CAROL CASSIDY (Laos/USA)
Carol Cassidy began her study of weaving in Norway and Finland, and then completed degrees in Fine Arts, Political Science and Women Studies at the University of Michigan. She worked for eight years in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe), as a textile consultant for development programs that improved the lives of indigenous women.
In 1989, her work brought her to Laos, a country which she says she will never leave for she has discovered what she calls “a weaver’s paradise”. A year later, she founded Lao Textiles, locating the shop in a 19th century French colonial house in Vientiane.
Producing hand-woven silk textiles from intricate brocade and tapestry wall hangings to ikat scarves and shawls, custom upholstery and curtain fabrics, Lao Textiles has earned international recognition as an art product, sought after by collectors, designers, museum curators and royalty.
Cassidy’s contribution extends beyond brand name recognition. Her efforts have contributed to a renaissance in the Laotian textile industry as a whole, at a time when it was near to extinction.
She has reinterpreted and incorporated traditional Laotian colours, images, symbols and myths into a creative weaving trade. She blends her own artistry with local ancient techniques and traditions in a remarkable way to create contemporary woven art.
“I start with traditional patterns and techniques and I modify, interpret, translate, adapt into a product that becomes international. The elements are traditional but the complete design is my own creation.” Carol Cassidy
She has been actively advising and training numerous other weavers in the region to help revive and renew their traditions, thus contributing to a growing appreciation for Laotian textile by the people themselves and beyond, including in Cambodia, where she has worked with a group of weavers who are landmine victims. With such an impact on the textile industry, Cassidy is often compared to Jim Thompson, the American who revived silk production in Thailand, a mantle that she deservedly wears well.
In 2001, Lao Textiles won the Product Excellence Award from UNESCO; in 2002, a Preservation of Craft Award from Aid to Artisans.
She continues to advise the UN on development programs, lectures on and teaches weaving, and generously shares her model of weaving success with weavers, artisans and audiences throughout the world.
Guggenheim Museum, NY
The Textile Museum, Washington, DC
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York