Focus on Indonesia

There are so many exciting things happening in the world of Indonesian textiles at the moment that it’s clear I need to devote a whole blog to them. Several of the talks don’t take place until later next month but are filling fast!

© Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono

A fascinating new paper has recently been published by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley. They write “We have discovered an Indian loom technology in use in Indonesia (Minangkabau region). The loom has been published before, but the Indian origins of its unusual ‘cord and pole’ warp suspension system have not been pointed out as far as we know. This is significant, since it implies that Indian craftspeople crossed the Indian ocean to Java or Sumatra at some point in the past.”

This paper is available to read and download here.

The Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is published three times a year and always has a Focus section.

In the current issue the focus is on textiles, with twelve articles about their changing roles in society. “The articles explore ever-present processes of adoption and adaption of ‘foreign’ elements into a local cultural context.” – IIAS. The image above shows a list of the articles. Please click here to access the articles themselves.

Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world……. Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel.

There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US. Published on 19 October 2021 and available to pre-order now.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

Cutting the ikat bindings on Savu.© David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

© Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Invitations will be sent out to members in a couple of weeks time, and registration will open to non-members a week later. This should be a fascinating talk so do mark it in your diaries!

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now.

Correction

There was an error in my previous blog. I inadvertently wrote that the screening of the documentary on Filipino textiles was on Thursday 9 September. It is in fact on Friday 10 September. The timing was correct. My thanks to Pamela Cross for spotting this and letting me know so swiftly.

Textiles of the Philippines, Scotland, Austria, India and more….

Sad to hear of the death at 93 years old on Friday of Suraiya Hasan Bose. Suraiya was small in stature, but a powerhouse when it came to reviving many Indian textile traditions.

She was born in Hyderabad and studied textiles for one year at Cambridge University before returning to India where she worked closely with the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Association. She was heavily involved in reviving heritage fabrics such as himroo brocade, mashru and telia rumal. I’ve blogged previously about her work with kantha – the subject of the documentary Threads. I really enjoyed this article, based on an interview with Radhika Singh, the author of Suraiya Hasan Bose: Weaving A Legacy.

Now to a part of Asia I’ve rarely mentioned in previous blogs. HABI The Philippines Textile Council was established in 2009 and “sees as its mission the preservation, promotion, and enhancement of Philippine textiles through education, communication and research using public and private sources.”

They will be hosting three free online events under the heading Textiles and Identity. The first of these is tomorrow evening, 8 September at 17:00 PHT, which is 10:00 BST. The panellists will discuss Textiles woven through Culture and the Filipino identity. The second event is on 15 September at the same time, with the topic under discussion being The Journey of Textiles in Southeast Asia. One of the panellists for this event is OATG member Dr Mariah Waworuntu.

Also on the subject of Filipino textiles, this Friday, 10 September 2021 there will be an online screening of a documentary about the textiles of Panay Island, in the Western Visayas. The weavers here mainly use natural fibres. These include fibres extracted from the leaves of the red Bisaya pineapple plant, piña. Weaving is a part of life here. “The documentary surveys the making of piña and cotton textiles from plant to finished product – traditional clothing for special occasions and everyday wear – and the embroidery of the upland Panay Bukidnon.” This documentary was produced for a virtual conference which took place at SOAS, London in 2020. Register here to watch it.

This Thursday sees the start of an online course looking at Mayan textiles at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Classes will be held weekly from 18:30-20:00 ET, which is 23:30-01:00 BST so clearly unsuitable for our UK members.

“Maya weavers use the backstrap loom to create beautiful, colorful textiles that express their social and aesthetic traditions, as well as their individual creativity and contemporary fashions. Join us as we explore the roots and meanings of this living tradition through five weekly interactive conversations, beginning September 9 and concluding October 7. We will cover the history, materials, techniques, and woven symbols of this ever-evolving art form, and participants will be treated to a demonstration by a master weaver. Expert lecturers will use textile samples from the Penn Museum, Friends of the Ixchel Museum, the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena, and private collections to bring lessons to life in each virtual class.” – Penn Museum website.

The recording of our most recent event, a talk by Dr Dorothy Armstrong on Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A carpet controversy, is now available for members. This was yet another extremely successful and well-attended event organised by our events team. Don’t forget to respond to your invitation to our upcoming Show and Tell. We are really looking forward to seeing what textiles OATG members have to show us.

Our journal editor, Gavin Strachan, has alerted me to this series of events celebrating Scotland’s first Flax and Linen Festival. Many of them are in-person, but this Zoom Roundtable stood out for those living farther away. Think Global, Grow Local: A Flax and Linen Festival Roundtable takes place on Thursday 9 September at 14:00-16:00 BST.

