Exhibition: Weaving New Worlds

 

Exhibition dates: 16 June – 23 September 2018

“This is not a story of genteel craft work.” – Lesley Millar (curator) on the new exhibition at the William Morris Gallery, London.

This is certainly true of the diptych of Kim Jong Un by Pat Taylor, and Bandages by Mari Meen Halsoy, a Norwegian artist living in Beirut.

The old buildings of Beirut still carry holes left by bullets and shells during 15 years of civil war in Lebanon, and many of its people have matching psychological wounds. Halsoy is attempting to heal both through her work.

The project, installed by Mari Meen Halsøy at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, north-east London, recreates the wall of a shattered building known as the Yellow House. The building is located on the former “green line” that divided Christian east Beirut and Muslim west Beirut during the 1975-90 war.

At first glance the work combines beautiful pieces of traditional tapestry, some as small as postage stamps, which are dyed in muted shades of grey, blue and ochre. In fact, each has been precisely matched in size, shape and colour to a hole left in the Yellow House wall by bullets or shells, many of which took human lives. Each tapestry is made from a tracing on cotton fabric taken directly from the wall’s surface.

Tapestries have always told stories. In this exhibition 16 women artists from the UK, USA, Norway, Canada, New Zealand and Japan weave the stories of our time: the possibilities, the hopes and lost chances. Using the traditional hand woven tapestry techniques that connect us to the past, they have taken contemporary images and events, personal dreams and feelings. The tapestries range in subject matter, from reflections of rural mythologies, to floods and urban decay. Always at the heart of the work is the human condition, the artists offering us both a utopian and dystopian view – the choice is ours.

For further information on the exhibition visit the website of the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London.

To read more about the Bandages installation click here

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Event: ORTS Film Night

 

 

Event date: Wednesday 20 June 2018 at 6.30pm, St. James Piccadilly 

As part of their summer programme the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be hosting a film night focussing on the Bakhtiari.

Antony Wynn, who spent many years living in rural Iran, will be showing two films about the migration of the Bakhtiari tribes.  The first one “Grass” is a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters  and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  It is a very dramatic film and shows clearly how tough life was for the nomads in those days.

The second film “People of the Wind” was made by the late Shusha Guppy in 1976, following the same route with descendants of the same people, and it shows what had changed and what had stayed the same over those fifty years. This could be a long evening, so there will be an interval between the two films.

The doors open from 6pm with drinks and snacks being served. Non-members are welcome at a charge of £7 (£5 for students).

For details of the location visit the ORTS website

Event: World Textile Day – Scotland

 

Event Date: – 16 June 2018 10:00-16:30, Bridge of Allan.

The World Textile Day team write: You can say this about Scottish textile lovers – they really do go the extra mile, with visitors coming all the way from the Borders, Aberdeen and Inverness to ogle our array of textile treasures. In 2018 we’ll be back at our great venue in Bridge of Allan for the 6th year – astounding!

The SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER will be Diane Gaffney, textile trader, collector and traveller discussing Many Hands Make Light Work: Incredible Handmade Asian Textiles. There will also be a Fair Trade Market showcasing a wide variety of textiles.

Free parking available nearby!

For more details visit the World Textile Day website

Event: The Importance of Gifts – Burmese Art and the Vessantara Story

 

Event date: 12 June 2018 13:00-14:00, Oxford UK

Stories of the Buddha’s many lives have long been essential in Burmese art, and occupying pride of place is the tale of Vessantara’s generosity. This talk by Dr Alexandra Green of the British Museum explores these narrative representations and the role they play more broadly in Burmese religious rituals.  This talk is linked to the current exhibition on The Tale of Prince Vessantara, showing in Gallery 29 until September 2018

For further information visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum

Article: Classes and costumes in traditional Vietnamese society

 

In this article Dr Sud Chonchirdsin discusses class division and its associated costumes, illustrating this with several examples from the British Library. Please note enlarged versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the relevant image.

In traditional Vietnamese society people were divided into four classes, similar to those found in Chinese and other East Asian Confucian societies. The tứ dân, or four social hierarchical classes, were scholars (sĩ), farmers (nông), craftsmen (công) and merchants (thương).

Vietnamese mandarins, both civil and military, were divided into nine grades and each grade was further subdivided into senior and junior levels. High ranking mandarins were distinguished by their official robes in purple or red, colours reserved for their class, while lower ranking officials wore blue robes. Commoners could only wear black, brown or white dyed costumes, as Harry A. Franck, an American travel writer, observed in Tonkin in 1923: “the Tonkinese were dressed in a cinnamon or tobacco-juice colour that suddenly became as universal as black had been further south … the country women, then their men, and finally all the hand-labouring class, took to wearing long cotton cloaks of this reddish brown hue” (Franck 1926: 191).

To read the full article visit the website of the British Library

Article: Weavings from the Land in the Cloud

 

This article by Nurdiyansah Dalidjo and Cassandra Grant looks at the Toraja weavings of  South Sulawesi.

