Event: The Seven Thousand Year Conversation – Tracing Ancestry through Weaving Traditions in the Asia Pacific Region

 

A weaver in Bubu village, Solor, Indonesia, weaving warp ikat cloth for a tubeskirt. Copyright Chris Buckley

Event date: 9 February 2019, 10:00am

OATG member Chris Buckley will give an illustrated talk on the migration of Austronesians from mainland Asia via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

According to the website of the Textile Arts Council these Austronesians “carried with them a suite of textile techniques that originated on the Asian mainland in the Neolithic period, including yarn preparation, a distinctive body-tensioned loom and the warp ikat technique.

The story told by the distribution of weaving techniques and textile motifs across the Pacific confirms the broad outline discovered by linguists, but it also provides new evidence that the migratory story was not as simple as has been previously supposed. In particular it shows that the “out of Taiwan” story told by linguists is only partly true. Characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques, including the loom and tubeskirt, do not appear to have originated on Taiwan, the supposed homeland of the Austronesian peoples, but seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland. Chris will present evidence for this and discuss the reasons why mainland-derived weaving techniques were important to early migrants.”

Chris will be showing a variety of textiles, particularly ikat weavings, to support these ideas. He will also use a selection of his many photographs of weavers and weaving from the islands of Indonesia.

A thorough discussion of this subject, with excellent maps and illustrations, can be found in a paper written by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot in 2017.  The evolution of an ancient technology is available through the  Royal Society Open Science website here  4: 170208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170208

Location: Koret Auditorium,  de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118.

Please note: Following this lecture the Twelfth Annual Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Memorial lecture
will be given at 1pm, also in the Koret Auditorium. The subject of this lecture by Anna Beselin is Knots, Art and History – Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection.

 

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Article: Bagru Textiles – Woodblock Printing near Jaipur, India

This article, written for the KINDCRAFT by Justin Lancy, looks at the tradition of woodblock printing in one particular community in Rajasthan.

The Chhipa clan have lived in Bagru for 400 years and Viju Chhipa, the founder of Bagru Textiles, is a fifth-generation dyer and printer. Lancy explains how the designs on each cloth might use 4 or 5 different woodblocks, which are carved from a variety of local trees including teak and rosewood. In this community the designs are traditionally printed onto a cream background, or sometimes the cloth is dyed blue or red. Another type of printing is done using mud-resist. The blocks are dipped into the dye and the colour applied very carefully onto the cloth by hand – a laborious task requiring a good eye for detail.

This tradition is now threatened as it requires a lot of water and the water table in the region has dropped in recent years.

The full article can be read on the KINDCRAFT website here. The majority of the beautiful images, taken by Justin and Lauren K Lancy, can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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Article: Ainu Culture – Garments and Embroideries of the Ainu People

Image by Keisuke Fukamizu

This article, with text by Kosuke Ide and fantastic photographs by Keisuke Fukamizu, examines the clothing of the Ainu people of Hokkaido island, Japan. Ide explains that hundreds of years ago these were made from the animal skins – there was a reference to them wearing “bird skin” as late as the eighteenth century. Over time they began to use fibres obtained from the inner bark of elm and linden trees to weave their textiles.  The cloth woven from these fibres was known as attush, and was sewn into garments primarily used as work clothing. These garments were decorated with patterns embroidered in cotton. Later, as cotton became cheaper and more accessible, they began to use it for their clothing rather than the attush. However the art of making attush has not died out completely. It is still practised by Rumiko Fujitani, using a traditional backstrap loom.

Ide also interviewed Nobuko Tsuda, who has conducted research on traditional Ainu garment culture and for the past 20 years has served as a curator at the Hokkaido Ainu Centre in Sapporo. I was particularly struck by her appreciation of what she refers tom as the “natural imperfections” of Ainu embroidery done in the traditional way, as opposed to the “perfection” which can be achieved using more modern methods.

The full article, which really does have some wonderful images, can be accessed on the visvim website here. Please note that this does take quite a while to load – presumably because of the quality of the images.

