Shortly after posting my most recent blog I was contacted by designer and anthropologist Charlotte Linton with an update on her research into textile production on the Japanese island of Amami Ōshima. Along with several other OATG members I attended an excellent presentation and workshop by Charlotte at Wolfson College in Oxford last year.
Charlotte spent one year in Amami Ōshima, during which she explored “how traditional craft industries navigate the paradox between preservation and innovation”. The main cloth produced there is tsumugi for kimono. This is dyed using a process known as dorozome, which involves mud (as a mordant) and the boiled wood of the local hawthorn tree. The production of these cloths is very labour-intensive as it involves at least 28 separate processes. In her new paper Charlotte discusses the future of these textiles from her experiences working in Kanai Kougei – a traditional family business there. She looks at the implications the conferring of Mukei Bunkazai (Intangible Cultural Property) status would bring to these textiles, and the fact that it may mean stagnation rather than innovation. This is examined in the context of the current interest in sustainable fashion. “Making It For Our Country”: An Ethnography of Mud-Dyeing on Amami Ōshima Island appeared in the journal Textile: Cloth and Culture and is available here. I highly recommend taking the time to read this. The OATG are hoping to persuade Charlotte to come and talk to us about her findings in the future. Watch this space for details!
Below I am reproducing some of a blog I wrote on this subject last summer, simply so that readers can have all of the information in one place:
An excellent article by Martin Fackler on the economic issues facing the kimono producers of Amami Oshima appeared in The New York Times in 2015. He describes how 20,000 people were once employed in this profession, but that number has now shrank to 500. His article ends with the following words from Yukihito Kanai:
“We need to become more like artisans in Europe or artists in New York,” said the younger Mr. Kanai, 35, who said he is one of the few “young successors” in the island’s kimono industry. “Even traditions have to evolve.”
The production of a kimono on the island of Amami Oshima is so meticulous that a single mistake could squander the efforts of every artisan in the process. The BBC series Handmade in Japan tracked the year-long transformation of the island’s famous mud-dyed silk into an exquisite garment. Although the full-length programmes are no longer available online, short video clips still are. These cover the various people involved in making a kimono – the starcher, the designer, the binder, the mud-dyer, the weaver, the inspector and the tailor. They can be viewed on the BBC website under the title Mud, Sweat and Fears
For more information on mud dyeing (more correctly mud-mordanting as it is the tannin which produces the dye) see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on their Asian Textile Studies website. David and Sue have now also documented the process of mud-dyeing used by the last major practitioner of this craft on the Indonesian island of Sumba.
A new 6 part documentary series on the V&A called Secrets of the Museum began on BBC2 last night. The series looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a Dior gown. The star of last night’s episode for me was Pumpie the Victorian elephant. It was fascinating to see just how much work went into his conservation, right down to dyeing lots of samples with which to repair his trunk. Looking forward to future episodes….
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Also on the subject of conservation is this interesting blog by Staphany Cheng, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Textiles, Conservation Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art., in which she shares her experience of participating in the Workshops on the Conservation of Japanese Textiles, held in Taiwan. Much of the emphasis seems to have been on kimono. I had no idea there were three particular ways to fold these garments!
Dragon medallion, China, 16th century, silk and metallic-thread tapestry (kesi), 15 x 15 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum finally reopens this weekend after a major project to renovate and expand it. The next event in their Saturday University series is a talk entitled The Dragon and the Pearl: Explorations of a Eurasian Motif by Joel Walker of the University of Washington.
“The art and literature of medieval Eurasia abound with stories of precious jewels guarded by monstrous serpents or dragons. This presentation will investigate iterations of this motif in the Syrian Christian tradition, including a famous stele from the Tang-dynasty capital of Xi’an in northern China and a silver reliquary fragment from Roman Syria. Taken together, these artworks reveal the powerful symbolism of pearls as markers of spiritual excellence.” Seattle Asian Art Museum website.
15 February 2020,10:00 – 11:30
Emma Baillargeon Stimson Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, 1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle
Last month’s AGM heralded big changes for the OATG. Our chair Aimée Payton stood down and Helen Wolfe from the British Museum was elected to the position. Also standing down after many years of service was our webmaster Pamela Cross. Pamela developed the original OATG website from scratch and was responsible for the huge task of ensuring all of the back copies of Asian Textiles were available on it. Over the past few months she has been working with Aimée and Felicitas from our Events team to develop a new website, which was unveiled at the meeting. Please do click here to have a look at it. As you can see our Events page is starting to fill up with a great selection of exhibitions and talks. In fact our first event – a Show and Tell of Manuscript Textiles and an Introduction to the Buddhism exhibition at the British Library – is already fully booked!
Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger
Just opened at The Met Fifth Avenue is Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara which focusses on the area today encompassed by Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but there are also about 30 textiles including some very rare ancient indigo examples that were preserved in the Tellem Caves in Mali (information from Elena Phipps). Do scroll down the page to the images of the exhibition objects where you are able to click on each one to bring up the full details of the item.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
If you plan your visit judiciously you could also attend the first of a new Turkish Centennial lecture series on 7 February. The subject will be Impressions of Ottoman Visual Culture and Art in Europe, 1453-1699. The speaker is Professor Nurhan Atasoy from the Turkish Cultural Foundation. According to the Met website her talk will explore “the rich cross-cultural exchanges between the Ottomans and their European neighbours. Discover the factors that led to the flowering of vibrant and sophisticated artistic production throughout the vast Ottoman Empire in the centuries following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and learn how Europe became hungry for visual and artistic representations of their eastern neighbours.” Professor Atasoy has written and contributed to over 100 books on Ottoman and Islamic art.
7 February 2020, 17:00 – 18:00
Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
Coming soon to the Turner Contemporary in Margate is an exhibition entitled We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South. It has been curated by Hannah Collins and Paul Goodwin and “is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states.” – Turner Contemporary website.
Writing for artnet news, Caroline Elbaor elaborates further “A series of quilts sourced from the isolated Alabama enclave of Boykin will also make their UK debut, following a critically lauded presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002. Boykin, formerly known as Gee’s Bend, is largely populated by descendents (sic) of people enslaved on the Pettway plantation. The distinctive quilts, typically patched together from a variety of materials, including blue jeans or cornmeal sacks, have taken on a hallowed significance as symbols of resistance and survival.”
Mark Brown’s articlefor The Guardian on these distinctive quilts is also well worth a read.
7 February – 3 May 2020
Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG
There will also be a preview on Thursday 6 February when the exhibition will be opened by Bonnie Greer MBE
On 11 February OATG member Chris Buckley will be giving a talk to the Hajji Baba Club of New York on Tibetan Rugs: Ancient Problems, Innovative Solutions. Chris will explain how Tibetan rug making traditions evolved as well as examining some unique knotting methods. Having run a carpet weaving workshop in Lhasa for several years he is extremely knowledgeable on this subject. He will give the same talk to members of the International Hajji Baba Society in Washington on 9 February – see below.
9 February 2020
International Hajji Baba Society
Basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW
The next event in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is a talk by Markus Voigt, HALI contributing editor, on the subject of Carpets from the Tarim Basin and Tibet: and possible connections thereof. “At a casual glance Tibetan rugs might be mistaken for those from Xinjiang / Uyguristan (Eastern Turkistan). The talk will examine how two neighbouring but very disparate cultures came to have commercial crossover in rugs prior to Chinese conquest of Tibet.” – ORTS website.
19 February 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8
Mantle border, Peru, Nazca culture, early Intermediate Period (2nd–8th century). Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-0093. Photo by Bruce M. White.
This month sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC called Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen. Over 4000 pieces from the Cotsen Collection were donated to the Textile Museum in 2018 and this new exhibition brings together some of the global treasures he collected over a lifetime. You can read more about Lloyd Cotsen and his collecting in this blog from last year.
22 February – 5 July 2020
The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052
Over in San Francisco Itie van Hout will be giving a talk on the Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum. Itie was the former Curator of Textiles at the Tropenmuseum, which houses nearly 12,000 textiles from across Indonesia, collected over a period of 160 years. The majority of these were taken to the Netherlands when Indonesia was a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies. She has written extensively on Indonesian textiles. For further details visit the website of the Textile Arts Council.
22 February 2020, 10:00am
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118
Indonesian textiles are also the subject of another exhibition which has recently undergone a complete change in Bangkok. A Royal Treasure: The Javanese Batik Collection of King Chulalongkorn of Siam opened in November 2018. However this month all of the textiles are being replaced with different examples from the substantial Royal collection. This will also happen again in September, giving visitors the opportunity to see a far greater selection of these batik textiles. “Among the highlights of the latest acquisitions are a few pieces that have never been displayed before, namely, the Mikado pattern from Yogyakarta which reflects the Japanese influence in the various Japanese fans portrayed through the batik printing technique, as well as the blangkon headdress painted with gold known as batik prada, assumed to come from Cirebon, West Java. It was used only on special occasions by male members of the royal family. Only one piece has been found in the entire royal collection.” Sawasdee magazine. For more images and information please click here.
