Exhibition: Ikats, Tissus de Vie – Un Voyage de l’Orient à l’Occident

Exhibition dates: May 2017 – December 2019 (see below for precise dates and locations)

For many years, tens of books, studies and exhibitions have been dedicated to ikat across the world, in the United States, in the Asia-Pacific region, England, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But nothing, or nearly nothing, in France.

Ikats, tissus de vie is there to fill this void. This project, consisting of a book and exhibitions, offers a large panoramic of these textile creations which have fascinated so many societies, from insular Southeast Asia to Islamic territories and Western Europe.

Ikat refers to the use of resists and dyes to apply colours very precisely to threads, before weaving them to create figures that vibrate inside the cloth.

Using this complex process, several societies from across the world have managed to create a surprising visual beauty, often regarded as sacred and central to their beliefs. Exploring the memory and the territories of ikat is also a way to understand how textiles evolved in cultures and to question what they can become today.

This exhibition will take place in four different locations between May 2017 and December 2019:

• La Route du lin, near Loudéac, Brittany – 20 May to 5 November 2017

• L’Abbaye de Trizay, near Rochefort – 1 June to 12 August 2018

• Le Musée Bernard d’Agesci, Niort, Deux-Sèvres – December 2018 to March 2019

• Le Musée Bargoin, Clermont-Ferrand – June to December 2019

For more information, visit the Parole et Patrimoine website (info in French) or the Tribal Textiles forum (info in English).

Exhibition: Embroidered Bodies – Garments, Stitches and Stories from the Ashmolean Museum

Exhibition dates: 5 May – 10 September 2017

Clothing tells a multitude of human stories, with each embroidered stitch contributing to the tale. This exhibition introduces the Ashmolean’s diverse textile collections through a selection of exquisite, crafted garments, expressing themes of personal identity, local tradition and international trade.

The exhibition, curated by the OATG’s own chairperson, Aimée Payton, includes a selection of garments drawn from the Eastern and Western textile collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Objects on view include a diverse range of garments from hats to shoes, stomachers to collars, dating from as far back as the 1400s right up to the twentieth century.

The OATG is organising two events in connection with this exhibition: one on Tuesday 13 June 2.45 pm at the Ashmolean Museum, and another on Saturday 15 July at 2.30 pm at the Broadway Museum (see the OATG events programme here).

For more information, visit the website of the Broadway Museum, Broadway, near Evesham, UK.

Exhibition: Lucienne Day – A Sense of Growth

Exhibition dates: 14 April – 16 July 2017

Best known for her textiles, Lucienne Day (1917–2010) is recognised as a virtuoso pattern designer and colourist. Lucienne Day was also an enthusiastic gardener, and plant forms inspired many of her textile designs. This exhibition was opened as part of the nationwide Lucienne Day centenary celebrations.

The show is part of the Whitworth’s GROW project that promotes the benefits of engaging in horticultural activities to improve mental wellbeing. Groups and individuals within the local community who are experiencing social isolation or dealing with issues around mental health will work with Paula Day from the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation to select works to display from the Whitworth’s extensive archive of Lucienne Day designs.

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

Exhibition: Phulkari – The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 9 July 2017

Discover the beauty and cultural significance of phulkari, ornately embroidered textiles from Punjab, a region straddling Pakistan and India. In addition to stunning examples from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, this exhibition features traditional phulkaris from the museum’s collection and high-fashion ensembles by one of India’s leading designers, Manish Malhotra.

Phulkari, meaning ‘flower work’, is a labour-intensive textile made of vibrant silk embroidery on a plain-woven cotton cloth. Deeply rooted in Punjabi life before the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan (which split the Punjab region), this tradition has become a powerful symbol of Punjabi cultural identity.

Usually worn by women as large shawls on special occasions, phulkaris were also made as blankets or as furniture covers or hangings. Women of many religious groups – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs (who consider the Punjab their holy land) – stitched phulkaris, with young girls learning needlework from older female relatives and friends. They often created the embroideries for their dowry, which they brought to their new homes when they married.

Some phulkaris depict animals and village scenes, while others display complex geometric patterns in bold colors conveying good fortune and social status. Whether figurative or geometric, all are rich in symbolism: after the 1947 partition, phulkari textiles became an important symbol for the new nation of Pakistan.

Over the past half century, phulkari techniques and patterns have experienced a revival, especially as a commercial art. As an emblem of pre-partition village life, phulkaris have been celebrated in popular music and videos. More recently, this folk tradition has entered the realm of high fashion through designers such as Manish Malhotra, who recently created a phulkari-based couture collection.

For more information, visit the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Exhibition: Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil

Exhibition dates: 11 April – 7 December 2017

This exhibition celebrates one of the ULITA archive’s major collections – ‘katagami’, Japanese resist dyeing stencils, which form a prominent part of ULITA’s Japanese collection. Through drilling, punching and cutting, a great variety of detailed and intricate designs were cut into mulberry paper. These stencils were used for dyeing designs onto clothing ranging from everyday workers’ garments to the finest silk kimonos.

This exhibition introduces the techniques of making and using the katagami, and explores the imagery used. Although produced simply as tools, in recent years, the katagami themselves have come to be appreciated as remarkable and beautiful objects in their own right. The designs on the stencils amount to more than decoration. Whether it be evoking a season, carrying wishes for longevity and good fortune or containing an entire folk story, every katagami has a story to tell about the fashion and culture of Japan at the time of its creation and use.

Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil features forty katagami, including stencils lent by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDa),which informed the work of the British textile company the Silver Studio, whilst stencil-dyed clothing lent by Leeds Museums and Galleries shows the finishing effects. The exhibition has been realised with the support of MoDa as part of their Arts Council-funded project Katagami in Practice. The exhibition is written and curated by guest Curator Dr Alice Humphrey, who has worked with the katagami collections in both ULITA and MoDa.

For more information, visit the website of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).

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

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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

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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.