Many women in Bhutan have learned their excellent weaving skills at a very young age from their mothers. Only few countries show such an amount of exquisite weaving, and still appreciate this form of high standard artisanry.
Kelzang Wangmo is one of those talented master weavers. Her weaving skills, and her eye for design and use of colours and fibres, make her belong to the top artisans of the country.
Wellknown Kishuhara textile from Bhutan
However being a very modest woman, Kelzang never forgot where she came from. Fighting for the position of women in the Province where she was born, she set up her business in such a way that it not only benefits her and her family, but also provides work, and thus a sustainable income, to a large number of women in this remote Province.
Kelzang was born in Goenpakarp, a village in Lhuntse Province. Lhuntse is well-known for its production of handwoven Kishuthara textile. Kishuthara is an intricate, and thus time consuming technique, looking a little bit like embroidery on a loom.
The silk textile is worn at special occasions and is handed from mothers to their daughters. Lhuntse women are highly skilled in the weaving of this extraordinary textile.
Kelzang is weaving a silk scarf
Kelzang, like many of the girls in her village, was ten years old when she started weaving in the early Seventies. For many of the children going to school was no option, especially not when your parents had only little means.
At age sixteen, Kelzang and her family moved to Thimpu, Bhutan's capital. She is still living there with her two sisters and four children.
Like in Lhuntse Kelzang and her sisters earned an income by weaving kiras and ghos, the traditional Bhutanese dress form women and men.
Because of the high quality of her weaving work, Kelzang's dresses were sold to office employees (in Bhutan it is mandatory for government officials to wear the traditional dress to their work), wealthy families and even internationally known people.
This way she managed to build her business. Today Kelzang still creates all designs herself. Women from Lhuntse Province then weave her designs. She provides daily work to around one hundred women. Kelzang also gives work to a number of women from Lhuntse, who, like herself, moved to the Capital.
Yoesel is a master-weaver from Lhuntse and works with Kelzang
Kelzang won various awards from the Royal textile Academy in Bhutan for the unmatched quality of her work and her signature designs. Her designs stand out because many times she uses vegetable dyes creating delicate colour combinations. Her most precious textile is covered with a high diversity of symbols, all inspired by Buddhism and nature.
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