PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email will need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the videos.
This week members of the OATG were scheduled to visit the Mediterranean Threads exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. For obvious reasons this was not possible. However a virtual tour has now been made available online.
Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700-1900 AD gives us a flavour of the hugely diverse textiles being created across the Greek islands and mainland using a variety of techniques. As houses often consisted of just one room, bed curtains were essential to provide some privacy. These provided an ideal way to decorate the home and showcase the skill of the occupants. The exhibition also looks at possible links between the Greek embroidery and that of the Egyptians, and trade links with Venice and other areas. I was struck by the similarity between a textile from Naxos and the embroidery I have previously seen in Fez, Morocco. Do make sure you click to see the images in full screen to fully appreciate them.
Douwe Klaas Wielenga (1880-1942) of the Dutch Reformed Church.
From a current exhibition to one that ended decades ago. Leven en Dood op Sumba (Life and Death on Sumba) was an exhibition held at the Museum of Ethnology in Rotterdam in 1965/66. The majority of the exhibits were collected by the missionary Douwe Klaas Wielenga between 1904 and 1921 and have been held by the museum ever since. A 32 page introduction to the exhibition was written by the late Monni Adams.
This is a great opportunity to see a collection of textiles with a well-documented provenance. Please note – I copied this video a couple of years ago and omitted to note where it came from. I have searched unsuccessfully to find the source, so uploaded the video myself. If anyone can tell me the original source I will obviously link to that instead.
I’ve written previously about Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection – a weighty tome in every sense. An interesting article about this book and its author by Andrea Marechal Watson can be found here. Ainu robes are very striking and were made using a variety of materials including nettles, hemp, salmon skin, cotton and elm bark.
A wonderful set of photos of contemporary Ainu people by Laura Liverani was produced for an exhibition which took place in Sydney last year. I was particularly drawn to the image of Kazunobu Kawanano, an elder photographed outside of his home wearing a traditional robe.
Another exciting development is the opening of the new museum in Hokkaido prefecture celebrating Ainu culture – thanks to Tom Murray for sharing this information. This video was taken last week when local people were invited in small groups to see the museum before it opens to the public – date to be confirmed.
This photo of the exhibition gives some idea of the size of the pieces.
The Historical and Ethnographical Museum in Switzerland has now reopened its doors and has an exhibition entitled Manzandaran Kilims: Unknown Flat Fabrics from Northern Persia. A few examples of these strikingly modern textiles can be seen in this article in Selvedge. These kilims were created in around 1900 and have a real freshness and vibrancy.
And finally the Californian Lutheran University will be hosting a webinar tomorrow evening (19 June 2020) by Dr Sam Bowker who will be discussing the Tentmakers of Cairo. The good news for those of you in the wrong time zone is that the lecture is being recorded and will be available to view online this weekend. Go to the university website for more details.
For subscribers who usually read this blog in their email, may I suggest that instead you access it on our WordPress site by clicking on the blue title. This should ensure you don’t have any problems watching the videos and reading the PDF documents in this blog.
Subscribers can look forward to the next edition of our Asian Textiles Journal landing on their doorsteps in the near future. This issue includes a substantial article by Nick Fielding on the Reverend Dr Henry Lansdell, one of the great Victorian collectors who collected thousands of objects from Central and Northern Asia as well as India and America. The article contains several photographs of textiles held in the reserve collection of the British Museum, located by our Chair, Helen Wolfe. Other features focus on Double warp weaving in Poland (Fiona Kerlogue), Ottoman saddles and saddle cloths, a Chinese child’s tiger hat (Felicity Wood), the OATG tapestry weaving clinic (Jen Gurd) and our Show and Tell from January.
Members can access pdf versions of all past issues by using the password on the back page of the Journal. Non-members can access issues from 1995 to 2017 by clicking here This is a really great resource with articles by many leading scholars and academics.
Several museums that have been unable to open physically have produced virtual tours of their exhibitions. I blogged about this exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada last December, but thought it was worth repeating as a video has now been added. It is entitledPrinted Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth.
Kate Taylor has written an interesting article on this exhibition for The Globe and Mail. In it she explains that as “the Canadian government forced a people living on the land into permanent settlements, the Inuit began to need cash. The art projects…… were initially introduced by government agents. The idea was that the skills used to carve stone, incise bone and sew clothing could be adapted to produce handicrafts for southern markets. But carving and printmaking were just two possibilities: This show offers a wide selection of rarely seen textiles, startlingly modernist and highly colourful designs created in the 1950s and 60s.”
