Blog: Unique & Universal

11 Pipers Piping: Laos Khene player


Laos Khene
People/Country: Laos   (Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic) 

Instrument:/ (Figure)  Khene* ( bamboo mouth organ, metal reed)

Border/Corners: Night Market book, Baci ceremony, Hmong applique, Caged bird, Day Market, Luang Prabang* temple mosaic

§  ສະບາຍດີ (sa-baai-di)    Hello

The largest ethnic group in the country is the Lao people, who give the country’s name it’s significance, but the official name is  “the Lao People's Democratic Republic”  The National Instrument of Laos is the khene, (pronounce caan), a kind of mouth organ, made with bamboo "pipes' connected in a hollow wood reservoir through which air is blown.   Similar instruments date back the the Bronze Age. The most fascinating part of this small  instrument is its brass or silver free reed.  It is related to later free-reed instruments, such as the harmonica or bandoneon and the Chinese sheng.  The Khene is also popular with the ethnic Lao populations in Cambodia and Thailand and with the Tai and Muong people in Vietnam. The Khene is traditionally played at many ceremonies and celebrations, including weddings, funerals, Buddhist celebrations, dancers and  concerts. 

The figure in this image is wearing traditional Lao male clothing. Unlike the long, wrap around skirts for women called Sinh, the Salong for men is actually a loose-fitting pantaloon or peasant pants, usually tied at the waist.

Border and Corners:

I had fun thinking about what to use for the border  and corner designs, since I had so many fond  memories of my visit to Laos, and I wanted to share some to those memories (traditions and stories) with you.

Corners: The upper, left corner represents the decorative marigold and banana leaf centerpiece of the Baci Ceremony or Soukhwan.  This is not so much a religious ceremony, but rather a cultural act of welcoming. It is used for visitors, at weddings, and to welcome new babies. We were fortunate to be  part of this ceremonial welcome when we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos.  By tying a white cotton string around the guests wrists, all the parts of the soul are summoned back together. 

The upper, right corner is a common, stylized pattern meant to represent an elephant's footprint among the Hmong people, also known as Lao Soung (highland people), the third largest ethnic group in Laos, representing almost 10% of the population. Hmong people take much pride in their paj ntaub, pronounced pa ndau or flowery cloth and sewing skills, which include labor-intensive appliqué, reverse appliqué, batik, cross stitch, and embroidery work.

Traditionally, they make new clothing for the February start of the new year.  Their oral history tells that while in China (where the Hmong originated), they were forbidden to use  pak ntaub scrip (their  picture-writing language), so women sewed symbols into the clothing as a “secret message” presented as decoration. The pattern in the upper right corner represents an elephants foot  (ko taw ntxhw) and is a symbol  of prosperity.  This site has images of several Hmong symbols and motifs:   One symbol shown on this site shows two curved shapes that come together in the middle  to form a stylized open diamond shape. This is the Ram’s horn (Kub yaj) and represents wisdom. We found these patterns repeated on many of the handmade items, we saw in Laos and Thailand among the various Hmong-related ethnic groups.

The lower right corner shows Laotian  bird cages.  I first saw these bird cages with live birds inside at the morning market in Luang Prabang. Along with farm fresh produce, visitors may purchase these birds to set them free. There is a Buddhist belief that dates back to a fifth century text, which states that freeing captive animals can help one gain spiritual merit as it is an act of compassion. Ironically, today, the trade in securing birds for release is making conservatives question that compassion.  

The lower left corner features a peacock, one of the beautiful  mosaic patterns on walls of Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City), Luang Prabang’s most famous temple. Built in c. 1560, it was once the site of King Coronations.  The most striking decoration (among many) is  the beautiful, glass mosaic on the back wall depicting  the  tree  of life with a  blue peacocks on either side.  Thirty-four temples in Luang Prabang, including this one, are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Luang Prabang literally means “the place of the Buddha,” Cave, and the city in the northern part of the country is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pak Ou Caves, once a 16th century monastery in the limestone cliffs near the Makong River, are full of thousands of statues of Buddhas left over the centuries by worshipers and travelers.  Fortunately, there are wooden steps leading to the  cave, so I didn't have to scale a mountain  to visit.

The side borders are taken from a simple pattern that appears on a handmade book that I purchased at a night market in Luang Prabang. I was struck by how effective such an unpretentious arrangement of lines could be.  Wondering through the night market was a wonderful experience. Once the main shops close and traffic is halted, the streets become full of bustling people (shoppers, tourists, young folks and older), with shops, stalls and blankets spread on the ground offering handmade crafts, everyday items and exotic treasure, street food and the sights and sounds of an after-hours economy. In addition to the book, my husband and I purchased a hand-woven, silk scarf; a beautifully hand-carve wooden bowl, and local food. He got tons of great photos,  and I got a gold-fish pedicure (The fish feast on dried skin.)


