From Pixel to Fabrics: Digital Design in Traditional Weaving

Her Majesty delivers World Bank keynote on the Intersection of Tradition and Technology

“From Pixel to Fabrics: Digital Design in Traditional Weaving,” a competition organized by the RTA and sponsored by the World Bank, culminated at an exhibition at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2024. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck were the guests of honor at the exhibit which featured the works of the winning weavers. Her Majesty’s address on the “Intersection of Tradition and Technology” follows.

Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness open the Pixels to Fabric, World Bank, Washington D.C., April 2024

Her Majesty’s Address at the World Bank headquarters, Washington, DC
April 23, 2024

 Vice President of the World Bank for South Asia Region, Mr. Martin Raiser; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen —

I am delighted to be here in the vibrant city of Washington, D.C.  It is truly an honor and a distinct pleasure to visit the World Bank Headquarters.  This venue, synonymous with global collaboration and progress, adds a special meaning to our event.

Today’s event marks a significant milestone as we unveil an exhibition showcasing the rich textile legacy of Bhutan here in Washington DC. We also celebrate the success of the winners of the national digital textile design competition, From Pixels to Fabrics: Digital Design in Traditional Weavin,g recently held in Bhutan.

 I believe this competition is more than a display of artistic brilliance; it embodies the seamless integration of heritage and modern innovation, showcasing a perfect harmony between the two. I thank the World Bank for providing us with this prestigious platform to commemorate the fusion of tradition and technology within Bhutanese textiles. Top of Form

 My journey in preserving and promoting traditional Bhutanese textiles commenced over three decades ago. The intricate craft of weaving captivated me, not just for its beautiful designs but also for its ability to reflect the lives of numerous Bhutanese women, encapsulating the very essence of our culture. Throughout Bhutan’s history, mothers have passed down the art of weaving to their daughters. The skill and craftsmanship exhibited by our women have not only resulted in everyday essentials but also in masterpieces that resonate with creativity, individuality, and exceptional talent.

For me, safeguarding and promoting our culture and traditions extends beyond mere heritage; it lies at the very heart of our identity. This commitment led to the establishment of the Royal Textile Academy in Bhutan in 2005. The RTA functions as an educational center committed to fostering creativity in the design, dyeing, and weaving of Bhutanese textiles. Each year, we organize the National Design and Art Competition, providing a dedicated platform to promote the distinctive arts and crafts of Bhutan.Top of Form Over the years, we have come to realize the significance of sharing our rich textile heritage globally and fostering international collaboration through exhibitions and educational initiatives

This year’s digital textile design competition, conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, marks an innovative blend of tradition and technology. The competition’s objectives are well-aligned with our commitment to preserving cultural heritage. Its potential to bring about positive transformations in Bhutan’s hand-woven textile industries is significant. By harnessing digital technology, our goal is to safeguard the authenticity and integrity of our traditional designs, ensuring their enduring legacy over time.

As global digital technologies advance, it becomes crucial to leverage technology to improve the working conditions of our weavers. Currently, many weavers engage in the time-consuming process of manually designing pieces on looms, leading to unnecessary resource wastage. The integration of design software not only offers flexibility for modifications and experimentation with colors, but also holds the potential to significantly reduce production costs.

Given the fact that many of our weavers lack formal education, and digital designers often lack a comprehensive understanding of weaving techniques, challenges arise in replicating digital designs on a loom.  The collaboration between weavers and designers has the potential to effectively bridge this gap, serving as an exemplary model for all hand-woven textile industries in the country.

The textile competition holds great potential to empower women by providing platforms for showcasing talents, nurturing creativity, gaining recognition, and offering opportunities for skills development and entrepreneurship. Considering that the hand-woven textile industry in Bhutan is predominantly composed of female workers, this marks a significant step towards the empowerment of women in my country – a subject very close to my heart.Top of Form

 I express profound gratitude to the World Bank teams of Bhutan and Bangladesh for their invaluable collaboration with the Royal Textile Academy in organizing the digital textile design competition. This partnership holds the potential to yield positive outcomes for all participants and serves as an inspiration for many other Bhutanese individuals. 

 I congratulate the winning designer and weaver team on your well-deserved victory. Your participation in this competition has undoubtedly been enriching and fulfilling. I encourage you to wholeheartedly embrace your designs and embark on the journey of product development.  I am confident your creativity has the potential to shape the future of Bhutanese textiles.

This year’s digital textile design competition is truly noteworthy. I applaud the World Bank Group and the Royal Textile Academy for achieving this commendable outcome.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you navigate the exhibits of Bhutanese textiles, I am optimistic that you will find inspiration in the intricate weaves, vibrant colors, and the stories that unfold in each pattern. This exhibition serves as a reminder that development is a collaborative effort, much like threads weaving together, with each nation contributing to the vibrant tapestry of progress.

The participation of esteemed members of the World Bank adds a global perspective to this momentous occasion. I look forward to exploring avenues of collaboration, leveraging the lessons learned from Bhutan’s journey to infuse development with a sense of purpose, culture, and community.

In closing, let us embrace this opportunity to forge bonds, share experiences, and envision a future where our efforts weave a world that celebrates diversity and cherishes each nation’s unique identity.

 I thank you all for being a part of this meaningful event.            

 Her Majesty Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck