all text & images © Pamela A Cross
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Textiles have been my interest and obsession for as long as I can remember. My mother has always been an active sewer and, apart from dressmaking, has made lampshades, knitted, tackled light upholstery and thought nothing of dying a fabric or trim to get the particular shade she required. My father, before retirement, was a civil engineer and has always turned his hand to any aspect of DIY which was needed. He has always been ready to draft a pattern and, immediately on retirement, made some clothing. For several years he has worked on needlepoint.
In the 1950s when funds were tight and my parents were having a new house built they bought a weaving loom. As a small child, I threaded up the loom with my father, he then cut the thrums and my mother, with some help from myself, made a large plain thrum carpet in several strips for the lounge. I now have the loom but my aim of one day weaving my own fabric has not, so far, been realised. I sewed clothing for years and occasionally still make one or two garments. In the late 1970s a visit to the USA stimulated me to start patchwork and then quilting and I was a founder member of The Quilters' Guild of England and Wales (or The Quilters' Guild as it was originally known.) I quilted and pieced through into the late 1990s but most of my creative interest is now focused on digital photo presentation and video editing on the computer centred around my ethnic textile interests and travels.
As a child I collected dolls from around the world, captivated by their costumes. I read Thor Heyerdahl's 'Kon Tiki' and 'Ra' and was fascinated by the idea of tracing the movement of peoples around the globe and the detective work of finding the signs of their travel from the items which they left had behind them or in the continuing traditions of their descendants. For me identifying ethnic groups by comparing the outcome of crafts used to make household items (including the homes themselves) but especially the different aspects of clothing has become a greater and greater fascination. My interest is particularly in the items made by people for their own family use rather than the often higher quality items made by expert craftspeople for the well to do - although I appreciate the technical quality of the results of such skills. top
I have an eclectic textile collection from around the world but the main emphasis is on clothing from Asia especially China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The Chinese, Myanmar, Thai and Vietnamese pieces are particularly centred on those of ethnic minorities. I have a small number of textiles from Latin America which includes pieces from Bolivia, Guatemala and Mexico. From North American I have a couple of Hopi and Navajo weavings. Most of my European textiles are from Central and Eastern Europe. Africa is poorly represented in my collection.
Although I am always looking out for interesting textiles to purchase wherever I am in the world, the largest concentrations have arisen from my trips to specifically see and photograph ethnic groups and to collect their textiles. Once I have a group of textiles from a particular ethnic group I will then always be seeking items to improve or widen the collection. Many of the textiles are from earlier periods and always, if possible, those which have been made for personal wear and consumption and not for the tourist trade. However, quality modern pieces using traditional skills and aimed at a discerning market are of interest, especially when this is keeping age old skills alive. top
I have a continually growing collection of textile related books and catalogues. This originally started as an accumulation of books on patchwork and quilting but this early collection will probably soon be drastically thinned out to make room for literature on what has become my overriding interest in traditional textiles from around the world. I particularly look for well illustrated volumes to aid identification of textiles collected and photographed. top
My textile photographs relate to textile related journeys or museum or gallery visits and to my own collection - which I hope in due course to photograph and document systematically in its entirety. A new aspect is web sourced photographs and articles. See also photography. top
For the last 7 or 8 years I have been spending three to four months of each year overseas. However, this has not - regretfully - been for the purpose of researching or seeking textiles but in relation to my current job as Director, International Office at the University of Kent at Canterbury. This involves making several recruitment trips around the world and includes many visits to Asia. Although my work-related travel leaves little time to be spent on personal exploration, I am ever the opportunist looking for an hour or so to squeeze in a to visit a museum, exhibition or textile dealer. On a couple of occasions I have been able to include a few days of holiday with a tribal textiles focus within or at the end of my working itinerary.
Focused textile-related visits which have resulted in significant additions to my collection and photographs of ethnic minorities setting the textiles in context include trips to parts of:
As I travel around the world I am always seeking information on museums and galleries with textile collections and antique shops and dealers which specialise in textiles. Some of my most pleasurable encounters abroad have occurred whilst sharing information and enthusiasm with local experts and fellow textile collectors. Top
In spring 2000 I decided to launch my own website www.pacross.net which would feature my textile, photography, video and computing interests. I had a general idea of using the web to display my photos of ethnic minorities and their textiles - then featuring Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia plus some Central European costumes. My first trip to South West China was planned for that later that year. At this stage I had little idea of how this would develop. The site was launched in May 2000 with several photo galleries loaded. During the rest of that year and into January 20001 more and more galleries were launched including 13 on China with a strong Miao focus. The site was submitted to several search engines and was gradually featured and started to be accessed. I began to receive a steady trickle of international enquiries which surprised me by the breadth of interest from a very international audience, although with a predominantly US bias. Interest ranged from an Alaskan fireman trying to identify Miao jackets which he had collected to a White Hmong fashion student in New York. I received requests to use photos for schools programmes in York (UK) and Minneapolis. I launched a forum in July 2001 to provide an exchange point for questions and information between fellow enthusiasts. Top
The launch of the new website domain names .biz and .info stimulated the idea of devolving the tribal textile material onto a separate site and building a more in depth 'resource' site with reference and other material. The tribaltextiles.info name was requested and secured on launch of the new domains. The Christmas/New Year university closure saw an intensive study programme of Dreamweaver, design of the new tribaltextiles.info site and conversion (laboriously page by page) of the pacross.net textile material - almost 750 pages. On 6 January 2002 the new site was launched quietly and subjected to further testing and tinkering. It has now been submitted to the major search engines. Top
There is much work still to be done with a breakdown of existing material on the tribaltextiles.info site so that it can be accessed not only on a country basis but also by different ethnic groupings. I intend to catalogue my tribal textile book collection and link relevant references. The links section needs considerable updating. At the same time there is a whole new 2001 trip to Guizhou to be turned into photo galleries and a mass of material from Myanmar and Indonesia still to be worked on. As if that is not enough I have a large textile collection which I want to photograph and link into and expand the photographic material already on the site. At the moment this is only a (time consuming an all encompassing) hobby and I have a very busy career which takes me away from home for 30-40% of the year. My traveling notebook keeps me in touch and some of my best contacts from the web seem to plop into my e-mail box when I am away from home to cheer me up!