Ms. Cassidy first became interested in the rich weaving traditions of Laos when she visited the country in 1989 as a consultant to a United Nations development program, assisting local weavers producing cotton cloth. In 1990, she established Lao Textiles, a company which now employs approximately 30 skilled weavers, bobbin winders, dyers and assistants; all are trained by Ms. Cassidy.
Her fabrics, made from locally produced silk prepared and dyed in her workshop, are woven using traditional techniques which include weft ikat, discontinuous and supplementary weft patterning, and interlocking tapestry. To meet the needs of foreign clients, Ms. Cassidy has made various adjustments to Laotian weaving methods, such as altering traditional frame looms to handle longer lengths of fabric.
Since its inception, her company has produced textiles closely based upon traditional Lao designs. Recently she has begun to move away from these direct references, although her newly designed fabrics are still influenced by the older textiles, which will be on display at the exhibition for comparative purposes. Ms. Cassidy's fabrics, ranging from wall hangings and home furnishings to shawls and apparel fabrics, are noteworthy for their subtle and luminous colors, traditional geometric patterns, and depictions of various animals and mythic creatures.
"These fabrics are a fine example of inherited knowledge being preserved for future generations," says Dorothy Globus, director of The Museum at F.I.T. "Not only has Ms. Cassidy kept alive the tradition of silk weaving by training a new group of craftspeople, she has also made these beautiful textiles known to a far broader audience."
The exhibition, curated by Lynn Felsher, curator of the museum's textile collection, will also include a photographic essay on the intricate design process from silk cultivation to weaving, and a video documentary on her workshop. In September at F.I.T., two of Ms. Casiddy's master weavers will demonstrate silk weaving on their looms as well as dying techniques.