By: Rebecca Joseph
The socioeconomics of textile production is an extremely important issue which has received relatively little attention from researchers despite the enormous growth of interest in textile studies in the last fifteen years. Yet the reality is that vast numbers of men, women, and children throughout the world support themselves through the making of handcrafted textiles for sale in local, extra-local domestic, foreign, and tourist markets. Textiles produced in rural areas of the industrialized nations and in the Third World are frequently described as traditional but may or may not be genuinely so in terms of either design or method of manufacture.
In this paper, recent changes in two types of textiles considered to be traditional within their genres will be compared. Kentucky quilts are said to be traditional largely because they are associated with rural makers while Yogyakarta batik from Indonesia draws its recognition from past patronage of the royal court. The American and Indonesian textiles are comparable because they are historically made by women and girls who gained their highly valued skills informally. Further, the factors which have contributed to the process of change are the same. Technology, consumer tastes, mass communications, and the condition of the local economy influence Yogyakarta batikmakers as much as they do Kentucky quilters.