Celebrating Chuvash embroidery

Today, 26 November 2020, is the inaugural Day of Chuvash Embroidery. This festival is associated with the birthday of Ekatherina Iosifovna Efremova (1914-2000) who dedicated her whole life to the study, preservation and development of Chuvash folk embroidery traditions.

Embroidery was the most developed genre of Chuvash decorative applied art. In the 18th to 19th century clothes and ritual objects were richly decorated with embroidery made using a counted thread technique on bleached hemp canvas. The embroidery technique was very diverse; more than 30 kinds of one-side and two-side stitches were used. Embroideries were made mainly with silk and wool threads. The predominant colour was different shades of red. The embroidery was enlivened with small highlights of yellow, green and blue. The embroidery was supplemented with appliqué of red braid and fringes made of threads and beads.

Handmade embroidery in still important in Chuvashia today; there are still numerous seamstresses working, and contests and exhibitions are carried out. In 2015 the Museum of Chuvash Embroidery was opened in Cheboksary.

The above text is translated from the original text, which was written by Kashpar Natalya. All of the images are the copyright of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

Woman’s belt, 19th century, Kazan Governorate, Zivilsky District, Koshnorui village
Wedding kerchief, 19th century, Kazan Governorate, Cheboksarsky District, Nikolskaya Volost
Chest embroidery of woman’s shirt (work piece), 19th century, Kazan Governorate
Belt pendant, 19th century. Kazan Governorate, Zivilsky District
Belt pendants. Early 20th century, Kazan Governorate, Yadrinsky District, Yangasy village
Headdress surpan. Late 19th century, Ufa Governorate, Belebeevsky District, Slakbash village
Case for sofa pillow, 1939, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary
Case for sofa pillow, 1939, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary
Tablecloth, 1983, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary District, Kugesi village. Made in the factory “Paha tere” according to the sketch of E. I. Efremova

Palestinian Embroidery – online talk

This Saturday, 21 November, OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury will give an online talk on Embroidery from Palestine: Disciplining the Past to Craft the Future. He will speak about his experiences working to document and understand certain techniques of embroidery and rural textile traditions from Palestine. He will focus on the techniques themselves, the people he has worked with, and some of the ideas he has developed along the way.In 2018 he worked on updating the Palestinian textile collection catalogue at the British Museum. Some of this work was under the supervision of our Chair, Helen Wolfe.

OmarJoseph examining textiles from the British Museum collection. ©British Museum

“The British Museum’s Palestinian textile collection constitutes one of the largest textile collections at the Museum, with over 1000 pieces, and is one the largest and most extensive in the world. The BM’s collection is unique in so far as it contains men’s, women’s and children’s dress (garments, hats, headdresses and face covers), cosmetic pouches and soft furnishings that roughly cover the period over the last 150 years. Most significantly, it contains day-to-day dress of both genders that is often missing in other notable collections.” – British Museum website.

“The Palestinian textile collection is partly made up of two missionary collections which were acquired by the British Museum in the 1960s; the Church Missionary Society (CMS), and the Jerusalem and East Mission (JEM). These missions collected dress and textiles based on certain orientalist beliefs and historical misconceptions that regarded the 19th century styles of rural Palestine as unchanged since biblical times.” OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury.

During his time at the British Museum OmarJoseph examined the stitching used on the textiles in great detail. He concluded that a particular motif from the south Palestine region (irq-il-loz – almond branch) was not embroidered with stem stitch as had previously been understood, but was in fact produced using a couching technique. He has recently co-authored the book Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual.

Knotted zigzag joining stitch on silk taffeta and indigo dyed cotton – detail from a village woman’s coat (jillayeh) from the upper Galilee in the north of Palestine, early 20th century. © OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury

This talk is hosted by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. It will take place at 1600 GMT and is free, but advance registration is required.