“In the early 1950s, Berta Pumberger-Windhager married her husband in a tiny Austrian village. Following the local tradition, Berta brought two chests with her to her new home. One was filled with woven linen, and one was full of unspun flax. In some parts of Europe, this was a common dowry. The chests enabled women to dress their households, and even more importantly, flax and linen were of great value. This fiber belonged to the woman alone and served as an insurance policy for whatever life might bring. By the time Berta received her chests, the custom was more symbolic. The necessity to spin and weave for loved ones no longer existed. Nevertheless, Berta treasured the flax and linen. Until her death, she made sure that the fabric and fibers where dry and neatly tucked away.” – Spin-Off Magazine. Christiane Seufferlein acquired these trunks through Berta’s son, and set about sending hanks of the processed flax to people all over the world. She soon ran out of flax from the original trunks, but more was then supplied by other Austrians who had been storing it for many years. Christiane is just one of the speakers at this roundtable.

I’m always looking for new material for this blog, so do let me know if you are aware of a textile-related event.

Exhibitions, talks, fairs and books…….

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video further down the blog.

One of the rugs currently on show in Santa Fe

The exhibition From Combat to Carpets, the Art of Afghan War Rugs at the Cotsen Gallery, Santa Fe International Folk Art Museum ends on Sunday. It is a travelling exhibition of forty examples, supplemented here by rugs from the museum’s own collection.

“This unique subset of handwoven rugs can teach us about the innovative nature of rug design and production, as well as the long history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan. Rug producers, provoked by decades of traders and invaders in the country, adapted traditional motifs and compositions, translating them into depictions of world maps, tourist sites, weapons, and military figures. Such war rugs have proven popular among occupying military personnel, journalists, foreign aid workers, international collectors, and contemporary art curators. Over the years, rug makers have continued to update popular imagery and themes to reflect current events, changing technologies, and the tastes of potential buyers.” – Museum website.

Through the wonders of modern technology you can visit this exhibition virtually and can also read more on this intriguing subject in this article by the exhibition’s co-curator Annmarie Sawkins.

Ralli quilt created by Mrs Meeran in Ketlari, Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan, circa 1985
Hand appliquéd, embroidered, pieced, and quilted
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
2006.0001.0005E

The International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is currently showing quilts in an exhibition entitled Diverse Traditions: South Asian Quilts. This exhibition will run until 7 October 2021.

“South Asia is rich in quiltmaking traditions. Women have made quilts in this region for centuries and have used them in a multitude of ways: as bed covers, seating mats, tent panels, and dowry items. Varying techniques, color palettes, and formats can be found among different ethnic and regional groups, and certain styles can help identify where a quilt likely was made. In this group of Indian and Pakistani quilts from the International Quilt Museum’s Education Collection, we look at how the techniques of appliqué, piecing, and quilting are used among diverse South Asian communities.” – Museum website.

Make sure you click on ‘Works in the Exhibition’ and then on the images to see the quilts in their full glory.

Details of beadwork and imitation coins on a headdress of a married Palestinian woman.
Collected 1885-1887
1967.28.26

On Saturday 11 September 2021 the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host a day of events showcasing Palestinian embroidery and textiles. “Sessions include behind the scenes viewing of selected textiles, screenings of embroidery demonstrations with embroidery kits to take away, including a chart designed by American-born Palestinian artist, Wafa Ghnaim, and drop-in sessions to hear about the Palestinian History Tapestry and view pieces from the tapestry.” – Pitt Rivers Museum. In addition to the in-person events at the museum, there will also be online events for those outside of Oxford.

These events are free, but you do need to book both an event slot and a museum entry slot for the live events. For bookings and further details please click here.

Also taking place on 11 September is World Textile Day Scotland. Great traders who always have a wonderful selection of textiles for sale! For full details click here.

Textile lovers in the London area will be delighted to hear that the next Pop-Up in Pimlico takes place on Wednesday 15 September. This will feature textiles and jewellery from John Gillow, Martin Conlan (aka Slow Loris) and Barbie Campbell Cole, as well as a range of fine contemporary Indian clothing from Antonia Graham. The location is St James the Less Church Hall, Moreton Street, London SW1V 2PF, close to Pimlico tube station and set back from Westminster Bridge Road. Entry is free and this will run from 11:00-18:00.

