New textile books, an important online conference and links to some excellent blogs

 

 

In my last blog I mentioned a new book, Workbook: Antoine Janot’s Colours, by Dominique Cardon. Catharine Ellis has taken a much more detailed look at this book, specifically from the point of view of a dyer, in her blog which can be read here.

 

 

The Fabric of Civilization won’t be published until November, but is currently available for pre-order. The author, Virginia Postrel, will be taking part in an online book launch as part of the Textile Arts Los Angeles Textile Month.

“In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.” TALA website.

The launch takes place on 30 September at 12:30 LA time, which is 04:30 am in the UK, so probably only works for our international members.

 

 

The third new book celebrates the Indian textile collection of the authors Helmut and Heidi Neumann and has a foreword by Rosemary Crill. Published by Prestel it certainly seems to be lavishly illustrated and will be added to my wish list.

“Dating back to the fifth millennium BCE, India’s rich and vibrant textile tradition boasts an enormous range of techniques and extraordinary level of artistry. Drawn from one of the world’s finest collections of Indian textiles, this book presents a fascinating overview of centuries of artistic production from every corner of India. Each section examines a different region to reveal its distinct textile traditions, patterns, and processes: Patola silks from Gujarat, brocade lampas preserved in Tibetan temples, mordant resist dyed cottons from Indonesia, embroideries from rural Bengal, and silk saris from Murshidabad. The book also delves into the roles that textiles have played in daily life over the centuries, from household and dowry textiles to devotional pieces and exquisite materials crafted for rich patrons. Each object is photographed from multiple angles and reproduced in meticulous detail. Many of the antique pieces featured here are exceedingly rare, which makes this book an invaluable resource.” Prestel.

 

 

The Yale University Art Gallery has now reopened. One of its current exhibitions is called Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art.

The exhibition “showcases basketry, beadwork, drawings, photography, pottery, textiles, and wood ….. …Guided by the four themes in its title, the exhibition investigates the connections that Indigenous peoples have to their lands; the power of objects as expressions of sovereignty; the passing on of artistic practices and traditions; and the relationships that artists and nations have to animals, plants, and cosmological beings.” Yale University Art Gallery website.

 

Moroccan woman’s kaftan made from Japanese kimono fabric. © Textile Research Centre, Leiden

I’ve already blogged about the virtual symposium organised by the Textile Society of America entitled Hidden Stories Human Lives. This takes place from 15-17 October and you can still register for the sessions.

However before then there will be another major online textile conference, this time organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference is Textiles on the Move, and it will take place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme is very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here. Registration is also necessary for this free event – just click here.

 

 

Finally, I would like to recommend a series of blogs written by a variety of authors between 2017 and 2019 to celebrate New York Textile Month. These blogs have been hosted by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and cover a wide variety of topics – Chris Martens on Central Asian felt, Thomas Murray on an Indonesian palepai, Precious Lovell on Ghanaian adinkra, Wendy Weiss on a Gujarati patola – to name but a few.

 

Bhutanese coat, known as a gho. © Cooper Hewitt.

This is a link to just one of these blogs, this time by Susan Bean, looking at a Bhutanese coat which is known as a gho. I strongly recommend signing up to receive the Object of the Week emails from Cooper Hewitt.

 

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Thangka, the Yemen, African Arts, and Natural Dyes……

 

Last year Karen Horton talked to OATG members about her work conserving the thangka at the Chester Beattie library. As that was so well received I thought members might be interested in this online talk by Ann Shaftel on a similar topic. It takes place on Thursday 17 September at 1730 Mumbai time (1300 in the UK). To register for this event please follow this link.

“Thangka preservation is as complicated as the thangka form itself, a complex composite artform spanning centuries and continents, and still evolving….. This talk will include important fundamental points of the thangka form, history, purpose, preservation and evolution and complexities of preservation of the sacred”. The Museum Society of Mumbai.

 

Silk tie-dyed veil from Sana’a, Yemen (2018.37.74). Donated by Jenny Balfour-Paul.

The next thing that caught my eye was this blog by Multaka, Oxford. In it Joanna Cole looks at some of the connections between a collection of photographs taken by Jenny Balfour-Paul in Yemen in the 1980s and some of the objects donated by her to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Joanna gives examples of this veil from Sana’a and a photograph of women wearing similar veils. However my favourite example is that of the woven camel muzzle. Seen out of context it isn’t very exciting, but the photograph showing how it was used really brought it to life.

