Rugs and textiles from Greece, Morocco, Iran and Japan.

A final reminder that the next OATG talk will be this Thursday, 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST, when Dr Francesca Leoni of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford will speak on the subject of Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Detail from a cushion cover. Crete 17th-18th century
Linen, cotton and silk EA2004.6

Dr Leoni gave a lecture on this topic at the weekend to a US textile group and I’ve heard lots of great feedback about it. OATG members should already have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details. Don’t forget – one of the many advantages of becoming a member of the OATG is that you have access to recordings of the lectures, so if you can’t attend for any reason you don’t miss out.

Bou Oumlil, 2015

In a blog last month I wrote about the Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series of discussions hosted online by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. In Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco  French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou was in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Sara and Mariam covered a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. For those who missed it a recording of this event has now been made available and can be viewed here. A full playlist of all of the talks in the Crafting Conversations series can be found here.

While on the subject of Morocco, Roger Pratt of the Hajji Baba Club in New York gave a presentation in June last year on Rugs and Textiles of Morocco. This was hosted by the George Washington Museum and Textile Museum as part of their regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. Presented in the form of a travelogue Roger journeyed “through a number of rarely seen private collections, highlighting Berber weavings, contemporary rugs, and historical silk embroideries and workshop production.” – GWM website. A recording of this talk is available here.

Aba, male robe, before 1877, Kashan, Iran. Museum no. 883-1877. Museum no. 883-1877. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A major new exhibition entitled Epic Iran is opening at the V & A in London on 29 May. “Exploring 5,000 years of art, design and culture, Epic Iran will shine a light on one of the greatest historic civilisations, its journey into the 21st century and its monumental artistic achievements, which remain unknown to many.” – V & A website. A short overview of the exhibition contents and themes is provided here. However to get a more comprehensive idea of what the exhibition contains I suggest reading this article from Asian Art Newspaper.

Carpet with poetry verses, 1550-1600, Iran. Silk warp and weft, knotted wool pile, areas brocaded with metal thread. 231 x 165 cm. V&A: T.402-1910. Bequeathed by George Salting

Sarah Piram, Curator of the Iranian collections at the V & A, will give an online talk to the OATG next month. This talk will give an overview of some major works, from early silk fragments showing roundels of animals, to Safavid carpets and contemporary craft tradition. Textiles and carpets will be showcased in different parts of the exhibition, and I’m sure one of the highlights will be the ‘Sanguszko’ carpet belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry – one of the greatest seventeenth century Persian carpets in private hands. Invitations to the talk, which will take place on 10 June at 18:30 BST, will go out to OATG members at the end of this week. Registration is essential, and will open to non-members a week after members. I will provide links and further details later on.

Camel chest band (detail), Qashqa’i people. Collection of Fred Mushkat

Staying on the subject of Iran, Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, recently gave a talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat [provided] an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another.  ” – Textile Museum website. The talk was recorded and you can now watch it by clicking on this link.   You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.

Photo courtesy: CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong

And finally something completely different! Aimèe Payton has informed me that a new exhibition, MAKING NUNO Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko, will open on 17 May at Japan House London. This exhibition “showcases the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko, who is renowned for pushing boundaries of textile production and championing new methods of sustainable manufacturing.” There is an interesting article about this artist in Design Week by Molly Long. Describing one of the installations she writes ”  Kibiso Crisscross, a collaborative project with the Tsuruoka Textile Makers Cooperative, showcases the process that the team developed to reuse discarded kibiso, the protective outer layer of silk cocoons. A machine that takes these tough remnants and creates yarns from them. The idea is to create “no waste and use everything”, according to the designer.”

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.

Hawaiian quilts, early textiles by the Nile, First Nations robes from Alaska, Miao and Greek textiles.

This blog will be much shorter than usual, but I’ve just heard of a few events taking place that may be of interest to subscribers.

Cissy Serrao and Patricia Gorelangton at Iolani Palace in Honolulu. © Josiah Patterson

The first of these is TOMORROW night, Thursday 6 May at 09:00 BST. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host an online conversation with Cissy Serrao, director of Poakalani & Company. This is a quilting school and guild in Hawai’i. Cissy’s family has created Hawaiian quilts for many generations. “In conversation with Jeremy Uden [Head of Conservation] and Misa Tamura [Senior Conservator], she shares her thoughts with us on the cultural significance and symbolism of quilting in Hawaiian culture, why the patterns and tradition are so important to keep alive, and how she teaches this exciting and beautiful art.” – Pitt Rivers website. Full details and registration for this free event here.

On Saturday 8 May the Fashion Institute of Technology and The Textile Society of America will jointly host a free online event on the subject of Early Fashion and Textiles by the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris. “This panel brings together scholars and practitioners who will introduce their studies of and encounters with ancient textiles, clothes, and fashion. Exploring practical textile and dress making techniques of the cultures along the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris rivers during the 3rd millennium BCE, they ask: How was fashion used to express cultural, societal, and personal identities?” Full details and registration for this event, which begins at 15:00 EDT (20:00 BST) here.