15 September also sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. And other monuments will run until 14 November 2021, and will be available both in-person and online. This is “an exhibition tracing the movement of the ‘Oriental rug’ and other orientalia in relation to colonial trade, imperial bordering, and power. The exhibition includes an interactive workbook, archival documents, Tatreez (Palestinian cross stitch) by textile artist Samar Hejazi, and an intervention of the British Museum by multidisciplinary artist Roya DelSol. Placed alongside West Asian and Middle Eastern rugs, carpet bags, and other pieces from the Textile Museum of Canada’s permanent collection, And other monumentsinvites a reading of textiles as maps or guides which are capable of tracing broader relationships to who moves, what moves, and how transnational, globalized mobilities of goods have always relied on ‘immobilizations’ of people.” – museum website.

Chloe Sayer and textiles, courtesy of ORTS

On Wednesday 22 September the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will host a talk by Chloe Sayer on The Textile Arts of Mexico. Chloe is the author of many books on Mexico, including Textiles from Mexico and Fiesta: Day of the Dead & other Mexican Festivals.

“Contemporary Mexican textiles are among the finest in the Americas. Five centuries have passed since the Spanish Conquest, yet Mexico is still home to more than fifty Indigenous peoples. The arts of spinning, dyeing and weaving are practised in hundreds of rural communities, where distinctive clothing styles endure. Cloth is elaborately patterned and textured on the backstrap loom. After 1521, colonisation brought new materials, treadle-loom weaving, beadwork, and an increased emphasis on embroidery.” – ORTS website.

The talk will be live at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair, London and also streamed via Zoom. If you plan to go to the event or wish to attend via Zoom, please email Dimity Spiller to book a place.

Detail from a Qashqai horse cover circa 1900

On Thursday 23 September at 18:30 BST the OATG will be hosting a Show and Tell session – please note this is for OATG members only. One of the advantages of Zoom is that we can involve some of our many overseas members in this ever-popular event. Members should shortly receive an invitation with full details of this event. This is your chance to get involved, and we are really looking forward to seeing and hearing about a wide range of different textiles. The event will be ably hosted by Gavin Strachan, the editor of our Journal.

The Textile Society of America has several Affinity Groups who meet online to discuss topics of interest. You don’t have to be a TSA member to attend one of these meetings. The Historic and Ancient Textiles group “brings together people engaged in research on heritage textiles, including those recovered archaeologically, held in the collection of a community, university or museum.” – TSA

The next meeting will be on Saturday 25 September at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. The presenters will be Amanda Phillips, whose subject is Ottoman textiles, and Christine Martens, who will discuss Uighur Felt making. Saturday 25 September is a busy day for textile lovers. For more information and to join this online event please email Lee Talbot.

Deel (Garment), Mongolia, Early 19th century CE, 2002-15-1. © Penn Museum

Also taking place on 25 September is the opening of a new exhibition at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia, entitled The Stories We Wear. “The clothing, accessories, and decorations we put on our bodies tell stories about who we are. They shape how others see us and how we see ourselves. What we wear can prepare us for important events or transform us into someone new. It may follow tradition or a recent trend. And it can show that we belong or help us stand out. Now and in the ancient past, close to home and far away, the stories we wear connect us. Showcasing 2,500 years of style and adornment through approximately 250 remarkable objects, The Stories We Wear reveals how clothing and accessories offer powerful expressions of identity—examining the purpose and meaning behind what we wear.” – Penn Museum.

On the same day the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host a talk by Dr Anne Tiballi of the Penn Museum entitled Threads and Themes of The Stories We Wear. Dr Tiballi was a consultant for the exhibition and in this talk she will “dig deep into several of the exhibitions ‘outfits’, making connections between the technological skill, creativity, and cultural significance of the peoples who made and wore them.  ….. the items she will discuss include a Pre-Columbian Andean warp-patterned tunic, headband, and bag; a Qing Dynasty Chinese court costume; and early 20th century coconut fibre armour from Kiribati, a Mongolian silk deel and boots, and a Hopi wedding dress.” – TMASC

This free talk begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Please click here to register.

One of the traditional outfits on show. © Alaa Eddine Sagid

Now for something rather unexpected from the Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Rabat, Morocco. As the name of the museum suggests, the permanent exhibition focuses on modern and contemporary art. However, the temporary exhibitions cover a wide range of subjects. At the moment it highlights the French painter Eugène Delacroix, particularly his travels in Morocco in 1832. An interesting article about his life and travels appeared in Siente Marruecos Magazine. Delacroix collected many objects, including textiles, which he used in his paintings on his return to France. The exhibition cleverly shows some of his sketches, the types of items that appear in them (textiles, ceramics, leather goods) and the finished paintings.

The exhibition opened in July and runs until 9 October 2021.