 

Another museum that has now reopened is the Brooklyn Museum. Their current exhibition is entitled African Arts – Global Conversations. The exhibition takes a “unique transcultural approach [which] pairs diverse African works across mediums with objects from around the world. By considering how shared themes and ideas—such as faith, origins, modernism, and portraiture – developed independently in different parts of the globe, it offers new theoretical models for discussing African arts in relation to non-African arts. Moving beyond the story of European modernists’ so-called “discovery” of African arts, it fills in the blanks in decades of art history textbooks” Brooklyn Museum website.

 

Chris Buckley recently informed me of the new publication by natural dye expert Dominique Cardon.

“This workbook is a bilingual publication in both French and English. It presents the palette of colours produced by Antoine Janot, a French master-dyer of the 1st half of the 18th century who owned  an important dyeing business in the south of France, specialising in wool broadcloth exported to the Levant. Janot wrote treatises on dyeing illustrated with dozens of dyed textile samples.” Dominique Cardon

 

 

Another expert on natural dyes, Elena Phipps, recently wrote this article on the dye record cards produced in the 1890s by an embroidery collective based in Deerfield, Massachusetts. “these dye cards show the Deerfield embroiderers experimenting with dyestuffs that had been used for millennia…. They reflect a different type of historic preservation effort – one focused on recovering and retaining fading knowledge of the art of dyeing.” Elena Phipps 

A sample sheet or montre showing the colours of broadcloth produced.

This use of record cards reminded me of another book by Dominique Cardon – The Dyer’s Handbook: Memoirs of an eighteenth century master colourist. In it she examines a manuscript written in the late eighteenth century by a clothier involved in the export trade from the Languedoc area of France to the Levant. She provides a great deal of context, both economic and political, as well as the expected technical analysis of the dyes and weave structures. You can get a flavour of her work from this article, written for Cooper Hewitt in 2017.

 

Finally, those of you who missed the talk on the Textile of Japan by Thomas Murray will be glad to hear that it was recorded and will be made available online at a later date.

 

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Silk Road Symposium, Japanese textiles, Pitt Rivers reopens

 

Great news! The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (a personal favourite of mine) is reopening on 22 September 2020. In line with current regulations, visitors will have to pre-book a free ticket in advance.

The museum is accessed through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, an awe-inspiring space with wonderful informative displays.

 

You can just see the entrance to the Pitt Rivers behind the skeleton of the young Asian elephant. © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

 

Interior of the Pitt Rivers. © Charlotte-Brown.com

For those not familiar with this museum, you can visit it virtually through this link on their website. You can use this tool to zoom around the display cases while in the comfort of your own home. When you find something of interest you can then search their database for more information.

Postcard from Japan-British Exhibition, The Bear Killer, Ainu Home, 1910. Misa Tamura, private collection.

Their website also has a selection of conservation stories, explaining how conservators have worked on an object. In some cases the before and after photographs show a marked difference, in others it is much more subtle. This particular example shows the work done to preserve an Ainu hunting quiver, which was purchased for the museum in 1910. Staff collaborated with the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and in reading this article we gain some insight into the position of the Ainu in Japanese society.

 

I have mentioned Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan, several times in previous blogs. Tomorrow, Saturday 12 September, he will be discussing the central themes of this book as part of the regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions hosted by the Textile Museum. “The talk will cover daily dress, work-wear, and festival garb, and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement. Murray will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics – often indigo dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu – along with garments from the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fiber, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the north, and the brilliantly colored cotton kimonos of Okinawa to the far south.” Museum website. Spaces for this online event are limited and registration is necessary through this link. Please note the session takes place at 11am EDT which is 1600 in the UK.

 

 

Regrettably I have only just become aware of a Symposium currently taking place at the University of Kansas entitled Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s). This two-day event began today, but hopefully you might still have time to register vis this link for tomorrow’s sessions. Timing is 0900-1215 Central time, which is 1500-1815 in the UK.

“Inspired by the Eurasian trade routes that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century, this symposium highlights how artworks, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both overland and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas. While the term “Silk Road,” invented in the 19th century, may conjure an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, speakers in this symposium challenge us to envision instead a dynamic pattern of cross-cultural exchanges occurring between Asia, Africa, and beyond that continues today.” University website.

