Interesting workshop, talks and exhibitions.

OATG member Maria Wronska Friend has just informed me of a two-day online workshop taking place next week, on 11 and 12 March 2021. The subject of the workshop is Dutch Textiles in Global History: Interconnections of Trade, Design, and Labour, 1600-2000.

From a pattern book of sarasa (chintz) made in the Edo period, 18th or early 19th century. © National Diet Library, Japan.

This free event is jointly organised by the University of Utrecht, Hosei University, Tokyo and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto and will take place via Zoom. An overview of the programme is available here, and abstracts of the papers can be viewed here. If you would like to attend the workshop please fill in this contact form.

One of the papers that intrigues me is on the subject of Dutch Textile Designs and Japanese African Prints, 1950s-1980s. In it the author, Aya Ueda, looks at the intricate relationships between Dutch textiles and Japanese African prints, focussing on the Dutch company Vlisco and the Japanese company Daido-Maruta.

Several of the papers in this workshop look at different aspects of the printed cloth trade in Japan. Indian chintz that arrived in Japan was known as sarasa. Not surprisingly Japanese craftsmen began to copy these textiles, but in their own unique way. I found this article by the Art Research center, Ritsumeiken University, gave a useful overview.

Poster for the 2019 exhibition in Kyushu

In 2019 the Kyushu National Museum held an exhibition entitled Sarasa – Exuberant cotton fabrics with vibrant foils and flowers; Masterpieces from the Museum Collection. Although the exhibition has long since ended, this section of their website still gives an overview and shows images of some of the textiles which were exhibited. 

An example of chintz from the Fashion and Textile Museum exhibition. ©FIT

At the moment museums in the UK are still closed due to government guidelines. However they will hopefully reopen in mid-May, when we will have a lot to look forward to. This includes the Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I will of course add details in this blog when dates are confirmed.

The Field Museum in Chicago currently has an exhibition celebrating the Apsáalooke people. On until 18 July 2021, Apsáalooke Women and Warriors highlights examples of beadwork, textiles, shields and more from these people of the Northern Plains, who were also known as the Crow. The work of several contemporary Apsáalooke artists is also on show. I found the video of Elias Not Afraid creating a beadwork bag fascinating.

The Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide is also currently open to the public. They are hosting an excellent exhibition showcasing the warrior culture of the Japanese Samurai.

©Art Gallery of South Australia

“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 definitely one of the highlights of the Samurai exhibition, which ends on 28 March 2021. 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.

Nineteenth century knitted socks from Croatia. © Bata Shoe Museum.

The final exhibition is one we can all ‘visit’ as it is a virtual one. Entitled Socks: Between You and Your Feet it takes a look at an item of clothing we probably don’t pay much attention to, but would miss if it wasn’t there.

The Spring issue of Asian Textiles is currently at the printers and should be with members shortly. It includes two major articles – Persian gardens, qanats and the Wagner Carpet (Katherine Swift) and The dress and textile art of the Australian Hmong (Maria Wronska-Friend) – as well as the regular My favourite… feature, book reviews and the minutes of our recent AGM.

Children from a small village on Savu, showing us their traditional dress. ©David Richardson

Don’t forget that our next OATG lecture will be on 20 March when Geneviève Duggan will talk on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? There are only a few spaces remaining so if you want to attend don’t delay in reserving one here!

On 22 April Anna Jackson from the V&A will talk about the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition she curated last year which sadly we were unable to visit at the time. Registration will open four weeks before the talk for members and one week later for non-members. Talks are recorded and are available in the member password-protected area of our website.

Finally a plea to members and non-members alike. Many of you have said how useful you have found this blog. However there is a limit to how many talks and exhibitions I am aware of. If you do know of anything that you feel could be included here please email me.

Azerbaijan culture, talks on Savu, Lao textiles, kantha and much more…..

Although here in the UK the museums are still closed, in other parts of the world new exhibitions are opening. Weaving the Thread of Fate into the Carpet – Decorative and Applied Art of Azerbaijan opened last week at the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. This exhibition is a collaboration between the REM and the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It will run until 18 May 2021. On show are more than forty carpets, as well as embroidery, printed textiles, leatherwork and jewellery.

Gadirga. Shirvan, Azerbaijan. Late nineteenth century. The warp and weft are wool. Collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

The majority of the carpets date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but the exhibition also features a Surakhani carpet from Baku which dates to the late eighteenth century. A short article about the exhibition has been published in Jozan magazine and can be accessed here. The website of the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum is well worth visiting. It gives an overview of their collection, and you can also take a virtual tour of the museum.

