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
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.
Publication of this guest blog is for information only and does not indicate an endorsement of this tour by the OATG.
THE LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS OF INDONESIA
OATG member Jenny Spancake recently joined a Textile Tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia on which fellow OATG members David and Sue Richardson were the textile experts. Here she shares her some of her experiences:-
My husband and I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1983. One of our first trips in the region was to Bali where a friend asked if I would buy her a piece of ikat; this was my introduction to this technique. As an embroiderer, I was fascinated with ikat and wanted to learn more about it. Living in a number of locations around the world, including around four years in Thailand and seven in total in Kuala Lumpur, I was able to learn quite a bit about the ikat textiles of Southeast Asia. However living in mainland Southeast Asia meant I focused on weft ikat, mostly done on silk, and these are the type of ikats we began to collect. With travels to India, Central and South America and Central Asia, I broadened the base of that knowledge. What was needed to close the circle of study was a trip to the islands of Indonesia.
The perfect opportunity came in May 2019 with a trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands with David and Sue Richardson. As these islands we visited are part of the province of Indonesia known as Nusa Tenggara Timur I will refer to them as NTT. Traveling with the Richardsons was a good choice for us as they are very willing to share the knowledge of Indonesia and its textiles that they have gained over many years. The Richardsons focus on the textile techniques and visit only villages that still do natural dyeing. As my husband’s undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering, he was eager to travel with someone as interested in the chemistry of natural dyes as David Richardson is. The islands of NTT were perfect – a gorgeous landscape with fascinating textiles still woven in the traditional way with natural dyes.
Cotton threads which were bound with strips of a palm leaf and then dyed indigo.
At each village we visited we were welcomed by villagers dressed in their traditional costume, dancing their traditional dances and perhaps the most unexpected joy, playing their traditional music. Videos truly are the only way to capture the magic of these moments. The music is not heard looking at pictures in books and the music is the way the spirit of the village is actually captured. We were entertained in one village by a man playing the hoe as the main performer. In still another village, it was obvious that when they had done the planned program, they continued to play and sing for the sheer joy of the music. These are the moments that only visiting in person can provide.
This man was having such fun and creating great sounds just by hitting his hoe with a stone!
A visit to the village of Lamalera was of twofold interest – of course, we saw textiles. But we also talked to the villagers about their traditional livelihood of whaling and saw a demonstration of how they actually practice it. It is very easy for us in the West to see whaling as only the large scale enterprise that has a negative impact on the existence of whales. We forget that traditionally villages existed in harmony with the environment and depended and still depend on the whales for food and products. Risking their lives to harpoon a whale is a different way of life. The number of whales taken by a village is also a small fraction of that worldwide. [Editor’s note: this is the village where OATG founder Ruth Barnes did much of her research].
A demonstration of traditional whaling from a small boat at Lamalera.
In every village we saw demonstrations of the entire process of creating a textile from picking the cotton, processing it, spinning, dyeing, tying, and then the weaving process. In NTT textiles are produced in cotton in the warp ikat technique. As stated above, one of the things that most appealed to us about this tour was its emphasis on natural dyeing. Natural dyes are making a comeback in some parts of the world, but it is in fact an uphill battle. It is more expensive to use natural dyes because it takes more time to create the desired color. Synthetic dyes are much quicker, so cheaper in the long run when the final price of the piece is considered. In today’s market it is difficult for a weaver to charge a price that reflects the extra time spent in using natural dyes. Also part of the price must reflect the time it takes to produce a multi-colored complex design in ikat. Therefore, what tourists generally see are textiles produced with synthetic colors and a very simple ikat design – which exactly describes my first purchase. But as I learned more about ikat and dyes, I began to desire the more complex, naturally dyed examples. Steve and I have always tried to buy the most well produced pieces as we travel to encourage women to keep weaving at a high quality. Weavers must be able to earn a fair wage so that traditional textiles can continue to be made.
Patterns showing naga, which is very traditional in many parts of Southeast Asia.
I plan to describe just a few interesting experiences from the trip. First, natural dyeing involves a complicated chemical process. Dyers in the villages use both inherited knowledge plus trial and error today to create a wide range of colors. In NTT the two major colors are indigo (blue) and morinda (red). It is very interesting to see that each village had its own variation on using these dyes. Indigo is perhaps one of the most common dyes used around the world. Morinda is less well known and I will concentrate on this dye.
Threads dyed with morinda at a workshop on Timor.