 

Woman’s pleated wedding skirt 1800s, Qing Dynasty. © Spencer Museum of Art

The Spencer Museum of Art will be running an online exhibition to accompany this symposium. The exhibition, entitled Interweaving Cultures along the Silk Road, will run until 13 December 2020.

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Stop Press! – Register now for this event which takes place 5 September

Apologies for the late notification – I have only just received the email about this event.

Tomorrow the Historic and Ancient Textiles group of the Textile Society of America will be holding an hour-long meeting online with some great presenters including Sumru Krody. The topic is “Is it Fake?”. They will be looking at the “Buyid” silks in the collection of the Textile Museum, textiles from Peru’s Chancay Valley and an early Nazca piece.

Registration for this event is free, just follow this link.

 

 

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Silk Road lectures, Japanese textile designs, Chinese silk cultivation and Madagascan textiles……

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

I don’t usually do two blogs in one week, but just discovered this series of six online lectures which I thought members might enjoy.

The mummy known as Yingpan Man. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology

They took place at Penn Museum from October 2010 to June 2011. Grouped together under the title Great Adventures on the Silk Road, each video lasts around one hour. Although they can be watched in any order I would recommend watching the Introduction to the Silk Road by Nancy Steinhardt first. The lectures were geared towards an exhibition called Secrets of the Silk Road which was due to be held at Penn Museum in February 2011. Sadly the length of the exhibition was shortened, and the number of exhibits was reduced at the last moment. Edward Rothstein gives an interesting account of this in his article for The New York Times. I would also strongly recommend reading this well-illustrated article on The Mummies of East Central Asia by Victor H Mair, who also gives one of the lectures in this series.

The link to the full series of lectures can be found here.

 

 

I also really enjoyed this collection of 83 printed textiles in the Japanese style from a book in the collection of the Bibliothèques Patrimoniales in Paris .

This book of samples seems to have been published in France around 1930. Clicking on each sample brings up a larger version and you can also zoom right in as the resolution is very good.

 

Image showing a weaver at her loom. © Brooklyn Museum, 76.110d_recto_IMLS_PS4.jpg

Those interested in silk weaving might enjoy the contents of this book entitled Silk Cultivation and Production, which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. It shows all the stages of making silk, from collecting and feeding the worms up to the weaving of the threads.

 

One of the 54 Madagascan textiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. © ROM

While on the subject of silk I found this presentation on the silks of Madagascar fascinating. It is by OATG member Dr Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum. The quality of the images really enhances the excellent text. The ROM hold 54 Madagascan textiles in their collection, some of which date to the nineteenth century. It was interesting to read of a connection with Omani traders and Indian trade cloths, almost reminiscent of the Silk Road connections with which I started this blog. 

 

This video shows how the silk is processed and dyed. © ROM

 

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Upcoming textile events – exhibitions, online lectures and symposia

 

We have had some very encouraging feedback on the video that Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono made exclusively available for OATG members until 1 October. Our next Lockdown Newsletter is well under way, but our editor Gavin Strachan is always keen for new material for both the Newsletter and the Journal. If you have any ideas for an article or perhaps a short piece about a favourite textile please email him directly.

 

Woman’s hat or ládjogahpir, Sámi, Norway. Wool, horn, cotton and silk, pre-1919. © British Museum

The British Museum has now reopened and their major exhibition entitled Arctic culture and climate will start on 22 October and run until 21 February 2021. This looks fascinating and I’m sure we will hear more of it shortly from our chair Helen Wolfe as she has been closely involved with this exhibition in her position as Textiles Collection Manager. I was interested to learn more about the hat depicted above. Apparently use of these hats declined around 1870 because “missionaries, who interpreted the horn as representing the devil, considered them sinful” (BM website).

The Pitt Rivers Museum has in its collection a portrait dated circa 1873 of a Saami woman wearing one of these hats, which Arthur Evans described as like “Minerva’s helmet, exquisitely graceful”.

Man’s snow-spectacles. Reindeer skin, metal, glass beads, uranium beads. Dolgan, Russia, before 1879. © British Museum

There are several excellent relevant blogs on the British Museum website. My favourite of these was 10 things you need to live in the Arctic  , which has some wonderful images of textiles. Tickets are not yet available, but I will ensure members are informed as soon as they are.