Pages from a dye book in the Crutchley Archive (SLHLA 2011/5-13). Photo by Dominique Cardon.

Turning now to talks taking place in March. The first of these is on Wednesday 10 March when Dr Anita Quye will be interviewed by Dr Mary Dusenbury, guest editor of the recent edition of The Textile Museum Journal, about  three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology. “Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Dominique Cardon and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Quye conducted comparative research on notebooks compiled by three different dyers between 1722 and 1747 in London and Languedoc, France. In this interview, she will reflect on the similarity of their palettes, the virtuosity of the dyers as colorists, their shared technical language, and the scientific accuracy of the colors in their portfolios.” – Textile Museum website. This event will take place at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Ersari chuval, private collection

On Saturday 13 March Dr Richard Isaacson will give an online presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Woven Gems along the Silk Road: Small Pile Weavings of the Turkic Nomads of Central Asia. This will take place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT. The red carpets and rugs of the Türkmen have long been appreciated in the West. However it wasn’t until much later that textile lovers began to become familiar with the weavings of other related ethnic Turkic groups such as the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Qaraqalpaqs. Dr. Isaacson’s talk will begin with a review of the principal small weavings of the various Türkmen tribes. In the second part of the programme, he will show examples from the other related Turkic tribal groups in Central Asia, and compare them to their Türkmen counterparts. Richard has studied these weavings for many years and in 2007 he curated an exhibition on the Tent Bands of Central Asia for the Textile Museum in Washington. This event is free, but again registration is essential so please do click here if you wish to attend.

Image © Cathy Stevulak

The following day, Sunday 14 March, the Textile Arts Council will host a viewing of the award-winning documentary Threads, which shows how the late Surayia Rahman transformed “kantha, the traditional Bengali technique of repurposing old sarees into patchwork embroidered fabrics, into an internationally recognized art form. Today in Bangladesh kantha continues to support women’s economic opportunities and sustains artisan enterprise and the evolution of indigenous design.” – Textile Arts Council. The screening will be followed by a conversation between the documentary-maker, Cathy Stevulak, and Dr. Sanchita Saxena, during which they will discuss the future of this art form, women artisans in Bangladesh and how indigenous arts can be preserved, while at the same time creating a sustainable future for their makers. Non-members are welcome to attend this screening for a small fee. It will take place at 13:00 PST, which is 20:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

OATG member David Richardson discussing textiles with Geneviève Duggan on Savu

The following weekend is a rather busy one, with no less than three talks (that I am aware of) taking place. Firstly the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk – although sadly this one will be online only. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. I have to declare a special interest in this as I too first visited Savu thirty years ago – coincidentally on the same boat as Geneviève, but at a different time. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”.

Collecting salt which has been produced by evaporating seawater in lontar palm baskets

The talk will take place on Saturday 20 March at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

The next talk on the same day – Saturday 20 March – will be hosted by the Textile Museum as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. Do also take a look at the website of the Bata Shoe Museum as it has lots of interesting posts, particularly on the conservation of different shoes.

The scarf and shawls I collected in 1997 and 2000

The final talk is again on the same day and hosted by the Textile Arts Council. The speaker is Carol Cassidy and the subject is Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. Some of the challenges Carol and her husband faced are brought to life in this article in the Wall Street Journal. An experienced weaver herself, Carol made some design alterations to the looms. I’ve been fortunate to visit her twice, in 1997 and again in 2000 and the quality of the textiles is superb. I enjoyed reading this article by someone else who also visited in the 1990s and then much more recently in 2020. She pointed out that “Artisans can only replicate what they have been taught. To bridge the gap between the simplicity of an artisan’s lifestyle and our western sophisticated retail market, Carol and the like are the necessary link to success.” – Valerie Gregori McKenzie. The talk takes place at 10:00 PST which is 17:00 GMT. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Rampant Lions Mola panel, c. 1950–70.   The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.197

I’ve been working for some time on a list of museums with textile collections and came across a small private museum in Germany dedicated to the molas of Panama. The Forum Mola-Kunst is in the city of Bremen and has a small permanent exhibition of these panels which in the past were only used in women’s blouses, but now are increasingly used on bags etc. Today I discovered that an exhibition of entitled Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá is currently on at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum website has an excellent gallery guide, which gives an overview of the history and culture of the people who produce these vibrant textiles.

Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan

First a reminder that there are a LOT of talks about textiles coming up in the next ten days! Subjects include American Coverlets for Rug Lovers, Asia: Continuing Textile Tradition, Rugs of the Golden Triangle, Jain temple and shrine hangings, Asian Textiles in Portuguese Collections, and Kesa robes in Japan. Full details of all of these talks and links to register for them can be found in my previous blog.

Image courtesy of IMDB

Next Wednesday, 24 February, the London-based Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be screening a 1976 film entitled People of the Wind about Bakhtiari migrations. This film is a sequel to Grass, a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  Following the same route with descendants of the same people, People of the Wind shows what has changed and what has stayed the same over the intervening decades.

“There are two hundred miles of raging rivers and dangerous mountains to cross. There are no towns, no roads, no bridges. There is no turning back. The Bakhtiari migration is one of the most hazardous tests of human endurance known to mankind. Every year, 500,000 men, women and children – along with one million animals – struggle for eight gruelling weeks to scale the massive Zagros Mountains in Iran – a range which is as high as the Alps and as broad as Switzerland – to reach their summer pastures. The film’s astonishing widescreen photography and brilliantly recorded soundtrack take the viewer out onto the dangerous precipices of the Zardeh Kuh mountain and into the icy waters of the Cholbar River.” – Fiona Kelleghan.

Antony Wynn wearing elements of Bakhtiari dress

The film will be presented by Antony Wynn, author of Three Camels to Smyrna, who lived in rural Iran for many years. The film will be shown via a Zoom link at 1800 GMT. ORTS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members are also very welcome to view this and should send an email to receive their link to the event.

A short trailer for this Academy-award nominated documentary can be viewed here.

Spindle bag, ca. 1935. Western Iran, Bakhtiari tribe. ©Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 2017-18 the Metropolitan Museum held an exhibition on woven containers entitled Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg.  This looked at the bags not only as textiles, but also how they are used, who made them, the techniques they used etc. The section on the tribes gives more information about the Bakhtiari (and others), as well as some great examples of their textiles.

Camel chest band (detail), Qashqa’i people. Collection of Fred Mushkat.

Those interested in learning more about the weavings of the nomadic peoples of Iran might be interested in signing up for this event hosted by the Textile Museum on 24 April at 11:00 EDT which is 16:00 in the UK. Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, “will provide an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another. ” – Textile Museum website.

A nomadic family during their migration. © Newsha Tavakolian

Why Iran’s nomads are fading away, with text by Thomas Erdbrink and wonderful photographs by Newsha Tavakolian, is a very thought-provoking article on the difficulties faced by Iranian nomads today.

There are over a million nomads in Iran, and for many years they have followed a traditional lifestyle which involved moving their animals along ancient routes to cool pastures in the Zagreb mountains every spring. Now many transport their belongings on trucks instead of horseback. The number of black tents being set up in the pastures is dwindling year on year as young people sell off their flocks and move to the towns. One of the main reasons for this change seems to be the desire for education. As one woman put it “I won’t let my daughters marry a nomad,” she said. “Our lifestyle is horrible. I want them to live in a city and study.” Do click through the slideshow near the beginning of the article for extra images and information.

Turning now to a different group of nomads, I found this interview with Alun Thomas, author of Nomads and Soviet Rule, Central Asia under Lenin and Stalin, fascinating. In his book Dr Thomas “shows how Soviet policy was informed by both an anti-colonial spirit and an imperialist impulse, by nationalism as well as communism, and above all by a lethal self-confidence in the Communist Party’s ability to transform the lives of nomads and harness the agricultural potential of their landscape.” I was particularly struck by his statement (in the interview) that “The nomadic tendency to migrate made some land seem unoccupied or under-utilized, but to nomads, this land was essential to their wellbeing. In contrast, the Soviet Union took its borders very seriously, but for nomads, these borders were trivial annoyances at best and obstacles to their survival at worst.” It reminded me of another book I read several years ago which lingered long in the memory.

That book was The Silent Steppe by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov. This autobiography traces the life of the author from a young boy as a Kazakh nomad under Stalin to middle age, and how his life changed when his father was blacklisted as a kulak. I remember being struck by his shock when he was told he could no longer attend school. A very good review of this book by Georgia de Chamberet can be found here.