Please note that I have used the website of David and Sue Richardson, Asian Textile Studies,as my source for the information detailed here. A great deal more information is included on that website than I will present here. On this trip we saw very detailed demonstrations of how red and brown colors are achieved by using this dye. This can take a huge amount of root to complete the process to achieve the color desired for the finished textile. Once the bark is collected and prepared to begin to dye, a complex process begins. Cotton that is to be dyed with morinda must be pretreated and a mordant must be used to fix the color. In NTT the most frequently used mordant is the leaf or bark of the tree belonging to the genus Symplocos. I was intrigued to learn that what made this possible was that the tree draws aluminium from the soil and accumulates it in the leaves and bark. Once processed these produce aluminium salts that then act as a mordant.
However, this process does not work unless the cotton is prepared before the dye made from morinda is applied. The first part of this preparatory process is cleaning the cotton. This is done by washing the yarn in water filtered through wood ash, thus creating an alkaline solution. Then the cotton must be soaked in oil made from the candlenut tree, widely known as kemiri. Oil is produced from the candlenuts themselves. I have just described in a very simplistic way how cotton is dyed with morinda; for those interested in more detail and the chemistry of this process, please consult the morinda page of the Richardson’s website. The final process of any dyeing sequence is to rinse the cotton in water and here was the insight that interested me most. I had of course read about the dramatic difference credited to the water of certain production areas when oriental rugs are woven and then washed after their completion. But for some reason I never carried that thought on to natural dyes and cotton and silk textiles. It was one of those ideas that floats around in your mind but then one day you suddenly say, “Of course, the water is the final important piece of the dyeing puzzle.” Water is a localized issue; each source of water has its own particular chemical makeup and the minerals present are the final creator of the color produced by the natural dye in question. Pointed out by the Richardsons on this trip, I finally saw the obvious.
Adding alkaline ash water to the morinda dye bath.
Although the main colors that we saw produced were blue and red from indigo and morinda, on one particular island we saw an astonishing array of different colors – all from natural dyes. This was on the tiny island of Ternate where we saw how they made dyes from a huge variety of plants as well as sea sponges and, most fascinating of all, a gastropod called a sea hare. We were told they had dived at 5am to get these creatures, which release purple ink as a defense mechanism. The innards are also used to make a pale green color and finally the sea hare is cooked and eaten so nothing is wasted.
An amazing demonstration of dyeing on Ternate.
Another highlight was our visit to the workshop of Freddy Hambuwali on Sumba. Modern hinggi, a man’s cloth with a long history, are created with a very high standard of warp ikat and finishing. We were able to see all of these steps, beginning with the drawing of the pattern on the warps. I was particularly interested in the beautiful shade of indigo blue produced here. The ikat threads are dyed with indigo and morinda but a different method is used in Sumba to add a yellow dye – it is painted on after the weaving of the hinggi. Another Sumbanese method is used to finish the hinggi; the hinggi is turned and the warp threads become the weft as a band called a kabakil is woven on to the bottom to create a finished end to stop the threads from unraveling.
The hinggi produced here are very detailed and are made in a wide variety of designs. We also learned about the computation of bundles of threads to facilitate the process of tying and dyeing. I myself was most attracted to the hinggi that are so obviously based on the patterns of Indian patola cloths. These patola have been a high status cloth in Indonesia for hundreds of years and are preserved as heirlooms in many households in the islands. The layout of many Indonesian textiles can be seen to originate in the design of patola. Involving complex ikat, these hinggi were for me personally the most interesting ones.
I have oversimplified all of the aspects of weaving and dyeing just briefly mentioned here and have omitted so much, especially the supplementary warp weaving techniques we encountered.
Supplementary warp weaving on Sumba. Here we are being shown how the pattern is kept on sticks.
And I have not even begun to describe all of the villages visited, the many rewarding encounters with villagers and all that I learned. I relaxed on the beautiful Ombak Putih with its attentive crew, delicious food and comfortable cabins, learned so many new things about textiles, experienced new cultures in majestic landscapes and made new friends. I doubt one can ask for more in life.
What I really wanted to express to readers is the great joy that I experienced throughout this trip, which is extremely well designed and lends itself to a constant learning experience. We’ve been on many textile tours, quite a few led by textile experts, but none of these leaders have ever been so generous with their knowledge as David and Sue – they love Indonesian culture so much it’s infectious and inspires you to want to learn more We’re always looking for trips that focus on textiles and this one exceeded our expectations.
For full details of this tour visit the Tour page of Asian Textile Studies or email David and Sue directly.
Fresh from giving a paper at the HALI Symposium we are delighted that Professor Dr Irina Koshoridze will give a talk to the OATG on the subject of Caucasian Textiles and Carpets in the Georgian National Museum.In it she will present the richness and variety of Caucasian textiles, carpets, and traditional costumes found in the museums of Tbilisi. She will explore how traditional arts and crafts techniques changed and developed against the background of different political circumstances in Georgia. Products of a thoroughfare between East and West, Caucasian textiles from the Georgian region reveal the influences of the Persians and Ottomans who variously ruled over the region and much of the Orthodox Christian world.