This event is part of an eight-part monthly series entitled “Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future,” an initiative of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada. There are several talks featuring Asian textiles. For more information click here. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list, please email Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic Art and Culture, Royal Ontario Museum.


Textiles from Morocco, China, Ghana and Central Asia

Regular readers may remember that in my previous blog I wrote about the Textiles on the Move online conference, explaining that videos of the full proceedings were now available to view. They will only be available until tomorrow, 15 November 2020, so if you still haven’t seen them you need to act fast!

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

Click here for more information and to access all of the videos .

Last October the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London hosted a very successful exhibition of African textiles from the renowned collector Karun Thakar. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a group of Asafo flags from Ghana. Now over 250 of these flags form an online exhibition, in which the flags have been divided into three groups by age – 19th century to early 1900s, 1920s to 1957, and 1957 to the 1970s.

Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.

“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.

A flag being displayed. ©Karun Collection

Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.

Having read the article I had a better understanding of and appreciation of the flags in the exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection. 

Now to two exhibitions on a very different theme. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is showcasing Chinese textiles in the exhibition Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976. We might not be able to travel at the moment, but thankfully a virtual online tour is available. Clicking the arrow in the bottom left of the screen will give you a very quick overview. I then found it easiest to press the View Floor Plan button (just along from the arrow). If you then point to a circle it will bring up information about that particular textile.

Silk robe 1890-1905 with chrysanthemums and longevity characters. ©Dante Singaland

The Textile Museum in Krefeld, Germany, has a new exhibition entitled Drachen aus Goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads. This exhibition has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix and contains some very special pieces, including the priest’s robe shown below. More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!

The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh has a new exhibition from the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutchman who moved to the city in 1957. He collected textiles, jewellery and other beautiful items from across North Africa, the Shara and the Sahel. He also has a small museum in the heart of the old part of the city.

Our recent online lecture by Sarah Fee was a great success, and we have received lots of positive responses to it. The talk was recorded and will be available for members to view shortly in a password-protected area of our website. A notification of the password will be sent to members.

Our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles. Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.

The cover of Nick’s new book Travellers in the Great Steppe: from the Papal Envoys to the Russian Revolution.

This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Registration will be open for OATG members EXCLUSIVELY until 20 November (you should have already received the invitation), after which any remaining places will be offered to non-members.

The next edition of Asian Textiles should have reached most members by now. This includes a lengthy article on Naga textiles by Joanna Cole and Julia Nicholson of the Pitt Rivers Museum and another on Pekalongan batik by Maria Wronska-Friend. I’m sure weavers will be fascinated to read the research on a Taiwanese Kahabu flag by Tsai Yu Shan. 

Don’t forget that members can access pdf copies of all editions through our website. Non-members can access all but the last three years here

In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him by 7 December. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share?

With all of these exciting developments why not consider becoming a member? Although we are the Oxford Asian Textile Group we do have many members from throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Details of how to join can be found here.

Conference videos, new online talks, and a new exhibition

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.

Last month I blogged about the major online conference organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference was Textiles on the Move, and it took place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

The good news for those who were unable to participate is that recordings of this conference have now been made available and you can watch them online until 15 November.

The first video begins with a welcome by Willem Vogelsang of the International Institute for Asian Studies. He is followed by Sumru Belger Krody of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum whose subject is Beauty & Purpose, Prayer Carpets and their Design Impact.

Next is Ariane Fennetaux of the Université de Paris, speaking on Interwoven Gowns: Japanese Inspired Night Gowns Ready Made on the
Coromandel c. 1700. Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum then talks about Wiener Werktätte Textiles from the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection.

Finally OATG member Chris Buckley and his partner Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation show a modified version of the presentation on Minankabau Textiles and Looms, which was previously exclusive to OATG members for a while.

The above is just the first of 4 videos. Click here for more information and to access all of the videos – but remember they are only available until 15 November 2020.