1 November 2018 – 31 May 2021
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Ratsadakhorn-bhibhathana Building, The Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200 Thailand
The National Museum has recently opened a small textile gallery and is jJust a short distance away from the Grand Palace so you could easily combine a visit to the two collections. Michael Backman has written a short blog about this gallery with some close-ups of a few of the textiles. He says that “Included are pha lai yang textiles – printed cotton fabrics that show thep phanom deity figures, worn as a lower garment by members of the royal family. There is a shawl known as a pha sphak that is of silk woven with gold thread and embellished with fluorescent beetle wings.”
The National Museum Bangkok, Na Phrthat Rd., Phra Borommaharachawang subdistrict, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok
Back in the UK a temporary textile exhibition has been curated at the Milton Keynes Museum. Called A Sense of Place and Time, this is an exhibition of textile art set within the history of textiles. Ethnic textiles are on show alongside contemporary examples by Art2Stitch. There will be a changing section on communication through textiles featuring examples from other cultures.
23 November 2019 – 26 April 2020
The New Gallery, Milton Keynes Museum, McConnell Drive, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5EL
Please note this museum is staffed by volunteers and has limited opening times.
Many members have been looking forward to the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk which finally opens in London on 29 February. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book (see my December blog). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she says her aim in this exhibition is 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 discusses the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the exhibition.
In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna Jackson talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly.
The exhibition will be 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.
29 February – 21 June 2020
Gallery 39 and North Court, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
The OATG have planned a visit to this exhibition, which will include a talk by Anna Jackson, for 26 May. Booking for the limited number of places available will open for members in mid-April via Eventbrite.
While at the V&A you should also take a look at the posters in this small exhibition entitled Manners and Modernity: Ukiyo-e and etiquette on the Seibu Railway. These posters convey how to be a well-behaved commuter through humorous messages.
They will be on display in Room 45 of the Toshiba Gallery until 22 March 2020.
Conserving Pumpie the elephant
Those who cannot get to the V&A will be interested to know that a new 6 part documentary filmed behind the scenes begins next week on BBC 2. The series is called Secrets of the Museum and looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a stuffed toy elephant! Henry Wong has written a fascinating piece about this series for design week, including an interview with Alastair Pegg (the director of programmes at Blast! Films) who concludes that “It reveals what’s behind the closed doors — there’s an industriousness that visitors don’t see. That’s the pleasure of this series.”
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Finally, I was fascinated to read of this work by a team from Leeds Museums and Galleries and researchers from various disciplines to recreate the voice of an Egyptian priest called Nesyamun who lived around 1100 BC. The mummified remains of Nesyamun were scanned at the Leeds General Infirmary and a 3D model of his throat was reproduced using a 3D printer. A full and very interesting account of the project is given here in layman’s terms, but if you want to read the scientific paper then click here.
Later next month a new exhibition entitled Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles opens at Two Temple Place in London. This exhibition “celebrates seven pioneering women who saw beyond the purely functional, to reveal the extraordinary artistic, social and cultural importance of textiles.” Two Temple Place website.
This is a very collaborative project, curated by June Hill and Lotte Crawford and involving no less than seven museums and art galleries from different areas of the country. It’s interesting that they are looking at the role of women as collectors, not as makers of textiles.
Embroidered japangi or cloak from Albania
The female collectors discussed include Edith Durham, who first visited the Balkans in 1900. As well as documenting the craft traditions of the area she also became involved with local politics, helping in hospitals and with refugees and campaigning. This blog about her recalls how she came into conflict with the Foreign office who marked her card thus: Durham, Miss M.E.: Inadvisability of corresponding with……
Louisa at the Khyber Pass
Louisa Pesel was the first President of the Embroiderers Guild and in addition to her own stunning designs for Winchester Cathedral she collected textiles from many places including Morocco, Turkestan, Syria and China. Many of these were donated to the University of Leeds. An excellent source of information about her is this blog by Colin Neville.
The other collectors the exhibition features are Olive Matthews, Enid Marx, Muriel Rose, Jennifer Harris and Nima Poovaya-Smith.
“The exhibition looks at how these collections continue to influence us today and asks why textiles still have to fight for their place amongst the more established visual arts” – a question which I often ask myself too.
In many ways the focus of this exhibition reminds me of one held at the Pitt Rivers Museum earlier this year called Intrepid Women. See my earlier blog on this subject.
25 January – 19 April 2020
Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD
Also opening late next month at The Met Fifth Avenue is Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara which focusses on the area today encompassed by Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but some textiles are also included. Click here for more details.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
The next talk in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is by Zara Fleming on the subject of Bhutanese Textiles: Ritualistic and Everyday textiles of Bhutan. Zara will explain how textiles are woven into everyday life and are used as clothing, currency and gifts. They are also used to signify status and are a vital component of Bhutanese festivals, dances and Buddhist rituals.
