Altar Project – March 2013 – Pass to Gwen!
March is here and the full moon is tomorrow! I am a lucky and happy traveler. I have just returned from almost a month in SE Asia having visited parts of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. I was bombarded by inspiration through textiles, food, the magnificent temples, scenery, thousands of buddahs and the people that we met. I pass to Gwen this month and knowing that she likes textiles I had to pass on a great idea that inspired me using scraps of fabric to create a large Naga that we saw at Ock Pok Toc, a woman’s co-op we visited in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Ock Pok Toc means “East meets West” and is a co-op run by an English and Laotian woman. We had a fabulous lunch there, toured the center and learned about natural dyeing and then each of us dyed a silk scarf. I chose to do an indigo dyed scarf as indigo has always fascinated me. The hill tribes in Laos have used indigo to dye silk, hemp and cotton. The background of my altar section for Gwen is a copy of an indigo dyed piece of hemp that would be used to create a woman’s skirt.
I made a copy of the fabric and then cut the picure to fit into the space. I then made an accordian fold-out book (made with handmade paper that I also purchased in Laos). The pictures in the book are all of Nagas, a mythological water serpent that one sees guarding the entrance to all of the beautiful temples. The Naga looks much like a dragon and is supposed to have unparalleled magical powers. They come from an underwater kingdom called Badan and can assume the form of other beings such as animals and humans. Lao legends tell off love affairs between Nagas and humans. Generally they are seen as benevolent beings that protect and save humans from illness, hunger and bad spirits. When they are angry, Nagas use their powers to create floods, storms and other natural disasters or inflict illness and even death. Usually at the entrance to a temple there are effigies of a multi-headed Naga emerging from a Ngeuk’s mouth. A Ngeuk is a water dragon and is the same to animists as the Naga is to Buddhists. The pictures in the accordian book are of Nagas carved from wood; made from plaster and painted; woven into textiles; and the large one hanging in Ock Pok Toc has the dragon head with the scales made from fabric scraps. It makes a fun and whimsical large sculpture.
What a fun way to use fabric scraps! So I also made a small armature and used ribbons to represent the fabric scraps.
And of course the altar needed a dragon…..sort of like having its very own Naga at the entrance to the Altar section. The dragon is a paper cut out that I found in Vietnam. Lift the dragon….sort of like opening the door to the section – representing guarding the entrance and you can look at all the pictures of the Nagas!
And here is the section completed!!
Gwen – I hope you like your Altar section and the ideas inspire you to learn more about Nagas, try some dyeing, embellish something with fabric scraps or to use your great stamps for an accordian book! It was great fun to make this section and to reflect on my fabulous trip. Enjoy!!