Exhibition: The Fabric of India

Exhibition dates: 19 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

Discover the richness of Indian textiles from the fifteenth century to today in The Fabric of India, on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum 19 October 19, 2018 – 6 January, 2019. Organised by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, this exhibition showcases the finest examples from the V&A’s world-renowned collection together with masterpieces from international partners, leading fashion and textile designers and additions from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection.

Handmade textiles are embedded in every aspect of India’s identity and the history of these fabrics dates back at least 6,000 years. Long before Europeans landed on the shores of the subcontinent, Indians were using indigenous resources to create colourful textiles desired around the world. Handwoven, printed, dyed and embellished fabrics were so central to the subcontinent’s character that in ancient Greece and Babylon the very name “India” was shorthand for “cotton.” Today a lively textile and fashion industry thrives in India.

The exhibition is organised in six thematic sections, exploring courtly splendour exemplified by sumptuous fabrics and dress alongside finely crafted sacred cloth used for religious worship. Centuries of global trade shaped by the export of Indian textiles is examined, illustrating a robust aesthetic exchange between artisans and their clients. The political power of textiles is considered through their use as a symbol of power and protest in the quest for independence in the early twentieth century.

Today, Indian designers and artists are adapting traditional techniques to create exciting new fashion, art and design for a global audience, giving India’s textile history a new relevance in the modern world. Innovative dress by contemporary fashion designers, including Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Abraham and Thakore, Rahul Mishra, Aneeth Arora and others will be on display.

For more information visit the website of the Cincinnati Art Museum

A one-day Symposium will also be held on 16 November featuring OATG founder Ruth Barnes. Click here for more details.

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Event: Chinese Indigo Dyeing

 

Event date: Wednesday 19 September, 19:00.

This event, run by the Oriental Rug and Textile Society, features John Abbate of Bluehanded talking about how the  ancient cultural heritage of hand-printed fabrics has a rich history and exciting contemporary future. Artisanal traditions of naturally dyed indigo ‘Lan Yin Hua Bu’ textiles are used for interior decor and fashion design. All the work is done by the hands of an Indigo Master and his family using locally sourced materials, which makes the fabric sustainable and ethical.

The dyeing technique, which has been unchanged for centuries, involves applying traditional hand-cut decorative patterns to natural cotton. Coating the fabric in soybean and lime paste, before soaking in specially formulated vat dyes, gives the timeless blue and white finish. Traditionally used as wedding gifts in the form of bedding and cloth bags, the patterns bestow auspicious wishes such as good luck, long life and wellbeing.

After 25 years of retail design experience with Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Alfred Dunhill John moved to China as a retail brand consultant where he stumbled upon a beautiful blue and white cloth in the rubble of a Hutong in China. This discovery served as a starting point for his textile company. To John, luxury is in the unique perfect imperfection, individuality and craftsmanship that goes into the making each length of fabric. He works with designers to create new patterns that keep the ancient traditions alive.
For more details visit the website of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society

 

Location:  St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

Event: Select Items from the Siam Society’s Textile Collection

 

Event date: Saturday 22 September, 2018, 10:00.

Among the rare artefacts collected under the custodianship of the Siam Society, the textile collection is prominent. It comprises items from various parts of mainland Southeast Asia, ranging from pieces belonging to the aristocratic class to tribal items, pieces extending from secular textiles to those created for ceremonial use. During this presentation, Thai Textile Society members and guests will have the opportunity to view selected pieces from the Society’s textile collection, including Shan aristocratic winter jackets, Tai Hun tube skirts and more.

Khun Ake (Thweep Rittinaphakorn) is curator of the Siam Society’s textiles collection, and an independent scholar whose main research focus is on textiles and art history, particularly of Myanmar, the Shan states and Thailand. He was guest speaker at the Siam Society, National Museum Volunteers group, as well as the Thai Textile Society. Khun Ake has also presented his research work on Shan royal costumes and Burmese silk tapestry woven textiles at international conferences and various other events.

Venue: The Siam Society, 4th floor, 131 Asoke Montri Road, Sukhumvit Soi 21

For more information and to reserve a place contact:  bkk.tts@gmail.com

 

 

Event: Religious Textiles of Southeast Asia

Event date: Saturday 15 September, 2018, 13:00.

