Article: Diversity and Exquisiteness – Examples of Three Asian Textile Sample Books

 

 

In this article Andrijana Sajic, Senior Book Conservation Coordinator, Thomas J. Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) discusses three Asian textile sample books from their Special Collections.

The first of these is Japanese Textiles, whose accordion structure allows readers to see either side of the book because they are mounted on the front and back of the boards. Based on the thickness and patterns of the samples, the textiles were used for mounting hanging scrolls. The book could have belonged to an individual scroll maker or studio, and been used as a personal record or a commercial reference guide. While little is known about this sample book, it is certain that these beautiful, thin, woven silks, with their extraordinary motifs, metallic threads, and metallic leaf applications, are remarkable samples of cloth.

Another Japanese textile sample book is Nippon Hand Weaves in Kusakizome Dyes, published in 1959 by Akira Yamazaki. Unlike the Japanese Textiles book, this book contains detailed information about its function and maker’s intentions. It is a collection of twenty-six plant-dyed, handwoven textiles that were specifically made for this book and created, as the author states in the introduction, to “transmit the wealth of the past.” This elegant structure contains information about each cloth sample and plant used in the dyeing process, and also about the materials used in the construction of the book.

The textile sample book Balai Penelitian Batik, which has an unknown date of production, was created by the Ministry of the Industry of People of Jogjakarta and Batik Research Centre. Unlike the two other books presented here, this is a manual that leads the viewer through steps in batik production, in both English and Indonesian. Each page contains a sample of treated cloth, a brief description of the process, and an illustrative photograph.

The information in the introduction does not explain the institution’s intention in creating this manual. However, this publication clearly captures the complex, time-consuming process of batik production and educates readers through didactic samples that illustrate the wax-resist dyeing technique with copper stamps. Descriptions are brief and factual, and samples are the focal point of the page. The viewer is invited, through nine consecutive cloth samples, to see and feel the transformation of pure starched white cloth into a finished batik design, a sample of which is adhered to the front cover of the book.

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