Diary of a Dowry: Balkan Textiles from Sheep to Wedding
with Miriam Milgram
Part of our Thursday evening SOFA Series presentations, find the program listings online.
About the Presentation
Did you ever wonder how people made their clothing and other textiles before there were machines to help? This presentation is your chance to see the various processes necessary to go from sheep (where many textiles start) to wedding (where the fruits of the work of a girl’s dowry preparation are displayed for all to see). Using video clips, still photographs, and stories from her 1980’s fieldwork in Bulgarian villages, ethnographic textile researcher Miriam Milgram illustrates the many stages of pre-industrial technology employed in the creation of Balkan village textiles as well as examples of several local forms of dowry display, as almost all such textiles made their way into girls’ dowries “once upon a time”.
These traditional techniques are laborious and time consuming, as the video clips make clear. They played a large part in girls’ and women’s lives. This talk also uncovers some of the ways in which people experienced the process, including various folk beliefs related to the processes and implements, personal stories about learning to do the work, folk measurements, and the social aspects of the work.
Interested in textiles from an early age, Miriam has made numerous research trips to the Balkans, including those for her Master’s Thesis and a Fulbright research grant. She has worked with Eastern European textiles at the Smithsonian and as guest curator at the Tamburitzan Folk Art Center in Pittsburgh. She practices most of the techniques that she studies, including fiber preparation, spinning, weaving, lace making, and embroidery.
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