For my latest Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about the production of kimonos in present-day Japan.
This programme visits the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk, which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.
To watch this programme online, visit the BBC iPlayer website (unfortunately for international readers, this video is only viewable in the UK).
Today’s Textile Tidbit is a link to the Tribal Music Asia website, and this year’s Songs of Memory update. Although the site focuses mostly on the songs and music of Southeast Asia, there are also a large number of pictures documenting traditional textiles in the areas of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China.
This summer’s update includes information about three exhibitions of traditional crafts from these places, and several photographs. I recommend taking a look if you’re not already familiar with the site.
To read more about this project, and to view the exhibition photos, read the 2016 Songs of Memory update, or visit the Tribal Music Asia website.
For today’s Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about a handweaver in north west China, from their recent mini series ‘A Day in the Life of Three Master Craftsmen’.
The Uyghur community in north west China have been making Atlas silk for thousands of years. Mattursun Islam and his family are continuing the tradition, using a combination of handmade techniques and mechanised looms. From designing the patterns to colouring, dyeing and weaving the thread, this film follows each stage in absorbing detail. We also get an engaging glimpse into how their family and working life are closely connected. With rival companies often copying his designs, Mattursan is proud of his reputation.
Subsequent episodes in this mini series explore the lives of a wood carver and a potter.
To watch this programme online, visit the BBC Four website.
For today’s Textile Tidbit, I wanted to share with you some news about OATG member Nick Fielding’s new book. South to the Great Steppe, about the English explorers Thomas and Lucy Atkinson was, in part at least, inspired by his interest in Central Asian textiles. He says:
“It was while trying to work out the various population movements in Central Asia that I first came across the Atkinsons. That led me to Thomas’ book Oriental and Western Siberia, which contains many interesting descriptions of Steppe nomads and their clothing. Thomas was also a very accomplished artist and his watercolours show their costumes to great effect. I realised that the Atkinsons had been almost forgotten and decided to find out more about them. That eventually led to the publication of the book, as well as taking me on many fascinating journeys to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Siberia.”
Nick says he has now started on a second book on the Atkinsons, this one covering all their travels, including in Eastern Siberia. In total the intrepid couple travelled more than 40,000 miles, much of it on horseback, during almost seven years of travel. Lucy also gave birth to their son in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. This summer Nick will take a group of ten of the Atkinson descendants to this region to visit the place where their ancestor was born and to see other sites associated with the couple.
South to the Great Steppe: The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52 was published by FIRST, London, in 2015 (ISBN-13: 978-0954640996). Link to the book on Amazon here. The picture above is an engraving of one of Thomas Atkinson’s paintings from his book.
There is some good news and some bad news, for today’s Textile Tidbit. The bad news is that for this post I had actually wanted to share an event with you: an illustrated talk from Japanese artist Satoru Aoyama, about his medium and method, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. But unfortunately it got booked up so fast that there’s now little point in doing so. However, I thought that readers might be interested in finding out about the work of this artist, and the good news is that I can still share something about Aoyama with you here in spite of the event being fully booked.
Building up layer upon layer of intricate coloured thread, Japanese contemporary artist Satoru Aoyama creates photo-realistic interpretations of his subject matter entirely constructed through the art of embroidery. Like pixels on a monitor, Aoyama reproduces modern media images through an assemblage of fine stitches to disguise his craft and any evidence that his efforts are handmade and thus tricking the eye. Aoyama explores and re-values craft art forms and technology rendered archaic in modern art with his highly original ideas and methods.
To see more examples of his work, visit the art blog Faith is Torment.
If you would like to register for the waiting list for tickets for this event anyway, it’s still possible to do so via Eventbrite, here. The talk is free to attend, but booking is essential. It will take place on Monday 25 April at 7pm, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Studio, London. For more information, visit the website of the Japan Foundation, London.
© Press Association
Today’s Textile Tidbit gives a slightly different perspective to Asian textiles from usual!
During her recent visit to Bhutan, Kate Middleton has been pictured wearing Bhutanese national dress, with a hand-embroidered cape made in India, demonstrating her support for responsibly sourced, ethically produced clothing. The silk ‘kira’ that she is pictured wearing above – a traditional Bhutanese dress – would have taken five people three months to weave by hand.
To read about this in more detail, visit the Telegraph website.
Today’s Textile Tidbit is a link to a textile designer and researcher’s blog post all about her experience of learning to weave in Kutch, Gujarat. The Travels in Textiles blogger spent three weeks in India last December learning about all the steps involved in the process of weaving traditional textiles and it’s a fascinating read. Click here to read her blog post.
Somaiya Kala Vidya is the organisation that offers courses in traditional textile crafts in Kutch, including weaving, block printing, batik, embroidery and many others. It looks like a fabulous place to learn, surrounded by expert artisans. I think I would like to go for a whole year and study everything!
The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, recently published a blog post all about the process of conserving a Chinese imperial dragon robe. It makes for fascinating reading, and includes lots of detailed photographs of the initial analysis of the textile and the subsequent conservation work involved.
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty collected eight Chinese dragon robes; it is thought that several came from the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. These magnificent robes were once worn by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911, the last ruling dynasty of China. The robes tell a story of a vanished court life and were worn for important rituals as well as everyday occasions.
Over the last few years, a rolling programme of conservation has been undertaken to conserve all the dragon robes within the collection, to allow an annual rotation to coincide with the library’s celebration of the Chinese New Year. For anyone thinking of planning a visit, the dragon robe case is in the first floor ‘Arts of the Book’ exhibition gallery.
The blog focuses on the conservation of one of the three imperial yellow robes, which are of the highest quality yellow silk and feature exquisite embroidery.
To read more about this conservation work, visit the blog of the Chester Beatty Library conservation team.
The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford recently shared a blog post all about the work involved in mounting an elaborate eighteenth-century Tahitian mourning costume, ready for display. This enormous many-layered outfit, made mostly of barkcloth, but with additional decoration made from feathers and shells, forms part of the museum’s new Cook Voyage display case.
Best of all, the blog includes a stop-motion video of the mounting process, so you can watch how the whole thing was put together. It makes fascinating viewing!
To read the full blog post, and to watch a video of this costume being assembled on the mount, visit the Pitt Rivers’ Museum’s Conserving ‘Curiosities’ blog.
It’s now a little late in the month, but there’s been quite a deluge of wonderful textile material for the blog recently, and I wanted to share SADACC’s wonderful object of the month with you before it’s too late. (Some of you may have seen this already if you subscribe to the SADACC newsletter – apologies for reposting if so.)
Sap sidi (snakes and ladders) is a popular game in Jain, Hindu and Muslim cultures. Snakes and Ladders originated in India, possibly as early as the second century BC. Early versions were known as Moksha-Patamu (heaven and hell) and the game works on the principle of good versus evil.
Cloth games have been made since the Mogul era and are often included in a girl’s dowry. The board is a miniature patchwork quilt of vegetable-dyed fabric. It was made by female artisans in Kutch, Gujarat. These women are descendants of a nomadic tribe from Nagar Parkar, in the Sindh region of Pakistan. Elderly women typically turn to patchwork from embroidery when their eyesight begins to fade.
For more information, visit the website of the South Asian Decorative Arts & Crafts Collection (SADACC), Norwich.