AGM , textile conservation, Peru, Morocco and more

A reminder to all members that the OATG AGM takes place this Thursday evening, 27 February at 18:00 GMT.

Conservation work-in-progress on the door section of a 17th-18th century bed tent from the Northern Dodecanese. In the collection of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, EA1978.101

The AGM will be followed by a short talk by OATG member Sue Stanton, textile conservator at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Sue will talk about how her work has changed during the pandemic, and describe some of the textiles she has worked on recently. These include a display of Greek embroideries, an Indian Snakes and Ladders game and a Chinese textile banknote – such a variety! I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the images she will show us of the bed tent (shown above) after conservation.

This event is primarily for OATG members, but if you are not a member and would like to attend online to get to know more about us then please email our events team.

OATG member Sarah Fee was the guest editor for the Fall 2021 edition of the Textile Museum Journal (Vol 48), which focuses on Africa and its rich textile history. A full list of the articles can be found here.

Contributing authors are taking part in a series of online interviews with Sarah Fee, discussing new research in this area. On Wednesday 9 February the participating author will be Dr Myriem Naji of University College, London. The subject will be Reconstructing the Historical “Akhnif” of Southern Morocco. The akhnif was worn in that area until the 1950s.

This event starts at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT.

Front view of cloak. Nineteenth century, Berber.
Back view. The Eliza M. and Sarah L. Niblack Collection, Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art have a particularly good example, with excellent provenance. It was collected in North Africa in the late nineteenth century by Vice Admiral Albert Parker Niblack. He gave it to his sisters, Eliza and Sarah, and they later donated it to the museum. Made of wool, cotton, goat hair and silk, it would have been woven on the loom in one single piece. The bold red decoration may give protection against the evil eye.

Click here for more images and close-ups.

I also enjoyed seeing this photograph from the collection of the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme. It was taken by Jean Besancenot circa 1935 and captioned Type of Moroccan Jew.

Votive panel “Legend of the silk princess”, Dandan Uiliq, Xinjiang Uygur AR, PR China, sixth century, British Museum, inv. No. 1907,1111.73

The European Association for Archaeologists will hold their annual conference at the end of August in Budapest. One of the sessions, organised by Dr Alexandra Makin and Dr Susanna Harris from the University of Glasgow and colleagues, is entitled Silk: a catalyst for interconnection in the sixth to tenth centuries AD/CE.

“Throughout history and across cultures silk has been considered a luxury fibre. It has connected people; been the focus of trade, exchange and espionage. It helped power the building and downfall of empires, and religious expression. It drove the development of technology and ideas, and the movement of people. Silk is a story that connects East and West and spans millennia.” – EAA website.

The deadline for submitting proposals for this session is Thursday 10 February 2022, and you can find more information on how to do that here.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It’s been a while since we were able to meet together in person, but the situation here is gradually improving. To that the OATG have arranged a small group visit to the exhibition Peru: a journey in time at the British Museum on Friday 11 February at 14:00 GMT.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

Cecilia Pardo, lead curator for the exhibition, will give a short talk in the Great court first. Then our Chair, Helen Wolfe, who has recently retired from her role as Textile Collection Manager at the British Museum will take the group through to the exhibition and be available to answer questions. Our tickets are available at a reduced price of £10, payable on the day to Helen.

Places are very limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. To reserve your place please email our Secretary Cecilia Lloyd.

Textile fragment with embroidered humming birds

Our next OATG online event will take place on Thursday 24 February at 18:30 GMT, and the subject will be the Peru exhibition. Cecilia Pardo’s talk will introduce you to some of the extraordinary artefacts produced with incredible skill by the different peoples of the Andes displayed in the exhibition. She will focus on the magnificent textiles drawn from both the British Museum, and collections in Peru and beyond. 

​Helen Wolfe will end with a brief overview of the British Museum collection of Early Andean textiles, numbering over 1,000 pieces. This event is free for OATG members, who will have received their invitation yesterday, and £3 for non-members, payable via our PayPal account. For more details and registration please click here.

Indigo, batik, Chinese and Serbian textiles

An exhibition has opened at the Albuquerque Museum entitled Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe. It examines the history, techniques, and movement of indigo as it has been used and exchanged around the world for millennia.