 A group of women and children in a yurt. S.M. Dudin. 1899. Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk Oblast (Saumal-kul). MAE RAS ©МАЭ РАН 2021

Finally, Voices on Central Asia has an interesting article by Snezhana Atanova entitled Along the Route of Samuil Dudin’s Expedition: Clothing, Yurt and Decorative-Applied Art of the Kazakhs of the late 19th Century. In it we get to understand more of the nomadic lifestyle of the Kazakhs – a lifestyle that was soon under threat with 48% of the livestock in Kazakhstan dying in the winter of 1931, and 1.2 million people dying of starvation in the great famine of 1932-34. There are some excellent photographs, showing many aspects of Kazakh material culture, to accompany the text.

A plethora of new talks and exhibitions!

It was a pleasure to see so many members take part in our recent AGM, and even more so that several of our overseas members were able to present textiles from their collections at the Show and Tell.

February certainly looks like being a busy month with lots of online talks and exhibitions. I’m listing them here in date order, as sadly several of them take place on the same date.

On 20 February there are no less than three online talks that I am aware of! The first of these is hosted by the Textile Museum, with Lawrence Kearney looking at American Coverlets for Rug Lovers. “In this virtual talk, carpet and textile dealer Lawrence Kearney will explore the varied art form of American wool coverlets from 1780 to 1830.

Woollen coverlets from the early 19th century are one of the great American art forms. They are often beautiful, plentiful and affordable. They were made, primarily, by itinerant weavers who travelled throughout New England and the Midwest from c. 1810 through the 1840s. After introducing the four main types of coverlets — over-shot, double-weave, winter-and-summer, and Jacquard-loomed (“figured and fancy”) — Kearney will explore the pleasures these 200-year-old woollen textiles can hold for rug lovers.” Textile Museum website.

Space for this session is limited so you are encouraged to register early.

A woman in Houaphan Province, Laos, models the hand-reeled silk, naturally dyed shaman cloth she wove on her handbuilt loom. ©Above The Fray.

Next is a Zoom Panel presented by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). This will take place at 1300 EST, which is 1800 in the UK. The panel will consist of Gunjan Jain, who “made a conscious switch from working for fast fashion industries to slow, sustainable fashion and set up Vriksh, a design studio that collaborates with handloom weavers in Odisha and other states in India.  Uddipana Goswami …. a feminist peace researcher turned peace entrepreneur who promotes eco-conscious traditional/indigenous crafts from India’s conflict-ravaged Northeast periphery, and Maren Beck, [who with] her husband Joshua founded Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 in order to document, support, and introduce to the world the incredible traditional textiles arts and cultures of Laos and Vietnam.” Maren and Joshua are the co-authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos. This talk is free, but registration is essential!

If rugs are more your thing then the talk hosted by the New England Rug Society might be for you. This also takes place at 1300 EST on 20 February, when Alberto Levi will speak on Rugs of the Golden Triangle. “While in Tibet in the early ’90s, hunting, in his words, “for the next Seljuk animal carpet,” Alberto Levi “stumbled across an entirely different kind of animal.” In time, what seemed to be a casual encounter yielded a distinct group of carpets, which Alberto labels “Tibetan Golden Triangle.” Far from being Tibetan, this elusive family of rugs, most of them fragmentary, appears to originate from a triangular region defined at its extremes by eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and Northwest Persia. How and why these rugs ended up in Tibet is yet another part of the mystery that Alberto will investigate in his talk. ” NERS Newsletter. NERS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members wishing to attend should email committee member Jean Hoffman to receive theirs.

Temple hanging, artist unknown, Gujarat 20th century

On Monday 22 February the Fowler Museum will host one of its regular Lunch and Learn sessions. Joanna Barrkman, the Fowler’s Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, will explore embroidered Jain temple and shrine hangings that offer insights into the religious beliefs and imagery of the Jain faith. This short talk will take place at 1430 PST which is 2230 GMT. Click here to register for this free event.

In addition to all of the above there is also the series of four talks hosted by the Textile Museum Journal that I covered in my previous blog. These are:- Elena Phipps on Brilliance, Colour and the Manipulation of Light in Andean textile Traditions (17th) , Raquel Santos and colleagues on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Asian Textiles in Portuguese Collections (24th) and Walter Denny on Colour, Expectations and Authenticity in Oriental Carpets (26th). The talk by Dominique Cardon on Dyers’ Notebooks in Eighteenth Century England and France, which was scheduled for 10 February has been cancelled. However the good news is that one of Dr Cardon’s co-researchers, Dr Anita Quye, will now take her place for this talk on 10 March instead.