Romanian newlyweds from Vâcea or Oltenia. Photo from Les 32 Mariages Roumains, 1893. Collection of Maryhill Museum.

Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, WA, is currently holding a special exhibition entitled A Particular Beauty: Romanian Folk Clothing. This will run until 15 November 2021. “When she was Romania’s crown princess (1893–1914), Marie of Edinburgh (later Queen Marie of Romania) began wearing peasant-inspired clothing from the country’s eastern provinces — a fashion trend long promoted by Elisabeth of Wied, Queen of Romania, and her court. A Particular Beauty draws from Maryhill’s collection of more than 450 items of Romanian clothing and textiles. The display will include about 20 fully dressed mannequins, and numerous individual garments such as coats, vests, shirts and blouses.The exhibition will showcase a remarkable variety of Romanian embroidery techniques, mediums, and styles that have evolved through the influences of adjacent ethnic populations, resident invaders, other outsiders, and – in recent decades – urbanization.” – museum website.

There are some really fabulous textiles in this short video. If you cannot see it, please click on the blue title at the top of this blog and view this through our WordPress site.

Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world…….Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel. There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US.

Persian/Indian carpets, Chintz, Anatolian rugs, Textile Fair and Kutchi tie-dye

First a reminder that this Thursday, 26 August 2021, the OATG will host a talk by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the new May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in Sheffield, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Foundation, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets. Dr Armstrong will talk about some of the difficulties faced in answering the questions posed in the slide below, and the particular line that May Beattie took regarding John Paul Getty’s carpet.

Slide from her presentation © Dr Dorothy Armstrong

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, and just £3 for non-members. Click here to register for the few remaining place.

On Thursday 2 September 2021 the Fashion and Textile Museum will have another online event related to their current Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition. Their Collections Officer, Gill Cochrane, will “share the secrets hidden within these garments and explore how chintz was used – and re-used – in garment construction in 18th and early 19th centuries. This is a unique opportunity to learn what happens ‘behind the seams’ of a costume exhibition and discover some of the most beautiful fabrics and well-constructed garments of the period.” – FTM.

The talk starts at 18:00 BST and costs just £5. Please click here for more details and to register.

On Saturday 4 September 2021 at 16:00 BST there will be a live online talk by Michael Franses, on carpets from the Orient Stars Collection. This talk is hosted by the Textile Museum, in association with the New England Rug Society and the New York-based Hajji Baba Club. You are strongly advised to watch this very professionally produced one hour video, introducing some of these pieces set out as a virtual exhibition, before attending the online talk. There will be a Q andA session after the talk. For further details and registration please click here.

Also taking place on 4 September 2021 is World Textile Day Wales, which I highlighted in my previous blog. Here is the list of traders:-

Magie and Bob of The African Fabric Shop with fabrics, baskets and beads from all over Africa. Diane and Jim of Textile Traders with batik, ikat, indigo and hemp fabrics, silver hilltribe jewellery and clothes. Susan and Glyn from Susan Briscoe Designs with a huge selection of sashiko, boro and kimono fabrics from Japan. Bronwen of Fabazaar with textiles and clothes from India and Nepal. Tanya of The Running Stitches with kantha work blankets, throws, scarves and jackets from Northern India. Finally, internationally famous but local to Llani – hand knitter Sasha Kagan will be there with her knitting designs and finished pieces.

On 11 September 2021 the World Textile Day team move up to the Bridge of Allan in Scotland for their next event. This will run from 10:00 until 16:00 – but be sure to get there early to get the best selection!

The Zay Initiative aims to “promote an understanding of regional culture, and preserve, collect, document, and conserve Arab historic dress and adornment”. One of the ways they are doing this is through a series of talks called Dialogue on the Art of Arab Fashion. The next in this series takes place on Tuesday 7 September 2021 at 17:00 BST. The Founder of the Zay Initiative, Dr Reem El Mutwali will be in conversation with Shila Desai of EYHO Tours, looking at the tie-dyed head coverings worn by women in Kutch, India. “In the traditional societies of Kutch, tie-dyed head coverings play an important role in every aspect of a woman’s life. They provide protection from the elements, create identity, signify status, express joy or sorrow, and denote inter-religious relations. Over many generations, Kutchi Muslim and Hindu communities have shared a common culture in this harsh desert land and regularly interact with each other. By looking at the ubiquitous odhani, or head covering, this conversation will shed new light on both the intra- and inter-social relationships in these distinct communities. ” – Zay Initiative.

You can register for this event here. Registration will also give you access to a recorded version of this event, so you can watch it at your leisure.