22 January 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8
Koloa: Women, Art, and Technology is an exhibition which opened recently in Hong Kong. It is presented by Para Site in conjunction with Tunakaimanu Fielakepa who is the “foremost knowledge-holder of ‘koloa‘ or customary women’s arts in Tonga”. This exhibition was previously on show in Tonga earlier in 2019. It “features a rich array of Tongan art practices, focused upon the main categories constituting koloa: ngatu or bark cloth making and fine weaving such as ta’ovala garments and ceremonial mats, as well as kafa or woven rope. The presentation includes prized, heirloom pieces as well as newly produced examples specially commissioned for the exhibition.” Para Site website. Additional works by three women artists – Tanya Edwards, Nikau Hindin and Vaimaila Urale – are also included to showcase aesthetic lineages in the Pacific.
A mixed design Tongan kupesi which was made before the 1930s. Courtesy of Lady Tunakaimanu Fielakepa
7 December 2019 – 23 February 2020.
G/F & 22/F, Wing Wah Ind. Building, 677 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong.
Three-layered lined kimono
There are only a couple of weeks left to see the exhibition in Heidelberg called Good Wishes in Silk: Children’s Kimono from the Nakano Collection. Kazuko Nakano has compiled a collection of almost a thousand objects that provide insights into the colourful and symbolic art of kimono design from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the present day.
A selection of around 80 children’s kimonos is now presented in Germany for the first time. Some of these examples are rather sophisticated and are clearly intended to be worn on special occasions, while others are more simple everyday wear. “They are genuine works of art, with a great variety of decorative motifs, and can be perceived as a kind of embroidered wish list with which the parents equip their children for their future lives.”
27 October 2019 – 12 January 2020
Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg, Hauptstrasse 97, 69117 Heidelberg
The January programme from the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMASC) is a talk by Thomas Murray – a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.
This talk, entitled Traditional Textiles of Japan, will explore Japan’s rich tradition of textiles, from firemen’s ceremonial robes and austere rural workwear to colourful, delicately-patterned cotton kimono. “The traditional clothing and fabrics featured in this lecture were made and used in the islands of the Japanese archipelago between the late 18th and the mid-20th century. The Thomas Murray collection includes daily dress, workwear, and festival garb and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement, which saw that modernisation would leave behind traditional art forms such as the handmade textiles used by country people, farmers, and fishermen. The talk will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics, often indigo-dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu, along with garments of the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fibre, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin to the north, and the brilliantly coloured cotton kimono of Okinawa to the far south.” – Thomas Murray.
Saturday 25 January 2020 10:00am
Luther Hall, St Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd., Los Angeles
For further information and to reserve a place please email email@example.com
A very engaging review of Murray’s book appeared in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of Arts of Asia, along with several stunning illustrations. This gave a huge amount of background into how the book came into being and really conveyed a sense of the passion for Japanese culture behind it. Those who don’t have access to Arts of Asia should take a look at The fabrics that reveal the ‘other’ Japan written for BBC Future by Andrea Marechal Watson. The images contained in her article should certainly whet your appetite to take a further look at the book from which they are drawn. For further information about the Ainu see my blog from January 2019.
I don’t usually blog about events far in advance, but the exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A in London which opens in February is sure to be very popular – in fact the members’ preview day has already sold out. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book.
Opens 29 February 2020
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
The current exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth.
Kate Taylor has written an interesting article on this exhibition for The Globe and Mail. In it she explains that as “the Canadian government forced a people living on the land into permanent settlements, the Inuit began to need cash. The art projects…… were initially introduced by government agents. The idea was that the skills used to carve stone, incise bone and sew clothing could be adapted to produce handicrafts for southern markets. But carving and printmaking were just two possibilities: This show offers a wide selection of rarely seen textiles, startlingly modernist and highly colourful designs created in the 1950s and 60s.”
A full colour catalogue will be available in 2020.
7 December 2019 – 30 August 2020
Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2H5.
John Ang will give a talk on The Influence of Foreign Fashion Trends on Malay Dress to the Textile Enthusiasts Group, which is linked to the Friends of the Museums (Singapore). He will discuss the origins and hybrid nature of Malay clothing. John stresses that “Malay dress is not static but always changing. Rather than seeing particular forms of clothing as Malay dress, he will demonstrate that what really constitutes Malay dress is the manner in which it amalgamated and adapted different fashion styles”.