Buddhist robe (kesa), flowers in baskets. Japan, Edo period (1615-1868). Silk and gold brocade. ©Alan Kennedy

Don’t forget that the following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.

Ensemble from Southern Moravia in Slovakia (KSUM 1995.17.574 a-e)

A new exhibition opened this week at Kent State University Museum, which will run until 19 December 2021. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website.

Quilt depicting scenes of domestic life and biblical scenes. Created by Minnie Melissa Burdick in 1876. ©Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum in Vermont was the first to exhibit quilts as works of art. Most of the pieces in their collection were produced in New England in the nineteenth century. They recently launched a new online exhibition entitled Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts, which features high-quality images of a selection of their quilts, along with detailed background information on each one. There is also an excellent video in which Katie Wood Kirchhoff previews the exhibition and explains more about the history of the collection and about certain specific quilts. The catalogue of quilt patterns produced by the Ladies Art Company certainly made me smile.

Women’s festive headdress called a shamshur. End of the 19th century Sami, Arkhangel. ©REM

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has a new mini-exhibition which will run until 28 February. The subject is Glass Decor in the Traditional Costume of the Peoples of the Baltic and Barents Regions. The exhibition showcases textiles which are adorned using different types of glass decorations and were made in the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The quality of the images is very good, and there is a toggle at the top of the page to change the language to English.

Early 20th century. Leather, satin, silk, wool and metal thread embroidery, weaving tassels. Artisan Saadagul Mademinova, Southern Kyrgyzstan

The ethnographic collection of the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts is highlighted in this article in Voices on Central Asia. In it Mira Djangaraсheva, the ex-director of the museum, Aigul Mambetkazieva, the chief conservator, and Chinara Daniyarova, a conservator, tell the story of the museum and describe some of its exhibits. The collection currently consists of over 18,000 items, including embroidered wall panels, felts, a fantastic pair of embroidered leather riding trousers and much, much more. Do take a look!

OATG member Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum has informed us of the decision to extend the deadline for the IARTS Textiles of India grant until 15 May 2021. This biennial grant of $15,000 CAD “can be used anywhere in the world by anyone in the world toward a project that enhances knowledge about Indian textiles, dress, or costume”. The scope really is very broad, and can include research, fieldwork and creative work. Please click here for full details of how to apply.

Removing the bindings from the warp threads on Savu. ©David Richardson

Don’t forget the February issue of Asian Textiles will be out later this month. Our next online talk will be on 20 March when Genevieve Duggan will speak on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? This will focus on the island of Savu, where Genevieve has conducted research over several decades. More details in my next blog!

T M Journal Interview Series, Chintz and Japanese Kesa.

This Wednesday, 27 January, OATG member Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum will discuss  the exciting revivals and innovations taking place today in India’s unique art of painting cottons using the kalam pen and natural dyes with Renuka Reddy of Bengaluru. The event, entitled Chintz Today: Breathing New Life into Traditional Textile Design, will take place at 1600 EDT which is 2100 in the UK. Further details and registration can be found here.

Hand painted mordant and resist dyed cloth by Renuka Reddy

Many of you will be familiar with the Textile Museum Journal which is published annually. It is peer-reviewed and always features a range of articles from a variety of scholars and textile experts. The most recent edition, published in autumn 2020, was guest edited by Dr Mary Dusenbury and is on the subject of colour.

A series of online interviews has been organised with some of the contributors to this edition. These interviews will take place during February and will “discuss the importance of recent advances in dye analysis, the value of collaborative, interdisciplinary research, and the multiple roles that a study of color can play in understanding a textile and shedding light on its historical and cultural context.” – Textile Museum Journal email.

There will be a total of 4 interviews, each taking place at 12pm eastern time, which is 1700 in the UK. You can register for each one individually.

The first interview will be on Wednesday 10th February and features dye specialist Dr Dominique Cardon. Dr. Cardon will discuss her research on three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology.

“Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Anita Quye and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Cardon conducted a comprehensive study of notebooks compiled by three different dyers between 1722 and 1747 in London and Languedoc, France. In this interview, she will reflect on the similarity of their palettes, the virtuosity of the dyers as colorists, their shared technical language, and the scientific accuracy of the colors in their portfolios.” – Textile Museum website. For more information on the work of Dr Cardon see my earlier blog.