Dr Irina Koshoridze is Professor of Art History and Theory at the State University in Tbilisi and Chief Curator of the Georgian National Museum, as well as Director of the State Museum of Folk and Applied Arts of Georgia. She has co-authored several books including Stars of the Caucasus: Antique Azerbaijan Silk Embroideries, Flat-Woven Rugs & Textiles from the Caucasus, Treasures of the Georgian National Museum, and the Oriental Collections of the Georgian National Museum.
Unfortunately the future direction of one of these museums seems to now be under threat. Earlier this year the Museum of Folk and Applied Arts was put under the care of the Georgian Museum of Cinema, Theatre, Choreography and Music – clearly not a suitable fit for it. William Dunbar, journalist and long-time Georgia resident, wrote an article about this for HALI – see image below – describing how the Folk and Applied Arts museum traces its roots to an attempt in the late nineteenth century by the Russians to encourage handicraft enterprises in this area. They made a detailed record of all of the textiles they could find at that time, which included taking photographs of classic Caucasian rugs in the places where they were originally found.
Anyone who has ever visited many parts of Southeast Asia will be familiar with the sight of spirit houses, often with food, drink and candles on them. In this article in the Asian Art Newspaper Michael Young tells the story of one young Cambodian artists passion for rescuing these iconic small shrines.
In 1963 a huge housing complex known as the White House was built on the riverfront in Phnom Penh. Many of the apartments in this complex had spirit houses – some were elaborate and some were simple. At one time this housed over 2000 people. It was emptied in 1975 under the Khmer Rouge and remained unoccupied until 1979. Gradually people began to move back in and it became the home of many artists and musicians. Vuth Lyno set up an art-run space there many years later, working from there until the buildings were demolished in 2017.
Young describes how a once socially cohesive society began to fragment when people accepted the small payments offered to them by developers, then found they could not buy anywhere in the city for that price and so drifted away to the suburbs. The buildings were emptied over a period of just three days, during which time Vuth ran from apartment to apartment rescuing as many spirit houses as he could. He used over 80 of these to produce a 4 metre high installation entitled House – Spirit 2018 which was shown at a major exhibition in Brisbane and later bought by QAGOMA, Brisbane.
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.
Last month several OATG members attended special walk-throughs of the Intrepid Women exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum, led by two of the curators of that exhibition Julia Nicholson and Zena McGreevy.
One of the highlights for me was the display of textiles from Nagaland, collected by Ursula Graham Bower. When she was only 23 years old she went to Manipur and the Naga Hills. She was fascinated by the Naga culture – as was I on my first visit several decades later. She returned a couple of years later with the idea of doing some medical work and taking photographs. She succeeded in doing both. As well as dispensing medicines she took several thousand photographs and shot some of the earliest colour film taken by an anthropologist.
The time she was there was certainly a dangerous one. According to the Pitt Rivers website “During the Second World War, when the Japanese threatened to launch an invasion of India through the north-eastern hills, the British asked Bower to form a band of Naga scouts as part of the ‘V Force’ guerrilla unit. Her forces became so effective that the Japanese put a price on her head.”
The Pitt Rivers Museum has an excellent collection of Naga textiles, several of which are on permanent display. Several years ago while attending a festival in Nagaland I was approached by a woman who explained she was a researcher from the Pitt Rivers and was taking images of textiles held in their collection to show the local people so she could gain more information about them. This turned out to be a two-way process as some of the patterns and techniques used on the textiles now in the UK had not been in use locally for some years.
This nine-minute video clip was originally shown as part of the ‘Intrepid Women: Fieldwork in Action” exhibition. It shows highlights of film footage, in both black and white and in colour, which was recorded by Ursula Graham Bower during fieldwork in Nagaland between 1939 and 1944.
Although the opening sequence is not so relevant to textile lovers, patience is rewarded. From 02.02 to 06.40 we see the fabulous beaded headcovers worn at the Tangkhul Spring Festival and this then leads on to footage of the weaving and spinning by various different groups – the Kabui, Kuki and Chiru. It was very interesting to see the angle at which the backtension loom was placed. Stick with this right to the end and you will see some great blankets and jewellery too.
Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Video editing by OATG member Katherine Clough.
Friday sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester, entitled Ancient Textiles from the Andes. This will run until 15 September 2019.
This is a rare opportunity to see ancient Andean textiles of this quality and size exhibited in the UK. Through a major loan from the collector Paul Hughes, alongside pieces from the Whitworth, textiles from c300BC to c1400AD are on display. HALI have several images of textiles which will be part of this exhibition here, which are sure to whet your appetite! For further details visit the website of the Whitworth.
Location The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER
Searching A Female Smuggler. Source: Harper’s, 1884, pg.45.