Print of the icon at Kalighat temple, eastern India, 1880-1890

Two new exhibitions have recently opened at the British Museum. I’ve mentioned the Arctic one several times already. The other exhibition is on Tantra : enlightenment to revolution.

“A philosophy originating in medieval India, Tantra has been linked to successive waves of revolutionary thought, from its sixth-century transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture……

Elements of Tantric philosophy can be found across Asia’s diverse cultures, but it remains largely unknown – or misrepresented – in the West. The exhibition showcases extraordinary objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, Japan and the UK, from the seventh century AD to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.” British Museum website.

Tibetan thangka depicting the Mahasiddha Saraha, after conservation.

One of the objects which features in this exhibition is this beautiful thangka from Tibet. It was initially in a sorry state and in desperate need of conservation. I really enjoyed reading this blog by Alice Derham and Teresa Heady about just what this entailed.

Scholar’s Equipment (detail), folding screen, painting on silk, Joseon Dynasty, 19th century, photo: National Museum of Korea.

Seattle Art Museum are running a series of lectures under the heading Virtual Saturday University. The topic which caught my eye is Korean Culture in Five Colors. This takes place at 10am on Saturday 7 November (1800 in the UK). Sunglim Kim of Dartmouth College will “Explore the traditional five-color system of East Asia in its Korean expressions, which identified the elemental colors as white, black, blue/green, red, and yellow. Kim’s talk investigates the pigments used, color associations, and their use in various art media including painting, ceramics, textiles, architecture, and even food.” SAM website.

News of another interesting lecture reached me via OATG member Judy Cottrell. Serena Lee will be giving a presentation on The Yi Tribes: Extraordinary Ethnic Dress in Southwest China to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California on Saturday 31 October, but non-members are also welcome to attend this online lecture. It takes place at 0930, which is 1630 in the UK. Registration is essential.

A dancing girl of Bali, resting. Photographed by Thilly Weissenborn c.1925

I also recently came across a wonderful collection of photographs, taken in Indonesia. They are from an exhibition entitled Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s – 1940s, which was held in 2014 by the National Gallery of Australia. The accompanying video shows a great variety of these images, many of which show people in traditional dress.

Textiles from Japan, Africa, the Pacific, Asia…….

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 videos.

Tomorrow, 15 October 2020, the Japan House, London will host a panel discussion on the making of the film Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan by director Mizoguchi Naomi.

“Filmed in Biratori, Hokkaido, this documentary follows the everyday life of four elder members of the Ainu community, focussing on their experiences and efforts in the preservation of history and culture through Ainu language classes and participation in several daily activities.” – Japan Society website.

After the panel discussion, registered participants will be able to watch a full screening of the film via a video link. For more information and a link to how to book click here.

******************************

In a previous blog (2 October) I mentioned another Japan Foundation event – an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST. 

OATG member Felicity Wood has kindly informed me of another kimono-related talk – The Unbounded Potential of Kimono, Kyoto to Catwalk – this time organised by the Embassy of Japan. This online talk takes place on Tuesday 20 October at 1300 BST.

Kimono, designed by Jotaro Saito for the Fog Empire Collection Show

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing exhibition at the V&A, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, its curator and Keeper of Asian department, Anna Jackson, will be in conversation with Kimono designer Jotaro Saito, who will join from Japan. The two will talk about the exhibition, how they met, and about Jotaro’s convicition that the kimono is an everyday object of fashion that fits into modern life. In following the notion of a total look, in which the designer creates the garment, obi, and all the accessories, the session will explore what this philosophy means in practice for Jotaro Saito’s designs.”

Click here to register for this event.

******************************

A new exhibition entitled Fibres Africaines opened at the Musée de la Toile de Jouy near Paris on 1 October, and this will run until 28 March 2021.

This exhibition will celebrate “the creativity and diversity of African textiles. While some fabrics are made with precious materials such as silk or glass pearls, others have the audacity to be real luxury pieces, yet designed from humble materials. Raffia fabrics, tree bark, cottons colored with natural dyes such as indigo can be regarded as real works of art for the virtuosity of their manufacturing techniques.” – museum website. 

