About Us

Above the Fray: Traditional Hilltribe Art

The Story Of Above The Fray

Maren Beck and Josh Hirschstein, with teen sons Ari and Zall, formed Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 determined to introduce the weaving traditions and cultures ofhill tribe Laos and Vietnam to a broader audience.

Maren and Josh have been particularly smitten with the character, beauty, resourcefulness and art of the people in the remote Annamite Mountains of northern Laos and Vietnam. In these regions are dozens of unique tribal cultures, each with its own beliefs, traditions, languages, and forms of artistic expression. Exploring these regions, engaging with the people, and understanding and sharing their beautiful and profound art has become a passion.

Over the years of exploring, they have had the unique pleasure of making good friends with many artists and their families. Stories and photos of the artists, village life, and the family's adventures can be found in the Above the Fray's Blog: On the Fringe.

In 2017, they published their first book, Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos (published by Thrums Books), which explains and celebrates the silk weaving art and culture of the Lao Loum and Tai Daeng people in Laos' Houaphan Province. Autographed copies are available through this website, or you may order it through an online or local bookstore.

Maren, who grew up in a house full of looms, has always loved textiles and color-play. After graduating from Wellesley College, she first visited Southeast Asia with future-husband Josh in 1984. She's been smitten – with travel, hand-woven textiles, handmade indigenous village art, and Joshua - ever since. Joshua began his career teaching high school English in Seattle and ESL in Kathmandu, Nepal. He received an M.A. in Education from U.C. Berkeley and, since 1990, has directed a private tutoring service. Maren and Joshua met as 'cello stand-partners in high school string ensemble, and they make their home in Eugene, OR.

Eldest son Ari graduated from Earlham College in Indiana in 2015 with a B.A. in Human Development and Social Relations; younger son Zall graduates in 2018 from Bard College in New York with a B.S. in Neuro-psychology. Their assistance, cheer, senses of humor, photography skills and story-telling talents are missed.

All the text and photos on this website were written or taken by Maren, Josh, Ari and Zall.

Laos Artists
Fuel canisters dumped from US planes reborn as boats.
Laos Artists
Defused "bomblets" in the MAG office in Phonsavan, Laos.
Laos Artists
Zall and Ari with bomb casings in Laos.
Laos Artists
MAG Team members inspecting their metal detectors before clearing a field in Laos.
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