Using ethnic textiles in office decorating schemes is one of the most exciting trends since globalization. Many indigenous cultures around the world developed sophisticated textiles traditions, and in many societies, textiles were used as currency. These traditional methods of making and materials took a hit when Western tastes and marketplaces supplanted their original uses, but historians and small-scale artisans are reviving traditional, ethnic textiles for several tribes and people. They are being brought to the global marketplace by cooperatives and fair-trade organizations that provide social services in addition to support and education.
The Hmong people have been scattered and displaced by war, but those who survived the genocide are keeping their traditional ethnic textiles alive. Hmong textiles include “festival” or special occasion textiles that are covered in intricate, brightly colored embroidery or reverse applique. Called Paj Ntaub, or Flower Cloth, this special type of needlework is used for small areas of decoration, such as collars and hems. The Hmong people also have a long tradition of using various batik techniques, and are known for their indigo batik work on hand-loomed cotton and hemp fibers.
Peru’s native people have developed their textile traditions from the Incan empire, and they are still based on breeding, herding, and fiber processing of the alpaca and the vicuna. Garments and blankets are both woven and knitted, and traditional methods of dyeing still produce the characteristic bright colors.
In southeast Asia and Indonesia, the backstrap look has been used for woven cotton for many generations; this hand-loomed cotton is usually not more than 14 inches wide and has a characteristic wrinkled appearance after washing. This gauze-like effect makes the cloth both very comfortable in hot weather and easy to identify as authentic. India has a long tradition with handwoven cotton as well. Some of their many textile traditions include block printing with hand-carved wooden blocks, and exquisite natural dyes that are long wearing and wash and color fast.
The delicate indigo shibori textiles of Japan are having a moment in the design world, as their delicate patterns and soothing blue and white color pair well with many decorating schemes that involved neutrals. The intricacy of the designs reflect both the wabi-sabi philosophy, and reference the natural world.
The Navajo people of the American southwest have a rug-making textile tradition that is unique. Based on an economy of sheep-ranching, their rugs reflect the colors and patterns of the natural landscape of their homeland, using native dyes from their plants and patterns that have been passed down in families. Traditional Navajo rugs have long been used as wall coverings in southwestern decor, and their value continues to grow. The natural colors and traditional geometric patterns look very modern in office decor schemes, while also looking uniquely themselves- ethnic textiles with many centuries of materials and methods of making in their development.
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