******************************

I found this blog by Sarah Foskett of the University of Glasgow Textile Conservation team really interesting. In it she gives some background to a five year project looking at Pacific barkcloth.

The Hunterian GLAHM E.537. A small section of the outer border of a late 19th century Fijian masi kesa fabric, stencilled in black, red and brown. (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow)

Last month they held several online workshops and a website has now been launched. This is still being developed, with new information constantly being added.

There are also a series of videos showing some aspects of barkcloth production. The one above focusses on some of the dyes used.

******************************

On Saturday 7 November the Textile Museum, Washington will host another Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning. The presenter will be Alberto Levi, and the subject is Italian Peasant Rugs. “In this illustrated lecture, independent researcher Alberto Boralevi will explore how textiles produced in the Italian folk tradition blend designs and techniques from the East and West……. The term “peasant rugs” generally refers to textiles produced by Italian folk tradition, primarily from the peninsula’s central-southern zones, as well as Sicily and Sardinia. The techniques and patterns of these Italian rural weavings share a striking affinity with the tribal weavings of Anatolia, Persia, and the Caucasus.” – Museum website.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

******************************

On Wednesday 21 October and Thursday 22 October the Textile Museum will host a two-day roundtable to celebrate the creation of the new Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center.

Patchwork trade cloth robe (detail), Indonesia, 18th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-2852. Bruce M. White Photography.

“Beginning with an introduction to Lloyd Cotsen’s collecting and an overview of the collection and study center, the roundtable will feature five one-hour panels highlighting textiles from five continents, including an Indian robe for Indonesia, a Kuba hat, and Captain Cook’s sample book of tapa cloth.” – museum website.

The subjects of the five panels are : Asia, Europe-Central Asia, Africa, Americas and Oceania. Our founder, Ruth Barnes, will look at a patchwork coat (pictured above), created from over 100 small pieces of Indian block-printed textiles. and intended for Indonesia.

In her presentation Hélène Dubied will look at a Central Asian silk weft-faced compound twill, which dates to the seventh to tenth century. This is part of the permanent exhibition of the Abegg Stiftung. The presenter will give details of how this delicate textile was conserved.

I have a particular fascination with Captain James Cook, so will be most interested in Adrienne Kaeppler’s talk on the Alexander Shaw Barkcloth Books. These books are made up of pieces of barkcloth from Cook’s actual voyages!

These are just a few of the highlights of this event – the pdf with the full programme can be accessed here. Please note registration is essential.

******************************

I’ve mentioned the superb videos produced by the Tracing Patterns Foundation in previous blogs. Their latest release is called Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public . This was co-produced with Kantha Productions LLC.

The presenter this time is Cathy Stevulak, who explains the importance of kantha as a women’s artform in Bengal. I was intrigued to learn of references in the 6th century BCE to kantha being worn by ascetics.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

More exciting online lectures and videos ….

PLEASE NOTE The video referred to in the title is no longer available. I will add it to a future blog when it is.

OATG member Dr Sarah Fee will be giving our first Zoom lecture later this month. Dr Fee is Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles (Asia and Africa) at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

For the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz is being presented to the public in a new original exhibition. Lead curator Dr. Sarah Fee will share highlights from the exhibition and discuss its wider narrative arc that traces 750 years of global trade in, and desire for, this most-influential of India’s trade textiles, from medieval times to the present. She will also share the challenges of bringing the exhibit to fruition during this time of global pandemic.

This online talk will take place on Wednesday 21 October at 1830 BST. This event is free for OATG members and just £3 (payable by Paypal) for non-members. Please note that registration is essential.

We have another excellent talk lined up for December, and the next edition of Asian Textiles is out later this month so why not consider joining us? Click here for more details.