Textiles of Japan by Thomas Murray has recently been published by Prestel and contains over 100 pages on Ainu textiles. This book is already available in Europe and will go on sale in the US from 29 January 2019.

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Article: Minority Textiles – Kam Women Artisans

This article by Marie Anna Lee highlights the textile traditions of the Kam people from Dimen village in Guizhou province, China. They are called the Dong by the majority Han Chinese. These traditions are kept alive by a group of elderly women, known as za.

Lee explains how the za used to grow and spin their own cotton, but now use machine-made thread. They make these threads stronger through a process of treating them with an alkali solution, beating them with a flat paddle, starching in warm rice water and then drying them.

Locally grown indigo is turned into a paste which is used to dye the cloth woven from these threads time after time until it is almost black. The cloth is then dyed seven times in a red dyestuff made from dyeing yam, Rhododendron leaves and Chinese sumac. Lee goes on to describe how the cloth is stiffened and then beaten with a wooden mallet until its surface is shiny.

This dark indigo fabric really sets off the colourful belts, hand-embroidered with satin stitch which are another speciality here. Sadly many young women do not want to spend time mastering satin stitch and so use cross-stitch instead. The elderly za can no longer embroider due to their failing eyesight and so now often buy machine-made embroidery. As in so many places in the world traditions are fading with the passing of the generations.

To read the full article which describes the dyeing and other textile processes visit the  Asian Art  website.

Marie Anna Lee is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of the Pacific in California, USA. Her recently published book, Kam Women Artisans of China: Dawn of the Butterflies, follows five of these remarkable women as they reveal their unique heritage through practical demonstrations. This book was reviewed by OATG member Pamela Cross in the Summer 2018 edition (number 70) of Asian Textiles.

 

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Event: Stitching New Identities -: Embroidery and Socio-Political Change in Late-Nineteenth/Early-Twentieth Century Japan and Korea

Event date: Thursday, 17 January, 2019. 12:00-1:30 PM

“As Japan and Korea opened to the international community in the nineteenth century, their ensuing social, political, and economic transformations found vibrant visual expression in the ancient art of embroidery. Using primary sources including extant textiles and period literature, this lecture by Lee Talbot will examine changes in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Japanese and Korean embroidery in light of concurrent socio-political developments. The lecture will illustrate how embroiderers in Japan and Korea developed innovative aesthetics, forms, and subjects that gave visual voice to new social and national identities emerging as their countries forged new, sometime perilous paths domestically and internationally.”  – from the website of the Center for Japanese Studies.

Lee Talbot is currently the Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. and has previously spent two years as curator at the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum (Seoul, Korea).

Location: Center for Japanese Studies, Room 110 Weiser Hall, 500 Church Street, Suite 400, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

 

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Video: Hairstyles from the Floating World

 

The exhibition entitled Painting the Floating World – Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection, which I blogged about here is ending on 27 January.

According to the website of the Art Institute of Chicago the courtesans, geisha, and actors depicted in the ukiyo-e paintings of the 17th -19th centuries were the beautiful people of Edo-period Japan. “The world they moved in, the “floating world” (ukiyo), was all about glamour, sophistication, and style. The fashions they wore reflected not only class and occupation but also trends and individual taste, all of which were focused on the attempt to create an ideal picture of beauty. 

Though the overall look of each individual bijin (beauty) was created by the combination of cosmetics, clothing, and hairstyle, this video focuses on the complicated process and elaborate result of hairstyling. Filmed in a shrine in near Kyoto, the 90-year-old Minami Tomiko, one of the few living masters of the art, recreates three intricate hairstyles”. These are the Kamome tabo or seagull’s tail, the Tōrōbin or lantern locks, and the Yoko hyōgo or butterfly.

It’s amazing to see just how much work went into creating these elaborate styles, and this really brought the world in which these women moved to life.

Click here to view the video.

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Article: Kelaghayis of Azerbaijan

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The kelaghayi (kelagayi/kalaghayi) is a traditional silk scarf made in Azerbaijan. In 2014 this was added  to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This video was made by Asif Abramov and Rena Ibrahimbeyova to support the process of adding kelaghayi to this list.