Dohn121, Khene: The Mouth Organ of Laos, Hub Pages. 10/11/2019.

Nuwer, Rachel, Buddhist Ceremonial Release of Captive Birds May Harm Wildlife. Scientific American.  8/1/2012
Pak Ou Caves

Top Temples in Luang Prabang,  2/7/2021

Handmade Book (Night Market)
Baci ceremony,Laos
Birds in cages, Morning Market
Laos textiles
temple mosaic
Buddhas in Cave
Fish Pedicure,Night Market

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Tang Dynasty Dancer


Tang Dynasty Dancer
Country/People: Chinese (Tang dynasty)

Dance:  Palace White Linen Dance

Border   Porcelain ceramic pattern, T’ao Ti’eh corners 


你好[ nǐhǎo ]Hello



The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was a period of peace and high culture and is considered China’s Golden Age.  In this period, the academy for poets was founded, and nearly 50,000 poems were written and preserved. Woodblock printing was established, which helped the spread of Buddhism, and Buddhist Festivals became popular.  Music and Dance were part of courtly activities, and Chinese Painting developed and advanced, thanks to the patronage of the imperial court.  One of the dances performed for the emperor was the “White Linen” dance (白紵舞), in which the female dancers gracefully move long, extensions of their sleeves in circular motions, meant to resemble clouds chasing the moon. Although the dance existed as far back as the Jin dynasty (265-316), it reached its peak during the Tang dynasty.  I was fortunate to see a performance of Tang Emperor dances and music while in Xi’an in 2005, and this dance was by far the most elegant and graceful.


During the Tang dynasty, times were not only prosperous and  peaceful, but also in some ways liberating, at least as far as fashion was involved.  Looser silk dresses, longer wing-like sleeves and even low-cut gowns were popular. Hair styles usually covered the temples, but had a bun and braid loops in a variety of styles, such as the one on our figure.  Silk fabric weaving also flourished during this period. Sericulture or silk weaving had been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years, but during the Tang dynasty there were eight different types of silk fabrics, classified by their particular weaves, such as gauzes, damasks, brocades, crepes, and tapestries. (Silk was a precious commodity and traded for horses on the Silk Road.) While the dresses of the dancers may have been silk, the ribbon-like sleeves were made from a “bast” fiber, (hemp, ramie or kudzu), classified as linen.


Border: The top and bottom mid sections of the border are inspired by Chinese porcelain patterns. Porcelain was probably “discovered” during the Tang dynasty, but production really flourished in later dynasties, reaching peak periods during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The addition of kaolin, a soft, white clay material and firing the ceramics at a very high temperature are what gives porcelain pieces their distinctive, translucent look.  For a long time, the formula was a prized secret of the Chinese. (That is why this fine ceramic ware is often called “China” in other countries.) The corner images are t’ao-t’ieh figures found on bronze vessels from the much earlier Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600–1046 B.C.E.).  The Shang t'ao-t'ieh image exists around a pair of circles or ovals placed near enough to each other to intimate eyes.  It is the presence of these eyes that gives the t'ao-t'ieh its life and creates in it an entity, albeit an incomplete one.  Since the ability to produce a representational figure existed during the Shang dynasty, the lack of such representational form in the t'ao-t'ieh images suggests a purposeful omission.  I suspect that the t'ao-t'ieh depicts a spirit or supernatural deity whose form is unknown, but whose being is incorporated into the bronze.


References and Links

History of Porcelain, Candice. 9.3.2021. The Tang Dynasty Show

Traditional clothing of Chinese dynasties: from Xia and Shang Dynasties to Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty in China: A Golden Era Asian Traditional Theatre & Dance.


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Eagle Dancer, Cherokee


Cherokee Eagle Dancer
Country/ People: U.S.A. Native Americans

Dance: Eagle Dance, Cherokee (and others)

Border: Navajo Sand paintings  

Osiyo Hello (in Cherokee)

The Eagle Dance has been performed by many Native American tribes or nations including the Iroquois, Comanche, Calumet, Cree and Cherokee.   Today, it is often part of celebrations of the Jemez and Tesuque tribes of New Mexico. The eagle holds a special place in Indian cultures, representing wisdom and strength. Some groups believed the Eagle held supernatural powers that allowed it to transport prayers to the gods. The dancer, adorned with feathers strapped to his arms like wings, imitated the movements and activities of the eagle.  Using only white (or nearly white) eagle feathers, false wings up to six feet long are created for the dancer to wear across his shoulders and arms. (Native Americans have been granted special privileges to collect and use these feathers, generally illegal under the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, for ceremonial purpose.)  These ceremonial eagle wings not only represent the majestic bird but add drama and accentuate movements in the dance. At times in our history, the use of feathers in ceremonial dances and religious rites was used as an excuse to forbid traditional dances and practices by Native American.  An interesting article that discusses this topic was published in 1991. (N. Brown, .Donald "Indians, Feathers, and the Law in Western Oklahoma" Expedition Magazine 33.2 (1991): n. pag. Expedition Magazine. Penn Museum, 1991 Web. 03 Feb 2021

The Eagle Dancer wears soft, leather moccasins, shoes worn my most Native Americans. There were individual style and different ornamentations, but the basic concept remained across Native nations. Often made of deerskin, they allowed the wearer to move quietly and feel the ground, but protected him/her from thrones and other impediments.