Man’s ponchito (detail), 19th century. The Fowler Museum 2011.36.11. Gift of Connirae and Steve Andreas. Photo by Don Cole.

The second interview will take place one week later, on Wednesday 17 February. Dr Elena Phipps will discuss “the Andean predilection for textiles that reflect light” with Dr Mary Dusenbury. Dr Phipps has written prolifically on textiles of the Andes and a selection of her work can be found here.

Vine-scroll design carpet (detail), Iran, 17th century. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga 10Tp.

The subject of the interview the following week (on Wednesday 24 February) is Oriental carpets found in Portuguese collections. Dr Dusenbury will be joined by Raquel Santos, Blythe McCarthy, Maria João Ferreira and Ana Claro, co-authors of three of the papers in the Journal.


Anhalt Carpet (detail), Iran, 1500-1550. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 46.128. Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1946.

Please note that the final interview is NOT the following Wednesday, but will take place on Friday 26 February. This will be with Dr Walter Denny who “will explore the controversies and difficulties surrounding any study of color in pile carpets by art historians, conservators and photographers….. and….how scholarly expectations of color in the various historical eras and geographic groups of carpets are shaped by what has survived of old traditions.”

Buddhist Priest’s Vestment (Kesa) with Phoenix, Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), Date 19th century, Japan, Silk and metallic thread tapestry, Overall: 44 x 80 in. (111.8 x 203.2 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.

More online talks and an exhibition….

OATG members who were unable to attend the recent talk by Nick Fielding – or indeed those who would like to see it again – will be pleased to hear that a recording of this has now been added to our website. Simply go to Events Programme – Online Events – and then enter the password for 2020. This is shown on the inside back cover of our Asian Textiles journal, or contact any committee member for details. A digital copy of the December Lockdown Newsletter has also been added under the Journals section of the website, and again you will need the password to access this.

A reminder of two talks taking place this Saturday 9th January. The first is organised by the Textile Museum, Washington and features Sylvia Fraser-Lu on Burman Textiles. For full details see my blog of 23rd December. Click here to register.

The second event is hosted by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Craig Diamond will speak on two types of textiles from Mindanao in the Philippines. See my blog of 18th August for a video of Craig talking about these warp ikat cloths known as T’nalak and woven by the Tboli people from banana fibre. Click here to register for this free event.

On Saturday 23rd January Ann Marie Moeller will discuss Small Japanese Treasures from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection at the Textile Museum. Click here for full details and how to register for this free talk.

Artist Unknown (Chancay or Rimac, central coast Peru); Panel with crowned figures bearing staffs; Fowler Museum at UCLA, X65.8730; Gift of the Wellcome Trust

On Monday 25th January the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles will be hosting a short online talk by Elena Phipps on the subject of a Peruvian cloth woven with four selvedges. This is part of their Lunch & Learn series, but it will be at 8pm in the UK.

Don’t forget we have our own AGM on Saturday 30th January. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a short Show and Tell of textiles from members’ collections. This is the first time we will have held this event online, so we are seizing this opportunity to invite our overseas members to present one of their textiles. We look forward to “virtually” meeting you all.

Lama’s ceremonial hat, Tibet, early 20th century. ©Matthew Hillman.

Finally I enjoyed many of the images in this online exhibition about headwear. Curated by Stacey W. Miller, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality has wonderful examples of headwear from across the globe. This exhibition should have currently been touring several museums in the US. As that has not been possible it has instead been made available online. Several of the images are accompanied by short videos, providing more information about how and when the hats were worn.

Celebrating barkcloth

In October I blogged about a project looking at Pacific barkcloth. The project was entitled Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place. I highly recommend taking a look at their website as new material is constantly being added. It has some excellent videos showing how barkcloth is produced and decorated.

Kew EBC 42861. Samoan tiputa or poncho, hand-painted in the tradition of siapo mamanu cloths. (© Economic Botany Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

The result of this five year project is a new book on barkcloth.

“Barkcloth or tapa, a cloth made from the inner bark of trees, was widely used in place of woven cloth in the Pacific islands until the 19th century. A ubiquitous material, it was integral to the lives of islanders and used for clothing, furnishings and ritual artefacts. Material Approaches to Polynesian Barkcloth takes a new approach to the study of the history of this region through its barkcloth heritage, focusing on the plants themselves and surviving objects in historic collections. ” Publisher’s website.


The collections involved are from the Hunterian, University of Glasgow; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.