The British Museum has a new series of blogs in the style of historical travel guides. I really enjoyed this guide to 19th century Edo (Tokyo) by Alfred Haft, JTI Project Curator for Japanese Collections. He discusses the best time to visit, how to get there, getting around (sedan chairs can be rented), things to see and do, where to stay and even what to eat. Visitors are reminded that they must bow to every samurai they encounter – they are easily recognised by the two swords that they wear. The blog has lots of excellent woodblocks and paintings so do take a look.
The Textile Research Centre in Leiden reopened on 2 June, obviously subject to some Covid restrictions. Their current exhibition is on the subject of American Quilts and several are featured in this article on the Selvedge website, including one with a rather heartbreaking back story.
‘Safety First Veil, a Flu Preventive’, WWD, October 23rd, 1918.
While checking the details on the TRC website this blog by Loren G. Mealey caught my eye. In it she looks at the different types of face coverings that were used during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. I was amazed to hear that people poked holes in their masks so that they could smoke – hopefully the fabric was flame-retardant! One of the punishments for breaking the masking rules was to have your name printed in the newspaper…..
On Sunday 14 June the British-Uzbek Society will host a Zoom talk by Marinika Babanazarova, the former curator of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, Qaraqalpaqstan, which many OATG members will be familiar with through the work of Sheila Paine and David and Sue Richardson. This museum is full of fantastic avant-garde paintings, as well as a remarkable collection of textiles and jewellery. This 55 minute talk will take place at 15:00 GMT and costs £5. For more information click here or email Rosa at this address. The number of places are limited so don’t delay!
OATG member Chris Buckley has put together another fascinating short video, filmed and edited by Sandra Sardjono. This one focusses on a blue and white Kerek batik from East Java. Chris looks at the similarities of the technique and materials used with those of mainland Southeast Asia, in particular Chinese blue and white ceramics with marine designs as a possible source of design inspiration. He also examines indigo paste resist in China and the wax resist techniques used by the Hmong in Vietnam.
The Indonesian Heritage Society have supported “Meet the Makers” for many years. This event usually takes place near Jakarta and brings artisans from all over the archipelago together. Keen to continue to spread the word about these artists the Society have put together a set of 10 talks on a variety of subjects. Each webinar will be available for a donation of 5 USD, which can be paid using PayPal. These donations will be used to directly support the craftspeople. The full list of talks and further information is given in the PDF above.
The first talk takes place on 18 June and features Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific Arts at the Fowler Museum and Yovita Meta, Director of Tafean Pah – a non-profit organisation which serves 150 weavers in 10 villages. See the PDF above for full details.
Finally, OATG members David and Sue Richardson have added another section to their Asian Textile Studies website. This examines the textiles of the Klon people of the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia, giving information on their history, language, culture and of course their textiles. There are some wonderful images of Klon beadwork as you can see from the image above.
For a reason I don’t understand the link to the V&A videos on the kimono exhibition does not work if you click on it in the email. However if you click on the title (Textile films in a blue font) at the top of the blog it will take you to the web version of the blog and the link does work there.
The next OATG event – A visit to the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A and talk by the curator Anna Jackson – was supposed to take place next week and has obviously had to be cancelled due to the current situation.
However all is not lost! The V&A have produced a series of 5 short films through which Anna guides viewers through the exhibition. Each episode is beautifully filmed and the pace is just right. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these fascinating textiles and their history. As the V&A point out kimono are sometimes “perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging” but this exhibition “counters this conception, presenting the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion.” I highly recommend watching these films in the correct order to gain a better understanding of this evolution.
The Japan Society in New York was due to hold an exhibition entitled Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics this Spring, the main focus of which was over 50 pieces from the collection of the late Chuzaboro Tanaka. These pieces were previously shown at the Amuse Museum in Tokyo and more background can be found here.
Once again they have turned to the medium of film to ensure that the results of all of the hard work that went into putting this exhibition together can be shared widely. A 5 part video tour narrated by Yukie Kamiya and Assistant Curator Tiffany Lambert guides us through the exhibition. I loved the way the pieces were hung and the section in the first video explaining how and why this method was chosen.
Finally, moving away from Japanese textiles, OATG member Dr Chris Buckley has been busy putting together a series of short films focussing on looms and textiles. Many of you will be aware that Chris is an expert on loom technology. The first of this series looks at a particular Indian saree and the loom technology with which it was produced. We look forward to seeing the rest of the series….
Hope you enjoy watching these and may your isolation keep you safe.
I fully expected in this blog to be waxing lyrical about the kimono exhibition at the V & A, the chintz exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, and the talk on batiks which Maria Wronska-Friend was scheduled to give to the OATG last night. However these are not normal times. Many of us are experiencing lockdowns and as such perhaps have more time to read, watch documentaries and improve our knowledge. To this end here are some suggestions on textile-related sites.