Saka treasures, chintz and carpet studies

Advance notice of a major new exhibition! September 28th sees the opening of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge entitled Gold of the Great Steppe. The exhibition will run until 30 January 2022.

A golden stag plaque from a Saka burial mound. © Fitzwilliam Museum

The Saka culture of Central Asia, flourished 2,500 years ago. This exhibition will present artefacts from the extraordinary burial mounds (kurgans) of the Saka people of East Kazakhstan. Several hundred gold items will be on display, including jewellery and horse harness decorations. What does this have to do with textiles you may ask? Special items of clothing were sometimes decorated with small gold embossed plaques, some of which will be on display.

Gold dove headdress plaques unearthed from ancient burial mounds built by Saka warrior people in Kazakhstan.Photograph: Amy Jugg/PA

A catalogue to accompany the exhibition will be published by Casemate and is now available to pre-order. It is edited by the exhibition curator Rebecca Roberts and includes contributions by experts from Kazakhstan and Cambridge.

Next a reminder of the online talk at the Royal Ontario Museum next week.

A kalamkari hanging. © ROM

On Wednesday 18th August 2021 the Royal Ontario Museum will host a free Zoom programme linked to their current exhibition on chintz, the Cloth that Changed the World. Rosemary Crill, a long-time supporter of the OATG, will examine an important group of seventeenth century South Indian textiles. “These previously unknown, extraordinary kalamkari masterworks depict scenes from palace life, with a Hindu ruler and ladies in a palace setting and in procession with his army. This talk will place these panels in the context of other known kalamkari hangings and the elaborate decoration of the textiles and architectural settings will be discussed, as well as the probable patron and place of production.” – ROM website. This talk begins at noon EDT, which is 1700 BST and you can register for it here.

A controversial carpet: 16th century Persia or 19th century Persia or India? Purchased by J.Paul Getty from the Kevorkian Collection, 1969

Finally on Thursday 26th August 2021 we have the next OATG talk. Our speaker will be Dr Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: a carpet controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in Sheffield, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Foundation, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, who should have already received their invitation but still need to register. Registration (£3) for non-members is NOW OPEN. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.”

Photograph of May Beattie attached to a travel document held in the archive

“The Beattie Archive was established at the Ashmolean Museum in June 2000, thanks to May Beattie’s generous bequest and vision for the creation of a centre devoted to the study of carpets. Her legacy comprises her specialized library of more than 1400 books, and her collection of carpets and weavings – more than 100 items dating from the 19th and 20th century. These are not for display, but were meant by Beattie to be for hands-on study at the Museum.

The unique significance of the archive, however, lies in the detailed documentation of carpets that May Beattie compiled during the course of her life. Based on her own physical examination, Beattie’s notes (about 55 volumes) record the results of her meticulous analysis of carpets – many of which are no longer available for study – in public and private collections throughout the world. About 15,000 analysis sheets detailing the structure of pieces she was able to access are now housed in the Department of Eastern Art, constituting an unrivalled resource for scholars in the field. Numerous files of articles, correspondence, and journals complete this part of the archive.” – Ashmolean, Eastern Art Online.

Carpets drying in the sun in Ray, Iran, in the 1970s. © Ashmolean Museum

In 2015 we published a mini-series of blogs, written by Katherine Clough, former Beattie Archive Assistant, which I have found fascinating. They really give you an understanding of the woman herself and some of the challenges that she faced. “A bacteriologist by training with a PhD from Edinburgh, Beattie is widely recognized for the scientific approach she brought to the study of carpets reflected in her use of analysis sheets.” – Katherine Clough. In these blogs we learn of some of the difficulties she and her husband Colin faced travelling in pursuit of carpets, as well as the problems of photographing them in far from ideal conditions – highly recommended reading!

A previous World Textile Day event in Wales

The next World Textile Day event will take place in Wales on 4th September 2021 from 10am to 4pm. The venue will be the Minerva Arts Centre at Llanidloes. Full details, including a map, are given here. These are always great events, with a good selection of ethnic textiles available from knowledgeable dealers – don’t miss out!

Recordings, articles and upcoming talks

For the past year we have had to hold all of our OATG events online. This means we have missed out on the social aspects of catching up with textile friends over a glass of wine after the lectures, as well as getting to actually handle the textiles. However there have been some advantages. We’ve been able to listen to speakers from other countries – Sarah Fee from Toronto, Geneviève Duggan from Singapore and Walter Bruno Brix from Köln – with more to come later this year.

One of the great benefits of OATG membership is access to recordings of these talks, enabling you to watch them at a time of your choosing – particularly important now that we have so many international members. Recordings of the most recent talks (on Chinese, Iranian and Greek textiles) have now been made available. Just go to our website, click on the relevant talk and enter the password. If you have forgotten the password please contact a committee member.