In my most recent blog I mentioned this exhibition which opens on Saturday in Juneau, Alaska.  “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website.

There will be two lectures on Saturday linked to this exhibition, with limited attendance allowed. The first is at 13:00 ADT, which is 22:00 BST, when Lani Hotch will talk about Klukwan’s Legacy of Weaving. The second is at 15:00 ADT, which is midnight in the UK and Steve Henrikson will talk about A History of Native Textiles on the Northern Northwest Coast. Full details and registration for those able to attend in person here. I’ve been in touch with the museum and they inform me that recordings of these lectures will be available online by around 14 May. I will provide a link to these as soon as I have it.

There will be a livestream dedication of of The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles (SWAY) exhibit this Friday 7 May at 17:00 ADT, which is 02:00 BST – so probably one for our international members or UK night owls!

Miao festival, Guizhou, China, 2008. © Minneapolis Institute of Art

One of the current exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ends on 23 May 2021. To Beautify and Protect: Miao Clothing and Jewelry from China  showcases examples drawn from the Institute’s large collection of more than 1,200 textiles and 450 pieces of jewellery made by Miao artisans. “Miao people consider textiles, clothing, and accessories as expressions of identity. This is especially true at communal festivals, where an individual might wear an elaborate, embroidered costume and intricately worked silver jewelry. In these settings, ceremonial clothing could indicate a wearer’s age and marital status, or mark important rites of passage. Motifs on these garments and silver jewelry can reveal Miao history and beliefs, while decorative techniques, patterning, and stitchwork distinguish one community from another. The silver material and designs also serve a protective function, promoting the health and safety of the wearer, while presenting a dazzling display that delights the eyes. ” MIA website.

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

Don’t forget that the next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

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

From Indonesia to the Arctic, Greece to Iran, Russia to the Indus Valley and more!

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.

There is just so much going on in the textile world at the moment, that this will therefore be quite a long blog,,,,,

OATG member Lesley Pullen is the author of a new book examining the way textiles were presented on eighth to fifteenth century Javanese sculptures. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader.

A new display was revealed at the Fashion and Textiles Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 5 April 2021. It is based around the theme Fashionable in Asia and a good overview of the themes covered and some of the textiles on show can be found here.

According to the museum’s website “Early fashion theorists excluded the non-Western world. They saw dress of “uncivilised” people outside of urban Europe as static and unchanging, hobbled by tradition. Seeking to challenge Eurocentric misconceptions, with the latest display in the Fashion and Textiles gallery, we re-centre on Southeast Asia, where indigenous fashions moved at their own pace and with their own standards – but were no less fashionable!”


Image courtesy Adriana Sanroman, From Birth to Death: The Silk Flower Industry in Mexico, Session 1A.

The 2020 Textile Society of America Symposium Hidden Stories/Human Lives had, of necessity, to be held online. The advantage of this virtual format is that the TSA were able to record many of the sessions. Those recordings have now been made available. The subjects are incredibly varied – the silk flower industry in Mexico, inscribed textiles from Egyptian burial grounds, the white Haku of Peru, Hmong dress in China and the ‘Mamluk’ quilt cover, to name just a few. There are over seventeen hours of recordings – enough to satisfy even the most devoted textilian! The easiest way to work out which parts may be of most interest to you is to go to the pdf of the full programme here. The programme is listed on pages 19-27, followed by the abstracts for each paper. Simply identify the talks of interest to you and which session they were part of. For example “Materials and Making of Ṭirāz Textiles” was the third paper in session 2A. This should help when deciding which recordings to watch first.

Next Thursday, 6 May 2021, Dr Moya Carey (Curator of Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin) will be the speaker for an online event hosted by the Hajji Baba Club of New York. The title of her presentation is Safavid Dynastic Vision: Shah Tahmasp’s Commission of the Ardabil Carpets. The pair of Ardabil carpets were woven for the Safavid dynastic shrine in northwestern Iran. Today they are celebrated as masterpieces of sixteenth-century design and technique,. One of the pair is in the V & A Museum and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Remembered together, the pair offer a rich context for Safavid Shah Tahmasp’s visionary intentions, for himself and for his dynasty’s sacred tomb complex in Ardabil, northwestern Iran. This talk examines Iran’s political conditions in the year 946H (1539-40, the date woven into each carpet), and the likely dynastic significance of the two hanging lamps that form each carpet’s central axis.” – Hajji Baba website. The talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. To attend the meeting please compete the RSVP here.

One of the ceremonial robes which will be displayed during the exhibition

On 8 May 2021 a new exhibition entitled The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles opens at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska. “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website. The website mentions a couple of lectures. I have checked with the museum and there will be limited attendance with online registration opening soon. The good news is that they also informed me the lectures will be recorded. More information when I have it!