I spent quite a lot of time enjoying this blog from the British Museum, which explains several different ways of exploring the museum from the comfort of your own home. I was amazed to discover that you can visit the museum using Google Street View. It took a while for me to get used to the controls, but the level of detail is incredible and in many instances you can read the panels of text by the displays. You can also explore the different galleries for example this is the link to the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world.
Another website with some fascinating online exhibitions is the Kyoto Costume Institute. I particularly enjoyed this one entitled Japonism in Fashion which examines the profound effect of the kimono on fashion.
Moving from Japan to China, this short video presented by Sophie Makariou (President of the Musée Guimet) showcases a stunning semi-formal Imperial dragon robe from their collection. It belonged to the Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1820) and had slits in the front, back, and sides so that it could be worn while horseriding. This robe is generally kept in storage and is only displayed occasionally so this is a wonderful opportunity to see it close-up.
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum have recently launched their free digital catalogue for the Woven Interiors:Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt exhibition. This beautifully illustrated 134 page full colour catalogue was co-authored by Gudrun Bühl, Sumru Belger Krody and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams. The authors look at how these textiles from the early medieval period were used in a variety of settings, describing how they “served as cozy bed cloths, they enlivened bare walls and colonnades with shocking color, they cushioned hard surfaces and veiled sacred spaces”.
Finally this short article by Ruth Clifford for The Textile Atlas raised some important questions about the relationship between weavers and designers of Kota Doria saris in the Rajasthan area of India..
Next week the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen will host a free two-day programme on The Colour Blue in Ancient Egypt and Sudan. “Since the Neolithic, the colour blue has been highly prized all along the Nile Valley, where its strong relation to the divine is particularly embodied by the god Amun. Blue pigments and dyes occupied a very special place in the visual landscape, where they adorned temples, palaces, statues and people’s bodies thanks to a large repertoire of blue cloths and personal adornments.” – TAES Network at Centre for Textile Research. This interdisciplinary programme includes a presentation on The use of blue in Egyptian garments of the 1st millennium, another on Blue in the iconography and textiles in the medieval kingdom of Makuria (Sudan), and a workshop on Reviving indigo dyeing in Mali: from farming to contemporary arts.
Hole and Corner have a great interview with Aboubakar Fofana, who was born in Mali but grew up in France, in which he discusses indigo dyeing in Ancient Egypt and concludes that “What they were doing 5,000 years ago is the same as I am doing today, and in 100 years’ time we can do the same thing.”
For more details and to register please click here.
3-4 March 2020
Karen Blixens Plads 8
2300 København S
Lena Bjerregaard, a guest researcher at the Centre for Textile Research, has just published a catalogue of the pre-Columbian textiles from the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, northern Germany. There are 405 pre-Columbian textiles in the museum collection, of which 133 are represented in this extremely well-illustrated catalogue. “Along the coast of Peru is one of the driest deserts in the world. Here, under the sand, the ancient Peruvians buried their dead wrapped in gorgeous textiles. As organic material keeps almost forever when stored without humidity, light and oxygen, many of the mummies excavated in the last hundred years are in excellent conditions. And so are the textiles wrapped around them.” – Lena Bjerregaard. This catalogue has very generously been made available as a free download which can be accessed here.
In addition to their collection of pre-Columbian textiles, the Romer-Pelizaeus Museum also has extensive holdings from Africa – the focus of their current exhibitions. Voodoo has been curated by Oliver Gauert and also showcases items from other museums such as the Soul of Africa Museum in Essen and the Africa Museum in Berg en Dal. It opened last October and continues until mid-May. ZDF heute journal have produced an excellent video giving an overview of the objects in the exhibition, which includes several textiles.
19 October 2019 – 17 May 2020
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum
Hildesheim Am Steine 1-2, D-31134 Hildesheim
The speaker at the next meeting of the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will be Thomas Murray – a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.
This talk, entitled Traditional Textiles of Japan, will explore Japan’s rich tradition of textiles, from firemen’s ceremonial robes and austere rural workwear to colourful, delicately-patterned cotton kimono. “The traditional clothing and fabrics featured in this lecture were made and used in the islands of the Japanese archipelago between the late 18th and the mid-20th century. The Thomas Murray collection includes daily dress, workwear, and festival garb and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement, which saw that modernisation would leave behind traditional art forms such as the handmade textiles used by country people, farmers, and fishermen. The talk will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics, often indigo-dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu, along with garments of the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fibre, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin to the north, and the brilliantly coloured cotton kimono of Okinawa to the far south.” – Thomas Murray.
Monday 9 March 2020
The Coffee House Club, Sixth Floor, 20 West 44th St, Manhattan, NY
Japanese textiles – this time focussing on embroidery are the subject of an exhibition currently taking place at the Japanese Foundation in Los Angeles. The exhibition is entitled Melodies of Shining Silk: Japanese Embroidery and features the work of Shizuka Kusano, a leading contemporary textile artist. “Embroidery was initially introduced into Japan from China together with Buddhism. It became open to the merchant class culture in the Edo period. As the clothing arts flourished, advanced dyeing and weaving techniques were used to create kimonos and kimono sashes. Today, a variety of materials are available, enabling various expressions depending on individual originality and ingenuity.” – Japan Foundation website.
15 February – 21 March 2020
The Japan Foundation, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., #100 Los Angeles, CA 90036
Opening at the end of the month in Chicago is a new exhibition on Western European dress. Fabricating Fashion: Textiles for Dress, 1700-1825 examines how clothing from that period was assembled by hand and looks at the importance of selecting the right fabric. “In the early 18th century, the most fashionable men’s and women’s ensembles were made of richly coloured silks and translucent lace, but by the early 1800s lighter cotton textiles, both plain and printed, became more common. The increase in Europe’s taste for cotton textiles gave rise to intense international competition for technical innovation and control of worldwide markets, which produced a wide variety of beautiful fabrics.” – Art Institute Chicago website.
Some portraits and prints will be presented alongside textiles from the period, thus bringing an extra dimension to them.
28 March – 26 July 2020
Art Institute Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603
On a similar note, the new British Galleries will open at The Met in New York next week. These will consist of ten galleries with 11,000 square feet devoted to various forms of British art from 1500-1900 including sculpture, ceramics and textiles. These textiles range from tapestries to embroideries, coats to bed panels.
Opens 2 March 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Part of a banner which will be displayed in full at the special event. Photo courtesy The Siam Society.
The Siam Society will be hosting a special event in collaboration with the Thai Textile Society in late March. On display will be several painted Vessantara Jakata scrolls from the collection of ML Pawinee Santisiri. These banners range in length from 30 to 50 metres and this will be a unique opportunity to see them opened and displayed in full. They are usually used during the Boon Phra Ves festival – a very important Buddhist ceremony.
Saturday 21 March 2020
1.30pm–4pm (Registration opens at 1pm.)
The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Members and Students THB 200, Non-Members THB 300
Image courtesy of IMDB
The 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 grueling 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
The film will be presented by Antony Wynne who lived in rural Iran for many years. Click here for more details.
Wednesday 18 March 2020, 19:00.
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, South Audley Street, London, W1K 1DB
Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year
Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year is an exhibition in Sydney, Australia, co-presented by the Korean Cultural Centre and the Hanbok Advancement Center in South Korea. It introduces “many different kinds of hanbok, the traditional garment worn by Korean people on many traditional and family occasions including seollal, Korea’s Lunar New Year. In this exhibition, the KCC will showcase the colourful, eye-pleasing attire highlighting various forms of seolbim or ttae-ttae-ot referring to a new set of hanbok prepared on Lunar New Year’s Day.” – The Asian Arts Society of Australia.
5 February – 13 March 2020
Korean Cultural Centre, Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth St., Sydney.
Back in the UK I was fascinated to read of the amazing collection of Egyptian textiles at Bolton Museum and Art Gallery. The spinning mule was invented in Bolton by Samuel Crompton in the 1780s and over the following century Bolton became famous as a textile production centre. “The first two curators of the Chadwick Museum in Bolton, William Midgley (curator 1881-1908) and his son Thomas Midgley (curator 1908-1934), were specialists in the study of ancient textiles. In some cases, they provided excavators with an assessment of the textiles found at a particular site in return for a share of the finds. As a result, Bolton’s ancient textile collection has a known archaeological context which makes them especially significant for study.” – Museum website. These curators were fascinated by the fact that the people of Ancient Egypt were producing such high quality fabrics thousands of years ago despite not having access to modern technology.
Finally the March programme from the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMASC) is a talk by Christine Martens, an expert on Central Asian felts and patchwork.
“Felt-making has existed for millennia in the cities and villages of what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China, homeland of the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. Archeological discoveries give a sense of this ancient art, which continues to flourish in the oases that dot the southern rim of the Taklamakan. Christine Martens will … examine the processes, and tools that distinguish Uyghur felt from those of the Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Turks and Mongolians” – TMA/SC newsletter.
