Textiles have long occupied a central place in the Latvian economy and culture. Latvian textiles traditionally use natural materials such as flax and hemp, as well as innovative techniques, to produce high-quality cloth that is sought after around the world. As in the textile cultures of Japan and India, indigo has long been used as a dye colour for Latvian cloth, and is even mentioned in several Latvian folk songs. Excavations of ancient fleece dating from the 3rd and 5th centuries BCE show traces of indigo dye.
Ancient looms used stones to hold down the warp endings. Wefts were placed between warps and beaten down with a wooden comb, and looms could have two, three or even four shafts. Since its early beginnings, Latvian weaving has been influenced by Dutch, German and French techniques, which have all contributed to the sophistication of Latvian cloth. As with many artisan traditions, handmade Latvian textiles began to be supassed by cheaper, machine-produced cloth. However, many collections of folk textiles have been preserved, and Latvian women are beginning to pick up traditional textile techniques as handmade cloth has come to be appreciated once again.
Now, the textile sector is an important part of Latvian industry, combining the best of traditional know-how with industrial and technological knowledge. As 2018 is the centenary of the formation of the Latvian Republic, tomorrow, an exciting exhibition will open celebrating the coming together of tradition and innovation in textiles from Latvia and beyond. Eighty-eight artists from twenty-six countries have been invited to participate in the exhibition, including Sue Stone from the UK, who will display her work entitled Rag Tag Magpie.
The exhibition is open from 6th June to 9th September 2018 at Arsenāls Exhibition Hall in Riga, Latvia. The exhibition and programme of events have been organised by the Latvian National Museum of Art/ Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Riga.