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

The next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of 18th- and 19th century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

Valance. Nineteenth century, Olonetskaya province. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

On Saturday 15 May 2021 Andrea Rusnock will give an online talk on Russian Folk Embroidery, hosted by the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. Andrea is a Professor of Art History and will be discussing “Russian embroidery at the end of the Imperial period, when middle-class women increasingly created their own needlework, aided by a proliferation in pattern books, and, at the same time, there was a renewed interest in folk embroidery.” This talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST, and you can register for it here.

The Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London is due to open on 18 May 2021 subject to government guidelines. This exhibition has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, where a version of it was on display in 2017. “

The complicated technical craftsmanship required to fix bright dyes to cotton, devised across centuries and using complex chemical formulae, meant that for many years Chintz was a closely guarded secret, or preserve of the elite. However, by the 18th century chintz had become more widely accessible. The lightweight, washable, gaily coloured and boldly patterned cottons eventually became a sensation throughout England and across Europe. These developments resulted in the intricate, colourful flowers of chintz fabric being cherished and preserved by generations.

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom showcases some 150 examples of this treasured textile, originating from all around the world; from mittens to wall hangings and from extravagant 18th-century sun hats to stylish mourning dresses.” – FIT website. For more details and booking please click here. You may also enjoy reading this short blog about chintz by Emma Sweeney.

© TRC Leiden

The buteh/boteh motif often appears on chintz, so I thought it was worth sharing the link to this talk by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Many thanks to Cheri Hunter of the TMA/SC for this information. Gillian recently did a Zoom lecture for the Fowler Textile Council, examining the global history of the paisley pattern. The recording of this talk can be viewed here. If you want to know more about this motif it is also well worth visiting the website of the TRC Leiden, which has an excellent online exhibition on the subject.

Stone statue of the Priest-King discovered in Mohenjodaro. He is believed to be wearing resist-printed ajrak cloth.

Those with an interest in early textiles will want to sign up for this talk, Cotton & Colour: A Deep History of Indus Valley Textiles, hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum on 18 May 2021 at 16:00 EDT, which is 21:00 BST. From the earliest evidence of cotton (7,000 BCE) to the importance of fibre arts in the emergence of early urban centres, ROM botanist Deborah Metsger and archaeologist J. Mark Kenoyer will explore the rich and diverse history of textiles in the early settlements of the Indian subcontinent. Click here for more details and to register.

Young woman’s outer parka, Kalaallit, Greenland – before 1860s. © British Museum

The British Museum exhibition Arctic: Culture and Climate has now ended, but the good news is that the museum have now made a virtual tour of it available. You can take your own route, or go to specific sections – the parka above is from the ‘weather proofing’ section. Clicking on the lower case ‘i’ gives additional information. Highly recommended!

Finally, readers will know from my previous blogs of the devastating impact Cyclone Seroja had on the tiny eastern Indonesian island of Savu. I know some of you contributed to the appeal for help, and thought you would like to see that the first load of roofing material has now arrived. This had to be transported ashore by small boats as the jetty is still blocked by a capsized ferry.  If you would like to help please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

Savu, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, female pioneers and more…..

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 many members (and non-members) enjoyed a talk by Geneviève Duggan about weaving on the Indonesian island of Savu. Dr Duggan showed how women are the keepers of history in the form of oral genealogies, and how this information can help us to date their textiles.

© Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

She looked at historical written reports – starting with those of Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770 – in comparison to oral tradition. She also explained the binary structure of society on Savu and how men and women complement each other in their roles. She focused on the structure of the maternal line, and how weavers are able to exercise power via the gift of the textiles they produce. This was all accompanied by an excellent slide presentation.

Illustration of a chief’s house on Savu by Sydney Parkinson, who travelled there with James Cook in 1770

Dr Duggan ended her talk with a presentation on the need for a Weavers House, and explained how she was raising funds for this. Sadly in the last week Cyclone Seroja devastated large parts of eastern Indonesia, including the island of Savu and the weaving village with which Geneviève mainly works. Many houses were severely damaged and in some cases totally destroyed. The local government is hoping to get electricity working again in the village in August – yes that’s right – in August! This short video shows the current situation. It was very jerky so I have slowed it down to make it more watchable.

Their immediate needs are a generator, a couple of chainsaws, 1000 sheets of corrugated roofing and nails to secure them. If you would like to help with this please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

A recording of Dr Duggan’s talk is now available for members on the OATG website. Just scroll down to that talk and click on the link, then use the current password. This password can be found in the recent edition of Asian Textiles. If any member needs a reminder of it please contact one of the committee.

Recordings of all talks are now being added to the website so that members can view them at their leisure. This is yet another good reason to join the OATG. It doesn’t even matter if you are in a different time zone, you can still get to enjoy the lectures. In addition members receive our excellent journal Asian Studies three times per year.