Hispanic New Mexican, Frazada, 1840-1850, wool and indigo, Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 1983 General Obligation Bonds, PC1984.25.15

“The chemical compound (indican) required to produce indigo dye is present in various levels in several different plant families and hundreds of different plant species. Individuals around the globe have ingeniously developed and utilized various methods for extracting and applying indigo dye for at least the last 6,200 years. While many diverse local techniques and uses of indigo have existed, the allure of the famous blue dye has made the story of indigo inseparable from the history of trade, colonialism, slavery, globalism, and cultural exchange.” – Albuquerque Museum website.

This exhibition will run until 24 April 2022.

Today marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Parish House of the Serbian Orthodox Church Municipality in Ljubljana, Slovenia, entitled Two Faces of the Pirot Carpet from the Collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. The exhibition was curated by Marina Cvetković of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.

The sixteen carpets displayed represent the highest achievement of Serbian textile creativity. “The collection of Pirot carpets of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, one of the oldest and most important collections in Serbia, consists of 169 objects created in the interval from 1892-1932….. The exhibits classified in three historical periods indicate the specific development and transformation of Pirot carpet weaving viewed from the aspect of broader socio-economic and historical changes in Serbian society.” – Museum website.

OATG member Maria Friend has kindly informed me about an upcoming webinar hosted by the Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center Foundation. The subject of the programme is Chinese Attire and Batik in Indonesia: Tempo Doeloe until the 21st Century.

“As Chinese New Year is approaching, CIHC invites you to get a glimpse into how the Chinese in Indonesia dressed themselves – both in daily life and on special occasions – during the Dutch colonial times all the way to present-day Indonesia. Batik has always played an important role in Chinese Indonesian clothing. In this webinar, experts and batik artists from Indonesia and the Netherlands will share their insight about clothing and batik, then and now.” – CIHC

The presentations and discussions will be in English and will take place on Saturday 29 January at 15:00-17:00 GMT. This event is free, but you do need to register for it before 26 January.

I would strongly recommend going to the CIHC website and looking at the articles on traditions and culture. Christopher Ng has written a series of thirty one short pieces looking at Chinese dress, funeral rites, wedding rituals etc. Many of these are illustrated with interesting old photographs.

Ceremonial attire of a woman with simple “cloud collar” and a man without “Mandarin square”

Finally, a reminder that the Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM takes place on Thursday 27 January at 18:00 GMT. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, a conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. Members should have already received their invitations.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of any interesting talks, exhibitions, new textile books, so that I can share the information here.

Ainu exhibition in Köln – guest blog

The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. On 5 November 2021 a new exhibition about these people opened at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (RJM) in Köln. The exhibition, which is called A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan, closes on 20 February 2022.

I am honoured to present below an article about the exhibition written by the curators OATG member Walter Bruno Brix and Dr Annabelle Springer (RJM).

Key visual for the exhibition “A Soul in Everything. Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan” © RJM, http://www.mariehelenscheid.de, Büro für Gestaltung – Marie-Helen Scheid

For Ainu, everything is animate – from mountains and waterfalls to small everyday items. This spirituality has always been of elemental importance to Ainu groups in Northern Japan and remains a central element of their cultural identity today. In their imagination, there is a living/inhabiting “soul” (kamuy) in almost everything that communicates with people. In the Köln exhibition, the beauty of things is made visible. It gives an insight into the history and resistance movement of Ainu groups and at the same time an impression of the beauty of their material and immaterial culture, complemented by contemporary artistic positions.

Exhibition “A Soul in Everything” © Annabelle Springer 2021

The cooperation with the National Ainu Museum, Hokkaido, Japan and the scientists affiliated there enabled deeper insights into Ainu cultures. In close exchange with representatives of Ainu groups, aspects of handling the things were discussed from a curatorial, restorative, and conservation-ethical perspective. Contemporary artistic positions were intensively integrated into the processual creation of the exhibition and elaborated for the exhibition.