Saturday 21 March 2020 09:30am
Luther Hall, St Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd., Los Angeles
I recently blogged about the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Saharaexhibition which opened recently at the Met Fifth Avenue, in New York. The museum have now released a short film with an overview of some of the artefacts on display in the exhibition. These include a royal robe from West Africa which is dated to pre-1659 and was dyed with indigo.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
The Met is currently celebrating its 150 year anniversary and to mark the occasion they will be releasing one film every Friday from their archive. This archive contains over 1500 films that date from the 1920s to the present. Some of them were made by the museum itself and others were collected. It seems very appropriate to share this film from 1928 which is a look behind the scenes. In this film you can see how they were preparing a mannequin to display a suit of armour and how the upholstery team worked to restore tapestries. I was amazed to see the beautiful hand-lettered labels being produced too.
While on the subject of museums, I highly recommend looking at the website of the Textile Museum of Canada. Click through to the Collections page where you can either search for specific items of interest or just browse. For example, I was drawn to this wedding blouse from Sindh in the section Explore Ceremonial Cloths. As well as providing excellent images of the front, back and a detail of this piece the page also shows other related pieces – several wedding blouses from India and Pakistan and one from Hungary – enabling the viewer to see similarities and differences at a glance.
Another great resource is the Digital Exhibitions section of the Textile Research Centre Leiden website. These cover a wide range of subjects ranging from Chinese Lotus Shoes to the Tentmakers of Cairo. Each exhibition is accompanied by several images and is broken down into different sections with informative text. The image below is from the Afghan Dress exhibition. This is split across no less than 15 pages which examine Hamid Karzai and dress as a national unifying force, the textiles of several of the different ethnic groups, wedding costume etc. Do take a look, but be warned – it’s a rabbithole and you may be there for some time….
Dress from Afghanistan. Image Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden. TRC 2008.0228b
Shortly after posting my most recent blog I was contacted by designer and anthropologist Charlotte Linton with an update on her research into textile production on the Japanese island of Amami Ōshima. Along with several other OATG members I attended an excellent presentation and workshop by Charlotte at Wolfson College in Oxford last year.
Charlotte spent one year in Amami Ōshima, during which she explored “how traditional craft industries navigate the paradox between preservation and innovation”. The main cloth produced there is tsumugi for kimono. This is dyed using a process known as dorozome, which involves mud (as a mordant) and the boiled wood of the local hawthorn tree. The production of these cloths is very labour-intensive as it involves at least 28 separate processes. In her new paper Charlotte discusses the future of these textiles from her experiences working in Kanai Kougei – a traditional family business there. She looks at the implications the conferring of Mukei Bunkazai (Intangible Cultural Property) status would bring to these textiles, and the fact that it may mean stagnation rather than innovation. This is examined in the context of the current interest in sustainable fashion. “Making It For Our Country”: An Ethnography of Mud-Dyeing on Amami Ōshima Island appeared in the journal Textile: Cloth and Culture and is available here. I highly recommend taking the time to read this. The OATG are hoping to persuade Charlotte to come and talk to us about her findings in the future. Watch this space for details!
Below I am reproducing some of a blog I wrote on this subject last summer, simply so that readers can have all of the information in one place:
An excellent article by Martin Fackler on the economic issues facing the kimono producers of Amami Oshima appeared in The New York Times in 2015. He describes how 20,000 people were once employed in this profession, but that number has now shrank to 500. His article ends with the following words from Yukihito Kanai:
“We need to become more like artisans in Europe or artists in New York,” said the younger Mr. Kanai, 35, who said he is one of the few “young successors” in the island’s kimono industry. “Even traditions have to evolve.”
The production of a kimono on the island of Amami Oshima is so meticulous that a single mistake could squander the efforts of every artisan in the process. The BBC series Handmade in Japan tracked the year-long transformation of the island’s famous mud-dyed silk into an exquisite garment. Although the full-length programmes are no longer available online, short video clips still are. These cover the various people involved in making a kimono – the starcher, the designer, the binder, the mud-dyer, the weaver, the inspector and the tailor. They can be viewed on the BBC website under the title Mud, Sweat and Fears
For more information on mud dyeing (more correctly mud-mordanting as it is the tannin which produces the dye) see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on their Asian Textile Studies website. David and Sue have now also documented the process of mud-dyeing used by the last major practitioner of this craft on the Indonesian island of Sumba.
A new 6 part documentary series on the V&A called Secrets of the Museum began on BBC2 last night. The series looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a Dior gown. The star of last night’s episode for me was Pumpie the Victorian elephant. It was fascinating to see just how much work went into his conservation, right down to dyeing lots of samples with which to repair his trunk. Looking forward to future episodes….
