One of the premiere members of the Yangma Traditional Weavers Cooperative of Olangchung, Nepal, Sita Lama Sherpa began spinning and weaving with her mother in Nepal’s Yangma Olangchung village as a child. Since the art of fine traditional weaving is dwindling in Nepal due to competitive factory carpets and dire economic and political conditions, Sita and other artists work around the clock to perpetuate their artistic traditions.
The members of this artist collective weave inside their family homes, which are dotted across this mountainous village near the Tibetan border. The main implement used is a horizontal wooden “takri” loom. First, Lanolin wool is gathered from small herds of sheep known for the shine and plushness of their wool. The wool is then hand carded by elders and spun on drop spindles by various community members. After it is dyed with organic pigments in small batches, the wool is then dried in the sun. Skilled women weavers then begin to work on the carpet looms using either cotton or wool cord for the weft. Finally, the carpets are river washed and hand carved with a knife or scissors to accentuate the designs. No part of this folk art is produced by machine and even the takri vertical looms are all constructed by hand in the village.
Designs used for these textiles are Buddhist in origin, representing centuries-old cultural narratives of the Yangma People. There are seven main designs: Bird Dragon, Long Legged Pheasant, Double Dragon, 12 Lotus, Four Protectors, Night Bird Dragon, Double Peony and Twin Dragons, each of which has a meaningful, and visually stunning, story to tell.