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
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.
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.
This exhibition has just opened at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM), which has the largest publicly held collection of quilts in the world.
According to the curator Marin Hanson
“Throughout western India, people make quilts for practical reasons: to have something to sleep under, to hang in doorways, to augment dowries, to sell. They make quilts for personal reasons, as well: to document daily life, to offer as gifts, to signal group affiliation or individuality. The quilts in this exhibition were made by women and men from towns and villages across the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. These craftspeople come from varied geographic, economic, and social backgrounds, but all value quiltmaking for the creative outlet it provides. The textiles often share visual and material similarities, but they also reflect their makers’ own communities, personalities, and life stories.”
Hanson goes on to explain how the IQSCM worked with researchers from various backgrounds to examine the quilting traditions of three regions: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Research on the quilts of Gujarat was carried out by Martha Wallace and Patricia Stoddard – the author of Ralli Quilts. They were assisted by Alok Tiwari and Salim Wazir, who is well-known to all who have had the good fortune to visit Bhuj.
Geeta Khandelwal from Mumbai has made and studied quilts since the 1970s. Recently she spent three years examining the quilts of Maharashtra. The quilt depicted below uses not only pieces srom saris and blouses but also seed bags that have the logo of the distributor printed on them.
Karnataka quilts were studied by two different researchers – Henry Drewal and Shubhapriya Bennur. Henry Drewal was fascinated by the quilts of the Siddi people of northern Karnataka which are known as kawandi. These are usually made by older ladies, who are not able to work on the land. Drewal became involved in establishing a Quilt Cooperative to help these women to sell their textiles.
The quilts studied by Shubhapriya Bennur are known as kaudi. Most of these are formed from scraps of recycled clothing and they come in several different types for a variety of uses – baby quilts, ceremonial quilts, sitting quilts and bedcovers.
OATG members David and Sue Richardson are passionate about Indonesian textiles and recently have been researching the weavings of the small island of Kisar in the Lesser Sundas, to the east of Bali. As part of this research, last year they corresponded with Sonja Mohr, the curator for Insular Southeast Asia at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Köln, about the museum’s collection of Kisar textiles. These were collected by Heinrich Kühn in 1888, Professor Alexander W. Pflüger in 1900 and Wilhelm Müller-Wismar in 1914. Sonja very kindly invited them to Köln to examine these textiles for themselves. The information gained during that visit, along with field research, has resulted in the publication of the final page on Kisar textiles on their website Asian Textile Studies. Below is their report of their trip to the museum.
Most of the visitors heading to Köln in December are there to see the Christmas markets, but we had a different objective in mind – textiles – and not just any old textiles, but textiles with excellent provenance collected on Kisar in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Textile heaven! A fantastic selection of Kisar textiles ready for us to examine.
We had corresponded with Sonja Mohr for several months and she and her colleague, Senior Conservationist Petra Czerwinske-Eger, had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit. Christian Andert, the chief storekeeper, had brought the Kisar textiles from the main storage area to one of the laboratories so that we could all examine them in detail. All of the information they held on each piece had been printed out, along with questions it was hoped we might be able to answer together.
We started by looking at the sarongs, which had been prepared for us. These were more varied than expected, with some, such as the one below, having very little ikat but lovely rich deep colours.
A simple Oirata lau which might date to the late nineteenth century.
We then looked at the ceremonial sarongs, from both the Oirata and Meher communities and discovered that one Oirata tubeskirt had been mislabelled as Meher.
An Oirata mauwesi lau which had been mislabelled as a Meher homnon.
We then moved onto examining the male loincloths and it was again interesting to first see some very simple examples.
Sonja and David looking at a man’s simple loincloth.
The ceremonial loincloths collected in 1914 were just stunning – woven from fine hand-spun cotton with narrow bands of ikat and end sections of continuous supplementary weft.
A fantastic niala or irä from Oirata, which led to much discussion.
One of the unexpected highlights for us was the collection of waistbands, which really were little gems.
Analysing waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar in 1914.
We discovered silk threads had been used in some narrow warp stripes and the twinned end band of one of these.
Sue and Sonja discussing more waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar.
Event date: Friday 22 February and Monday 25 February 2019
Ikat loseng – photo copyright John Ang
Investigating the origins of Ikat Loseng: Malaysia’s Lesser Known Warp Ikat
Many of us have heard the term kain limar, which refers to the famous weft ikats from Malaysia’s northeast states of Terengganu and Kelantan. However ikat loseng, a warp ikat produced in the same states of Malaysia, is largely unknown. John Ang’s interest began with the purchase of his first Malay ikat loseng. Although he told many of his textile collector friends that it was from Terengganu, they insisted it was a warp ikat from Uzbekistan. The similarities between the two were intriguing and inspired him to investigate if there was a connection. His talk will focus on this investigation and its interesting results.
John Ang, who was based in Taiwan for over 30 years but has recently moved to Kuala Lumpur, is an avid collector of textiles. In recent years he has focussed his attention on the textiles of the Malay world and frequently contributes to the journal Textiles Asia.
Friday 22 Feb 2019, 10:00am (for 10:30 start), Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore
Kelingkan embroidery – photo copyright John Ang
All that Glitters is not Gold
John’s second lecture is on the subject of kelingkan embroidery. This is a quintessentially Malay textile using flat metal strips to embellish the cloth. John will discuss where and how it was produced, and its possible origins. A short article on this subject, written by Adline Abdul Ghani (formerly of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia) can be found here.
Monday 25 February 2019, 11:00am, Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman
Finally, this major new exhibition is opening at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 1 February 2019, and runs until 28 April 2019. It reexamines the life of Sir Stamford Raffles. According to the museum’s website “Sir Stamford Raffles was an official with the British East India Company stationed in Southeast Asia between 1805 and 1824. He is known for establishing Singapore as a British port, as the author of The History of Java, and as a collector of natural history and cultural materials. Opinions of Raffles have changed over time. He has been viewed as a scholarly expert on the region, a progressive reformer, a committed imperialist, and even a plagiariser. In keeping with the Asian Civilisations Museum’s mission to explore encounters and connections, this exhibition presents a complex, multilayered picture of Raffles while presenting the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Java and the Malay world.”
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.
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.
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.
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.