 

Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger

The Met Fifth Avenue has now also reopened, giving visitors a final opportunity to see the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which ends on 26 October 2020.  The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but there are also about 30 textiles including some very rare ancient indigo examples that were preserved in the Tellem Caves in Mali (information from Elena Phipps). Do scroll down the page to the images of the exhibition objects where you are able to click on each one to bring up the full details of the item.

The Textile Society of America holds a biennial symposium, which this year was due to take place in Boston. Obviously that could not happen, so a virtual symposium has been organised instead. This is actually a great opportunity for many of our UK members who would not otherwise have been able to attend. Even better, you do not need to be a member of the TSA to register for these events – though obviously if you enjoy them you may well wish to consider joining. The theme of the symposium is Hidden Stories/Human Lives. It takes place from 15-17 October 2020 and registration is now open. Full Symposium registration gives you access to twelve concurrent sessions, keynote and plenary sessions, and film sessions. There are a range of rates, including a heavily discounted one for students, making this extremely good value. Click here for full details of how to register, and here for full details of the programme.

There are 12 concurrent sessions, featuring a range of speakers from across the globe. Topics are very diverse with the textile traditions of the Andes, Mexico, Africa, Japan, India, Cambodia and China among those covered.

 

Dr Sam Bowker with the Syme Panels, photograph by Kylie Esler (2015)

As part of their response to Covid, the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art at the California Lutheran University hosted a series of online lectures. These have now all been made available online. This one by Sam Bowker in particular caught my eye. Sam is an expert on the textile art of ‘khayamiya’, Egyptian appliqués produced by the tentmakers of Cairo. This hour-long presentation “brings together the stories of the tentmakers and their extraordinary tents – from the huge tent pavilions, or suradiq, of the streets of Egypt, to the souvenirs of the First World War and textile artworks celebrated by quilters around the world. It traces the origins and aesthetics of the khayamiya textiles that enlivened the ceremonial tents of the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties, exploring the ways in which they challenged conventions under new patrons and technologies, inspired the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and continue to preserve a legacy of skilled handcraft in an age of relentless mass production. ” (WRG website). You can access the video through following this link. The list of the full series of lectures can be viewed here.

 

Chinese textile to protect children against “dangerous forces”. © USC Pacific Asia Museum

The USC Pacific Asia Museum will be hosting an online event looking at Protective Textiles in the USC PAM Collection. The curator, Dr Rebecca Hall, will “explore textiles made to help children survive against dangerous forces in China; jackets constructed to keep a fireman safe in Japan; and an undershirt inscribed with symbols to keep its wearer safe in Myanmar. Click here for more details of how to register for this event which takes place on Tuesday 22 September at 20:00 BST.

 

Sample of cloth with Japan-inspired decoration, Europe, mid-20th century. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden. TRC 2010.0493

Finally I would like to suggest another useful resource for members. ClothRoads have a monthly blog of interesting textile events, written by my friend Marilyn Murphy. Sometimes, inevitably, we both list the same exhibition, but often there are differences. In her most recent blog Marilyn includes an online exhibition of Russian quilts and another on Macedonian costume. She also provides links to an online exhibition at the Textile Research Centre in Leiden entitled Out of Asia. I saw this exhibition last year when I attended the ICAS conference and am sure members will enjoy this virtual viewing of it. I recommend signing up to the ClothRoads blog to get their monthly guide (there is an option to subscribe in the top left corner of your browser).

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More reopenings!

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

Many museums are either now open once again, or are preparing to reopen soon. There will obviously be some changes to the visitor experience. In many cases tickets have to be booked in advance and one-way routes have been marked out. For example the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford reopened this week and everyone, including members, has to book their ticket in advance. This should lead to a better experience for all visitors.

The British Museum will be reopening on 27 August. To begin with only a selection of galleries will be opening, with more to be added later. Click here for the full list. Visitors will need to book a timed slot and follow the one-way route marked out.

The V&A in London has also partially reopened, with more galleries to be added to the list in the coming weeks. Please check their website for the new opening hours. Most exciting is the fact that their fantastic exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk will reopen on 27 August!