9 January 2020 at 10:00am
Activity Room, Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore
Saint Louis Art Museum has a new exhibition, curated by Philip Hu, showcasing a selection of batik textiles from the island of Java dating from the mid-19th to the late 20th century. They include They include pieces “made for royal and aristocratic clientele, ceremonial use, and everyday fabrics worn by men and women.”
The video below gives you some idea of just how much painstaking work is required to complete a piece of batik.
Batik of Java: A Centuries Old Tradition; Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture
13 December 2019 – 7 June 2020
Gallery 100, Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
Next month Raoul “Mike” Tschebull will give a talk at the Hajji Baba Club, New York, on his new bookQarajeh to Quba: Rugs and Flatweaves from East Azarbayjan and the Transcaucasus. “Qarajeh…… is a small, isolated community at the end of a gravel road in eastern Azarbayjan, in northwest Iran. Although some limited weaving still goes on there, this famous weaving village is best known for its striking 19th century kennereh on wool foundations and its beautifully coloured cotton-foundation export rugs and carpets which were woven beginning in about 1900.” Tschebull Antique Carpets website.
Front cover of the book.
The book is published by Hali and showcases 70 pile carpets and flatweaves from his own collection, the majority of which have never previously been published. The images are by the leading textile photographer Don Tuttle.
Tuesday 21 January 2020
The Coffee House Club, Sixth Floor, 20 West 44th St, Manhattan, NY
A reminder that a series of Arts Society study days will take place at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from January to March. These are open to the public as well as members of the Arts Society and are likely to be very popular, hence the advance notice. Subjects include The Visual Art of Power and Rank at the Chinese Imperial Court (David Rosier) and Japanese History, Art and Culture (Suzanne Perrin). Click here for full details.
Finally I hope to see many of you at the Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM on Saturday 18 January at the Ashmolean Museum Education Centre. As usual the official business will be followed by the ever-popular Show and Tell session. Full details will be sent out to members via Eventbrite in January but in the meantime please make a note of the date!
This week saw the opening of a new exhibition by Patricia Cheesman at Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Entitled Over the Cordillera it showcases textiles from either side of the Annamite Range between Laos and Vietnam, examining similarities in their motifs. Patricia is the author of several books on the textile of this area. A brief overview of the exhibition, with many extra images featured in City Life Chiang Mai – thanks to Susan Stem for informing me of this.
Patricia Cheesman Gallery
138/8 Soi Chang Khian,
T. Changpeuak, A. Muang Chiang Mai
On 11 December indigo expert Jenny Balfour-Paul will be giving a talk in Paris on England and Holland, explorers of the indigo of the Indies.
Although indigo had been introduced into Italy in the Middle Ages it was “the English and Dutch East Indian companies that led to its expansion into the textiles of Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, allowing considerable production of blue or black woollen cloth. In the nineteenth century, English settlers largely expanded the plantation and indigo production in India, dominating the world market until the advent of synthetic indigo.” (website of the National Institute of Art History).
The talk will be in English and there will be time for questions and viewing some textiles afterwards. Click here to read an interesting interview with Jenny Balfour-Paul on Thomas Machell – the subject of her most recent book Deeper Than Indigo.
December 11, 2019 – 18:00 -20:00
National Institute of Art History, auditorium
6, rue des Petits-Champs or 2, rue Vivienne
Also on in Paris is an exhibition at the Musée de Cluny entitled The Art of Embroidery in the Middle Ages. According to the museum’s website “Embroidery with silk thread, gold and silver is one of the most precious and prestigious arts of the Middle Ages. And yet, today, these works are not at all well known.” This exhibition seeks to rectify that situation by looking at the main embroidery centres, from the Germanic regions to Italy, Flanders, England and France. It also provides an overview of the role medieval embroidery played from an artistic and social point of view, covering techniques, manufacturing processes and the relationships between sponsors, embroiderers, painters and merchants.” (museum website)
24 October 2019 – 20 January 2020 Wednesday to Monday.
Musée de Cluny
entrance is via 28 rue Du Sommerard, 75005 Paris
Outerwear for women made of pineapple fibre, Panay Island, Philippines
Photo: Shinpei Shibuya
In complete contrast to all of the silver and gold in Paris, is an exhibition on Bast Fibers of the World which has just opened at the Iwatate Folk Museum in Tokyo. The range of bast fibres is incredible: raffia palm, hemp, ramie, banana were all used before we discovered cotton.
Iwatate Folk Museum
1-25-13 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0035
28 November 2019 – 14 March 2020
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Image courtesy of Takashima Gallery
While in Tokyo do not miss this small exhibition of Textiles of the Ancient Andes at the Takashima Gallery, which ends on 15 December 2019. Fifty textiles dating from 900BC to 1400AD are currently on show. The intensity of their colours is truly amazing! Click here to see great images of more of these textiles.
