Exhibition: Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light

Exhibition dates: 5 April – 4 September 2017

Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light showcases the art and lives of the Huicholes, an indigenous group from western Mexico whose history dates back 15,000 years. Featuring dazzling yarn paintings created using traditional techniques, the exhibition includes ceremonial objects, handmade textiles and photographs documenting a unique and threatened way of life.

This exhibition is on loan from Artes de México with the support of the Consulate General of Mexico and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, Canada.

Exhibition: Barbara Brown

Exhibition dates: 17 March – December 2017

Barbara Brown was the golden girl of Heal’s Fabrics in the 1960s and early 1970s. Talent-spotted as a student, her designs for furnishing fabrics are some of the most striking and unusual ever produced in the twentieth century and won awards from the Council of Industrial Design. This is the first major solo exhibition of her work in the UK.

For more information, visit the website of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.

Exhibition: REMINDER – Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

pitt-rivers-embroidered-visions

Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This is a reminder that this exhibition will be open only until the end of this month, and also that a book of the same name is now available (since 25 January), priced at £10. You can find it in the PRM shop or you can purchase it online here.

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Exhibition: Colors of the Oasis – Central Asian Ikats

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 4 June 2017

Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats showcases nearly fifty ikat robes and panels from the renowned Murad Megalli Collection of the Textile Museum in Washington DC.

These bold garments were mainstays of cosmopolitan oasis culture in the nineteenth century, worn by inhabitants of different classes and religions throughout crowded marketplaces, private homes, centres of worship and ceremonial places. The ikat textiles on display – including robes for men and women, dresses, trousers and hangings – feature eye-catching designs in dazzling colours.

Supplementing the ikats are historical photographs and didactic materials about the tradition of their creation. The textiles were originally produced in the 1800s in weaving centres across Uzbekistan, including Bukhara, Samarkand and the Fergana Valley.

Additionally, special installations of ikat textiles from India, Japan and Central Asia – on view in the museum’s permanent galleries in the Law Building – demonstrate ikat traditions from around the globe.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA.

Exhibition: Kind Words Can Never Die

textile-museum-of-canada-kind-words-can-never-die

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 25 June 2017

Kind Words Can Never Die presents an extraordinary collection of Victorian needlework mottos stitched by anonymous women and girls in the mid to late nineteenth century. Mass produced by American wholesale companies, standardised sheets of perforated cardboard were printed with messages such as biblical quotes, song titles and popular maxims of the time that reflected the cultural and religious milieu of the North American evangelical Protestant middle class: ‘Do Right and Fear Not’; ‘What is Home Without a Mother?’; ‘Kind Words Can Never Die’. Women ordered the mottos from mail order catalogues, stitched them using a simple satin stitch and hung them in the home in specially designed motto frames.

With the rise of industrial manufacturing, men worked outside the home in growing numbers, setting established home and family structures into flux. Women increasingly took control of domestic space as consumers and moral influencers. Their decisions of which mottos to stitch and hang on the walls declared which of society’s ethical, cultural and religious edicts would guide the aesthetic and moral tone of the home. As objects of material culture, the mottos attest to the work women did to cultivate carefully chosen personal and social values in their families.

This particular collection of mottos was built by Jane Webster (1919–2009) from the mid to late twentieth century at her home in the Caribou Harbour area of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Family photos of the interior of the home taken in the 1940s show a few mottos on the wall ­— just enough to spark a collector’s passion in Jane, who had recently started spending time at the house. Jane purchased the mottos from farm auctions and received them as gifts, eventually amassing 173 examples that represent the vast majority of available motto texts. In Jane’s possession, the mottos were relieved of their purpose as edifying agents and re-contextualised as curious objects displayed in the spirit of generosity, welcoming and wit.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.

Exhibition: Joli! A Fancy Masquerade from Sierra Leone

fowler-museum-joli-masquerade
Exhibition dates: 11 December 2016 – 16 July 2017

This exhibition features a rare group of eleven headdresses worn in Joli masquerades held in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in the 1970s. Joli headdresses are among the most unusual, complex and elaborate masquerade configurations we know from sub-Saharan Africa, and they reflect the blending of cultural influences and peoples in the dynamic port city of Freetown. The headdresses in this exhibition were performed to mark the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. Crafted by Joli Society members, each headdress started with an elaborate armature made of bent and twisted wire, which was padded with polyurethane foam and then covered with textiles, brocades, velvets, netting, Christmas tinsel, fringe, lace and mirrors to create a ‘fancy’ superstructure in a recognisable shape, such as a mosque, an elephant, a biplane or the water spirit Mami Wata. Lastly, a painted wooden face mask or several face masks were attached to the structure, which was worn on top of the head of the fully dressed performer. The exhibition explains the history of Joli and the various threads of influence that led to this fantastic urban masquerade popular for only a brief period in the 1970s.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Exhibition: Sanquhar Gloves – A Living Scottish Tradition

ckc-sanquhar-gloves

Exhibition dates: this is an online exhibition, available to view indefinitely

The Center for Knit and Crochet (CKC), based in Wisconsin, USA, have produced a great online exhibition exploring the Scottish tradition of Sanquhar gloves.