Exhibition “A Soul in Everything” – Statement by artist and activist Dr. Kanako Uzawa © Annabelle Springer 2021

These include video works by artist and Ainu activist Mayunkiki, in which she reflects on what it means to be ‘Ainu’ and thus being part of a social minority in Japan; poignant portraits of both old and young generations of Ainu by Italian documentary photographer and director Laura Liverani, who thus sets a counterpoint to the historical portraits of Ainu in the RJM’s photographic collection; video projections by French artist Boris Labbé that intertwine duplication, reflections, and interweaving of the patterns of Ainu textiles and onomatopoeia of Ainu chants; and the dance works of Norway-based Ainu activist and artist Dr. Kanako Uzawa, who not only stimulates a sensitisation in the perception of minorities, but also responds to Ainu traditions in her artistic works.

The Collections in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum

The museum’s collections include 203 items that can be attributed to Ainu groups, as well as 80 historical photographs by Polish photographer Bronisław Piłsudski, who traveled to Ainu areas in the late nineteenth century. At that time, Western interest in Ainu cultures was high. They were idealised as good-natured and noble, in line with a romantic version of Rousseau’s notion of the “noble savage.” In Germany, moreover, the thesis of Ainu as a “missing link” between “Asian” and “European” people was intensively pursued. As a result, interest in their culture grew steadily. This was also the case with Wilhelm Joest, who traveled to Hokkaido in 1881 and from whose collection 18 items have been preserved by the museum. At the same time, antique and ethnographic dealers such as the Johann Friedrich Umlauff company sensed opportunities for lucrative business. In 1906 and 1907, more than 700 things from Hokkaido and Sakhalin were first offered to the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum by the Hamburg company Umlauff. The Foundation for the Promotion of the Museum acquired 220 numbers for the collection. In the further course of the twentieth century, interest in the cultures of the Ainu ebbed away, as evidenced by the small number of only three additions from private collections within the following 106 years.

The Köln collection includes ethnographic things such as tools, knives and other weapons for hunting, as well as arrows and bows, lances and fishing accessories. Also plates, bowls, spoons and mashers for preparing and serving food. Ceremonial items include libation spatulas (ikupasuy), prayer sticks (inao), and amulets. An important inventory is the numerous textiles that were elaborately handcrafted by Ainu women. These include bags made of elm bast, carrying straps, robes, belts, headdresses, gloves and footwear, a small but important selection of which is presented in the exhibition.

Libation spatula (ikupasuy) nineteenth century. © Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055076

A New Way of Dealing with Things

Things were reclassified not only from a curatorial perspective but also from a restoration and conservation perspective. The visit of a Japanese delegation in 2019 to study Ainu-related collections in European museums allowed things to be reclassified. Most of the things in the collection are made of perishable natural materials such as wood, bark, and fibres and undergo a process of change over time: they age, become brittle, or change in colours and textures. Slowing down these processes and thus documenting and preserving the things and all the information they contain for the future is the task of conservators. In the exhibition “A Soul in Everything” Petra Czerwinske, Kristina Hopp and Stephanie Lüerßen were responsible for this. They were also in close contact with colleagues from the National Ainu Museum and representatives of the Ainu from the very beginning. In addition to material-technological aspects, they discussed the handling of the things from a restorative and conservation-ethical perspective. In addition, in cooperation with the Institute for Restoration and Conservation Sciences at the Technical University in Köln, three textile items from the collection were examined and their materials and manufacturing techniques determined. In this way, valuable findings were obtained, which are presented in the exhibition.

Elm bast and embroidered silk

In the case of Ainu textiles, two main sources come together: on the one hand, Ainu women made garments from a variety of materials. These included fish skins, bird skins, and furs from hunted animals, but fabrics were also made from the bast fibres of trees such as linden and elm and from the fibres of nettle, and mats were woven from rushes. In contrast, textiles imported from Japan, China and Russia were made of cotton, wool or silk. In most cases, these were so precious that they were only used to decorate the homemade materials.