Border: On the four corners of the border, I have indicated sand paintings.  Sand paintings were another way that some Native Americans believe they can communicate with the spirits. These are colorful, beautifully designed works of art. Although the Native Americans who originally created them did not consider them art, but rather prayer and medicine. As the name suggests, they were created of sand, with colors dyed from natural materials such as crushed stone, pollen and flowers. And they were also created in the sand as part of a healing ceremony. Once completed and sanctified, the person in need of healing sits in the middle of the image so that the spirits represented can realign the “patient” with the earth. Once the  ceremony and prayers were completed, the image could be destroyed, brushed away to bring its message to the gods.  In addition to the Navajo, the Hopi and Zuni Indians of the American southwest, create these ethereal paintings. The Navajo call sand painting 'iikááh, "place where the gods come and go."

However, as time has moved on, many of the sand painting designs have been created on permanent surfaces (sandpaper coated) for sale as art to tourists, which helps the native economy. I modeled the four images here after sand paintings I purchased decades ago to add to my cultural collection.  Some of the common symbols with stylized, geometric shaped bodies include Father Sky and Mother Earth  

(Taos Pueblo* UNESCO )


Dockstrader, Frederick J. Indian Art of the Americas, Museum of the American Indian.1973 print

Eagle Dance - Unto These Hills, Cherokee, NC 201 Video.

Native Navajo Native American Indian moccasins and their marvelous embellishments 10/10/2019 

Sand painting

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4 Calling Songs: Mongolian Overtone Singing


Mongolian Overtone Throat Singer

People/Country : Tuva, Siberia, Mongolian (Dry Point Etching)

Calling image: Kloomei (Overtone Throat Singer), male in traditional deel attire with morin khuur (bowed fiddle)*

Corners and Borders: Mongolian flag and symbols

§  sain baina uu (sain bai-na OO) — formal

§  sain uu (say-noo) —  casual
Hello in Mongolian, the official language of Mongolia, an Altaic language spoken by approximately 5 million people in Mongolia, China, Afghanistan and Russia. Located between China and Russia, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. You probably know it was once ruled by Genghis Khan (reigned 1206-1227) and Kublai Khan (reigned 1260-1294).


The "calling songs' shown here is known as Khoomei,  and is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible heritage. It is created by an overtone throat singer. Actually, Khoomei is most associated with Mongolia and Tuva, an autonomous small Russian republic between Siberia and Mongolia. But, Overtone or Throat Singings is practiced in several cultures, including the Inuit people of Nanuvat, Canada, the Sardinians in Italy,  and the women of Bulgaria. 

Overtone singing, sometimes called polyphonic chanting, diphonic singing or throat singing is a technique that results in a remarkable sound produced when the singer manipulates his or her vocal tract to produce more than one note at a time. I first heard this unusual sound at Wake Forest Museum of Anthropology, when a visiting Mongolian artist performed and explained the procedure. (See  photo below.)  It is almost as if the vocalist sings the "drone" note of a bagpipe, as well at the melody simultaneously. The sounds imitate sounds in nature.

Morin Khuur:

The figure in this dry point etching is playing a traditional instrument, known as a Morin Khuur, or horse head fiddle. It is also recognized by UNESCO.  This square box :fiddle” with two strings has evolved from the 13th century. The bow is generally made of horse  hair , and there is traditionally a horse’s head carved at the top of  the  instrument’s neck. 


The Mongolian dress from head to toe is quite dramatic and meaningful. There are more  than 400 styles of traditional hats that vary according  to season, occasion, sex and age of wearer, and social status. They may even be made of prized materials (velvets, brocades) and decorated with gems. In mediaeval times, a fanciful knot, symbolizing power, crowned the pointed top.

The calf-length tunic worn by both  sexes is called a Del or Deel.  Made of one piece of material. it crosses the body and buttons on the right shoulder. Each ethnic group  has their own distinctive deel.  (Note: Those of you interested in the artistic process might like to know that I had to recreate this entire  etching because I forgot that the a print plate prints in reverse when it goes through  the press. I usually think about that, but here, I forgot that would mean the Deel would botton on the left. So I had to correct that  detail.) 

Boots: The beautiful, stiff leather books have an upturned toe, which helps with walking and prevents the foot  from slipping out of the  stirrup when riding.  


Mongolian symbols fill the corners. These are designs that trace their history to past empires and Buddhist heritage. Most are interpretations of an endless knot.