In Southeast Asia, textiles are often made by women for the purpose of donation to the local monastery; the textiles are then displayed in monastery buildings or on their grounds. The donations bring the women merit, which is important for Buddhist practice. These displays also give the women a chance to show off their weaving skills and have their work appreciated by others. This talk by Rebecca Hall will concentrate on Buddhist textiles in mainland Southeast Asia, with specific attention paid to the countries of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and is held in conjunction with the just opened exhibition, Ceremonies and Celebrations which she curated. The focus will be on Buddhist banners, their form, and meaning, but will also include other kinds of textiles made and donated at monasteries. The motifs and scenes woven into the textiles are related to Buddhist beliefs and popular stories and help provide insight into the beliefs of laity across the region.

This event is run by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, but it is also open to non-members – museum admission fee applies.

Location: USC-Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave. Pasadena, CA 91101. Time 13:00

(Limited Free Parking adjacent to the Museum)

Event: Unpicking Woven Heritage – Cultural narratives of handwoven eri silk textiles from Meghalaya, Northeast India

 

 

Event date: Tuesday 4 September 2018 18:00 – 20:00

Anna-Louise Meynell (Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London) has been conducting doctoral research in the remote state of Meghalaya, Northeast India. The research aims to explore and define the cultural heritage of eri silk weaving in the Ri Bhoi District, considering the socio-cultural history, the craft process and the materiality of the product.

Eri silk holds many social narratives of North East India. It is cultivated domestically and known locally as “the poor man’s silk” or “peace silk”, as it does not harm the silkworm in the extraction of the silk. Unlike the continuous filament of the mulberry silk cocoon, the eri cocoon is made up of short staple fibres which require it to be hand spun, resulting in a slubby texture with a dull sheen of silk. It is still almost exclusively dyed with natural dyes and traditionally woven on a simple bamboo floor loom.

The eri silk communities of Meghalaya have been exposed to significant social change and external interventions since pre-colonial times, much of which can be ‘read’ through a study of the textiles and techniques. Anna-Louise will show photos and samples from the archive of eri silk textiles that has been collected during fieldwork – samples that are indicators of tribal migration and assimilation, of colonial influence and widespread conversion from the indigenous Khasi religion to Christianity.  

For further details and booking click here

This Oxford Asian Textile Group event will take place at the Pauling Centre, Oxford.

Event: In Celebration of the Sarong

 

Event dates: 10 – 13 August 2018

To mark the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s 86th Birthday, the Sanjai Saiyai Phasin Club is organising the fourth Annual Sarong Festival to promote woven fabrics from all regions of Thailand. The event will be held from August 10 to 13 from 10am to 10pm at The Street Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok.

“We will bring woven fabrics from all over the country to salute Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and to also preserve and support Thai handicrafts in line with royal aspirations,” said the club’s president Nayada Amatavanich.

“The event will also feature talks by many famous Thai Fabric designers, among them Thanit Phoomsawai, a well-known designer from the drama “Buppesanniwas”, Wasin Oonjanam costume designer of the drama “Nakaraj”, artists who have created and rewoven fabric patterns such as Terdsak Insaeng, Pairat Sararat, Jongjarun Manakam and Suriya Wongchai, as well as additional Thai fabric experts from different regions. And we will demonstrate how to wear a sarong in various forms.”

In partnership with Feature Co Ltd, the club will also unveil a precious publication on woven textiles in Thailand.

Sanjai Saiyai Phasin Club was established on December 5, 2017 with the objective of preserving and promoting Thai sarong and woven textiles in all regions. It currently has more than 17,000 members.

 

Event: Sumba – Island of the Ancestors

Event date: Thursday 19 July, 6-7:45pm

OATG members David and Sue Richardson first visited the Indonesian island of Sumba in 1991. They have since returned many times, drawn back by its fascinating culture and fabulous textiles.

This talk will briefly cover the history and ethnography of Sumba, before focussing on its weaving culture. Textiles are fundamental to life on this island, being used extensively in bridewealth exchanges, for settling disputes, and for funerals. Two main techniques are used – supplementary warp and warp ikat. It can take many months just to do the binding for one of the ikat cloths, with some requiring up to 20,000 separate knots.

David and Sue will also be showing some wonderful examples from their extensive collection – including textiles made by members of the Sumbanese Royal families.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Time: 6pm for a 6:15 start

OATG events are free for members and £3 payable on the door for non-members. Advance booking is recommended.