Sanquhar gloves are a distinctive fashion accessory from the small Scottish town of the same name. Sanquhar, Scotland is located about 60 miles southwest of Edinburgh and 50 miles southeast of Glasgow. The gloves historically associated with this community are hand-knitted in fine wool yarns in two colours that emphasise the delicacy and precision of the small all-over patterns preferred by the knitters of Sanquhar.

Structure of the exhibition:

  • We begin with a definition of Sanquhar gloves, including their patterns, construction and materials, showing both historical and contemporary examples.
  • Next we explore the attraction of this form of knitting and discuss resources.
  • Finally we admire contemporary adaptations of Sanquhar patterns in gloves, mittens and other garments.
  • The exhibition concludes with a bibliography and reference materials.

To view the exhibition, visit the website of the Center for Knit and Crochet.

Exhibition: Kimonos – Au bonheur des dames

musee-guimet-kimonos-au-bonheur-des-dames

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 22 May 2017

Pieces from the collection of the famous Matsuzakaya fashion house are currently being exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, at the Musée Guimet in Paris. When shown together, they offer an opportunity to witness the evolution of Japanese fashion from the Edo period (1603–1868) up to the present day. The exhibition follows the development of the kimono and its accompanying accessories, in order to illustrate the position of women and the way in which women’s bodies are viewed in Japanese society, but also the ways in which these have been reinterpreted in contemporary Japanese and French fashion.

Originally worn as underclothing before being adopted by samurai and courtiers, and eventually becoming everyday wear for all social classes, the kimono, known as ‘kosode’ in the nineteenth century, is the signature item of Japanese dress. It wasn’t until the middle of the nineteenth century that kimonos were worn as indoor dress by elegant women in France, at a time when a taste for ‘japonism’ was in vogue with fashion designers such as Paul Poiret (1879–1944) or Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975), whose diaphonous creations with flowing sleeves resemble the loose construction of kimonos.

For more information, visit the website of the Musée Guimet, Paris.

Exhibition: Renaissance Fashion in Paper

royal-armoury-museum-renaissance-fashion-in-paper

Exhibition dates: 15 September 2016 – 19 March 2017

The Medici family outside the frame

Impressive costumes, opulent creations, extravagant forms and strong colours. Lace, frills, trains, rosettes and flounces. A Renaissance collection – inspired by the most powerful Renaissance family, the Medicis. This collection has been entirely made of paper by the Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Now her most extravagant collection is being presented in the Royal Armoury Museum, Stockholm, in the Royal Palace, for the first time in Scandinavia.

The paper costumes give an impression of the splendour of the Florentine Renaissance court. Because the original outfits have not survived to the present day, Isabelle de Borchgrave has based her pieces on portraits and other works of art. She creates what we don’t see in the portraits: the lower parts of the dresses and shoes, the backs of the dresses and the fantastic hairstyles.

Twenty-eight life-sized hand-painted paper costumes on dummies convey the opulence of the Florentine Renaissance court. They also give an insight into what the Swedish Renaissance court may have looked like during the Vasa period. Isabelle de Borchgrave’s magnificent creations bring a royal world to life in paper.

With inspiration from historical objects and paintings, Isabelle de Borchgrave has created accessories in paper, specially produced for the Royal Armoury’s exhibition. Isabelle de Borchgrave is an artist and sculptor. She is best known for her colourful paintings and advanced paper installations – life-sized costumes. She is represented in a number of museums across the world. Isabelle de Borchgrave has also worked as a designer, creating dress details for fashion designer John Galliano when he was head designer for the Christian Dior fashion house.

For more information, visit the website of the Royal Armoury Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

Exhibition: Textiles from Sumba, Indonesia

thomas-murray-sumba-exhibition

Exhibition dates: this is an online exhibition, available to view indefinitely

A special exhibition of textiles from Sumba, curated by HALI contributing editor Thomas Murray and drawing from his extensive collection, is available to view online. It begins:

“The island of Sumba may be found on a map between Bali and New Guinea but it exists in its own world, far apart from those antipodal lands. Divided east and west by language and environmental conditions, the west tends to be more wet and green and the east, dryer.

Sumbanese religion, Marapu, recognizes that a dualistic symmetry exists in the universe, that of male and female, hot and cold, sun and moon, cloth and metal. Here there are good and bad spirits hovering nearby, needing ritual offerings on a regular basis. The ancestors must most especially be cared for.

Sumba is thus home to one of the strongest animistic tribal societies found in Indonesia, perhaps most famous for its notorious custom of cutting off the heads of enemies and placing them on the branches of a designated tree, the pohon andung, at the entrance of the village. Such trees represented the Tree of Life as well as serving to remind viewers of the power of the raja.

Sumba has a rich megalithic heritage, featuring giant stone tomb memorials. Sumbanese houses, particularly the customary houses found in royal villages, known as rumah adat, are understood to be cosmic diagrams, with the underworld of the animals below, the mid-level for human habitation and the high roof being the realm of the ancestors. This is also the place where the pusaka heirloom treasures are stored, to be closer to the departed souls; precious gold jewelry and fabulously rare and beautiful textiles were kept just under the peak of the roof on both sides of the island. But the art of weaving and dyeing achieved greatest heights in the east, with ikat textiles adding bright colors to the dusty brown background of this, the dry side of the island.”

To view the exhibition, visit Thomas Murray’s website.