One of the techniques in which the creators of Andean textiles excelled was cross looping. In this blog for the Cooper Hewitt Elena Phipps examines this fragment of a border (probably for a simple shoulder mantle) made by Nasca needleworkers from the South Coast of Peru at some time between 100BC and 100AD. The yarns used are from various camelids – llamas, alpacas and possibly vicunas.
Recently an attempt has been made to revive this ancient technique. You can read more about the progress made in this blog by Marilyn Murphy of ClothRoads.
Film showing some of the fans on display and the conservation methods used.
Back in the UK the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has an exhibition of fans from their extensive collection. “The collection of over 600 objects ranges in date from the 18th to the 20th centuries and in type from bejewelled and hand-painted court and wedding fans, to printed mass-produced advertising fans, aide-memoire fans, mourning fans and children’s fans.” (Fitzwilliam Museum website)
I found the accompanying film fascinating, especially the glimpses it gave into the various methods of conservation that were used. I had no idea that fans could be so fascinating!
5 March 2019 – 12 January 2020
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RB
Finally I really enjoyed reading this blog by Sara Clugage on the Cooper Hewitt website. In it she examines this portrait of Karl Marx which was woven in silk in Hangzhou at the East is Red factory.
According to Clugage this “woven portrait of Marx is especially poignant, given Marx’s unrelenting criticism of the textile industry. In his early manuscripts of 1844, he quotes at length the capitalist abuses of laborers at textile mills……. Interestingly, Marx points to textile workers as the first to have their skills subsumed to wage labor, erasing the specificity of skilled work and turning it into a laborer’s saleable commodity. This portrait is a deft piece of propaganda, turning from the alienated labor of textile production under capital to its reclamation by workers in a communist society. It successfully encodes communist economic values with nationalist party values.”
Hangzhou is now the home of the China National Silk Museum where research into the history of Chinese silk production is undertaken.
Today’s blog focusses on two exhibitions featuring textiles from South and Central America.
Exhibition dates: 21 June – 8 September 2019
A proto-Nazca culture tapestry. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes Fine Art.
The first of these is Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru which recently opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. This exhibition has traditional textiles on one floor and those by contemporary designers on another. Running alongside the main exhibition is a display entitled A Thread: Contemporary Art of Peru, which showcases the work of seventeen Peruvian artists.
Hugh Thomson, the author of Cochineal Red, has written a very interesting article about this exhibition for The Design Edit. In it he stresses the importance textiles have always had in Peruvian culture and how when the “conquistadors arrived in 1532, they could not understand why so many Inca warehouses were stocked with textiles rather than gold or silver, which the indigenous people considered less valuable.” Among the many highlights of the exhibition are thirteen pieces from the British Museum, a hat which dates to 600 AD and a tunic made of macaw feathers.
Some of the pieces from Peruvian artists such as Meche Correa and Chiara Macchievello are simply stunning, with intricate embroidery and weaving techniques. A dress that was inspired by Peruvian designs, but was actually part of a Vivienne Westwood collection, also features.
For full details of opening hours and how to book visit the website of the Fashion and Textile Museum.
Location: Fashion and Textile Museum. 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF
Exhibition dates: 21 July – 13 October 2019
The second exhibition is on at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and looks at Mayan Traje: A Tradition in Transition. This exhibition explores how the clothing of the Maya of Guatemala was once specific to each village, and how and why that is changing over time.
Rachael Myrow has written an article for KQED Arts giving more background to how this exhibition came about and the links to Mayan people who now call San Francisco their home. Many of the textiles on display come from private collections and date to the early twentieth century.
It’s going to be a busy week in London with the Handcrafted Heritage events celebrating Indian textiles at The Bhavan in West Kensington, which is the largest centre for classical Indian arts and culture outside of India. A free exhibition and sale will showcase heritage textiles including Benarasis, Patan Patolas, and Dhakai Jamdanis and vintage silver jewellery.
On Wednesday 26th and Saturday 29th June there will be a workshop devoted to patolas. The tutor for this workshop will be Shri Kanubhai Salvi, a master weaver and holder of the UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award. His family have been producing these double ikat textiles in Patan for many generations.
Photo courtesy of Patan Patola Heritage
Also on 26 June (but in the evening) there will be a screening of the fascinating documentary Legend of the Loom, which tells the story of Bengal muslin and how the trade in it flourished and then declined. The screening will be followed by a conversation session with its producer Saiful Islam. An excellent review of this film by Hannah Sayer can be found here.
