We were both born in England - David in Kent in the southeast, and Sue in County Durham in the northeast. David was formerly a Main Board Director of a British pharmaceutical conglomerate, heading its Scientific Instrument Division. Sue was a Human Resources Manager for a national British department store chain.
We first met in 1987 and soon began to share an interest in Oriental carpets and textiles. Over time this passion has taken over our lives and we now spend all of our available time exploring, studying and writing about Asian textiles.
Over the past 30 years we have travelled to every part of the Orient, from Turkey to Papua, primarily looking at weaving, textiles and rugs. We first visited Indonesia before we were married in 1989. Shortly afterwards, David began working with the Ministry of Education in Jakarta on a project to re-equip the university laboratories throughout the islands of western and eastern Indonesia. This gave us our first chance to visit the many varied ikat-weaving islands of Nusa Tenggara.
Since then we have travelled to Indonesia regularly and have now visited almost every single part of the archipelago - Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Adonara, Solor, Lembata, Pantar, Alor, Wetar, Romang, Damar, Banda, Sumba, Savu, Roti, Timor, Buru, Obi, Ambon, Seram, north and south Maluku, Waigeo, Tanimbar, Aru, the Kei Islands and Papua. In between we have also explored many parts of India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Sarawak.
In 1996 we began to explore Central Asia, becoming intrigued by the history and material culture of remote Qaraqalpaqstan and Khorezm, both located just south of the Aral Sea in far western Uzbekistan. We spent at least a month in the region every year, also exploring Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. We initially published the results of our research in two websites - www.karakalpak.com and www.qaraqalpaq.com. Our research culminated in the production of our book - Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta - which was published by Prestel in 2012 and remains the main source of information on the Qaraqalpaqs in the English language.
In the past few years we have renewed our focus on Indonesia, with a six week cruise around the islands of north Maluku and another down the east coast of Sumatra. In 2013 the owners of SeaTrek in Bali invited us to design and lead an 'expert led' seabourne textile tour of the ikat-weaving Lesser Sunda Islands, using a traditional Bugis-built schooner - the beautiful Ombak Putih. After a four-week research trip later that year we led our first textile tour in May 2014, which was an overwhelming success. Our second and third cruises got beter and better and our fourth is scheduled for May 2017.
Many books and articles have been published about the textiles of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, some serious but the majority primarily illustrative. Few answer the questions that we ask ourselves. We have therefore created this new website to publish our own studies into the textiles of the Lesser Sunda Islands, and more widely those of Indonesia and mainland Southeast Asia.
A true appreciation of tribal textiles requires an understanding of the history and culture of the people who made and used them, as well as a technical comprehension of the botany and chemistry of fibres and natural dyes, the techniques of textile production and the social context in which such textiles were used. We want to pull together the information that has already been published, much of it fragmented, and combine it with our own experiences in the region. While libraries and museums are a valuable source of information, a true comprehension can only be gained by spending time in the field. Nothing is more important than talking to the real experts - the spinners, dyers, ikat binders and weavers who still make and use these textiles today.
Our ultimate objective is to understand why the textiles of specific regions, islands or ethnic groups look the way they do and were used in the way they were. As this website develops we hope that it will become a useful resource to others with an interest in this wonderful region.