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Also on the subject of conservation is this interesting blog by Staphany Cheng, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Textiles, Conservation Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art., in which she shares her experience of participating in the Workshops on the Conservation of Japanese Textiles, held in Taiwan. Much of the emphasis seems to have been on kimono. I had no idea there were three particular ways to fold these garments!
Dragon medallion, China, 16th century, silk and metallic-thread tapestry (kesi), 15 x 15 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum finally reopens this weekend after a major project to renovate and expand it. The next event in their Saturday University series is a talk entitled The Dragon and the Pearl: Explorations of a Eurasian Motif by Joel Walker of the University of Washington.
“The art and literature of medieval Eurasia abound with stories of precious jewels guarded by monstrous serpents or dragons. This presentation will investigate iterations of this motif in the Syrian Christian tradition, including a famous stele from the Tang-dynasty capital of Xi’an in northern China and a silver reliquary fragment from Roman Syria. Taken together, these artworks reveal the powerful symbolism of pearls as markers of spiritual excellence.” Seattle Asian Art Museum website.
15 February 2020,10:00 – 11:30
Emma Baillargeon Stimson Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, 1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle
Last month’s AGM heralded big changes for the OATG. Our chair Aimée Payton stood down and Helen Wolfe from the British Museum was elected to the position. Also standing down after many years of service was our webmaster Pamela Cross. Pamela developed the original OATG website from scratch and was responsible for the huge task of ensuring all of the back copies of Asian Textiles were available on it. Over the past few months she has been working with Aimée and Felicitas from our Events team to develop a new website, which was unveiled at the meeting. Please do click here to have a look at it. As you can see our Events page is starting to fill up with a great selection of exhibitions and talks. In fact our first event – a Show and Tell of Manuscript Textiles and an Introduction to the Buddhism exhibition at the British Library – is already fully booked!
Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger
Just opened at The Met Fifth Avenue is Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara which focusses on the area today encompassed by Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. 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.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
If you plan your visit judiciously you could also attend the first of a new Turkish Centennial lecture series on 7 February. The subject will be Impressions of Ottoman Visual Culture and Art in Europe, 1453-1699. The speaker is Professor Nurhan Atasoy from the Turkish Cultural Foundation. According to the Met website her talk will explore “the rich cross-cultural exchanges between the Ottomans and their European neighbours. Discover the factors that led to the flowering of vibrant and sophisticated artistic production throughout the vast Ottoman Empire in the centuries following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and learn how Europe became hungry for visual and artistic representations of their eastern neighbours.” Professor Atasoy has written and contributed to over 100 books on Ottoman and Islamic art.
7 February 2020, 17:00 – 18:00
Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
Coming soon to the Turner Contemporary in Margate is an exhibition entitled We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South. It has been curated by Hannah Collins and Paul Goodwin and “is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states.” – Turner Contemporary website.
Writing for artnet news, Caroline Elbaor elaborates further “A series of quilts sourced from the isolated Alabama enclave of Boykin will also make their UK debut, following a critically lauded presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002. Boykin, formerly known as Gee’s Bend, is largely populated by descendents (sic) of people enslaved on the Pettway plantation. The distinctive quilts, typically patched together from a variety of materials, including blue jeans or cornmeal sacks, have taken on a hallowed significance as symbols of resistance and survival.”
Mark Brown’s articlefor The Guardian on these distinctive quilts is also well worth a read.
7 February – 3 May 2020
Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG
There will also be a preview on Thursday 6 February when the exhibition will be opened by Bonnie Greer MBE
On 11 February OATG member Chris Buckley will be giving a talk to the Hajji Baba Club of New York on Tibetan Rugs: Ancient Problems, Innovative Solutions. Chris will explain how Tibetan rug making traditions evolved as well as examining some unique knotting methods. Having run a carpet weaving workshop in Lhasa for several years he is extremely knowledgeable on this subject. He will give the same talk to members of the International Hajji Baba Society in Washington on 9 February – see below.
9 February 2020
International Hajji Baba Society
Basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW
The next event in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is a talk by Markus Voigt, HALI contributing editor, on the subject of Carpets from the Tarim Basin and Tibet: and possible connections thereof. “At a casual glance Tibetan rugs might be mistaken for those from Xinjiang / Uyguristan (Eastern Turkistan). The talk will examine how two neighbouring but very disparate cultures came to have commercial crossover in rugs prior to Chinese conquest of Tibet.” – ORTS website.
19 February 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8
Mantle border, Peru, Nazca culture, early Intermediate Period (2nd–8th century). Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-0093. Photo by Bruce M. White.
This month sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC called Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen. Over 4000 pieces from the Cotsen Collection were donated to the Textile Museum in 2018 and this new exhibition brings together some of the global treasures he collected over a lifetime. You can read more about Lloyd Cotsen and his collecting in this blog from last year.