Upper garment (attush) from elm bast, nineteenth century (back).
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055073_02

The textile highlight in the exhibition is a complete nineteenth century garment made of elm bast (attush amip), decorated with appliquéd patterns. The plain weave fabric was made on a simple loom in which the weaver controls the tension of the warp threads by means of her body posture. Fine stripes of dark blue cotton threads are woven in at irregular intervals between the warp threads of bast fibres. Two of the fabric strips with a width of about 40 cm were laid over the shoulder and sewn together to form the body, while two other shorter ones were ingeniously folded in a triangular shape and attached as sleeves. Along the hems and the collar, wide ribbons run around the robe. A complex symmetrical pattern is appliquéd on the back and in the lower part. This consists of wide stripes of indigo dyed cotton fabric from Japan, and narrow curved interwoven lines above. These are also made of imported tabby weave cotton fabrics. The fact that these line patterns were not embroidered with threads, but rather appliquéd from narrow strips of fabric, indicates that this garment originated from an Ainu group from Sakhalin that no longer exists today and was forcibly resettled to Hokkaido in 1875 [note 1].

Upper garment (attush) from elm bast, nineteenth century (front).
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055073_02
 

The bands around the openings and the applied patterns are meant apotropaically, that is, to protect the person wearing the robe. The Ainu expression for this is sermaka omare [note 2]. Characteristic of Ainu patterns are spiral or bracket-like shapes (kiraw) and thorns (ayus) attached to the corners.

Small bag (ketush), nineteenth century (exterior). © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

Three smaller textiles are presented lying in a showcase and give an insight into the work of the three students (Viola Costanza, Tjarda Rauh, Anastazia Zitzer) of the TH Köln. One of them is a small bag (ketush; Inv. No. 253251) that was also sewn together from elm bast with woven-in warp stripes of indigo cotton. In this case, the stripes are more complex and groups of two equal stripes alternate with three stripes of different widths. Several pieces, possibly remnants of a garment, were put together and bordered with a surrounding band of dark dyed cotton.

Small bag (ketush), nineteenth century (interior). © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

The bag was worn with a cord loop on the belt. However, this is now torn and pulled out of the original openings in the flap. Whether this happened in use or was done intentionally to release the inherent ‘soul’ (kamuy) before giving it away cannot be determined with certainty today.

A small piece of silk wadding (Jap. mawata) is found under the folded-over flap. Possibly this sticky silk wadding once had a counterpart, so that it functioned like a kind of Velcro, or the wadding was used in making fire. Indeed, in this bag were kept bullets and a lighter for hunting.

Sleeveless jacket, nineteenth century. © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

Also presented here is a tiny sleeveless jacket (Inv. No. 254391) for an infant. This one is made of tabby weave cotton, dyed dark brown or discoloured, partially with a printed fabric. The chrysanthemum pattern of this lining on a turquoise blue background points to an origin in China. All in all, the entire vest was probably imported from China [note 3]. A clue to this is also provided by the designation of this jacket in the purchase documents of 1907, where it is described with the Ainu word ‘imi,’ which Batchelor translates as: “Generally Japanese clothing. Clothes made after Japanese fashion. Sometimes any clothes” [note 4].

Cloth, nineteenth century. © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

The third textile shown here (Inv. No. 254451) consists of four sections of a Japanese robe and two other Japanese fabrics. The four sections of damask silk on the upper side have been elaborately dyed and come from a sumptuous ladies’ robe (Jap. kosode) of the nineteenth century. The woven damask patterns show scattered flowers on a background of linked swastika. This type of damask silk was originally imported from China, but was also made in Japan during the nineteenth century. On the creamy white silk, the motifs of blooming chrysanthemums, maple and pine trees among clouds and stripes of mist were reserved with a rice paste. This was applied by hand before the fabric was dyed dark brown. After removing the rice paste, the patterns stand out light on a dark background. Details such as leaf veins were added in fine ink painting. Coloured silk and gold threads were used to additionally over-embroider some of the patterns. The reverse side consists of two Japanese fabrics, which were also patterned with rice paste in a reservage technique. Stencils were used on both. The blue fabric is decorated with flowers in rows, the brownish one shows fine dots (Jap. Edo komon), which are ordered to a dense flower pattern. What the narrow elongated cloth was used for in the Ainu culture has not yet been clarified. Certainly it was a treasured thing that was highly valued.

Amulet (hoxchiri), End of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. © Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055081

Another highlight of the collection is a small triangular amulet (Inv. No. 253071) made of glass beads. This was woven into the forehead hair of the boys and when this part was shaved after his first successful hunt, the amulet also fell away. The small glass beads are threaded together and then sewn on a base of a Japanese fabric. This is woven in fine plain weave, whether of cotton or linen could not be investigated so far. There is a fine dot pattern on an indigo blue ground, which was created by applying rice paste using a stencil before dyeing.