Upper left: The bracelet of Khan (Khan-buguivch), Symbol of peace.

Upper right: The Earrings of the Queen (khatan-suikh), Symbol of love and honesty and marital fidelity.

Lower right: Buddhist Symbol, another eternal knot, also representing Mongolia.

Lower left: The endless knot (ölzij - ulzii). It symbolizes the infinite love and interdependence of all things. It also represents knowledge, wealth, happiness and good karma.

Borders: The national symbol of Mongolia pictured on the left side border of the etching also appears on the flag of Mongolia. It is called The Soyombo, and was created by Zanabazar, the 17th century statesman and father of Mongolian art and script. The flame at the top stands for the blossoming and continuation of the family.  Its three points representing prosperity of the people in the past, present and future. The origins of the Mongolian people are represented by the sun and crescent, and the two triangles show the people’s willingness to defend the freedom and independence of the its people from enemies inside and outside the  country. The two  horizontal rectangles stand for honesty and  justice. The actual flag patterns  also has two larger vertical rectangles on the sides, which are emblems of fortified walls. However, these rather metaphorically represent strength, and stand for the Mongolian saying, “ Two humans in friendship are stronger than walls of stone.”  The yin/yang symbol shows the unity of men and women.  At different times and under different political rules, such as Communism, these symbols  were assigned alternative meaning. The Mongolian flag contains three equally sized strips of color: a  center of blue, which stands for the  eternal blue sky, and two side panels of red, which represent progress and prosperity. The Soyombo symbols appear in gold, off center,  on the left panel only.  That  is why it is only on one side of the etching’s side borders.


Gerelee. Mongolian Patterns.

Modern Mongolia (U Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Mongolian Tours:


Visiting Overtone Singer @ Wake Forest Anthropology Museum

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"8 Maids a Quilting" Cook Islands Tivaevae


Tivaevae quilting
Country: the Cook Islands (New Zealand)
Quilts Name or Style: Tivaevae
Border: Tivaevae quilt sample
Copper sulphate and salt etching

Kia Orana/ Hello

Named for Captain James Cook, who visited in the late 1700s, the Cook Islands consist of 15 islands in the South Pacific. They are autonomous but considered in “free association” with New Zealand. Citizens of the Cook Islands have the status of Cook Island Nationals and also citizens of New Zealand.

Tivaevae quilts are dramatic and  colorful, reflecting the ambiance of the islands.  While they are a distinctive and recognized textile art of the islands, similar quilts are also produced in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands. Tivaevae (Tifaifai in French Polynesia) means to patch or to sew.  There are actually three basic types that all combine patchwork and appliqué: 1.Tivaevae ta’orei, a mosaic of many (up to 1000) tiny pieces, 2. Tivaevae tataura, which adds embroidery stitchery on top of the appliquéd pattern shapes and 3. Tivaevae manu consisting of just two colors. The Tivaevae manu is perhaps the most commonly identified and created Cook Islands quilt. The basic pattern is folded and cut (like a childhood paper snowflake) from one color fabric and then appliquéd (or sewn onto) a solid background fabric. The patterns, often imitating natural forms such as flowers and leaves, can be quite complicated and intricate or bold, simple shapes. 

Originally, the inhabitants of Cook Islands created a stencil-decorated, pliable fabric called tapa cloth from soaking and beating sapling strips that had been stripped of their outer bark.   However, when the missionaries arrived in the 19th century, they introduce the islanders to sewing and embroidery with needle, thread and woven cloth. The patterns inspired by the tapa cloth now can be seen in these impressive quilts.  Making a Tivaevae quilt is an important social activity. They are usually made by older women, family groups, or groups of woman called vainetini, who get together to sew, talk and sing. One quilt is made by many women. They are usually given a gift for a special occasion or to commemorate an event.  

References  and Links:
  • Eddy, Celia. 2005. Quilted Planet A Sourcebook Of Quilts From Around The World. New York: Clarkson Potter. ISBN: 1-4000-5457-5. Tivaevaeof the Cook Islands, Pgs. 185-187.
  • Kuchler, Susanne and Andrea EIMKE (2009). Tivaivai: The Social Fabric of the Cook Islands, London: The British Museum Press. ISBN: 978-0-7141-2557-2.
  • Tivaevae Collectables.
  • History of Tivaevae.
  • Tifaifai. Textile Research Center.
  • Tivaivai-the Art of Patience. Video.
  • Tivaevae - Cook Islands communal art
  • Tivaevae Qulting Treasures from the Cook Islands, New Zealand Video
  • Tivaevae Stitched with Love Video.



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"6 Strings a Playing" Russian Balalaika


Russian Balalaika

People/Country Russia 
Instrument: Balalaika
Border:  Khokhloma
Corners: St. Basil’s Cathedral domes
Dry point etching

Добрый день [ Dobryj den ] Hello

String Instrument: Balalaika

The distinctive triangle-shaped Balalaika is often associated with Russian folk songs and folk dances, and has been part of Russian culture since the late 17th century (1688).   This instrument has only three strings, but actually comes in a variety of sizes (small to very large) to provide variations from piccolo balalaika to bass balalaika. The modern version was created in 1880 by Vasilii Andreev.