Woman’s costume from Hama, Syria. © Iwatate Folk Textile Museum

A new exhibition has opened at the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum in Tokyo, entitled Textiles from Syria and its Neighboring Countries. Click through the images to see several lovely textiles from this area. This exhibition closes on 10 July 2021.

The current issue of Textiles Asia. © Bonnie Corwin

Those with a particular interest in the textiles of Syria should read the article Reflections on Late Ottoman Robes from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection by Sandra S Williams in the current issue of Textiles Asia. The woman’s coat which graces the front cover dates to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and was gifted to the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles by the Reisbords. Textiles Asia is published and edited by OATG member Bonnie Corwin. This particular issue also has a lengthy article on Uyghur Feltmaking in Xinjiang by Christine Martens.

I’m really looking forward to an online talk next Wednesday, 21 April, hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is “There Were No Women”: The Pitt Rivers Museum and Britain’s first female anthropologists. The speaker, Frances Larson, is the author of a new book entitled Undreamed Shores – The hidden heroines of British anthropology. This is essentially a “group portrait of five anthropologists all linked by Oxford University’s diploma in anthropology, and by the Pitt Rivers Museum, in the years before, during and after the First World War.” – Boyd Tonkin. The women discussed in this book, and their areas of research, are Beatrice Blackwood (New Guinea), Katherine Routledge (Easter Island), Maria Czaplicka (Siberia), Barbara Freire-Marreco (New Mexico and Arizona) and Winifred Blackman (Egypt). An excellent review of Larson’s book by Boyd Tonkin appeared on The Arts Desk website last month and really inspired me to order it immediately. The talk takes place at 17:00 BST and you can register for it here.

Maria Czaplicka © Pitt Rivers Museum

For those interested in learning more about Maria Czaplicka and her work in Siberia I recommend this article and podcast from the Women in Oxford’s History series. “The First World War has often been presented as a period of stagnation in anthropology. However, for Maria it was a time of opportunity – she was made lecturer in ethnology for three years between 1916 and 1919, becoming the first appointed female lecturer in Oxford.” – Jaanika Vider.

Summer kimono for a woman, 1680-1705. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

Don’t forget the next OATG talk takes place on Thursday 22 April when Anna Jackson of the V&A will give a presentation about their recent kimono exhibition. Click here to register.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, recently gave a talk on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) explored “the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” The good news is that if you missed this talk, which took place at the end of March, the  Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative have now made a full recording of it available here

Bou Oumlil, 2015

That event was part of their Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series. The next event in the series is entitled Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco and will take place on Saturday 24 April at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 BST. French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou will be in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This conversation will be co-hosted by the series organizer, Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic World, Royal Ontario Museum. Sara and Mariam will cover a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Textiles from Indonesia, Palestine, Europe, Japan, Mexico and more….

This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.

Ritual cloth palepai with ship motif and trees of life, Kalianda, province Lampung, Southern Sumatra. Inv. no. 9709. Photo: Kathrin Leuenberger.

On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.

The fifteenth century ‘dancing ladies’ ceremonial cloth on loan to the ROM from the Textile Museum of Canada

On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.

One of the displays in the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.

Yemen, Bayt al-Faqih. Woman’s korta (dress) with embroidery, couched silver bands and white braided cotton (2018.37.67) © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.  Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.

Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.

Shatweh (married woman’s headdress adorned with coins. Bethlehem, Palestine. Early twentieth century. Oriental Institute A35640E 

An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem. 

A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.

Traditional embroidery today. © Ethnic Jewels Magazine.

The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.

Ensemble with two striped aprons. Romanian, Oltenia, 1925-45
This outfit belonged to Queen Marie of Romania who brought attention to her country’s regional dress by writing about it as well as wearing it.
Princess Ileana of Romania Collection, KSUM 1987.15.5 a-c

Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.

© Chloë Sayer

Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.

Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-

The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.

Textiles from Japan, Africa, Bolivia, Tibet, Iran……..

Good news! Some museums are now reopening. Among these is the Östasiatiska Museet in Stockholm.

Their current exhibition, which runs until 15 August 2021, is entitled Boro – The Art of Necessity. On show will be a unique collection of boro objects loaned from the Amuse Museum in Tokyo, as well as newly produced works by Swedish artists. “Ripped, worn, patched and lovingly mended. Boro textiles tell us about the art of surviving on scarce resources in a harsh place. In northern Japan, the winters are cold and the population has historically been poor. Here, among farmers and fishermen, a distinctive female craft was developed in which nothing went to waste.” – museum website.

I like the fact that the textiles have been displayed in such a way that the viewer can see all sides clearly.

Another new exhibition opens in London on Granary Square, King’s Cross on 8 April 2021. This outdoor photography exhibition is called The Silk Road: A Living History . Over 160 images are used to document a journey along this historic trade route undertaken by the photographer in 2019.

Tajik girl dancing in the Pamir mountains. © Christopher Wilton-Steer.

