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: 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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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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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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Event: Costumes and Culture of South West China

Event date: Saturday 15 December, 14:30 – doors open at 14:00

Many ethnic minority groups live in the South West regions of China, often in remote villages far from the explosion of modern Chinese city life. Here in the beautiful mountainous region each village continues to wear distinctive costumes, all hand woven, batiked and embroidered by the women of the area. This talk by Jill Salmons will illustrate the lifestyle of these people and show the various techniques used in order to produce the spectacular, colourful costumes.

Jill will also take a large collection of costumes and textiles from the region to study and enjoy. This will include burnished indigo and embroidered costumes.

This event is £7 for members of selectnetwork (a Stroud-based group) and £10 for non-members. Tea and cake will be served!

For more information click here

Location: Centre for Science & Art, Lansdown, Stroud GL5 1BB

 

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Exhibition: Jomon, The Birth of Art in Prehistoric Japan

Tanabatake Venus, terracotta, Middle Jomon period

Exhibition dates: 17 October – 8 December 2018, 12:00 – 20:00

Closing soon – this is your last chance to see this rare exhibition exploring the art and culture of the Jomon era (11,000-400 BC) in Japan. It is 20 years since the last exhibition was held in Paris in 1998. The show comprises 64 pieces, including six National Treasures and 33 Important Cultural Properties.

The Jomon period began to develop about 13,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Around this time, early man had chosen to settle in one place rather than being continuously nomadic, which encouraged the development of hunting and gathering, the creation of utensils for daily use – in terracotta to cook food, and in stone and bone for hunting and fishing. In pottery of the Jomon period, there is an innovative and powerful aesthetic in dogu figurines that is both mysterious and yet full of humour. These pieces are remarkable evidence of the sophistication of the people who created them.

The ice age had ended shortly after the beginning of the Jomon era and the Japanese archipelago enjoyed a mild climate where hunting, fishing and gathering and other settler activities were able to develop. It is the appearance of pottery that marks the beginning of age and the period takes its name from the motifs that were made by pressing ropes into the clay.

The first section of the exhibition explores these 10,000 years of plastic arts through their evolution of shape and the distinctive pottery patterns: nail, finger, rope and shell markings, along with the application of clay and engraved drawings on pots.

The second section is devoted to objects that explore the beliefs and spirituality of the Jomon people. Anthropomorphic dogu (baked clay figurines) are a remarkable example of the aesthetics of the spiritual realm. The majority of the figures are in feminine form, the oldest representing simple busts with generous breasts and are probably related to fertility, harvesting, or food resources.

While infant mortality was high, dogu of pregnant, breastfeeding or childbirth-giving women, as well as children’s handprints on clay plates, seem to express the intense desire of parents to see their offspring to thrive and remain healthy. Other figurines were used in funerary rites or used as ossuary offerings, which shows the relationships of the Jomon people with the afterlife.

Hunting scenes adorning jars and zoomorphic dogu are also thought to be related to certain belief systems. The wild boar occupies a large place in their prehistoric bestiary due to its importance in daily life and survival. Even everyday objects such as pottery for cooking and food storage, axes, wicker baskets or hooks have a striking beauty beyond their functional use.

Equally surprising are the lacquered vessels presented in the last section: it is hard to believe that the use of lacquer dates back to such a remote a time.

Location: Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly, 75015 Paris

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Exhibition: Waves of Renewal – Japanese Prints 1900-1960

Exhibition dates: 6 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

To celebrate the Year of Japan in France, the Fondation Custodia in Paris presents an important retrospective exhibition of early twentieth-century Japanese prints.

Waves of renewal. Modern Japanese Prints 1900-1960 offers an exciting opportunity to discover, almost for the first time in France, the work of artists who bear witness to the twentieth-century modernisation of Japan. It explores the twin movements of shin hanga and sōsaku hanga through more than two hundred prints – the work of about fifty artists.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two movements were born in Japan, each representing a different response to this new deal and of fascinating diversity. The printer Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962) became anxious about the flow of prints to the West, and also by the dwindling of the technical skills required for the production of high quality prints. He decided to seek out artists capable of reviving printmaking and of creating a new style, without dispensing with the traditional division of labour – in other words, four people working in collaboration, the artist, the engraver, the printer and the publisher. The movement inspired by Watanabe is called shin hanga, or ‘new print’. The subject of these ‘new prints’ remained within the traditional categories – landscape, portraits of women and actors, flowers and birds in innovative styles.

Inspired by western practice, and keen to raise the status of printmaking, the partisans of sōsaku hanga wanted to give back to the artist control of all the stages of production, without the intervention of specialised craftsmen such as the engraver or the printer. The mark of the chisel on the block of wood became the expression of the artist’s personality, as was the calligrapher’s or painter’s brushstroke on paper. By comparison with the prints of shin hanga, the results can be of rougher quality and can be marked by a feeling of spontaneity, of the impromptu – sometimes seeming unfinished.

For further information visit the website of the Fondation Custodia