21 June- 8 September 2019
Opening shortly at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, is an exhibition entitled Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru. This exhibition ” explores the processes and practices of both historic and contemporary Peruvian costume via garments, textiles, photographs, tools, illustrations and paintings, dating from pre-Hispanic to present day.”
Photo courtesy of Fashion and Textile Museum
There will be a panel on the opening day discussing Peruvian Fashion with several of the designers whose work is featured in the exhibition along with its curator. Attendance at the panel is free with an exhibition ticket, but places must be booked as numbers are limited.
Contemporary designs by Mozhdeh Matin, who works with artisans and champions Peruvian textiles and techniques
24 – 30 June 2019
HALI London – this is a series of events to celebrate the 200th edition and 40th year of HALI. These include a fair with twenty of the best international dealers in attendance, a 6-day tour of Great British Collections, two symposia – each with twelve lectures, and a whole series of miscellaneous events. Full information can be found on their website. Please note that several of the events have already sold out – so act quickly if you want to book for those that are still available!
The exhibition at Francesca Galloway’s gallery entitled Textile Splendours From The East. “The gallery will present a plethora of textiles from Asia, including a magnificent Sogdian costume, a delicate Ming period needle loop embroidery, Indian chintzes for domestic and export markets, as well as textiles made for spiritual pursuits.”
One of the items featured in Francesca Galloway’s exhibition
The other event that really stands out (of those that are not already sold out) is the visit to the Karun Thakar Collection. Participants will go to Karun’s private residence where they will be able to view his extraordinary collection. This includes Asian textiles ranging from 14th century Indian Trade cloths to folk textiles and costumes from Central Asia, Japan, Bhutan and Afghanistan; African textiles—predominantly narrow loom weavings from Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries, plus North African embroideries, veils and haiks from Morocco and Tunisia.(Information from Hali website). You can browse through images of some of his collection here.
Winter chuba from Western Tibet
15 June – 15 September 2019
Finally a new exhibition has just opened at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Guo Pei: Chinese Art and Couture showcases twenty pieces from the Museum’s own collection along with twenty nine pieces created by the designer.
Image courtesy of the Asian Civilisations Museum.
Curator led tours will be held on 26 June, 31 July and 28 August and can be booked via the museum website. Steven G. Alpert has pulled together a huge amount of information about this exhibition on his excellent website Art of the Ancestors. It has stunning images and information on the links with the Peranakan – the golden bridal dress is simply a work of art! It seems pointless for me to attempt to replicate Steven’s piece so instead I simply recommend you click here to read it.
Exhibition dates: 9-18 June 2019, National Museum, Yangon.
Until the late 1950s chiefs known as Saopha or Sawbwa were responsible for the administration of the Shan State of Burma. This exhibition, which is only open for 9 days, showcases a total of 27 costumes which are over a hundred years old. The majority of these costumes previously belonged to prominent men, but there is also one costume which belonged to the Shan Princess Mahardevi Sao Nan Yar. The most important costumes belonged to Sao Shwe Thike, the first President of Burma, and his father Sar Sao Maung.
Sao Shwe Thike
These costumes were brought to the National Museum in Yangon from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, Shan State, in 2017 with the intention of having them properly restored and preserved. These costumes include textiles, silk, brocade, cotton, metals and precious stones.
For more information see this article in the Myanmar Times by Lae Phya Myo Myint.
Dressed with Distinction: Garments from Ottoman Syria features a a rare selection of Syrian textiles from the collection of David and Elizabeth Reisbord, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The exhibition features examples of Arab and Ottoman attire dating from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and celebrates the talents of weavers and tailors in urban centres like Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs where a sophisticated range of dyeing, weaving, and decorative techniques earned the region international renown for its textile production. Men and women living in these cities were famous for wearing brightly coloured clothing worked in silk glittering with gold and silver thread. After World War I (and the end of 400 years of Ottoman rule), Syrians privileged Western attire, leading to an eventual decline in handwoven garment production. More recently, unrest and conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean have virtually eradicated any remnants of these textile traditions and skills. Thus, this exhibition documents the heritage of iconic Arab and Ottoman garments and the importance of fashion as a marker of cultural knowledge.” – Fowler Museum Press Release.
This exhibition was curated by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, the Director of the Textile Research centre in Leiden, and includes examples of clothing worn by both urban and nomadic people. The techniques used include ikat, tapestry weave, brocade and embroidery. These clothes reflected status as well as religious adherence.
For more information and some great textile images go to the website of the Fowler Museum.
On Saturday 27 April Dr Vogelsang-Eastwood will be giving a lecture at the Fowler Museum on Syrian Garments. This will be followed by a book signing and reception. This event is free but registration is required.