These fine silk headcovers have been produced in Azerbaijan for generations. In 1862 Nasir Abdulaziz from Basgal showed his kelaghayis at the International Exhibition in London, gaining a silver medal for his work. In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian painter Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin depicted a woman from Shamakhi (probably a musician or dancer) wearing a kelaghayi over a small cap, in the local style.

“Woman of Shamakhi” by Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin

The silk scarf provided warmth in the cold weather, and protected the wearer from the heat in hot weather. It was produced in a variety of colours. Many believe that older women tended to wear darker colours, while younger women preferred lighter ones. Red was associated with weddings, and black with mourning – with scarves sometimes being used to cover the deceased too. It was tied in a variety of different ways, depending on the region. There were many beliefs associated with the production of these scarves – people should not enter the silkworm-incubation premises wearing gold or silver jewellery or a wristwatch, the scarves should never be folded with the pattern on the outside etc, etc.

Although these scarves used to be made throughout Azerbaijan, production is now centred on Sheki and Basgal. Basgal is also the home of the Kelagayi museum, the walls of which are decorated with some of the traditional motifs used on the scarves.

 Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The scarf shown below was bought by the author in Khiva, Uzbekistan, from an Azerbaijani shop owner. It was made in the Sheki Ipek Kombinat named after Lenin, in Sheki. At one time this was one of the largest silk-weaving centres in the Soviet Union, employing 7,000 people at its peak. The factory closed after the collapse of the USSR in 1995. The twin towns of Sheki and Shamakhi have been silk-weaving centres since medieval times and in the early twentieth century there were 127 silk mills in the Sheki region, employing 3,500 people. The seller told me that scarves such as mine date to the 1970s, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

The patterns on the kelaghayi are produced using a resist technique. They are applied using stamps which were traditionally carved from pear or walnut wood, but were often also made of metal.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

These stamps are dipped in a mixture of paraffin, resin and solid oil, before being carefully applied to the surface of the silk cloth. Various natural dyes are used to colour the cloths, before the wax is removed with hot water.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

Obviously the workload and time needed to produce such scarves is increased if several different colours are used. Kelaghayi with six or seven colours were perceived as the most valuable and desirable and are still being produced in Basgal today. Versions of traditional kelaghayi produced in China using synthetic fabric are now entering the market, providing stiff competition for the workshops who produce silk scarves in the time-honoured way.

Similar scarves seem to have been produced in other areas too. The author bought this one in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2001. It had been made in a factory in Chardzhou in the east of the country. The factory had closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many thanks to Christine Martens for allowing me to reproduce some of the photos she took in Basgal following the “Intersections in felt” Symposium in October 2018.

Some fabulous images, along with an interview with a workshop-owner which really gives a sense of the working conditions, can be seen in an article by Samra Sadraddinli on the Chai Khana website here.

More background information for this article comes from this piece by Emil Eyyabov for the Azerbaijan State News Agency, this article  by Valentina Reznikova for Region Plus, and finally this article by Afat Rustamayova and Ruslan Huseynov on irs-az.com.

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Video: Fabric Pieces – Honouring the Past

 

This video was first broadcast by NHK World – Japan as part of its Core Kyoto series on 12 December 2018.

“Kyotoites in days of old valued high quality fabric and woven textiles from abroad like gold. Pieces of these fabrics have been handed down and continue to fascinate people today. Their eternal beauty is preserved through repurposing as tea utensil pouches, tobacco holders, obi sashes and even as works of art. Weavers strive to learn the techniques used in days gone by in order to reproduce them.”

Part of this video looks at the influence of Indian chintz on Japanese design and features an amazing scrapbook of fabric pieces. The problems of recreating different colours – especially red – are also discussed.

Another section of this video examines one man’s passion for kogire, as these old fabric pieces are called. Teiichiro Saito has over 1,000 of these small scraps, which he studies and tries to reproduce, or use as inspiration for new kimonos. Sometimes he adds small pieces of ancient fabric to modern designs. His most prized possession is a piece of Japanese fabric from the 1500s.