Figure and folk attire:

Thank you, Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky (  As I was researching this instrument, I came across a painting “Balalaika Player” by the artist Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky done in 1930. I instantly fell in love it. On one level, it might be that I’m the mother of two boys, and found this little charmer most lovable, with his pensive look. But it was the artistic elements that really engaged me. I thought you might be interested in how the mind of an artist works, how one image can inspire another.  The first thing  I noticed (and I’m sure you did also) is the background, which  of course sets off the nearly monochromatic figure and the red shirt that connects of the figure to his setting. You may be  familiar with the work of contemporary artist Kehindy Wiley, who painting a portrait of former President Obama. If you thought that his “busy,” dramatic, almost wall-paper-like  background was a new idea, you can see, artists have used the idea for some time. Think of Matisse.  This etching series doesn’t allow for that, but I’ll try to remind myself of it when next I paint.  The other thing that captured my attention was the pose. I’ve been looking at a lot of images, most are straight forward front views, with the instrument parallel to the picture plain. But this one provides a subtle angle that positions the balalaika so the neck seems to extend toward the viewer.  I loved that simple compositional element, and  I use it for inspiration as I created this etching.  (Of course, I had to remember to think of  everything in reserves because it is a print.)

Sarafan: The figure in this etching is wearing a typical Russian outfit consisting of a jumper (a long skirt that hangs from just under the arms ) called a sarafan and a white blouse with stitchery  trim.  Peasants have worn variations of this attire since the 9th century, despite Tsar Peter the Great's ban on traditional cloths in 1700 in favor of Western European fashions. Today, sarafans are consider folk dress and worn mostly at celebrations and folk festivals. 

Border: Taking its name from a village in the Novgorod region of central Russia, Khokhloma is the folk art of hand painting wood in bright red, gold and black colors. The shapes are usually berries, flowers and leaves in a curvy, flourished style. The idea of painting wood to look like gold, without actually using gold, was adapted from the technique of painting Orthodox religious icons. It involves a five-step process using tin foil (for shine), paint, gold leaf, and high temperature to produce the gold-like lacquer.  Originally made by monks for Russian nobility and the Royal family, by the 19th century is was used for everyday utensils and tableware. Today it is identified with Russia and is a popular tourist souvenir. I've attached a white-line linocut print I created of two such souvenirs brought back from Russia by my parents. 
Corners: Onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral (officially Pokrovsky Cathedral)
St. Basil’s Christian Orthodox church, located in Moscow, Russia’s Red Square, was built in only six years and consecrated in 1561.

To me (and I think most viewers), St. Basil’s Cathedral looks like a fantasy creation or an elaborately decorated cake. Not surprisingly, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, as it is a mix of Byzantine, Muslim, Renaissance, and 16th century Russian styles, and is completely unique. Interestingly, the main part of the church is built of red brick, which was a new material at the time.  It wasn’t until the 1670s that the original gold gilded domes were replaced with the colorful domes we have come  to know. The domes are covered with sheets of colored metal. Hundreds of pieces of various sizes and shapes have been fitted together and riveted  into place. Four of the dome patterns are shown in the corners of this etching.

References and Links
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.) 
  • Dorofeeva,  Evgenia A Brief History of  the Sarafan. The Russion Fashion Blog. 7/2013.
  • Russian Embroidery.
  • About Russian Khokhloma.
  • ( Museum of Russian Art)
  • (
  • The Roof Construction of St. Basil’s Cathedral 29/6/2012
  • 17 Fun Facts About St Basil’s Cathedral. 9/10/2020.
  • Russian Embroidery.

Camellias and Russian Souvenirs

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"12 Drummers Drumming" Sami


Saami Drummer
Country/People: Saami (or Sami) people of Norway and northern Finland and Russia  . . . . . (Lapland)
Drum: ancient-style runebomme (rune drum)
Border: Traditional patterns found on Saami clothing
Dry point etching (on aluminum plate) 

Bures/ Hello in Sami

Drum: runebomme (rune drum)

While they don’t all speak the same language, there are about 80,000 Saami, who consider themselves one people, and about half of them live in Norway. Their land, the broader area that reaches across northern Scandinavia into Russia, is known as Sápmi by these indigenous people. (It has been called Lapland by non-Saami, but that term is often seen as pejorative by the Saami.)