The book is divided into 3 parts:-

Part I: Tapa as Fabric: Bast and Colourants

Part II: Understanding Tapa in Time and Place

Part III: Tapa in Collections and the Community

This book is now available to access free online from Sidestone Press here, or you can buy the print version.

For those who would like to learn more about barkcloth (or simply admire photos of some fantastic examples) I suggest the National Museums Scotland website. They have a collection of over 140 barkcloths, some of which were collected by Captain James Cook.

One example from a slideshow which shows a selection of 110 samples that are part of a compilation bound in half-calf, the majority of these samples were cut from larger pieces of barkcloth that still remain in the Museum’s University Collection.

Textiles in Burman Culture with Sylvia Fraser-Lu

One of the first books we ever bought on the subject of Asian textiles was Handwoven Textiles of South-East Asia by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, so I was delighted to learn that she will be giving an online talk on Burmese textiles next month.

“Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s new book, Textiles in Burman Culture, gives an overview of the history and evolution of textiles made and used by the Burman (Bama) people. This ethnic majority group comprises approximately 70 percent of the present-day population of Burma (Myanmar). The book describes and illustrates textiles made for royalty, religious leaders, and commoners—with information on fibers, dyes, and weaving techniques. Fraser-Lu also explores the importance of cloth in the life cycle, literature, and in trade relations with neighboring states.”

“Colorful photographs feature some of Burma’s most iconic textiles: wave-patterned tapestry-weave lun-taya acheik, embroidered wall hangings (kalaga), and intricately patterned Buddhist manuscript binding ribbons (sa-zi-gyo) made on a card loom. In addition to visiting the major textile centers, Fraser-Lu also ventured into the more remote areas of the Burman heartland to find new information on important lesser known textiles from Rakhine, Yaw, Shwebo, Pyay, and Shan State that have been made for sale in the Burman market.” Textile Museum website

This free online discussion is organised as part of the Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions by the Textile Museum and takes place on 9 January 2021 at 11am EST which is 1600 GMT.

To register please click here.

Tenth century silk found in Scotland

In 2014 the Galloway Hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist. One of the highlights of this hoard was this vessel, which had been wrapped in textiles. Many of the items inside it had also been wrapped in protective textiles, including silk samite, which may have come from a weaving workshop in Byzantium, North Africa or Southern Spain.

The silver-gilt Carolingian container with the remains of the textile wrappings clearly visible

Scientists have now been given a grant of £1 million to enable them to further examine the history of this hoard of Viking wealth. National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, which is entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow.

Dr Susanna Harris, Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow (who has also worked on the textiles from Must Farm), and co-investigator on the project said:-

“The Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects surviving from Viking-age Britain and Ireland. Beyond the silver, familiar from most Viking-age hoards, and the much rarer gold, is an unprecedented array of other materials such as bronze, glass, and rock crystal, entangled with the outstandingly rare preservation of organic materials (wood, leather, wool, linen, and silk).

Many objects are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland’s earliest examples of silk, which could have travelled thousands of miles to reach Scotland. These types of wrappings rarely ever survive and are archaeological treasures in their own right. The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that usually aren’t possible for the precious metals that tend to dominate treasure hoards.

Once we have identified and recorded the textiles wrapping objects, they can be chemically tested for dye to help us reconstruct lost colours which have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to help us reconstruct the long lives of these objects before they were buried. Certain types of scientific analysis are better suited to particular materials, but with this exceptional range of material we can apply various techniques and learn more about the whole Hoard. Unwrapping the Hoard, literally and figuratively, is a unique and wonderful opportunity.”  University of Glasgow website.

A fabulous gold pin in the shape of a bird

An excellent overview of the hoard can be found on the website of National Museums Scotland. This includes several videos of the objects – highly recommended for jewellery lovers!

Focus on Central Asia

Michele Hardy of the Nickle Galleries in Calgary recently shared this article entitled How Soviet propaganda influenced traditional Oriental carpets. Having seen similar carpets and textiles in Central Asia I found it a fascinating read.

An embroidered portrait of Molotov, dated 1934-35 from the collection of the Azerbaijani Carpet Museum in Baku

It’s difficult to be certain, but this portrait of Molotov appears to be chain stitch embroidery on broadcloth. The basic structure and outer motifs in the carpet below appear to be quite classical, but just look at the subject of the central lozenge.

Carpet from 1969 showing a laboratory. State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow.