The Seattle Art Museum will host an online lecture TOMORROW with the intriguing title of Dragon’s Blood and the Blood of Dragons. This is part of their Saturday University Lecture Series: Color in Asian Art – Material and Meaning. The presenter is Jennifer Stager, Associate Professor of Art History, Johns Hopkins University.

As an entry point into attitudes toward color, this talk considers the red pigment identified as cinnabar or dragon’s blood in the ancient Mediterranean. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder attributes this pigment (derived from Socotra tree resin) to the blood of actual dragons living on the Indian subcontinent. His critique of painters for their indulgence and excess in using it—and the persistent idea that colors contaminate—stands against an idealized whiteness constructed in opposition to the materials and geopolitics of other cultures. Prof. Stager examines the afterlives of Pliny’s fantastical slander. Seattle Art Museum website.

This talk will take place on Saturday 3 October at 1000 Seattle time, which is 1800 in the UK. You need to register in advance.

Mrs. George nee Elizabeth Blakeway by Frederic William Burton, private collection

The Japan Foundation are hosting an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST.  Renowned fashion historian and curator, Fukai Akiko, will discuss how the kimono was depicted in the latter half of 19th century and the intriguing relationship between the kimono and artists.

For progressive artists such as Manet and Whistler, as well as innovative fashion designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, the kimono was not merely a beautiful garment invoking exoticism, but an inspirational source for their creativity and, as a result, we are able to perceive its significant influence in their pieces. – Japan Foundation.

The talk will be preceded by an introduction  by Anna Jackson, the Curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, and a brief conversation with Fukai Akiko will follow her lecture. Register for the talk here.

Finally Marilyn Murphy and her team at ClothRoads have put together another great list of textile-related events. Their list is definitely worth subscribing too as they often feature events that I don’t come across elsewhere.

*********************************************

Video: Textiles of Japan with Thomas Murray

 

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.

I’ve mentioned Thomas Murray in several previous blogs. He is a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.

Fireman’s parade leather coat (kawabaori) with Ōhisa family crest, 19th century, deerskin; smoked resist. © Minneapolis Institute of Art

 

On 12 September he gave an online talk as part of the regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions hosted by the Textile Museum.

“The talk will cover daily dress, work-wear, and festival garb, and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement. Murray will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics – often indigo dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu – along with garments from the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fiber, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the north, and the brilliantly colored cotton kimonos of Okinawa to the far south.” Museum website.

The talk was recorded and is now available to view. It’s long – almost two hours – but set at a leisurely pace. Why not settle down in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and enjoy learning more about these fascinating textiles?

 

 

 

******************************

 

 


 

 

New textile books, an important online conference and links to some excellent blogs

 

 

In my last blog I mentioned a new book, Workbook: Antoine Janot’s Colours, by Dominique Cardon. Catharine Ellis has taken a much more detailed look at this book, specifically from the point of view of a dyer, in her blog which can be read here.

 

 

The Fabric of Civilization won’t be published until November, but is currently available for pre-order. The author, Virginia Postrel, will be taking part in an online book launch as part of the Textile Arts Los Angeles Textile Month.

“In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.” TALA website.

The launch takes place on 30 September at 12:30 LA time, which is 04:30 am in the UK, so probably only works for our international members.

 

 

The third new book celebrates the Indian textile collection of the authors Helmut and Heidi Neumann and has a foreword by Rosemary Crill. Published by Prestel it certainly seems to be lavishly illustrated and will be added to my wish list.