“The exhibition’s linear design creates a physical route for the viewer offering them the chance to travel by proxy…… The show aims to celebrate the diversity of cultural expressions found along the Silk Road, highlight examples of how historical practices, rituals and customs live on today, and also reveal some of the connections between what appear at first glance to be very different cultures. It also seeks to engender interest and understanding between distant cultures and challenge perceptions of less well known and understood parts of the world. Photographs from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, China and elsewhere will feature in the show. Visitors will be able to access additional content including videos and music via QR codes on each panel of the exhibition.” – Christopher Wilton-Steer. The exhibition runs until 16 June 2021.

Outer-kimono for a young woman (uchikake), 1800 – 30, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Image Courtesy of the Joshibi University of Art and Design Art Museum

Registrations are now open for non-members for the OATG’s next exciting talk (£3 donation) which will take place on Thursday 22 April 2021 at 18:30 BST, which should also work out for our many members in the US. The speaker will be Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian department at the V&A and curator of their blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. In this talk Anna will take us on a fascinating journey from the sophisticated culture of seventeenth century Kyoto to the contemporary catwalk and reveal some of the stories behind the exhibition. 

Anna also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book Textiles of Japan (see my blog of December 2019). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she said her aim in this exhibition was to “overturn the idea of the kimono as static, atrophied object and show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion”. She also discussed the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the talk. In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly. The exhibition was in three sections. “It begins by unpicking the social significance and heritage of the kimono in 17th century Japan, moving to consider the kimono and its position across a more international agenda, finishing with the progressive transformation of its comtemporary (sic) identity.” Scarlett Baker, LOVE magazine.

This is certain to be a very popular talk so I strongly suggest you register for it as soon as possible via this link. If you are enjoying our programme of talks why not consider becoming a member?

“Furisode with Wave and Crane Design, Made for Nishimura Tokuko, the fourteenth Madame Nishimura” by Chiso Co., Ltd, 1938. Yuzen-dyeing and embroidery on woven silk.

Those with a serious interest in kimono will be delighted to hear of not one, but two more exhibitions dedicated to that topic, both at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. The first of these is an online exhibition entitled Kimono Couture: The Beauty of Chiso. This exhibition is organised by the Worcester Art Museum in partnership with Chiso, a 465-year-old kimono design and production house based in Kyoto, Japan. I highly recommend spending some time ‘visiting’ this exhibition. It is divided into eleven parts, covering topics such as design, symbolism and decorative techniques. Clicking on each part will bring up much more information and a video.

Itō Shinsui (1898–1972), Woman with Marumage Hairstyle, 1924, Publisher: Watanabe Shōzaburō, color woodblock print on mica (kirazuri) ground, Gift of Edward Kenway, 1960.7

The second exhibition opened on 6 February 2021 and will end on 2 May 2021. It is entitled The Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design and looks at the kimono as a source of design and inspiration through seventy prints. “Print artists from 17th to 20th -century Japan documented ever-evolving trends in fashion, popularized certain styles of dress, and even designed kimonos. The works begin with early prints from the late 17th century, when a more complex and sophisticated attitude towards clothing first appeared, as seen in the lavish prints of the floating world’s celebrity kabuki actors and courtesans. Modern design books and prints from the early 20th century, inspired by or made for kimono, demonstrate how the boundaries between print and textile fashion and design became more fluid.” – museum website. Monika Bincsik of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will give an online talk entitled Kimono Fashion in Kyoto at 18:00 EDT on Thursday 15 April. That works well for our US members, but UK members should note that this starts at 23:00 BST!

An interesting article by Karla Klein Albertson giving the background to these two exhibitions appeared in Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Another very detailed article just looking at the prints appeared in Asian Art newspaper.

Image: Bisa Butler, Broom Jumpers, 2019. Cotton, silk, wool and velvet, 221 cm x 132.7 cm.

In my most recent blog I wrote about an event on 7 April hosted by Selvedge, which has a panel of speakers looking at the subject of African wax prints. They have now added the extraordinary quilt artist Bisa Butler to the list of speakers for that event. Click here for full details and how to book. A reminder that two events linked to the upcoming Chintz exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum take place online on 8th and 9th April – see my previous blog for full details.

Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist Meghann O’Brien wearing the Sky Blanket she wove from mountain goat wool

Next Thursday, 8 April 2021 the Fowler Museum will host a conversation with artist Meghann O’Brien and textile scholar Elena Phipps about Indigenous knowledge and creative practice. “Meghann O’Brien is a Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist whose Chilkat textiles are based on the knowledge and artistic practices of her ancestors. Her projects engage specialized techniques of basketry and weaving, and use mountain goat wool, cedar bark, and other earthly materials to connect to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. With these materials, she explores issues related to Indigenous fashion and couture, reframing the past and applying it to present-day life. ” – Fowler Museum.