The exhibition presents important historical Ainu textiles. In addition, the traditions behind these textiles are also made accessible in other ways. Thus, it is possible to touch two different pieces of the rare attush fabrics. One of them is more modern and without signs of use. Here the surface is still rough. The other piece is older and is softer on the surface because of frequent use and being washed several times. The density and thickness of the weaving threads of both pieces is also different.

Other features include two videos showing the textile craft techniques that have been handed down to the present day. One of the videos shows the weaver Yukiko Kaizawa making a length of fabric from elm bast fibres (attush). As she shows the steps of making it from fibre extraction to dyeing to the finished woven piece, she talks about her life. A second video shows Ikuko Okada sewing an Ainu garment (ruunpe) from the Shiraoi area and decorating it with appliqué. She also talks about her view of her work and the traditions she preserves.

The exhibition “A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan” gives a deep insight into the history of the museum collection, the traditions of Ainu groups and their beliefs. At the same time, it makes voices of Ainu of today and their way to recognition audible in a variety of ways.

Notes

  1. Josef Kreiner, Hans-Dieter Ölschleger: Ainu – Jäger, Fischer und Sammler im Norden Japans Bestandskatalog RJM Köln, 1987, S. 86, Kat. No. 133. Mashiyat Zaman: The Ainu and Japan‘s Colonial Legacy, posted 23.3.2020, retrieved 8.11.2021.
  2. Kristie Hunger: Sermaka Omare: The Ainu Motif of Protection. An Analysis of Traditional Ainu Artwork. 2017.
  3. Oral hint thanks to Yoshiko Wada.
  4. John Batchelor: An Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary, 2nd ed., Tokyo 1905, p. 173.

OATG members may recall that we had planned a trip to the RJM for the summer of 2020, but alas were forced to cancel it. Hopefully this can be rearranged for the future as the museum really is worth spending time in. To get some idea of the scale of this museum and its textiles please take a look at this blog I wrote in 2019.

More textile events in January

Our friends at the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS) begin their 2022 programme at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday 19 January with a lecture by Dr Steven Cohen. The subject of his talk is Indian carpets of the Deccan and the South.

“The problem with Deccani carpets is that their characteristic features rarely conform to a single set of clear, unwavering guide-lines. Visually and structurally, some Deccani carpets more closely resemble their Persian counterparts. Others are woven with materials and structures consistent with those of standard North Indian carpets. This extremely confusing situation is only now becoming slightly less opaque by the recognition, during the last few years, of small but significant Deccani stylistic, structural, and aesthetic characteristics (admittedly only minor features) which are beginning to allow us to tentatively assign a “Deccani” provenance to carpets whose origins would otherwise remain unresolved.” – ORTS website

This lecture will take place in person at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair and is free for ORTS members and £7 for non-members. The talk will take place simultaneously by Zoom. If you wish to attend online please contact the Membership Secretary Dimity Spiller.

On Thursday 20 January 2022 the Folk Arts Center of New England will host an online talk by Dr Ron Wixman on the subject of Balkan Costumes.

“In Balkan Romania and in Macedonia women considered their handwork and the making of their festive clothing to be marks of their personal value; by far the most heavily embroidered women’s costumes in Europe are found in these two regions. Girls and women grew or raised the materials necessary to make clothing – flax for linen, cotton, wool for fibers and embroidery thread – while men raised the sheep for sheepskin jackets and bodices.

In this presentation, Ron will explain the role of women and clothing-making in the Balkans and why and how they have developed these elaborately decorated and embroidered festive and bridal costumes, and will discuss how the fibers (linen, cotton, wool, silk) were made, spun, woven/felted, and then decorated with embroidery.” – FAC website.

The talk will take place at 19:00 EST, which unfortunately is midnight GMT. More information and a link to register can be found here.