“Dating back to the fifth millennium BCE, India’s rich and vibrant textile tradition boasts an enormous range of techniques and extraordinary level of artistry. Drawn from one of the world’s finest collections of Indian textiles, this book presents a fascinating overview of centuries of artistic production from every corner of India. Each section examines a different region to reveal its distinct textile traditions, patterns, and processes: Patola silks from Gujarat, brocade lampas preserved in Tibetan temples, mordant resist dyed cottons from Indonesia, embroideries from rural Bengal, and silk saris from Murshidabad. The book also delves into the roles that textiles have played in daily life over the centuries, from household and dowry textiles to devotional pieces and exquisite materials crafted for rich patrons. Each object is photographed from multiple angles and reproduced in meticulous detail. Many of the antique pieces featured here are exceedingly rare, which makes this book an invaluable resource.” Prestel.

 

 

The Yale University Art Gallery has now reopened. One of its current exhibitions is called Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art.

The exhibition “showcases basketry, beadwork, drawings, photography, pottery, textiles, and wood ….. …Guided by the four themes in its title, the exhibition investigates the connections that Indigenous peoples have to their lands; the power of objects as expressions of sovereignty; the passing on of artistic practices and traditions; and the relationships that artists and nations have to animals, plants, and cosmological beings.” Yale University Art Gallery website.

 

Moroccan woman’s kaftan made from Japanese kimono fabric. © Textile Research Centre, Leiden

I’ve already blogged about the virtual symposium organised by the Textile Society of America entitled Hidden Stories Human Lives. This takes place from 15-17 October and you can still register for the sessions.

However before then there will be another major online textile conference, this time organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference is Textiles on the Move, and it will take place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme is very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here. Registration is also necessary for this free event – just click here.

 

 

Finally, I would like to recommend a series of blogs written by a variety of authors between 2017 and 2019 to celebrate New York Textile Month. These blogs have been hosted by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and cover a wide variety of topics – Chris Martens on Central Asian felt, Thomas Murray on an Indonesian palepai, Precious Lovell on Ghanaian adinkra, Wendy Weiss on a Gujarati patola – to name but a few.

 

Bhutanese coat, known as a gho. © Cooper Hewitt.

This is a link to just one of these blogs, this time by Susan Bean, looking at a Bhutanese coat which is known as a gho. I strongly recommend signing up to receive the Object of the Week emails from Cooper Hewitt.

 

***************************

 


 

Thangka, the Yemen, African Arts, and Natural Dyes……

 

Last year Karen Horton talked to OATG members about her work conserving the thangka at the Chester Beattie library. As that was so well received I thought members might be interested in this online talk by Ann Shaftel on a similar topic. It takes place on Thursday 17 September at 1730 Mumbai time (1300 in the UK). To register for this event please follow this link.

“Thangka preservation is as complicated as the thangka form itself, a complex composite artform spanning centuries and continents, and still evolving….. This talk will include important fundamental points of the thangka form, history, purpose, preservation and evolution and complexities of preservation of the sacred”. The Museum Society of Mumbai.

 

Silk tie-dyed veil from Sana’a, Yemen (2018.37.74). Donated by Jenny Balfour-Paul.

The next thing that caught my eye was this blog by Multaka, Oxford. In it Joanna Cole looks at some of the connections between a collection of photographs taken by Jenny Balfour-Paul in Yemen in the 1980s and some of the objects donated by her to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Joanna gives examples of this veil from Sana’a and a photograph of women wearing similar veils. However my favourite example is that of the woven camel muzzle. Seen out of context it isn’t very exciting, but the photograph showing how it was used really brought it to life.

 

Another museum that has now reopened is the Brooklyn Museum. Their current exhibition is entitled African Arts – Global Conversations. The exhibition takes a “unique transcultural approach [which] pairs diverse African works across mediums with objects from around the world. By considering how shared themes and ideas—such as faith, origins, modernism, and portraiture – developed independently in different parts of the globe, it offers new theoretical models for discussing African arts in relation to non-African arts. Moving beyond the story of European modernists’ so-called “discovery” of African arts, it fills in the blanks in decades of art history textbooks” Brooklyn Museum website.

 

Chris Buckley recently informed me of the new publication by natural dye expert Dominique Cardon.

