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Mines Advisory Group

Family in a Laos
Maren and Josh examine new handwoven silks with the weavers of in Houaphon Province, Laos.

Family in a Laos
Trekking in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam.

Family in a Laos
Maren visits with and studies the technique of a talented silk weaver in Houaphon Province, Laos.

About Us

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

Family in a Laos

Maren and Josh head upstream on the Nam Ou (Ou River) in Phongsali Province, Laos.

Maren, Josh and the family have been particularly smitten with the character, beauty, resourcefulness and art of the people in the remote mountains of 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.

Maren, who grew up in a house full of looms, has always loved textiles and color-play. After graduating from Wellesley College, Maren first visited Southeast Asia with future-husband Josh in 1984. She's been smitten – with travel, hand-woven textiles, handmade indigenous village art, and Josh - ever since. She also enjoys leading weaver's workshops on Lao and Vietnamese hilltribe textile traditions and sharing her passion for the people and their arts.

Josh offers support and advice, and manages the logistics of getting into, and out of, hilltribe villages. Josh 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 shares his professional time operating a private educational service. Josh and Maren met in 1977 as 'cello stand-partners in their high school string ensemble.

Ari graduates from Earlham College in Indiana in 2015 with a B.A. in Human Development and Social Relations; Zall is a freshman at Bard College in New York. 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.
Family in a Laos
Maren hiking down the trail with her newly acquired Akha basket near Muong Long, Laos.
Family in a Laos
Zall, our younger son, photographer, and all-around "schlepper," on the back of a dusty ride in Attapeu Province, Laos.
Family in a Laos
Ari, Maren, Josh, our translator, and a basket-maker negotiate in Houaphon Province, Laos.

Waiting for our next ride to appear in Khammuan Province, Laos.

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