In a recent blog I mentioned the Journal of Dress History and incorrectly stated that it did not have an index. In fact three are provided on the website – one each for articles, exhibition reviews and book reviews. Just click on the relevant link in the blue box on this page.

Portrait of Dowager Empress Tse Hsi by Katharine Carl, 1904. © Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

If like me you really enjoyed the recent talk on Chinese textiles by Walter Bruno Brix, then I’m sure this article in the Spring 2020 issue of the Journal (pp. 111-136) will be of interest to you. The subject is Of Silk and Statecraft: Dowager Empress Cixi (1835–1908) and Power Dressing in Late Qing Dynasty China, 1860–1911, and the author is Felicity Yao.

Saami boots with upturned toes, Aiddjavre, Norway. © Ron Wood

On Sunday 8th August 2021 the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, will hold a virtual tour of their exhibition Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection. This will take place at 1100 EDT, which is 1600 BST and you can register for it via this link. More information about the exhibition, including some excellent images and a short video of the techniques and skills used by Canadian Inuit women to create intricate and beautiful designs on traditional kamiks, can be found here.

Chullos from Tarabuco, Bolivia

The next in the series of textile talks hosted by Andean Textile Arts will take place on Tuesday 10th August 2021 at 1900 EDT, which is midnight BST, so another one for the nightowls. The speaker will be Cynthia LeCount Samaké and her subject is the Andean Knitting of Bolivia and Peru. Cynthia is the author of Andean Folk Knitting, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia, and many textile-related articles. I can certainly attest to her love of knitting, having seen her knit her way through the nightly lectures when she joined our Indonesian textile tour!

A tiny monedero knitted in the shape of a man holding a llama. © Cynthia LeCount Samaké

In this talk she will show that “knitters in the Andes continue to produce amazing headgear and other textiles for their own use. Their intricate and innovative work today surprises viewers by going beyond typical colors and motifs, while remaining true to traditional techniques and form.” – ATA website. Click here to register.

A kalamkari hanging. © ROM

On Wednesday 18th August 2021 the Royal Ontario Museum will host a free Zoom programme linked to their current exhibition on chintz, the Cloth that Changed the World. Rosemary Crill, a long-time supporter of the OATG, will examine an important group of seventeenth century South Indian textiles. “These previously unknown, extraordinary kalamkari masterworks depict scenes from palace life, with a Hindu ruler and ladies in a palace setting and in procession with his army. This talk will place these panels in the context of other known kalamkari hangings and the elaborate decoration of the textiles and architectural settings will be discussed, as well as the probable patron and place of production.” – ROM website. This talk begins at noon EDT, which is 1700 BST and you can register for it here.

Selvedge have an interesting blog about the logos used for the current Tokyo Olympics. Designed by Tokolo Asao and called Harmonised chequered emblem, these logos are made up of rectangles and a square in a pattern called ichimatsu moyo, which apparently first became popular in the Edo period of Japan. “The three different rectangles that connect at every corner can fill a circle perfectly — at first glance the simplicity is deceptive, and further inspection reveals the complexity that can only have been made possible as a result of mathematical logic. The design is said to represent the harmony of different countries, cultures and an inclusive world.” – Selvedge blog

The links between Japan and indigo are well-known, and an excellent short article by Rowland Ricketts on the growing of indigo can be accessed here.

Nineteenth century suzani from Nurata, Uzbekistan. © Russian State Museum of Oriental Art.

Voices on Central Asia has an interesting and well-illustrated article on suzani. It is entitled The Love and Beauty of Wedding Suzani from the Collection of the Russian State Museum of Oriental Art and was written by Vera Myasina. It contains an overview of suzani production and describes the broad differences between suzani from different areas of Uzbekistan – the airy open feel of Nurata suzani, the huge dark circles from Tashkent etc.

A controversial carpet: 16th century Persia or 19th century Persia or India? Purchased by J.Paul Getty from the Kevorkian Collection, 1969

Finally on Thursday 26th August 2021 we have the next OATG talk. Our speaker will be Dr Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: a carpet controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in Sheffield, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Foundation, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, who should have already received their invitation but still need to register. Registration (£3) for non-members will open on 8th August. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.

Tracing Patterns update and new textile journal

OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono are well known to many for their work in the field of textiles. Indeed Chris has given presentations to us in Oxford, and always brings great textiles to our Show and Tell sessions. OATG also sponsored one of their recent videos. In this guest blog they describe the work they are currently undertaking.