“This workbook is a bilingual publication in both French and English. It presents the palette of colours produced by Antoine Janot, a French master-dyer of the 1st half of the 18th century who owned  an important dyeing business in the south of France, specialising in wool broadcloth exported to the Levant. Janot wrote treatises on dyeing illustrated with dozens of dyed textile samples.” Dominique Cardon

 

 

Another expert on natural dyes, Elena Phipps, recently wrote this article on the dye record cards produced in the 1890s by an embroidery collective based in Deerfield, Massachusetts. “these dye cards show the Deerfield embroiderers experimenting with dyestuffs that had been used for millennia…. They reflect a different type of historic preservation effort – one focused on recovering and retaining fading knowledge of the art of dyeing.” Elena Phipps 

A sample sheet or montre showing the colours of broadcloth produced.

This use of record cards reminded me of another book by Dominique Cardon – The Dyer’s Handbook: Memoirs of an eighteenth century master colourist. In it she examines a manuscript written in the late eighteenth century by a clothier involved in the export trade from the Languedoc area of France to the Levant. She provides a great deal of context, both economic and political, as well as the expected technical analysis of the dyes and weave structures. You can get a flavour of her work from this article, written for Cooper Hewitt in 2017.

 

Finally, those of you who missed the talk on the Textile of Japan by Thomas Murray will be glad to hear that it was recorded and will be made available online at a later date.

 

*****************************

 


 

 

 

 

Silk Road Symposium, Japanese textiles, Pitt Rivers reopens

 

Great news! The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (a personal favourite of mine) is reopening on 22 September 2020. In line with current regulations, visitors will have to pre-book a free ticket in advance.

The museum is accessed through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, an awe-inspiring space with wonderful informative displays.

 

You can just see the entrance to the Pitt Rivers behind the skeleton of the young Asian elephant. © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

 

Interior of the Pitt Rivers. © Charlotte-Brown.com

For those not familiar with this museum, you can visit it virtually through this link on their website. You can use this tool to zoom around the display cases while in the comfort of your own home. When you find something of interest you can then search their database for more information.

Postcard from Japan-British Exhibition, The Bear Killer, Ainu Home, 1910. Misa Tamura, private collection.

Their website also has a selection of conservation stories, explaining how conservators have worked on an object. In some cases the before and after photographs show a marked difference, in others it is much more subtle. This particular example shows the work done to preserve an Ainu hunting quiver, which was purchased for the museum in 1910. Staff collaborated with the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and in reading this article we gain some insight into the position of the Ainu in Japanese society.

 

I have mentioned Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan, several times in previous blogs. Tomorrow, Saturday 12 September, he will be discussing the central themes of this book as part of the regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions hosted by the Textile Museum. “The talk will cover daily dress, work-wear, and festival garb, and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement. Murray will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics – often indigo dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu – along with garments from the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fiber, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the north, and the brilliantly colored cotton kimonos of Okinawa to the far south.” Museum website. Spaces for this online event are limited and registration is necessary through this link. Please note the session takes place at 11am EDT which is 1600 in the UK.

 

 

Regrettably I have only just become aware of a Symposium currently taking place at the University of Kansas entitled Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s). This two-day event began today, but hopefully you might still have time to register vis this link for tomorrow’s sessions. Timing is 0900-1215 Central time, which is 1500-1815 in the UK.

“Inspired by the Eurasian trade routes that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century, this symposium highlights how artworks, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both overland and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas. While the term “Silk Road,” invented in the 19th century, may conjure an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, speakers in this symposium challenge us to envision instead a dynamic pattern of cross-cultural exchanges occurring between Asia, Africa, and beyond that continues today.” University website.

 

Woman’s pleated wedding skirt 1800s, Qing Dynasty. © Spencer Museum of Art

The Spencer Museum of Art will be running an online exhibition to accompany this symposium. The exhibition, entitled Interweaving Cultures along the Silk Road, will run until 13 December 2020.

**************************************