22 February – 5 July 2020
The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052
Over in San Francisco Itie van Hout will be giving a talk on the Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum. Itie was the former Curator of Textiles at the Tropenmuseum, which houses nearly 12,000 textiles from across Indonesia, collected over a period of 160 years. The majority of these were taken to the Netherlands when Indonesia was a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies. She has written extensively on Indonesian textiles. For further details visit the website of the Textile Arts Council.
22 February 2020, 10:00am
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118
Indonesian textiles are also the subject of another exhibition which has recently undergone a complete change in Bangkok. A Royal Treasure: The Javanese Batik Collection of King Chulalongkorn of Siam opened in November 2018. However this month all of the textiles are being replaced with different examples from the substantial Royal collection. This will also happen again in September, giving visitors the opportunity to see a far greater selection of these batik textiles. “Among the highlights of the latest acquisitions are a few pieces that have never been displayed before, namely, the Mikado pattern from Yogyakarta which reflects the Japanese influence in the various Japanese fans portrayed through the batik printing technique, as well as the blangkon headdress painted with gold known as batik prada, assumed to come from Cirebon, West Java. It was used only on special occasions by male members of the royal family. Only one piece has been found in the entire royal collection.” Sawasdee magazine. For more images and information please click here.
1 November 2018 – 31 May 2021
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Ratsadakhorn-bhibhathana Building, The Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200 Thailand
The National Museum has recently opened a small textile gallery and is jJust a short distance away from the Grand Palace so you could easily combine a visit to the two collections. Michael Backman has written a short blog about this gallery with some close-ups of a few of the textiles. He says that “Included are pha lai yang textiles – printed cotton fabrics that show thep phanom deity figures, worn as a lower garment by members of the royal family. There is a shawl known as a pha sphak that is of silk woven with gold thread and embellished with fluorescent beetle wings.”
The National Museum Bangkok, Na Phrthat Rd., Phra Borommaharachawang subdistrict, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok
Back in the UK a temporary textile exhibition has been curated at the Milton Keynes Museum. Called A Sense of Place and Time, this is an exhibition of textile art set within the history of textiles. Ethnic textiles are on show alongside contemporary examples by Art2Stitch. There will be a changing section on communication through textiles featuring examples from other cultures.
23 November 2019 – 26 April 2020
The New Gallery, Milton Keynes Museum, McConnell Drive, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5EL
Please note this museum is staffed by volunteers and has limited opening times.
Many members have been looking forward to the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk which finally opens in London on 29 February. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book (see my December blog). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she says her aim in this exhibition is to “overturn the idea of the kimono as static, atrophied object and show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion”. She also discusses the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the exhibition.
In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna Jackson talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly.
The exhibition will be in three sections. “It begins by unpicking the social significance and heritage of the kimono in 17th century Japan, moving to consider the kimono and its position across a more international agenda, finishing with the progressive transformation of its comtemporary (sic) identity.” Scarlett Baker, LOVE magazine.
29 February – 21 June 2020
Gallery 39 and North Court, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
The OATG have planned a visit to this exhibition, which will include a talk by Anna Jackson, for 26 May. Booking for the limited number of places available will open for members in mid-April via Eventbrite.
While at the V&A you should also take a look at the posters in this small exhibition entitled Manners and Modernity: Ukiyo-e and etiquette on the Seibu Railway. These posters convey how to be a well-behaved commuter through humorous messages.
They will be on display in Room 45 of the Toshiba Gallery until 22 March 2020.
Conserving Pumpie the elephant
Those who cannot get to the V&A will be interested to know that a new 6 part documentary filmed behind the scenes begins next week on BBC 2. The series is called Secrets of the Museum and looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a stuffed toy elephant! Henry Wong has written a fascinating piece about this series for design week, including an interview with Alastair Pegg (the director of programmes at Blast! Films) who concludes that “It reveals what’s behind the closed doors — there’s an industriousness that visitors don’t see. That’s the pleasure of this series.”
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Finally, I was fascinated to read of this work by a team from Leeds Museums and Galleries and researchers from various disciplines to recreate the voice of an Egyptian priest called Nesyamun who lived around 1100 BC. The mummified remains of Nesyamun were scanned at the Leeds General Infirmary and a 3D model of his throat was reproduced using a 3D printer. A full and very interesting account of the project is given here in layman’s terms, but if you want to read the scientific paper then click here.
I don’t usually write another blog so soon after a major one, but discovered these upcoming talks and exhibitions which I wanted to share.