Woman’s shirt or tunic, Swat Valley, Pakistan, late 19th/early 20th century, Karun Thakar Collection, London

I’m sure lots of our members in the US are eagerly awaiting the opening on Saturday 22 January of the new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC featuring textiles from the Karun Thakar collection. Entitled Indian Textiles – 1000 years of art and design this exhibition will showcase some stunning pieces, including an eighteenth century palampore from the Coromandel coast and a fifteenth century narrative cloth from Gujarat.

“The Indian subcontinent is home to some of the world’s most ancient and illustrious textile traditions. Over the centuries, Indian textile artists have developed an enduring design vocabulary – from simply woven stripes to floral motifs to complex narrative scenes. Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design presents a stunning array of fabrics patterned with India’s most distinctive designs: abstract, floral and figurative.” – TM website 

This exhibition runs from 22 January to 6 June 2022.

Although our UK members won’t be able to go to the exhibition they can do the next best thing and buy the book! The exhibition catalogue is published by Hali Publications and includes essays by several authors including Rosemary Crill and Steven Cohen. The focus on textile ornament rather than date, region, usage, or technique provides new perspective and scholarship on this ancient artistic tradition. The book also highlights the tradition’s remarkable diversity, with objects ranging from folk embroideries to Mughal courtly weavings, and from early textiles traded to Egypt and Southeast Asia to eighteenth century chintzes exported to Europe.

Can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

As one great exhibition opens, another one closes. The Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge ends on 30 January, so if you want to see it do hurry!

The next Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation morning takes place online on Saturday 29 January and the subject for this session is Restoring Rugs and Carpets.

“Rug restoration employs a range of sewing and weaving techniques that can be used to stabilize and conserve damaged structure or, if necessary, completely re-weave and replace missing fabric. The best repairs match materials, weave structure and color undetectably, restoring both value and function to a rug.” – Textile Museum. The speaker, Robert Mann, has been restoring rugs since 1978 and will discuss the various techniques used.

Click here for more details and to register for this programme. It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT.

Double-soled engagement footwear from Japan. The two soles were bound together as a symbol of matrimonial harmony. Late nineteenth century. BSM collection.

Finally, I found this online exhibition about the history of wedding shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum fascinating. It discusses popular customs around marriage footwear, including hiding

New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years.

This will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Museum, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

All of this may sound familiar to OATG members, as Dr Armstrong gave this talk to us last August. It was extremely well-received, and if you missed it a recording is available in the members’ resources area of our website. However you may well want instead to join this online event, as the Q and A session afterwards is sure to be stimulating. The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Fragment (Tunic), 1532/1700
Inca; probably Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region, southern highlands, Peru. Bessie Bennett Endowment

On the same day, Thursday 13 January, the Art Institute of Chicago will host an online lecture by Andrew Hamilton entitled Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. This talk focuses on two fragments of an Inca tunic, explaining “the appearance and usage of the original tunic; the tunic’s elusive designs, called tocapus in Quechua; the European design influences manifested in the garment; and how an elite Indigenous man might have worn such a tunic to express his nobility under colonial rule. Most importantly, this talk will illuminate the knowledge and skills of the tunic’s weavers and show how their work upheld long-standing Inca techniques while also inventing new ones in response to their much-changed lives in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” – AIC website

The talk takes place at 17:00-17:45 CST, which is 23:00-23:45 GMT, and you can register for it here.

The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California begin their 2022 programme on Saturday 15 January with an online talk by Abel Trybiarz, author of Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs and Others, published in 2017 by HALI. The title of his talk is RUGS & ART: South Persian Tribal Rugs with Birds and Other Creatures.

“The so-called “bird rugs” of the Khamseh Confederation and the Qashqa’i are among the most charming and colorful of figurative rugs of the Southwest Persian tribes. Their rows and columns of birds, and all kinds of other animals including human figures, have been made in an infinite array of combinations and colors, with a huge variety of border motifs. Over many years, Buenos Aires collector Abel Trybiarz has quietly built a previously unknown collection of bird and animal rugs that has at its heart a superb selection of antique knotted-pile rugs, woven by the nomadic tribes of the Khamseh Confederation in southwestern Iran during the 19th century.”