This ancient Rune Drum covered in untanned reindeer hide and decorated with rune markings became a symbol of Sami culture, something to be preserved, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries as Sami beliefs were being challenged by  Christianity.  The oval-shaped instrument is typical of the frame-style drum, with a geometric figure representing the sun in the center and with additional symbols around the sun, representing people, animals, landscape and deities.  The Sami shaman or noaidi would beat the drum with his hand to put himself into a trance. It was the belief that while in this trance state, he could visit the spirit world and obtain information about the future. (The “Sami Drums” site listed below has illustrations of traditional drum decorations.)  

Border: traditional Saami attire patterns

The drummer, pictured here, is wearing the characteristic Sami outfit known as the Gákti, which, is a point of pride for the Saami people even today. His is the Guovdageaidnu- style (from that region, near the Finnish border.) The Gákti consists of a unisex-style pullover. (The men’s top is a little shorter than the women’s.) He wears a belt ornamented with metal couching with pewter wire. This clothing tends to be brightly decorated with color-block strips of material and areas of detailed design. These areas may at first look like embroidery, but they are rather appliquéd rows of ribbon or patterned weaving. The shoes or short boots, often made of reindeer hide and fur, turn up at the end. The pointed, hooked-toe ends are particularly suited for skiers. The footwear is tied to the legs with colorful ribbons and laces.

References and Links
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.) 
  • natinalclothing: Saami reindeer boots (Finland)
  • Norwegian Shaman Erick Myhaug plays the drum for Wisdom from the North. Video
  • Nikel, David. The Sami People. Live in Norway. 12/10/2018.
  • Overview of Saami costume. Folk costume and Embroidery.    11/05/2013.
  • The Sami. Northern Norway.
  • Sami. Top 5 ethnic minorities around the world and their national clothing.
  • Ripa. Ellen. The Story of the Sami People and Culture. Skandiblog.
  • Sami Drums.
  • Sami Drums Then and Now. Sami Culture.


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"6 Strings a Playing" Guitarrón Mexicano


Mariachi Player
People/Country Mexico
Instrument: Guitarrón Mexicano
Border: Talavera Pottery  
Corners: Maya huipiles pattern (Guatemala/ Mexico )

Hola/ Hello Buenos días/ Good Day

Music: In 2011, the iconic music of Mexico, Mariachi Music was added to the UNESCO Representative Heritage list. Once thought to be an indigenous Mexican word, the term Mariachi is now believed to be a mix of Spanish and Mestizo, dating back to the early 1800s. ( The arrival of Cortes, with European harps, violins and guitars  in the early 1500s influenced the traditional music of the country.)  Mestizo music is a mix of influences by Spanish conquistadors, Indigenous Mexicans, and African Slaves.

Originally, the Mariachi bands played traditional folk songs and corridos (Mexican ballads that told tales of bravery, love and outstanding deeds), but today, they have added a broader repertoire often based on popular requests.

The size of a Mariachi group and the combination of instruments in the groups have also varied over the years, and may often include two violins, two trumpets, one Spanish guitar, one vihuela (five-string, high pitched instrument), and one guitarrón, the deep-bodied six string instrument shown in the etching. While the guitarrón Mexicano may seems like a variation of a guitar, it is actually closer related to 16th century Spanish  bajo de uno, or fingernail-plucked bass.  The guitarrón is a fretless instrument with heavy gauge strings and provides the signature sound of Mariachi music.

Mariachi Attire: Perhaps the most recognizable parts of the traditional Mariachi folk costume, which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, is the charro suit and the sombrero, a wide brimmed hat, usually made of straw or felt (rabbit or horse hair) . The mariachi musicians wear a “gala” or dress version of the national charro suit.  The charro has evolved from the 17th century outfit worn by Mexico’s indigenous horsemen. The Spanish introduce the horse to the American continent, but forbade indigenous people to ride without their permission. The native people were forbidden to dress like their Spanish “masters” and later “employers,” who didn’t want them confused with elite landowners. So a unique riding outfit evolved. It was a suit with a cropped jacket and tapered pants made from leather and suede and richly embroidered with images of local plants stitched with fibers from local plants and cacti. The Charro (rather like the American Cowboy) became a kind of folk hero, recognized for his expert horsemanship, strict code of conduct, and later for supporting the fight for Mexican independence. Today, the outfit is worn with national pride. Charros participate in the national sport, Charreada (Rodeo), which was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2016.

There are various styles of the charro suit, but the gala Mariachi is often black with silver fretting decoration. The sombrero is usually elaborately decorated (the decoration is called toquilla) often in silver  

Borders:  The side borders are taken for huipiles patterns.

Huipils/ Huipiles  (pronounced wee-peels) are the blouses (tunics) worn by indigenous Mayan women of Mexico and Central America, especially Guatemala. The patterns and designs of a huipil may identify an individual, her village and even some societal elements, such as whether she is married. These pattens are woven into the fabric on a back strap loom. Often embroidery elements are added. The finished garment is a true work of art. Today, it is one of the most popular pieces of women’s clothing worn in Mexico.  It is also part of the traditional dress of the Maya in Guatemala. Indigenous Maya make up more than half of the 12 million people who live in Guatemala. I’ve attached a picture of a huipiles weaving on a model of a back strap loom. (Other blogs from the “7 Looms a Weaving”  group will showcase back strap weaving cultures.)