This event takes place at 11:00 PDT , which is 19:00 in the UK. It is free, but you do need to register for it. There is also an interesting article in Mountain Life Media, which gives more background into how Meghann began weaving and the creation of her Sky Blanket. The short video shows how the blanket moves when worn.

© Cheri Hunter

On Saturday 10 April Cheri Hunter, the dynamic President of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, will be the speaker at their next event. Her topic will be the Textiles, Costumes & Pile Trappings of the Eastern Grasslands of Tibet. Cheri’s background is in film editing in Hollywood and she certainly brings that artistic eye to her photography. She has written many articles with photo-spreads for Hali. This illustrated talk “will emphasize both the local and imported textiles, costumes and pile horse trappings in use throughout the Kham and Amdo grasslands, as well as in shaman rituals and horse competitions, where all of the participants, including the horses, are dressed in their finest…… Please note that this program is a cultural travelogue rather than a scholarly program, with an emphasis on the textiles, costumes and horse trappings worn in festivals.” – Cheri Hunter. The talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 in the UK. More details and registration here.

The Andean Textile Arts organisation will be hosting a talk on 13 April entitled Renewing Value in Southern Bolivia’s Textiles. The speaker will be Kevin Healy, who will introduce the audience to Antropologos del Surandino (ASUR). “ASUR is a Bolivian cultural foundation that has pioneered efforts to revitalize the Andean textile traditions in southern Bolivia. Since the late 1980s, ASUR has developed community-based programs that provide a way for the region’s rural indigenous weavers to continue creating and producing their beautiful Andean designs. Kevin will discuss how ASUR ’s work has provided a commercial outlet for the weavers in the capital city of Sucre, while also establishing a textile museum visited by multitudes of Bolivian schoolchildren and national and foreign tourists.” – ATA. The talk begins at 19:00 EDT, which is midnight in the UK – one for the night owls!

Carpets in the Bardini Museum, Florence

Next, one for the carpet lovers. On Thursday 15 April the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will host Alberto Boralevi who will talk about Stefano Bardini and the International Carpet Trade at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Bardini was an Italian antiques dealer based in Florence who handled many historical carpets, building up relationships with prominent collectors and museums. Twenty-two such carpets are housed in the Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence. The Bardini archives have a collection of over six thousand original negatives which show most of the objects which passed through his hands. To register for this talk, which takes place at 11:00 EDT (16:00 BST), please contact Elisabeth Parker, Vice-President of the Hajji Baba Club, using this form.

Camel chest band (detail), Qashqa’i people. Collection of Fred Mushkat

On Saturday 24 April Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, will talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat will provide an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another. Mushkat will also explore design repertoire, function and the importance of these textiles to the women who made them. ” – Textile Museum website. The talk takes place at 11:00 EDT which is 16:00 BST and you can register for it here.   You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.

Textile events in early April

April seems to be a particularly busy month for textile events, so I am splitting this across two blogs – this one and then another next week.

On Thursday 1 April the Royal Society for Asian Affairs hosts a talk by James Crowden, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, on Mr Consta and the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers.

This is a “terrifying yarn about the geopolitics of carpet making, from the burning of Smyrna in 1922 to Partition in Amritsar in 1947, via Athens, Leeds, Vichy France, Tabriz, Kerman… and Dorset. The view from one Greek/French/British family involved up to the neck for over 120 years…… The Moderator for this talk will be Antony Wynn, author of Three Camels to Smyrna, the history of the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers, for which he worked as a buyer in Iran in the 1970s.” – RSAA website. Click here to register for this talk which begins at 14:00 BST.

Ghanaian designer Atto Tetteh wearing a print by Dutch designer Simone Post for Vlisco.

On Wednesday 7 April Selvedge will be hosting an evening of discussion on the topic of African wax print, followed by the screening of a documentary film. Participants in the discussion include Adaku Parker of Dovetailed London, whose company brings together African fashion and British design. Joining her will be Dutch designer Simone Post, who has worked on a range of prints for Vlisco. Despite strong quality controls, things can sometimes go wrong in a manufacturing process with 27 separate steps. “Safeguarding their quality standard, Vlisco cannot bring the misprints to market. Only the best of the best goes to Africa.” – Simone Post’s website. Simone realised that the rejected fabric could in fact be repurposed and used in an entirely different way. She is now developing a range of high-quality rugs from this waste material.

The final participant is Anne Grosfilley, a French anthropologist who has undertaken over 20 years of fieldwork on the African continent. She is the author of many articles, as well as several books on the subject. I particularly enjoyed reading this interview with her by Godfrey Deeney in Fashion Network in which they discuss the collaboration between Dior and Uniwax, a company on the Ivory Coast that uses traditional methods and local African cotton.

The discussion will be followed by a screening of the film Wax Print by the Nigerian-British filmmaker Aiwan Obinyan. Full details of this event can be found here. It starts at 18:00 BST and you can register for it here.