Standing courtesan, colour print from woodblocks, Katsukawa Shunsen, 1804-18, Japan. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

Further afield the Textile Museum of Canada opens again to the public on 19 August. Their current exhibition is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxane Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth. Last December I blogged about this exhibition, and a video has now been added to the museum’s website. For those (most of us) who can’t get to the museum this gives us a flavour of the textiles on display.

Last month I blogged about the major exhibition of chintz at the Royal Ontario Museum which had been postponed due to the pandemic. This will now open on 12 September. The museum website has lots of interesting background information and videos, including one about a rare book of Indian chintz patterns recorded by a Japanese cloth manufacturer which was published in 1785. Best of all is the video featuring OATG member Sarah Fee (the curator of this exhibition) in conversation with Anjli Patel examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” This gives us a chance to see several of the textiles from the exhibition in close-up.

 

I was recently checking some of the Asian textile links on our WordPress site and noticed the Harris Museum in Preston, UK was listed. I checked out their website to see what collections they held, and became fascinated by the story of John Forbes Watson. In 1866 he put together an 18 volume set of fabric sample books entitled The Textile Manufactures of India. This was published by the India Office of the British Government. Forbes Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at the India Museum in London. As such he was responsible for identifying and cataloguing Indian products for the Secretary of State for India. “Forbes Watson’s great skill was as an organiser and cataloguer of information and objects. He re-organised the India Museum’s collections and published on a variety of subjects, including Indian tobacco, tea cultivation, and cotton. He even tried to catalogue the population of India in a photographic series called The Peoples of India (8 vols, 1868-75).” – Harris Museum website.

John Forbes Watson 1827-1892

Although he had worked in India for several years as a physician in the Bombay Medical Service, he did not return to India to collect the samples used in these books. Instead – textile lovers and curators look away now – he cut out sections from fabrics held in the stores of the India Museum and used them to create 20 sets of the 18 volume books. As you can imagine this involved hundreds of samples. The India Museum closed in 1879 and much of its contents were sent to the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A.

It’s important to realise that the fabrics chosen were not intended to fully represent the wide variety of textiles made in the region. Forbes Watson’s focus was on those fabrics which could be useful to British industry, more specifically to show manufacturers what they could copy. According to him “The 700 specimens … show what the people of India affect and deem suitable in the way of textile fabrics, and if the supply of these is to come from Britain, they must be imitated there. What is wanted, and what it is to be copied to meet that want, is thus accessible for study”.

 

Sample no 24 listed as a turban from fine cotton made in Jeypoor in Rajpootana.

 

A design registered by a British manufacturer which is clearly a copy of the sample shown above. ©Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.

The Harris Museum website has a lot of fascinating background to these volumes and has now made all 700 textile samples in these books available to explore digitally for the first time. It is possible to just browse through each volume, or you can search under different categories. The title of the volumes is actually misleading as it only mentions India but they do contain some textiles from further afield such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Nepal. I highly recommend taking a look.

A few days after discovering that website 2 different friends shared an article about these volumes from an Indian perspective. Written by Kaamya Sharma for The Hindu, we learn how copies of these books were sent to many British manufacturing locations and “As a result, cheap, mass-produced, British replicas of these samples inundated the Indian market within a decade. These were print imitations of intricate weaves whose technique had been developed and perfected by Indian weavers over several centuries. The cheaper prices of British textiles had a predictably devastating impact on Indian handlooms.” Forbes Watson was clearly a great admirer of Indian textiles and his books of samples are invaluable to textile historians, but we also need to acknowledge the devastating impact their publication had on the very textiles he so admired.

 

Moving to another area of Asia, I found this video by the Tracing Patterns Foundation on banana fibre cloths from Mindanao fascinating. This time the speaker is Craig Diamond, who has a passion for these T’nalak cloths woven by the Tboli people. The technique used is warp ikat and the colours are obtained using natural dyes. Craig explained that black is seen as the background, red as an embellishment, and white as the primary pattern. This was most helpful and something not every presenter would have thought of. The cloths have several uses, both for ceremonies and as a form of currency. I was amazed to learn that some are 35 feet in length!

With my interest piqued I started to look for more information on this textile tradition and found this article on the Narra Studio website provided a lot of background on how textiles are seen as a form of storytelling.

We hope OATG members enjoyed the special Lockdown Newsletter with a variety of interesting articles which was sent out last month. Please don’t forget to email our editor Gavin Strachan by the end of August if you have ideas for the next newsletter. These are being produced in addition to our usual Asian Textiles journal in recognition of the fact that we are currently not able to provide our usual programme of events. Don’t forget that all 76 back issues of our journals are available to search through and view online for members, with the first 62 also being available to non-members.