Tracing Patterns Foundation (TPF) is a small, non-profit foundation based in Berkeley, California. Our focus is on recording textile traditions (past and present) and making this information available to as many people as possible. We live in an era in which things are changing rapidly and much information is being lost.

TPF consists of the wife-and-husband team of curator and conservator Sandra Sardjono and researcher Chris Buckley. We organise seminars and create video material that is shared online via our Youtube page.

Part of the Hampton Archive of artifacts and documentation from the Highland of Papua. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Recently we have been joined by conservator Katarina Kaspari, who is doing conservation work on an important collection of ethnographic material from Papua. We will be giving an online talk to OATG members on this topic in October, but you can get a flavour of it by watching this short video. [Editor – registration for this talk will open one month in advance and will be listed on the OATG website and included in a blog].

We have now embarked on a new project, launching a journal called Fiber, Loom and Technique (FLT). As its name suggests, it’s for publications on topics related to the making of textiles and fibers … not just the woven variety, we are also interested in papers on non-woven textiles such as bark-cloth, and non-loom techniques.

Why a new journal? We think that the textile field is well-served with book-length publications, such as books on collections or conference proceedings, but there are limited opportunities to publish journal articles, particularly in a timely manner. Textile scholars will be familiar with the responses ‘it doesn’t fit with our upcoming theme issues’, ‘we might be able to publish it the year after next’ and ‘this is too long/short for our journal’. FLT will provide a new way to publish material more rapidly, and there are no limits on length or the number of illustrations.

It’s an online-only journal, and papers will be added as soon as they are ready for publication. It’s Open-Access, which means you can download material freely. There are no publication fees. Each issue corresponds to one calendar year. The journal submission process is completely online, and would-be authors are welcome to write to us with proposals if you’d like feedback on whether your paper is likely to be a good fit with the journal. We welcome submissions from established scholars, young scholars and independent people who have knowledge to share. Degrees and letters after your name are not necessary, and we welcome contributions from all parts of the globe. Perfect English is not essential, our editors can tidy things up provided the meaning is clear to us. We already have an illustrious international team of editors:

As mentioned, technique … meaning how things are made … is the core of what the journal is about, but we hope our authors will explain the context and background too. Our first two papers link historical, archaeological and ethnographic information together, and we hope that this intersection will be a continuing theme in FLT.

Songket weaver from Palembang © Bo Long and Feng Zhao.

The first paper is by Bo Long and Feng Zhao of the China National Silk Museum, and it compares the loom models from the celebrated Laoguanshan tomb, which dates from the Han dynasty (around 2000 years ago) with ethnographic looms in China and Southeast Asia. The Laoguanshan loom had multiple heddles with which patterns were woven in early silk textiles, a method which is still widely used today by rural weavers and small-scale commercial workshops, such as weavers in Palembang, Indonesia who make songket cloths. This is not a true drawloom, but it is an important step in loom evolution.

Early silk taqueté fragment, carbon 14 dated to 5th or 6th century. Chris Hall Collection. © Eric Boudot

The second paper, by Eric Boudot, describes the structure of a remarkable early textile fragment in Chris Hall’s collection. This has an early form of the simurgh, a mythical creature which later became common on Sasanian weavings, particularly those with the famous ‘pearl roundel’ designs. These are the creatures that look like lean, rangy dogs at the top of the textile. Eric shows that the loom used had a mechanism for making a repeating design in the weft direction, and speculates that the loom used was related to the upright zilu loom that is still used in Iran today. As will be clear to readers looking at his structure diagrams, he has done an amazing amount of detailed work with a microscope.

These first two papers are long and somewhat technical. We hope to publish shorter papers as well, which we call ‘Field Notes’ and which will consist of observations ‘in the field’ of weaving and fiber related techniques. In the interests of faster turnaround we will try to use our editorial judgment to match the review process to the material. Longer, technical articles need more peer review (which will be done ‘blind’), but short, factual descriptions do not. In some cases we will publish pieces with just a brief editorial review, if we think it’s appropriate.

If you’d like to contribute, or if you’d like to volunteer your help as a reviewer or editor please get in touch with us.

You can look at the papers online and download them without ‘signing up’ to the journal, but if you’d like to be notified when new papers are added then do please ‘sign up’ on the website.

Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley

Andean textiles, Seminole Indian culture, Shoes in the Age of Enlightenment

Andean textile expert Elena Phipps will be giving a lecture on the subject of Weaving Silver: Brilliance and sheen in Andean colonial textile traditions on Tuesday 27 July at 16:05 BST. This is part of an international, inter-disciplinary conference entitled The Matter of Silver: Substance, Surface, Shimmer, Trauma, which will take place over three consecutive afternoons. Each free session can be booked separately. For more information and registration details please click here.