The opening of the major exhibition devoted to chintz at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London has been delayed until 18 May 2021. The exhibition of 150 textiles has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. I will blog about this in more detail nearer the time.

Part of the upcoming exhibition

In the meantime the museum has organised several events to whet your appetite. The first of these takes place on Thursday 8 April at 18:00 BST. This is an online talk by Honorary Senior Research Fellow Mary Schoeser, entitled The Flowering of English Chintz: 1800-1875. “This online lecture demonstrates how designs changed over the period, as well as highlighting the importance of women as consumers, whose tastes were informed by new trends in gardening and collections of botanical prints. Mary will also illustrate the chintzes that were criticised as bad taste and reveals whether that made them more of less popular.” – Museum website. Click here for more information and to book.

The following day, Friday 9 April at 13:00 BST there is an opportunity to meet the curators involved with the exhibition during an illustrated panel discussion which will be chaired by Dennis Nothdruft (Head of Exhibitions). Panellists will include Mary Schoeser, who was responsible for the Victorian Chintz and its Legacy section of the exhibition, and Gieneke Arnolli, who was curator at the Fries Museum for almost four decades. There will be an opportunity to see several of the images from the exhibition as well as to learn more about its conception and the history of chintz. Click here for more information and to book for this curator talk.

On Saturday 10 April Historic Deerfield will host a one-day virtual forum entitled Invisible Makers: Textiles, Dress, and Marginalized People in 18th- and 19th- century America.

Selection of eighteenth and nineteenth century clothing

There will be a series of lectures by “a dynamic roster of academic and museum professionals discussing examples of the important roles and contributions of BIPOC textile and clothing producers and consumers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Presented as case studies, the research includes textiles and clothing produced by forced labor within plantations; people of color working as tailors and dressmakers in Massachusetts; and marginalized people who fashioned their dressed bodies using Anglo-European garments in ways that both subverted normative styles while expressing “other” cultural identities.” – Deerfield website. Recordings of each session will be available to those who register for two weeks after the event, so it doesn’t really matter if you are in a different time zone. More information can be found here.

Kimono for a young woman (furisode), 1905–20, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Khalili Collection, K106

Many members were looking forward to the OATG visit to the V&A’s blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which we sadly had to cancel. We are delighted that our April speaker will be the curator, Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department. In this talk Anna will take us on a fascinating journey from the sophisticated culture of seventeenth century Kyoto to the contemporary catwalk and reveal some of the stories behind the exhibition. This is certain to be a very popular talk so I strongly suggest you register for it early. Members have already been sent a link to the booking form. Registrations for non-members will open next Friday (2 April) and I will include a link in my next blog.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Finally, in January I blogged about a series of interviews that the Textile Museum were hosting on a variety of topics – eighteenth century dyers, Andean textiles, Oriental carpets in Portuguese collections etc. I’m delighted to say that the recordings of these sessions are now available to watch at your leisure. Make a cup of coffee, get comfortable and click here to watch them.

A Helping Hand For Savu Weavers


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In her recent OATG talk Geneviève Duggan spoke of the need for a Weavers’ House for the community she works with on the island of Savu. Here is the background to this story, and a link to how you can help.

An indigo dyers hands

In 2006 several women on the small and isolated island of Savu got together to form a weaving group called Tewuni rai (placenta of the earth). The forty current members still produce their fabulous textiles on back tension looms, and use only vegetable dyes.

Ice Tede Dara, Secretary of the Tawuni rai weaving group and Desi Lodo, a young weaver from the village
A selection of textiles in the weaving village. © Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

In the past few years they have been hit hard, not only by Covid – which has meant no visitors coming to the island to buy their textiles – but also by African swine flu and a prolonged drought. These challenges have only increased their determination to plan for a better future.

Their aim is to build a Weavers’ House, in the shape of a traditional Savunese house with an extended roof ridge. Having such a building would give them somewhere to weave together, exchanging their knowledge of traditional patterns and techniques, and passing this on to the next generation. It would also provide them with a comfortable place to demonstrate their skills to visitors, instead of sitting out in the burning sun.

Plan of the proposed Weavers’ House
A traditional community building on Savu

The community already has a track record of working together on large projects such as this. From 2016-2018 they worked with Geneviève and André Graff to install a phyto-sanitation system, bringing clean water to their village, and so making a massive difference to their lives. They now have showers, toilets, a laundry area and another area for dyeing the threads for their textiles.

Water flows from the tap at the new block

 A plot of land close to this block has been donated for the Weavers’ House. The project will be overseen by Geneviève, in conjunction with Ice Tede Dara (Secretary of Tewuni rai), and the head of the village. The anticipated cost is $10,000, and every donation – no matter how small – will be appreciated.

If you would like to help make their dream a reality please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website here . Under ‘designation’ please tick Meet the Makers – Tewuni rai. Those donating $250 or more will receive a naturally dyed ikat or striped shawl as an expression of the weavers’ appreciation.