Newsflash!

Another exciting treat will also soon be arriving in your inboxes. Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono have produced an excellent video for us on Minangkabau Looms and Textiles. This will be in a password-protected area of our website and all members will receive the password in the coming days.

 

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Chintz at the ROM, Greek textiles and collection cataloguing

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

 

 

A major exhibition on Indian Chintz was due to open at the Royal Ontario Museum this Spring, but has had to be postponed due to the current situation. However all is not lost. The exhibition curator, OATG member Sarah Fee, will be in conversation with Anjli Patel this Wednesday 15 July. They will be examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” ROM website. Sign up here for this free event which takes place at 4pm Ontario time (9pm GMT).

 

In addition to this presentation, the ROM has lots of fascinating information on the history and use of chintz on its website. This includes a look back at an earlier exhibition on chintz which took place in 1970 and a look at the global impact of Indian chintz. Why not immerse yourself in their website for a couple of hours?

 

Pages from an Embroideries Notebook of 1907, written by the author’s grandfather Alan J. B. Wace who was Keeper of Textiles at the V&A from 1924-1934

Now to a completely different topic – collecting, and more importantly, cataloguing and recording collections. This Hali article by Ann French, Collections Care Manager and Conservator (Textiles) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, looks at the role of archives in increasing our understanding of textiles. French examines how with “the opening up of museum archives, online availability of collections and access to others including family archives, a more complex picture of the interconnections, academic influences and research methods behind the early collecting of Greek embroideries is gradually emerging.” The aim is to re-catalogue certain collections of Greek embroideries, taking all of this new information into account. She discusses trying to trace a single object – in this case an embroidery from Melos – from the various recorded notes. This takes us on a journey from Liverpool to Cleveland Ohio, and from the V&A to the Textile Museum in Washington. A very detailed and interesting article .

Pholegandros pillowcase.

The importance of accurate recording of a collection was brought home to me by this statement from the article by Ann French:-

“This preservation together of labels and notebooks raises the issue of what conservators call the 10th Agent of Deterioration—Dissociation. Dissociation describes the loss of object-related data and therefore the ability to retrieve or associate objects and data. It affects the intellectual, and/or cultural aspects of an object as opposed to the other ten agents of deterioration (light, temperature etc.), which mainly affect the physical state of objects. Dissociation is a metaphysical agent and is prevented by maintaining and appreciating archives which make connections possible.” Ann French.

 

I was recently contacted by OATG member Nick Fielding on the same subject. We started a discussion on the different methods used to record private collections. As this is clearly a topic of interest to many of our members I’m including a request for suggestions on record-keeping from Nick in full below.

I am embarking on the daunting prospect of creating a virtual catalogue of Sheila Paine’s textile collection. It is ‘virtual’ because the collection itself has been broken up and is now scattered to the four corners of the globe. However, I have the card index files for each textile and, separately, photographs of each textile. Can anyone suggest a database or specific software that could be used to do this? I need approximately ten fields for info such as date of purchase, index number, location, description, price paid, etc, plus the facility of including up to five photographs for each entry. I know that museums use such (searchable) databases, but does anyone know of similar software for personal use? The aim is to produce a single searchable document of the whole collection that can then be stored by an institution or by individuals. It will be an invaluable research tool. When I have finished with Sheila’s records, I will embark on the same project in relation to my own collection. That should keep me busy for the next year or so…” 

If you have any useful suggestions – or indeed suggestions of methods to avoid – please email Nick directly. We will share this information at a later date.

 

Returning to the subject of Greek embroidery, I really enjoyed this short video by the Benaki Museum which focusses on 18th century bridal bolsters from Ioannina. It is presented in Greek by Xenia Politou, the curator of Modern Greek Culture, but has English subtitles.

 

In it Politou discusses the fascinating iconography depicted on these beautifully embroidered bolsters. We learn that the partridge is linked to fertility and that the hairpin, which looks like a branch, worn by the bride denoted a married woman. The links to the Ottomans are clear from the style of dress and the floral motifs used here can also be found on Iznik ceramics.