Please not this video is only available to view until 26 December so why not make a little time for yourself and watch it now – highly recommended viewing!

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Online exhibition: Indonesian Chinese in The Netherlands – A Connection of Cultures

 

This online exhibition is based on the actual exhibition “Connecting cultures: Chinese from Indonesia in the Netherlands” that was on display in the Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands in 2015-2016. The original texts are by Francine Brinkgreve and Johanna Leijfeldt. Johanna also created this online presentation.

According to the Tracing Patterns Foundation  “it explores the cultural narratives of Chinese merchants who settled in Indonesia and married with local women. The union of these two groups gave rise to a unique mixed culture; their descendants were called the peranakan.  Through historical photographs and objects from the collection of the Museum of World Cultures, the exhibit shows how the peranakan straddled the two worlds. On one hand, for example, they adopted the Indonesian way of life by wearing an Indonesian sarong kebaya and chewing betel nuts, but they decorated these clothing and utensils with motifs of Chinese origin. As the peranakan pursued status within the Dutch colonial society in Indonesia, or immigrated to the Netherlands, they also adopted the European custom of dressing”.

The exhibition looks at Chinese migration and how Chinese craftsmen introduced new techniques into Indonesian arts and crafts. A lot of the exhibition is focussed on marriage, and details of the wedding costume worn by Han Tek Nio in 1901 are featured. When you click on each of the excellent images, further information is shown on that object – see for example the details given below on the batik hip cloth shown above.

Whereas batik cloths were originally made by Javanese women at home, for their own family’s use only, along the north coast of Java, Peranakan Chinese entrepreneurs developed batik industries where they produced batik for various categories of customers, who all preferred their own style of motifs and colours. This hip cloth has two designs in contrasting colours in synthetic dyes, divided by a diagonal line. This design is called pagi sore (morning-afternoon/early evening) and could be worn in two ways. To allow the motifs and the person to stand out, the dark or sore section of the hip cloth was worn during daytime. Vice versa the light – pagi – section served as an evening dress. The main motifs on the lighter half consist of dancing peacocks and double wings on a background of small white flowers and foliage in pastel shades of pink, blue, and ochre.

These pastel colours were very much favoured by Peranakan Chinese ladies. With its tail feathers the peacock represents beauty and dignity, both in Chinese and European symbolism. The double wings motif is one of the larangan, the ‘forbidden’ batik patterns that originally were for the exclusive use of the rulers of the Central Javanese courts and their close relatives. The dark green section depicts large bouquets (buketan) in European style. For a lively effect a fluttering butterfly and a bird were added. The cloth is signed by (the workshop) of Oey Soe Tjoen and his wife Kwee Tjoen Giok, a renowned batik craftsman from Kedungwuni, near Pekalongan. It was produced there in 1930-1950 using synthetic dyes.

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News: Textiles from the Silk Road in Museum Collections – Scientific Investigations and Conservation Challenges

 

On 10 December 2018 a Symposium in Conservation Science was held at the British Museum in London, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Department of Scientific Research of the British Museum hosted this symposium about the scientific investigation of Asian textiles in museum collections. There was a particular focus Chinese textiles, but there were also contributions covering other geographical provenances along the Silk Road. The symposium featured scientific research recently carried out on Dunhuang textiles from the British Museum’s collection. The focus of the workshop was the importance of different scientific approaches and analytical techniques to the study of weaving, fibres and dyes in Asian textiles. Comparisons between the information that can be obtained with non-invasive and invasive approaches were encouraged, as well as how this information relates to conservation challenges and display decisions.

The programme covered such diverse topics as Silk Road Thangka Textiles from the Sven Hedin Collection, Investigating Asian colourants in textiles from Dunhuang in the British Museum, and Silk, wild silk and half silk textiles from Palmyra – New scientific approaches. The full programme can be viewed here 

Book of Abstracts for the event has now been made available for download. These abstracts should certainly whet the appetite of textile enthusiasts and scholars alike!

 

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