Should you require disabled access, please do get in touch beforehand to make sure adequate provisions can be made.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.

Exhibition: Empire of the Sikhs

 

Exhibition dates: 12 July – 23 September 2018

This major free exhibition telling the story of the last great native kingdom which challenged the British for supremacy of the Indian subcontinent opens today. The Sikh Empire (1799–1849), which spanned much of modern day Pakistan and northwest India, was forged by the ‘Napoleon of the East’ Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) who became known as Sher-e-Punjab, the Lion of Punjab, over his forty-year reign.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh established a powerful military meritocracy that included many European officers. His empire offered a crucial buffer state between the British and incursions via the Khyber Pass. The one-eyed king was a trusted ally of the British but also a potentially formidable opponent.

The inevitable clash with the British came in the form of two bitterly fought Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845–46, 1848–49) in which British pre-eminence hung in the balance as they came within hours of a total surrender. But through treachery, victory was turned into defeat for the Sikhs whose territories, treasury and fighting men became incorporated into British dominion.

A source of great interest to British visitors to the Sikh royal court prior to annexation was the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was wrested from Afghan hands in 1813. The fabled jewel was eventually presented to Queen Victoria on 3 July 1850 in the armlet that Ranjit Singh had specially made for it. Fitted with a rock crystal replica of the original, uncut Koh-i-Noor, it is now preserved as part of the Royal Collection and will be one of the highlights on display along with a stunning array of over 100 objects and works of art from leading private and public collections.

Among them will be glittering jewellery and weaponry from the Sikh Empire including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the most famous of his thirty ‘official’ wives, Maharani Jind Kaur. They were the parents of the deposed boy-king Maharaja Duleep Singh and grandparents to prominent suffragette (and goddaughter to Queen Victoria), Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

For more information visit the website of the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London.

Article: Diversity and Exquisiteness – Examples of Three Asian Textile Sample Books

 

 

In this article Andrijana Sajic, Senior Book Conservation Coordinator, Thomas J. Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) discusses three Asian textile sample books from their Special Collections.

The first of these is Japanese Textiles, whose accordion structure allows readers to see either side of the book because they are mounted on the front and back of the boards. Based on the thickness and patterns of the samples, the textiles were used for mounting hanging scrolls. The book could have belonged to an individual scroll maker or studio, and been used as a personal record or a commercial reference guide. While little is known about this sample book, it is certain that these beautiful, thin, woven silks, with their extraordinary motifs, metallic threads, and metallic leaf applications, are remarkable samples of cloth.

Another Japanese textile sample book is Nippon Hand Weaves in Kusakizome Dyes, published in 1959 by Akira Yamazaki. Unlike the Japanese Textiles book, this book contains detailed information about its function and maker’s intentions. It is a collection of twenty-six plant-dyed, handwoven textiles that were specifically made for this book and created, as the author states in the introduction, to “transmit the wealth of the past.” This elegant structure contains information about each cloth sample and plant used in the dyeing process, and also about the materials used in the construction of the book.

The textile sample book Balai Penelitian Batik, which has an unknown date of production, was created by the Ministry of the Industry of People of Jogjakarta and Batik Research Centre. Unlike the two other books presented here, this is a manual that leads the viewer through steps in batik production, in both English and Indonesian. Each page contains a sample of treated cloth, a brief description of the process, and an illustrative photograph.

The information in the introduction does not explain the institution’s intention in creating this manual. However, this publication clearly captures the complex, time-consuming process of batik production and educates readers through didactic samples that illustrate the wax-resist dyeing technique with copper stamps. Descriptions are brief and factual, and samples are the focal point of the page. The viewer is invited, through nine consecutive cloth samples, to see and feel the transformation of pure starched white cloth into a finished batik design, a sample of which is adhered to the front cover of the book.

To read the full article click here

Event: A Revolution in the Bedroom – How Indian dyed cottons transformed Europe’s interiors in the 17th and 18th centuries

 

Event date: Friday 29 June 2018 at 18:00, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

Brightly coloured, washable Indian cotton fabrics revolutionised the décor of bedrooms and living-rooms of western households as soon as they were introduced in the 17th century.

Join Indian textiles specialist Rosemary Crill for a fascinating look at how the hybrid designs of these chintz fabrics, with their exotic flowers and trees, fed into the 18th-century craze for Chinoiserie, and how they became a staple element of western design vocabulary.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Ontario Museum