 

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Exhibition: Samurai at the Art Gallery of South Australia

 

©Art Gallery of South Australia

The Art Gallery of South Australia has recently reopened its doors to the public. Later this month will herald the opening of an exhibition showcasing the warrior culture of the Japanese Samurai. “From the austerity of lacquer and tea bowls to the opulence of golden screens and armour, this exhibition demonstrates how the ethos and tastes of the Samurai (a military elite whose name means ‘one who serves’) permeated every aspect of Japanese art and culture from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.” – AGSA website.

 

©Art Gallery of South Australia

This set of armour is sure to be one of the highlights of the Samurai exhibition, which runs from 24 July. It dates to 1699 and is made from iron, copper, gold leaf, wood, silk, cotton, leather and animal fur. The date can be ascribed so precisely as it is written on the inscription on this wonderful breastplate.

 

 

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Focus on Savu

 

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Savu is an island in eastern Indonesia which OATG members David and Sue Richardson have returned to many times since their first visit in 1991. It’s not hard to understand why, when you see the beautiful scenery and of course the wonderful textiles created by the skilled weavers there.

Savu dancers in 1991. © David Richardson.

But this isn’t the only OATG link to Savu. In 2004/5 the Horniman Museum held an exhibition about the culture of Savu entitled Woven Blossoms, organised by OATG member Fiona Kerlogue (who was at that time their curator of Asian Collections) in conjunction with French anthropologist Geneviève Duggan. Several members of the Savunese community accompanied Geneviève to London to take part in a series of events and workshops built around this exhibition. Ten years later David and Sue were able to take some of Fiona’s photos back to Savu, where the exhibition participants were delighted to show them to their friends and family.

Sue Richardson and Geneviève Duggan giving photos from the Horniman exhibition to the local community. Looking over Geneviève’s shoulder is Ina Koro, a very experienced weaver who demonstrated her skills in London.

 

Being welcomed by members of the community

The community that Geneviève works most closely with is in the Mesara district and has 28 active weavers. In Savu society women belong to one of two origin groups (moieties) – the Greater Blossom and the Lesser Blossom. Each of these groups has particular textile motifs associated with it.

The diamond-shaped wo kelaku motif is typical of the hubi ae moiety

The serpent-shaped èi ledo motif is typical of the hubi iki moiety

This is a piring (plate) motif on an ei worapi sarong. This type of sarong can be worn by members of either moiety

As is common in this area of Indonesia the two dyes most frequently used are indigo and morinda.

A locally produced dyepot. For more background on these see My favourite: dye pot in Asian Textiles no. 70, 2018.

After binding the threads to form the pattern, then dyeing them (often several times) the threads need to be untied before they can be put on the loom.

Removing the bindings

Here, as in much of southeast Asia, the textiles are woven on a backstrap loom. Sometimes handspun cotton is used, and sometimes machine spun.

One of the most positive developments in this village is that young girls are also learning to produce textiles. In so many communities weaving seems to be the preserve of the older generation and it is so heartening to see these traditions carried on. The young weaver pictured below was 12 years old at the time the photo was taken. She did the binding and weaving for the indigo sash that she is wearing.

A young Savunese weaver

The island is extremely dry and the local people have to rely on the juice of the lontar palm for sustenance. The fresh juice is very thirst-quenching, but they can also distill this into a very powerful drink! The lontar palm is also the source of the delicious palm sugar and of course the leaves are used in making the roofs for the traditional houses, making baskets, and so much more.

Climbing a lontar palm tree to collect the juice. The basket hanging from the man’s belt is also made from lontar palm.

However lontar palm is not enough, especially as over the last few years Savu has sadly undergone several periods of serious drought. This year has been especially difficult with the added problems of Covid 19 and Asian Swine Flu. To raise funds for the weavers Geneviève will be speaking about the ikats of Savu on a webinar this Thursday. Joining her will be Ice Tede Dara, a teacher and the secretary of the local weaving group.

Ice Tede Dara, photographed in her village with a beautiful sarong

Just to whet your appetite here is a short video of just some of the gorgeous textiles woven on Savu! The textiles with the fringes are men’s blankets known locally as hi’i.

 

Geneviève has spent several decades studying Savu and has published a great deal on this subject. She spends months there each year, staying in the village and is fluent in Savunese. I highly recommend setting some time aside on Thursday to watch this webinar by a real expert in this area!

 

 

 

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