In another part of the globe the exhibition Love from Damascus: The art of devotion in Islam, currently showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia, will be closing on 30 April 2019.
This exhibition, curated by James Bennett, explores the divine and worldly aspects of devotion expressed in the arts of Islam over one thousand years. The objects on show include richly decorated gold-illuminated manuscripts and paintings, ceramics, silverware and textiles from the Middle East, India and Indonesia. Among the highlights are richly decorated manuscripts, including Al-Qur’an, from the Turkish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery’s own unique copy of Mathnavi by the great medieval Sufi poet.
Japan House is located on Kensington High Street in London and presents the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology. It is part of a global initiative led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This exhibition explores the work of the Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop in Kyoto. The Japanese have long had a deep appreciation of colour and a close relationship with their natural surroundings and the changing of the seasons. This exhibition aims to show how this has been expressed by the careful creation of colour combinations and how Yoshioka has studied and developed Japan’s age-old natural dyeing techniques showing its vibrant colour culture.
Yoshioka Sachio is the 5th-generation head of the workshop who, when he inherited the business, decided to discard the use of synthetic dyes and to ensure that all the work undertaken would use age-old natural dyeing materials. His daughter Sarasa is taking over the running of the workshop as a 6th-generation Yoshioka.
There will be a gallery talk by Sarasa who has studied silk production, including silk reeling, throwing, dyeing, and weaving, TODAY (Saturday 6 April). This is free, but space is limited.
On Thursday 11 April brothers SUGIMOTO Kakuro and Tetsuo of the Sugimoto Pharmacy based in Kamakura, will explore the history and current applications of herbalism in Japan, demonstrating how to make a soothing skin balm from purple shikon, a root which is also the main ingredient for the highly prized murasaki purple dye featured in the Living Colours exhibition.
Location: 101-111 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SA
For more information visit the website of Japan House.
In 2018 an exhibition entitled Oceania was held at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first Pacific voyage of Captain James Cook. This exhibition was organised in conjunction with the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. Those who missed seeing this exhibition last year now have another opportunity as it will be opening again – this time in Paris – from 12 March until 7 July 2019.
The museum’s website describes this exhibition as a ” journey across the Pacific to discover the island cultures and peoples of Oceania. From New-Guinea to Easter Island, from Hawaii to New Zealand, nearly 200 works provide an overview of the art of a continent, passing on both traditions and contemporary challenges.”
There is a huge amount of information about the original exhibition on the website of the RA, including a short video which provides an overview of it and another video on the art of tattooing.
The lengthy article by Maia Jessop Nuku, Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, examines the three key themes of the exhibition:- Voyaging, Making Place, and Encounter. She explains how the exhibition “presents the region’s distinctive landscape as a vital and deeply interconnected highway that links Pacific peoples together in a network of dynamic exchange and encounter.”
Another strong article is entitled The art of Oceania: seven stories, in which several curators and scholars look at selected pieces in more detail. These include the sculpture of a Polynesian god which was admired by Picasso and Moore, the god image made from feathers presented to Captain James Cook (see above), and a stunning necklace from Fiji, carved from sperm whale ivory, which conveyed status. These various articles and videos provide a wonderful insight and are great preparation for viewing the exhibition in Paris.
Still on show at the Museum du quai Branly until 7 April is their exhibition on Japanese basketry – so if you time it right you can visit both at once. This exhibition is entitled Fendre l’air – Art du bambou au Japan (Split the Air) and looks at how the art of bamboo basketry became sculpture. There is an excellent video of the exhibition by Paris Match, in French but with English subtitles. The exhibition traces the development of basketry in a chronological order and examines the influence the tea ceremony had on these baskets. Several beautiful vases by the acknowledged master Rokansai are featured.
Lisa Chapman has written a beautifully illustrated article on the exhibition for TL mag (True Living Art of Design) entitled The Woven History of Japanese Basketry. She explains that although bamboo basket-making in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries was linked to the tea ceremony, artists eventually moved on from that and “contemporary weavers also reveal the potential of the material and their creativity in works that depart from their functional uses and become pieces of sculpture.”
Coincidentally the Seattle Art Museum are also celebrating Japanese basketry this Saturday 9 March 2019 with a lecture entitled The Japanese Basket 1845-1958. The presenter, Joe Earle, was formerly the Director of the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Full details here.
Finally an exhibition of anting-anting from the Philippines will be opening in the central mezzanine of the Museum du quai Branly on the 12 March. This runs until the 26 May 2019 and showcases these talismans, worn by many people who believe they have special powers such as the ability to stop bullets.