This Saturday Louise Shelley, director, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, George Mason University will give a presentation entitled The Dark Side of the Textile Trade. The title immediately made me think of the damage that textile production can do to the environment, people working for next to nothing to produce fast fashion etc. However when I read further I was fascinated to learn that Louise comes at this from quite a different angle, looking into the abuses of the textile trade for commercial and political gains by both criminals and states.
“Textiles have always been one of the most valued components of international trade. Both individuals and states have sought to profit from this trade in both illegal and immoral ways. The problem of counterfeit products we face today is not new; it was already an issue centuries ago, when British traders flooded the Venetian market with their products labelled “Made in Venice.” When cochineal was the most valuable product out of the New World, many pirates and traders sought to acquire cochineal and break the Spanish monopoly.” Textile Museum website.
Location: The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, District Of Columbia.
This event will start at 10:30 and is free with no reservations required. For more details go to the museum’s website.
By a strange coincidence the subject of fakes and copies is also tackled the following day by Vedat Karadag in his talk to the International Hajji Baba Society on the subject of Current methods for making fake and copies of antique rugs in Anatolia and Persia.
“Fakes of antique carpets are nothing new in the rug and textile business. But today’s version are technically so good that they can fool even top rug experts, famous collectors, textile professors and museum curators. How do the counterfeiters do it?” I’m sure this is a question we would all like the answer to! Vedat is a textile researcher who has been looking into this question for over 15 years, so this is bound to be a fascinating talk.
Location: Arlington County Public Library, Donnellan Auditorium (on the ground floor), 1015 N Quincy St
This event will take place at 15:00 and is also open to non-members. More details can be found on the IHBS website.
The Amuse Museum in Tokyo celebrates the 10th anniversary of its opening on Saturday with the exhibition Boro – Real Astonishment. On show will be the collection of Chuzaburo Tanaka who sought out these textiles, which are generally made of hemp, from the mid 1960s. The textiles will be hung among newly published photographs by Kyoichi Tsuzuki which should create an interesting contrast.
Location 2-34-4 Asakusa, Taito Ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0032
For more information visit the website of the Amuse Museum.
Image credit: Woman’s robe (munisak) Central Asia, 1850–75, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2004.94
Finally this Sunday in California the Bowers Museum will be hosting a very special event dedicated to Central Asian ikat. The respected textile researcher Dr Richard Isaacson will present Silken Resistance: A Short History of Ikat.
“Central Asian ikats are among the most dramatic and spectacular hand-dyed and hand-woven textiles ever produced, enthralling both for the technique used to create them, and for their fabulous patterns and designs. They are not, however, the first or only ikats made in the world. Combining insights from archeological excavations, photo archives and museum collections, Dr. Richard Isaacson will trace the history of ikat from the 5th century to the present, concentrating on the height of production in 19th century Uzbekistan. Dr. Isaacson’s talk will incorporate rarely-seen French and Russian historical photographs of local people wearing ikat garments, providing a fascinating window into daily life and social class structure from the last third of the 19th century into the early 20th century in the Uzbek region, at the eastern edge of the Russian empire.” – Bowers Museum website.
I have attended (and given) many lectures which had a Show and Tell element at the end, giving attendees the opportunity to see actual textiles. However this event takes that to another level as Dr Isaacson’s talk will be followed by a show of over 40 antique ikat pieces on live models. This will obviously add a different dimension. These textiles are from the collection of Cheri Hunter – a doyenne of the textile world. Having seen some of these textiles when we were hosted by Cheri, I know that they are of an extremely high standard.
Location 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706
For more details and to book visit the website of the Bowers Museum.
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.
The Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) are organising an exciting Textile Tour of Kyrgyzstan, visiting many of the artisans who have featured in the research of Dr Stephanie Bunn the author of Nomadic Felts. The tour will run from 6-18 June 2019, starting and ending in Bishkek. ORTS have decided to open up the last few remaining places on this tour to non-members, offering them a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the textiles of this amazing country.
Participants will gain an insight into contemporary Kyrgyz design, with visits to Vorotnika Studio and Dilbar Fashion House in Bishkek,
Through their contacts ORTS have been able to arrange for the group to have dinner with Zhyldyz Asanakunova, the head of the Felt Art Group in Bokonbaevo. Zhyldyz is recognised internationally for her shyrdaks – the felt rugs with powerful motifs seen throughout Kyrgyzstan.
Other special dinners will take place in traditional nomadic dwellings known as yurts. Accommodation will be in hotels, homestays and guesthouses.
This is a fantastic opportunity to take part in a very adventurous trip, experiencing the best crafts that Kyrgyzstan has to offer under expert guidance. To find out more please email Louise Teague (ORTS Chairperson).