles into pub­lic places — in Tai­wan and be­yond — peo­ple will de­velop a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the craft.

In May, she went to Lon­don, where she was in­vited to demon­strate her weav­ing at the British Li­brary.

And in 2017, Lin said, she at­tended the NY Now mar­ket in New York, where she won an award for the best new sus­tain­able prod­uct.

“She hand-dyed the ma­te­ri­als, the threads, us­ing the tra­di­tional back­strap loom,” said Wan, Lin’s trans­la­tor and for­mer pro­fes­sor. “She sits on the ground and uses her feet to hold the in­stru­ment. You need a very strong back.”

Ac­cord­ing to Wan — who has known Lin for more than 15 years, she was able to take part in a mas­ter’s pro­gram with only a high school de­gree be­cause of her dis­tin­guished art­work. Lin fin­ished the pro­gram in two years and then ded­i­cated her­self for at least five years to study­ing old weav­ing meth­ods, Wan said.

“She’s like a re­searcher, not just an artist.”


In­dian artists San­tosh Ku­mar Rathi and Kar­tik Hirab­hai Chauan lead a group dance Thurs­day fol­low­ing the Folk Art Mar­ket’s artist pro­ces­sion around the Plaza.

Shu-Li Lin, a Tai­wanese tex­tile artist, ad­justs her head­dress be­fore head­ing to the Santa Fe Plaza for the Folk Art Mar­ket’s artist pro­ces­sion. Lin, a mem­ber of Tai­wan’s Atayal tribe, hopes her handmade tex­tile de­signs will help re­vi­tal­ize her coun­try’s an­cient weav­ing cul­ture while mod­ern­iz­ing the craft so it re­mains rel­e­vant now and in the fu­ture.


Tai­wanese tex­tile artist Shu-Li Lin spent nearly four months weav­ing the tra­di­tional bridal out­fit she wore Thurs­day in the Folk Art Mar­ket’s artist pro­ces­sion on the Santa Fe Plaza.

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