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Sustaining Traditional Weaving in Bhutan
Women weave traditional Bhutanese textiles on backstrap looms at the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center, a private weaving enterprise in Thimphu, Bhutan. The loom is integral to Bhutan’s rich weaving heritage. Due to its narrow width and the complexity of designs, textiles can take months to complete. Photo by Jake Naughton, Smithsonian Institution

Sustaining Traditional Weaving in Bhutan

In Bhutan, we are working with the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan (RTA) on a three-year project to support the sustainability of traditional weaving. After launching the project in April 2018, together we conducted a consumption survey of Bhutanese textiles to understand demand dynamics of handloomed traditional textiles and machine-made alternatives. The results of the survey will inform cultural heritage policy and lay the groundwork for collaborative exhibition and public program development at the Royal Textile Academy’s museum. Our team is also working with weavers and RTA staff to implement a series of training workshops for designers and weavers and envision a sustainable program for their National Centre for Weaving.

My Handmade Armenia

My Handmade Armenia is one of the major initiatives of the My Armenia Cultural Heritage Tourism Program, funded by USAID and implemented by the Smithsonian. My Handmade Armenia supports the growth, and, in some cases, revitalization of craft traditions in Armenia’s regional communities, including wood carving, stone carving, embroidery, carpet weaving, and pottery. While creative technology skills are developing rapidly in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city, products made by hand are often relegated to the category of souvenir. My Handmade Armenia works with artisans and local partner Teryan Cultural Center to document craft traditions and provide training workshops including product design and development, marketing, costing and pricing, and technical skills—with the aim of expanding and elevating the notion of handmade craft in the market.

Watch artisan and craft feature videos from My Handmade Armenia.

Learn about Armenian craft traditions from the Armenia: Creating Home program at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

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A Tibetan carver and Lag Zo project participant in Yushu, China, carves the mantra om mani padme om into a stone collected from a local river. Photo by Dawa Drolma, Smithsonian Institution

Lag Zo | ལག་བཟོ།

Lag Zo means “handmade” in Tibetan. Lag Zo, a partnership with China Arts and Crafts Association, is a celebration of the incredible range, knowledge, and skill in traditional ethnic Tibetan craft, including thangka painting, silversmith, wood-carving, stone-carving, khyenle bronze casting, black pottery, and textile arts made from felted and woven yak wool. We work with ethnic Tibetan artisans and partners in China to provide training workshops, product design and development support, one-on-one mentorship to artisan enterprise, and improved connection to both local and international markets.

Free online course (Tibetan language): Methods and Techniques for Documenting and Preserving Tibetan Culture


RIGZIN Women is an exchange program and online article series celebrating Tibetan women as culture bearers. In Tibetan, rigzin refers to an individual steeped in traditional knowledge. RIGZIN Women sponsors artists, musicians, and other tradition bearers to participate in an exchange with cultural heritage specialists in the United States. Participants engage in activities designed to increase exposure to their work and provide them with knowledge and tools that they can bring back to their communities and use to build their careers and contribute to the sustainability of their communities’ cultural heritage. In the ongoing online series, RIGZIN Women recount, in their own words, how they sustain their heritage and their livelihoods.

Read RIGZIN Women articles on Folklife Magazine.

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