On 18 January the Thai Textile Society will hold another Collector’s Corner event in Bangkok, the subject of which will be Guatemala Rainbow: The Most Colourful Textiles in the World. It will focus on the collection of Professor Douglas Sanders, a retired Canadian lawyer and law professor who travelled to Latin America in the 1970s for the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.
“Guatemala is one of only two countries in Latin America with majority indigenous Indian populations. In the summer of 1975 Douglas Sanders studied Spanish in the village of Huehuetenango, in the Mayan Indian hill areas of western Guatemala. With other students, he travelled to weekend markets, marvelling at the colourful weaving and embroidery. Each village had its own ‘typical’ – distinct clothing and designs. It was a lovely placid summer, coming after a period of civil war – and before another period of violence. Douglas’s collection will give a visual sense of a fascinating textile tradition that includes women’s blouses, men’s shirts, blankets, carrying cloths and ornamental hangings.” – Thai Textile Society website. For further details visit the Thai Textile Society website.
Saturday 18 January 2020, 10:00am
Bandara Suites Silom, 4th floor conference room, first building, 75/1 Soi Saladaeng 1, Bangkok
Non-members welcome for a small charge.
For reservations please contact the Thai Textile Society.
Bamileke beaded shirt from Cameroon made of raffia and cotton.
Also on 18 January, but over in the USA, is a new exhibition on African Apparel: Threaded Transformations Across The 20th Century. This exhibition is mainly drawn from the extensive collection of Norma Canelas Roth and William Roth. It will include hand-woven and dyed textiles (for example bogolanfini mud cloth from Mali, adire indigo cloth from Nigeria, and kente cloth from Ghana) alongside factory-woven and machine-printed cloth (such as wax-print from West and Central Africa, kanga from East Africa, and shwe shwe from South Africa). Lots of examples of amber, silver jewellery and beadwork will also be on display. To learn more about the exhibition visit the website of the museum.
The exhibition has been guest curated by MacKenzie Moon Ryan. Click here for further details of his curator-led tour on Friday 24 January.
18 January – 17 May 2020
Rollins Cornell Fine Arts Museum, 1000 Holt Avenue – 2765, Winter Park, Florida.
At the end of this month The Pre-Columbian Society of New York will host a lecture by Elena Phipps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the subject of Andean Textile Traditions: Materials, Materiality, and Culture.
“The development of rich and complex Andean textile traditions spanned millennia, in concert with the development of cultures that utilised textiles as a primary form of expression and communication. Knowing the importance of textiles in the Andean world, we can examine elements of their genesis and look at the trajectory from the earliest developments of fibre-made items to the extraordinarily complex masterpieces of textile arts. Understanding the processes by which this was achieved, challenging enough in their material and technical features, is part of a larger cultural dialogue about the relationship between textiles as objects of use and function, and their physical and material qualities. These represent cultural choices and constitute systems of knowledge and values, underscored in the material and materiality of the media.” PCSNY website. For further details and booking please click here.
I felt it was worth repeating this section below from my November blog as it ties in so well with Elena’s talk:
One of the techniques in which the creators of Andean textiles excelled was cross looping. In this blog for the Cooper Hewitt Elena Phipps examines this fragment of a border (probably for a simple shoulder mantle) made by Nasca needleworkers from the South Coast of Peru at some time between 100BC and 100AD. The yarns used are from various camelids – llamas, alpacas and possibly vicunas.
30 January 2020, 18:00
The Institute of Fine Arts, 1 East 78th Street, New York
The China National Silk Museum is currently holding an exhibition of 66 hats from across Asia. The Asian Hat Collection Donated By Barbara Park exhibition includes hats from Bhutan, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, which are made using a wide variety of techniques.
A great selection of images from the exhibition can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Friends of the Museum.
“A hat is also an extraordinary storyteller, bearing lots of information such as identity, social role, tradition, history and life. This exhibition dives into the background of these hats, enquiring into the makers and users behind the hats per se.” China National Silk Museum
Until 29 March 2020.
China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou.
A new exhibition has just opened at The Dick Institute in Ayrshire entitled Textiles and Memory. Dean Castle, another of Ayrshire’s flagship attractions, is currently undergoing major repair and refurbishment works which are due for completion in 2021. As a result, the Castle’s fabulous and nationally recognised collections of early musical instruments, tapestries and more have been moved to the Dick Institute for safekeeping and are on display in the North Museum.
The exhibition, with which OATG member Emma Dick was heavily involved, celebrates the hidden histories of textile making, the cultural heritage of Ayrshire, and the stories and memories of the women who make up the Dean Castle Textile Team. Click here for more details.
3 December 2019 – 31 December 2020
The Dick Institute, Elmbank Avenue, Kilmarnock, KA1 3BU