Example of shawls

Arctic batik exhibition, Egyptian appliqué and Palestinian embroidery.

A new exhibition opens later this week in Berne, Switzerland. The Museum Cerny will be showing a collection of batiks, created in the 1970s by Inuit artists from Nunavik in the far north of Quebec, Canada. I was really surprised to hear of this use of a textile tradition, that I associate with Asia and Africa, by indigenous artists in Canada.

©Museum Cerny

Apparently in 1973 the artist Chinkok Tan, who was born in Malaysia, held workshops at Great Whale River and introduced local artists to this technique. The pieces created then show real confidence, but sadly the production of more batik pieces never took off due to a lack of materials. The exhibition will run until 26 September 2021. An interesting article by the museum co-director Martin Schultz, with more images of these striking batiks, can be found here.

Caribou, 1973, Annie Mikpigak. ©Museum Cerny

The Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto have just opened the registration for another event in their series Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, will speak on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) “explores the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” – website. This free event takes place on Saturday 27 March at 11:00 EST, which is 15:00 in the UK. Full details and registration here.

Recordings of previous conversations in this series are available here. I particularly enjoyed the one by Omar Nasser-Khoury on Embroidery from Palestine. Omar is one of the co-authors of Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine.

Please note:- 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. For more information on the series and the IAMCC, please visit their website. This event will be held via Zoom. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list please email Dr Fahmida Suleman of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Three exhibitions and some new online talks

The exhibition Drachen aus goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads is reopening on 16 March at the German Textile Museum in Krefeld and will run until September 2021.

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

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.

Wedding garment (mang ao) for a Han Chinese lady, and three skirts (qun) with different patterns and different techniques: left: embroidery with silk on damask, centre: slit tapestry (kesi), right: embroidery with gold threads on patterned gauze. ©Walter Bruno Brix

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. 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!

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

In my most recent blog I shared a link to an online exhibition of socks from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. A reminder that next Saturday, 20 March, the Textile Museum will host an online talk as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. 

©Kent State University Museum

 As a complete contrast to the embroidered shoes shown above, I was struck by the simple elegance of these woven wicker shoes from the collection of Kent State University Museum. They are Chinese and were made in the twentieth century. The craftsmanship is superb!

Embroidered pillow, nineteenth century. ©REM

A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Russian Ethnographic Museum (REM). This exhibition is entitled Avant-garde? Dagestan Tradition! Kaitag embroidery from the collection of the REM and features a selection of embroideries from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. “The embroidery owes its name to the ethnographer E.M. Shilling, who in the middle of the twentieth century first described small canvases with a peculiar decor, found by him among the Kaitags (subethnos of the Dargins) in the Kaitag region of Dagestan.” – REM website. More information and excellent detailed images of some of the exhibits is available here.

Chand Baori stepwell, Abhaneri, Rajasthan. The oldest parts of this building date to the eighth century, though much of it was built around the eighteenth century. ©Victoria Lautman

Next Saturday, 20 March (a very busy day for events as regular readers will know) the Bowers Museum in California will host an online talk by Victoria Lautman on the subject of stepwells. These are magnificent subterranean water-harvesting structures found in India for many centuries. “Victoria Lautman has spent years documenting hundreds of the little-known underground edifices and her landmark book, The Vanishing Stepwells of India, was first published in 2017 (Merrell Publishers, London). Newly released in paperback, the book and Victoria’s lavishly illustrated talk trace the fascinating history, variety, and current state of India’s least-known marvels.” – Bowers website. The talk takes place at 13:30 PDT, which is 16:30 in the UK. Click here for more details and talk registration.

Riga (gown), ca. 1870, Hausa, Nigeria.
Cotton and silk plain weave (strip woven) with cotton embroidery. ©Rhode Island School of Design Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum currently has an interesting exhibition called It Comes in Many Forms: Islamic Art from the Collection. This “presents textiles, decorative arts, and works on paper that attest to the pluralism of Islam and its expressions. From an Egyptian textile fragment dating to the 1100s to a contemporary woman’s top by the Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa, 30 objects offer explorations into migration, diasporas, and exchange and suggest the difficulty of defining arts from a transnational religious viewpoint.” – RISD website. This exhibition runs until 14 August 2021.

A reminder of the other talks taking place next weekend:

Ms Boua at her loom, weaving naga head cloth. © Carol Cassidy

On Saturday 20 March at 10:00 PDT, which is 17:00 in the UK, the Textile Arts Council will host Carol Cassidy who will talk on the subject of Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Indigo in a locally produced pot in a village on Savu. ©David Richardson

Also on 20 March the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”. The talk will begin at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

Finally, copies of the next edition of Asian Textiles should be arriving with members any day now – ours arrived yesterday. It’s always a treat to make a cuppa and see what delights are inside its covers. If you have any ideas for future editions of the journal or the Lockdown Newsletter please contact our editor Gavin Strachan.