Corners:  Talavera pottery patterns.  Talavera  pottery or ceramics are found both in Mexico and in Spain. The patterns and process have been passed down from the 16th century Spanish center Talavera de la Reina.  Both areas are on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.   Mexican Talavera, usually from Puebla and Tiaxcala, is a type of majolica or tin-glazed earthenware. Typically, the white base is painted with bold blue designs. Other bright colors are also added.   Because traditional Talavera was made by hand, using expensive cobalt pigment on natural clay, which had to be dried for several months, it was about three times more expensive than other earthenware. Today, only pieces from certified workshops in Mexico are allowed to be labeled Talavera .  Although the process for making this pottery is specific, complicated, and time-consuming, Talavera pottery is used for utilitarian products, such as bowls, cups, flowerpots and tiles.   I have never been to Mexico, but I was fortunate to acquire several small Talavera bowls at the largest Mexican market in America in San Antonio, Texas. I used the designs on these for the border inspiration.

And while I was in San Antonio, I visited the Alameda Museum to view the Smithsonian exhibit of huipiles weavings of the Mayan people of Guatemala, where I acquired the loom .  (See image below. Note the remarkable detail that is achieve with this thin-thread warp.) 

References and Links:
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.) 
  • Clark, Jonathan. D. 1996. A Brief History of the Mariachi Tradition.
  • Charro: a Brief History of how the Mexican cowboy became a national fashion model. 8/5/2018
  • A Brief History of Huipils
  • Guatemalan Huipils (with video):
  • Https://
  • Muhammad Danial Harith bin Zulkifli and Dhiviya Kannusamy. Guitarrón Mexicano
  • Traditional Instruments of the World.
  • History of Mariachi. Puro Mariachi.
  • Illustrations of loom and huipiles and an explanation of the process and tradition. See these two articles for illustrations of loom and huipiles and an explanation of the process and tradition.
  • Traditional Mexican costume.Typical pieces of clothing in Mexico 8/12/2014
  • Traditional blouse of Guatemala. Maya women weave their folk clothing on backstrap loom 2/4/2018
  • The craft of weaving huipiles – female tunics of Guatemala – might vanish because of a huge market of underpriced secondhand huipiles 2/4/2018–-female-tunics-of-guatemala-–-might-vanish-because-of-a-huge-market-of-underpriced-secondhand-huipiles.html
  • Mariachi, string music, song and trumpet. Https://

Talavera Pottery

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"7 Looms a Weaving" Navajo


Navajo weaver
Country/People Navajo Native American (Southwest USA)
Looms: up right 
Border Sample Navajo Weave

Copper/sulphate/salt etching

Yå’ ´åt’eeh / Hello


Loom:  Navajo rugs are recognized and appreciated throughout the world for their distinctive geometric patterns. The Navajo loom is a an upright loom.  Weavers sits on the ground in front of it and weaves from the bottom to the top. The warp (vertical threads) itself is prepared off the loom and then placed onto the loom form. Because the Navajos at one point were nomadic, this was an important key aspect to their weaving. They could remove the weaving in progress from a loom and travel to a new place where they would build another loom and place the weaving back onto it (Mirrix).  Anthropologist believe the Navajo first arrived in the American southwest in the early 1300s, but a clear record of their weaving history cannot be documented until the 1600s, with the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, and with them, sheep, in particular Churra sheep with wool that is easily spun and woven into long threads of yarn (Explore).

The woman pictured here dresses in traditional Navajo clothing: a long-sleeved blouse (often velvet) called a jeiji’eé´ and a skirt (usually cotton or velvet) called a tl’aakal. Around her waist is a belt/sash with silver conchas (medallions.) The Navajo work silver and turquoise as part of their spiritual, as well as decorative, aspects of life. Her hair is styled in a tsiiyéél, brushed back with a be’ezo or stiff, long, dried grass and tied with white sheep wool string.

The Border at top and bottom as samples of the type of weaving done on a Navajo loom. The Navajo called themselves Diné meaning the people, and Diné Bikéyah (land of the Navajo), extends 27,000 square miles. It is larger than 10 of the 50 states in the US!  Today, different regions of the Navajo region have established identifiably distinct color and design patterns for their rugs. I purchased two rug square samples of Navajo weavings when visiting the Navajo Reservation in Arizona on my way to Monument Valley and the ancient cliff dwellings at Canyon de Chelly, way back in1969.  I also purchased a model of the Navajo loom. As you can see,  I’ve been an admirer of Navajo weaving for a long time. See photos below. 

References and links: ( Note: I do not endorse or  mean to promote any  of these sites.) 