© Elena Phipps

A new exhibit has opened at Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida, dedicated to the life and culture of the Seminole Indians. Entitled Seminole People of Florida – Survival and Success it “will focus on the rich material culture that the Seminoles created and sustained during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From isolation in the mid-1800s to the establishment of two sovereign tribes that oversee modern, successful businesses, the Seminole people have experienced an extraordinary journey.” – Knowhere article. The exhibition will run until 4 October 2021.

© Elliott Museum

A new scholarship supporting the study of Asian and African textiles and dress has been established by Karun Thakar, in collaboration with the V&A. Awards of up to £10,000 are available for those studying these subjects both in the UK and internationally. Click here for more details.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is now open again. They are running a series of virtual tours this summer. This Sunday, 25 July, at 11am Eastern time (16:00 BST) the tour will focus on Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment. It will look at how clothing codified the distinctions between people, and how “a close examination of 18th century footwear reveals a great deal about the power dynamics of the period.” – museum website. More information about the exhibition can be found here. You can register for the online tour here.

Selected textile events in July

A new exhibition entitled Baghs – Abstract Gardens opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London today Tuesday 13 July 2021. This exhibition showcases excellent examples of baghs and phulkaris from the Karun Thakar collection. These were domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab, which were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women. There was also an export market for them in the nineteenth century. Bookings for this free exhibition, which runs until 25 September 2021, are available through this link.

Part of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery

OATG members in the UK should now be receiving their hard copy of our journal Asian Textiles. It takes a little longer to reach our overseas members, but for those who can’t wait a pdf will soon be available on our website in the password-protected area.

This is a particularly eclectic edition, with articles on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif (Gaspard de Marval and Georges Breguet), Multaka-Oxford and the Jenny Balfour Paul pieces at the Pitt Rivers (Thandiwe Wilson), Textiles from the Yemen (Angela Thompson), Finnish ryijy rugs (Igor Honkanen and Gavin Strachan) and much more. We are now using a different printing company and I think the illustrations really shine through.

Another publication that you may find of interest is The Journal of Dress History, produced by The Association of Dress Historians. This Association “supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day.” Each edition of the journal contains lengthy scholarly articles, along with numerous book and exhibition reviews. They can be accessed completely free of charge here. My only criticism would be that it would be good to have an index of the articles too. EDIT – I have since been informed that three separates indices are in fact available – one covers the articles, one the book reviews and one the exhibition reviews. lick the relevant link in the blue box on the right on this page. Apologies for not spotting this earlier!

Detail, Yūzen Pattern Dyeing on Silk, a Textile Design and Color Sample for Girls’
Kimono, Early Showa period, circa 1926–1945, © The Private Collection of Keiko
Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan

On Saturday 17 July 2021 the George Washington Textile Museum will be hosting one of its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. In Silk Stories docent Pamela Kaplan will introduce her project looking at the history of silk production in India and around the world. “The project documents the changing lives of silk farmers and textile producers through photographs, videos, interviews and more.” – Textile Museum website. This virtual event takes place at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. It is free, but registration is required.

© Pamela Kaplan

Don’t forget the next OATG event is our talk by Walter Bruno Brix of the German Textile Museum at 18:30 BST on Thursday 22 July 2021. Walter will be talking to us about the museum’s current exhibition Dragons Woven With Golden Threads. This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website. This Zoom talk is also open to non-members for a small (£3) donation. Please click here to register, but hurry as there are not many spaces remaining!

A new exhibition will open on 23 July 2021 at The Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. The exhibition is entitled In Harmony with Red: Turkmens and will run until 23 January 2022. It examines the dominance of the colour red in their textiles, carpets, horse and camel decorations, how it was used in ritual items and as part of decorative designs. Click here for more details and several more examples of the exhibits.

Fragment of a Yomud yurt band, nineteenth century. © REM

On Thursday 29 July 2021 the Textile Museum have another film discussion in their regular Fashion on Film series. This time the film in question is Threads – an award-winning documentary by Cathy Stevulak looking at the late Surayia Rahman and her role in transforming traditional kantha embroidery from “patchworks of old clothing to articles of fashion”. When you sign up for this event you will receive a link to watch the 32 minute documentary at your leisure, as well as instructions for joining the program for a group discussion. As the discussion is at 18:00 EDT (23:00 BST) it may be too late for our UK members, but that doesn’t preclude you from watching the documentary.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

© Cathy Stevulak

If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.