Weaving is an important spiritual activity and is respected by the Toraja people, but only women weave the cloth. They inherit the skills and knowledge taught by their grandmother or mother. From childhood, girls are involved in the fabric-making process, starting with chopping cotton or rolling yarn. Over time they learn the complex stages of weaving.

Initially, Toraja woven fabrics use hand-spun cotton threads and natural dyes grown around gardens and in fields and forests. One of those dyes is the tarum plant that produces an indigo blue. Other dyes use noni roots and turmeric. In the distant past, Toraja also sourced a black coloring using katakante leaves and mud sourced from fields where buffalo were kept. According to a Toraja resident, using mud that was mixed with urine or buffalo dung would help lock in the dye. Woven fabrics that have been coloured through this mud-dyeing process are known as pote, and are worn as headbands or hoods by relatives of the dead as a symbol of mourning.

Woven fabrics also form an important part of the funeral ceremonies. One of the sacred ikat weavings features a bright orange and blue dominant color, and is decorated with rhombuses, arrows, and diamond shapes in geometric patterns. Known alternately as Rongkong and Galumpang, the pattern represents Toraja ancestors but may be known by different names elsewhere.

To read the full article, which also has some beautiful photographs, click here

Event: World Textile Day – Central England

Event Date: – 2 June 2018 10:00-16:30, Banbury.

The World Textile Day team write: Arriving in King’s Sutton two years ago, how could we have known that Oxfordshire would turn out to be such hotbed of world textile fans? – We at the Oxford Asian Textile Group are certainly among them!

In 2018 World Textile Day Central is shaping up to be really something. Focusing on the theme Working Together, the SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER will be Chris Spring, curator of the British Museum’s Africa collection. Chris will speak on Social Fabric: Textiles and Teamwork in East and Southern Africa. There will also be a Fair Trade Market showcasing a wide variety of textiles.

Free parking available on site!

For more details visit the World Textile Day website

Article: Venerating the past, traditional costume fever grips Thailand

Business is booming for Siri Seatea’s traditional dress shop in Bangkok.

“Out of the 30 years I’ve been running this shop, this is the peak for us,” 53-year-old Siri told Reuters as she stitched a Thai sarong for a client.

History fever is gripping Thailand and a growing number of Thais are wearing traditional dress, a phenomenon encouraged by the junta and the palace, and fuelled by a popular television soap opera.

Among the popular costumes are those worn during the reign of former King Chulalongkorn, known as Rama V, who ruled from 1868 to 1910 and is credited with saving Thailand from Western colonialism.

Television has also played a part.

“Love Destiny”, a soap opera set during the 1656 to 1688 reign of King Narai the Great, has taken Thailand by storm.

Many Thais are visiting the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, where scenes from “Love Destiny” take place. They pose for “selfies” dressed in traditional garb against the backdrop of the ruins.

To read the full article visit the Reuters website. At the end of the article there is a slideshow of 15 images which can be viewed in full screen.

Video: Women in Iraq’s refugee camps taught to sew

Vulnerable women living in northern Iraq’s refugee camps are being taught how to sew.

Paula Horsfall, from Berkshire, has collected old sewing machines and transported them to Iraq, where skills the women learn keep them off the dangerous streets of the refugee camp and allow them to make money for their families and children.

The cloth they sew is the native jajim and Paula has struck a deal with a multi-national fashion retailer to provide the finished garments for non-profit sale, with proceeds going back to the women and charity. What a brilliant use for old sewing machines!

To watch a short video about this visit the website of the BBC

Article: Portable Storage Bags

Recently I posted about the exhibition on portable storage bags at the Metropolitan Museum in New York – ending 7 June 2018. Even if you can’t make it to the exhibition I highly recommend looking at their website, which has a wealth of information about these bags – how they are used, who made them, the techniques they used etc.

The different types of bags are examined, with examples of their use given. Specific bags were used to store salt, flour, bedding, spindles etc.

The section on the tribes covers the Qashqai, the Shahsevan and the Bakhtiari. It includes a fascinating short documentary about the Bakhtiari, filmed in 1925.

Slit-tapestry rugs from Turkey, called kilims, were woven in a wide range of sizes and formats for a wide variety of uses. Rugs associated with the market town of Reyhanlı, on the Turkish-Syrian border, were produced by nomad groups who moved to upland Taurus mountain pastures in the summer, returning to the Mediterranean littoral during winter months.

Besides the characteristic technique of mainly slit-tapestry (kilim), the splendid double saddlebags from Reyhanlı (called heybe in Turkish) sometimes include metallic-wrapped cotton threads, which the nomadic weavers could not produce themselves but had to acquire, probably in exchange for sheep or goat milk, cheese, or other products from their animals.

One such saddlebag is examined in greater detail by Associate Research Scientist Federico Caro, with particular attention being paid to the use of copper metallic thread that resembled gold.

In another section of the website conservators Julia Carlson and Yael Rosenfield examine the sumak technique, with lots of excellent detailed photographs.

It’s rare to see so much excellent background information for an exhibition – hope you enjoy reading it.