Navajo weave 2
navajo weave 1
loom 1
Navajo loom 2

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"9 Ladies Dancing" Mexican Folklorica


Mexican Folklorica Danceer
Country/People: Mexican
Dance: Folklorica
Border: Papel Picado and Poinsettia leaves  

Hola/ Hello in Spanish/Mexican 

Dance: Folklorico is a word used collectively to describe Mexican folk dances, and there are many which reflect traditions, customs and costumes from different regions.  One of the most recognizable is the Jalisco folk dance dress, with wide sweeping skirt made with yards of material and colorful ribbons.  It is sometimes called an Escaramuza dress.

When the women dancers move and swirl the skirts, they create great circles of color and rows of  lines. One Song/Dance called The Son of La Negra (which is suppose the resemble the sound of a locomotive in the opening chords) is often danced to Mariachi music* and features these swirling skirts. The image below is of a group of young dancers performing a Folklorico dance in Jalisco folk dance dresses at El Mercado, the Mexican Market Plaza in San Antonio, Texas. The swirls of color and motion (too swift for the camera to capture) create a fabulous sense of energy and drama.  If you look  closely, you will also  see papel picado in the background.  

Check out one or more of the video links below  to see performances.
 (Also, see Blog on Mariachi music/ “6 strings a playing”, when  it is posted.)

Border:  Papel Picada refers to the banners of cut paper “flags” that hang above Mexican towns and villages for celebrations and festivals. When I visited the Mexican Market in San Antonio, Texas (The largest Mexican Market in the U.S) the streets were lined with lattice-like papel picada. I fell in love with the bright colors and festive spirit they generated.  These tissue paper flags are used as decorations on the Day of the Dead, Christmas, Independence Day, some religious holidays, festivals and other celebration. Papel picada literally means ‘punched’ or ‘perforated’ paper. While they may appear to be cut with fine scissor, they are traditionally made by craftsmen who score through multiple layers with a hammer and a chisel. As many of 30 to 50 sheets of tissue paper may be pieced at one time. So, rather than being cut out, the design is actually chiseled through a piece of  stencil paper or Manila paper onto which the pattern is drawn and stacked atop layers of tissue paper. The perforated papers are then clued to a string and hung throughout the city.  On September 22, 1998, the governor of Puebla State proclaimed the artisanal papel picado from San Salvador Huixcolotla, a part of the State's cultural heritage.

The tradition of hanging such banners probably dates back to Aztec times,  where a form of bark paper, decorated with melted rubber was used.  The thin paper versions on papel de china or tissue paper was adapted later under Christian influence. Images often have religious or traditional meaning, such as angels and nativity scenes for Christmas and skulls for Day of the Dead. Colors, too, may have symbolic and religious significance, such as purple for Easter and vibrant pinks and oranges for Day of the Dead. (Check the sites below for images.)  

Poinsettia "leaves/petals" at the sides. 
The Poinsettia plant are named for the first US ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel  Roberts Poinsett, who fell in love with these “flowers” and brought them to the US (So. Carolina) in the 1820s. At first, in the 19th century the plant wasn’t that popular in the US, but by the 20th century it had gained in popularity and became associated with the Christmas holiday because of its green and red color combination. Dec. 12 is Poinsettia Day (It is the day Joel Poinsett died in 1851.) Actually, this plant does not have red flowers. The red portion is the bracts or modified leaf growth. The tiny yellow flowers (Cyanthia) in the center are rather inconspicuous next to those vibrant red leaves.  After the flowers spread their pollen, the bracts and leaves fall off.  While not exactly poisonous, eating  parts of  the plant can make you sick. However, one would have to eat many, many bad-tasting leaves (more than 500)  to be harmfully affected. The Aztec used the leaves medicinally to control fevers. They also made a reddish fabric dye from the bracts. Today, 70% of all commercial Poinsettias are grown on the Paul Ecke Ranch in California. In Mexico and Guatemala, the plant is called La Flor de la Nochebuena,   ( Flower of the Holy Night/ Christmas Eve.)  The image at the bottom is a tinted dry point etching I created of Poinsettia. 

References and Links: ( Note: I do not endorse or  mean to promote any  of these sites.) 
  • Agur, Dinah. Folk Art Guide: Papel  Picado.
  • Beautiful Mexican Jalisco folk dance costume 10/9/2018
  • Traditional Mexican costume. Typical pieces of clothing in Mexico 8/12/2014
  • Palfrey,  Dale Hoyt. Mexican traditional papel picado: Classic art for a Mexican fiesta. Mex Connect. 1/1/1999.
  • History of Mexican Papel Picado Cut Paper Banners
  • Seltzer, Erica D  and MaryAnnSpinner, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners.  Poinsettia Facts. 2021.,500%20leaves%20to%20have%20any%20...%20More%20items
  • Folklorico dance costumes throughout Mexico.

  • Folklorica videos


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The Art and Writing of Barbara Rizza Mellin