The subject of Soviet propaganda was also examined by Irina Bogoslovskaya at the Textile Society of America Symposium in 2012 in her paper The Soviet “Invasion” of Central Asian Applied Arts: How Artisans Incorporated Communist Political Messages and Symbols. I remember being really struck by the some of the motifs Irina showed during her talk, the full text of which can be downloaded here. In it she states that “a powerful way to show the difference between Czarist and Soviet power was through mass-propaganda art” and explains how this applied not just to Socialist Realism in paintings, but also to textiles, carpets and even china.

Cotton print from the early 1930s featuring the Turkestan-Siberia Railroad. Cotton print. Collection of I. Yasinskaya.

The cotton print above celebrates the Turkestan-Siberia Railroad, juxtaposing the images of the traditional method of transport – camels – with the modern railroad. Another very popular motif was agricultural machinery, as featured on this design by Sergei Burylin in 1925.

Printed cotton textile from the Ivanovo-Voznesensk Textile Factory

It seems that in the late 19th century the Russian manufacturers were printing textiles designed to appeal to the Central Asian market – generally with floral motifs on a vivid red background. We often see these textiles used as the lining on ikat chapans. The textile below is quite different in that it is clearly imitating an ikat design. This example was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and was produced by the factory of Anton Gandurin and Brothers.

Textile from the factory of Anton Gandurin and Brothers, exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893

The D. G. Burylin Ivanovo State Museum of Local History has a really wonderful collection of printed textiles which you can access online. Entitled From hand block printing to printing machines: The fabrics collection of the Ivanovo Calico Museum, this showcases textiles from 1710-1931. The textile samples are shown in date order, giving us a great opportunity to see how the designs changed over time. Compare the two images below from 1900 and 1920 to see the sudden change in style.

Textile samples from 1900
Textile samples from 1920

The earliest textiles in the collection were hand-blocked and the design was achieved using soot and drying oil. We then move on to examples using madder and mordant dyeing, and later to roller printing. There are lots of ways of searching within the collection. I found the section on agitprop textiles in the 1920s fascinating. Many feel very modern and daring in their designs, but some feel like more of a halfway house, incorporating new motifs such as aeroplanes and stars with the familiar floral elements and colour palette.

Textile designed in 1930 by Olga Fedoseeva for the Ivanovo-Voznesensk State Textile Trust.

It’s also interesting to see how some Central Asian people adopted Soviet motifs. In Turkmenistan short neckties were embroidered by women for their husbands to wear to political meetings. Its clear that these were not traditional apparel as the Turkmen use the word galstuk – borrowed from the Russian – to describe them as there was no word for necktie in Turkmen. The embroidery style and the stitches used were typically Turkmen, but the motifs most definitely were not. Many incorporate important dates, the hammer and sickle, red star, or Kremlin clock tower.

A galstuck with traditional motifs in the lower half and a star, the date 1925 and SSSR embroidered in the top section.
Richardson Collection
A galstuk showing the clock tower of the Kremlin. Richardson Collection

A tush kiyiz is a wall-hanging intended for the interior of a Kyrgyz yurt. This particular example from the collection of the British Museum is far too large for that purpose and may well have been commissioned for a public building.

Tush kiyiz – wall-hanging from the 1950s-1980s featuring the emblems of Soviet Socialist Republics worked in chainstitch.
©The Trustees of the British Museum.

OATG members David and Sue Richardson have a very similar example in their collection. It was acquired 20 years ago in Bishkek and was said to have been made by an old lady from Novopavlovka. The date 1959 is embroidered on the central triangle. This textile illustrates the bizarre marriage of Soviet thinking and Soviet design with traditional Kyrgyz nomadic folk art. The border has been embroidered using quite thick cotton threads in chain stitch throughout. 

Tush kiyiz made in 1959. Richardson Collection

The design is a celebration of the Soviet Union, being dominated by circular medallions representing the Soviet Socialist Republics.  Most of the medallions conform to a set format, with a rising sun, a hammer and sickle, and some feature of the Republic concerned in the centre, and a frame of the local produce, mainly agricultural, such as wheat, maize, cotton, or trees. 

A hoopoe embroidered on the central section

The spaces between these medallions are filled with a variety of wild and domestic animals and birds: a butterfly, a goat, parrot, swan, geese, and cow; a horse, woodpecker and white doves of peace.  On the tumar some of the birds, such as the hoopoe and cuckoo, are named and even a Soviet warplane gets in on the act!

A Soviet plane, also embroidered on the central section.