The talk takes place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Cover of Mea and the Palm Flowers. ©Tracing Patterns Foundation

OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation has been instrumental in producing a lovely book for children, telling the story of a little girl called Mea who dreams of wearing a new ikat cloth to the Harvest Festival on the island of Savu in Indonesia. One of the advisors for this book was Geneviève Duggan, who last year talked to our members about the textiles of Savu, in particular those woven by the women of Pedero village, the setting of this book. The book is beautifully illustrated, and half of the proceeds of sales will be going to the weavers – who you may remember suffered dreadfully after Cyclone Seroja. Click here to order this delightful book.

A young girl from Pedero we photographed during one of our many visits to Savu.

I missed Joe Coca’s talk on textile photography last month, so am glad to see that a recording of it is now available on Youtube. In it he talks about the trials and tribulations involved in taking some of the photographs of weavers and people in their traditional dress.

On Thursday 27 January we will hold our Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM via Zoom. It will begin at 18:00 GMT and will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. All members should have already received the Zoom link, which will be resent along with the agenda and committee reports well in advance of the meeting.

Yet more textile talks!

First a quick reminder of a couple of events taking place this week.

The next online meeting of the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be this Wednesday 8 December. Dr Mariachiara Gasparini will talk on the subject From Wool to Silk and Back: Development and Evolution of the Eurasian Roundel Motif.

“In the 6th century, roundel motifs began to appear on wool and silk textiles in Chinese and Iranian territories. Through the spreading of Buddhism and Islam in the 8th century, textiles with beaded, lobed, and flowery roundels spread across Eurasia; they have been found in Christian Cathedral treasuries, Egyptian and Japanese repositories, and various archaeological sites. Often used as money by the Chinese, these textiles mainly crossed the borders of empires and kingdoms as diplomatic gifts.”

The talk begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and is free, but you do need to register for it.

This Thursday 9 December the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, will host another online talk, this time with Victoria Finlay, the author of Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World. Victoria looks at how stories of our “relationship with cloth are woven in with questions of how and why people through the ages have made it, worn it, invented it, made symbols out of it, and sometimes why they have fought for it.”

Beating tree bark in Papua and attempting to spin cotton in Guatemala are just two of the textile-related experiences Victoria has had, so this should be an enjoyable talk.

Click here to find out more and to book for this talk which begins at 18:00 GMT.

Textile fragment with embroidered hummingbirds, early Nasca, Peru 100 BC-AD 200 ©British Museum

I mentioned in a previous blog that I had really enjoyed an online talk by Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, the curators of the current British Museum exhibition Peru: a journey in time. This free talk is being repeated on Thursday 9 December 2021 at 18:15 GMT. Click here for more details.

©Minjee Kim

In early November I blogged about a talk organised by the Korean Cultural Society of Boston.  The speaker was Dr Minjee Kim and the subject was Han-bok: Dress of Korean Identity. The KCSB website explained that this talk “will shed light on the inception of the term “hanbok” and the composition of the ensembles for men and women, and its constant transformation in the context of modern Korean fashion history. Then it will overview contemporary hanbok ensembles for new-born babies, children, young and middle age adults, as well as weddings, burials, and funerals.”

Unfortunately the talk began at 23:30 GMT so wasn’t ideal for our UK members. However the recording of this talk is now available here.

Hat from the collection of Roger Pratt

Saturday 11 December is a busy one for textile lovers, with at least three talks that I know of. The first is by Roger Pratt as part of the Textile Museum’s regular Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings. His subject is Hats of the Silk Road. “In this virtual trek along the Silk Road, collector Roger Pratt will show images and discuss examples of a variety of hats from his personal holdings. These include Turkmen hats, Turkmen Tekke hats, Central Asian non-Turkmen hats, Persian conical Dervish hats, Central Asian longtail hats, inscribed religious hats and Ottoman Syrian Aleppo hats. The hats were first displayed in 2018 at the International Conference on Oriental Carpets XIV in Washington, D.C.” – Textile Museum website

The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Later the same day is the second in a two-part webinar hosted by the New England Rug Society. Unfortunately I forgot to enter the first part, which was on 4 December, in my blog diary – sorry about that. Jim Burns is the author of several books including The Caucasus: Tradition in Weaving and Antique Rugs of Kurdistan. His talk is entitled Caucasian Rugs: Six Decades of Perspective on Design and Taste. He will discuss examples of weavings from the Caucasus from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The talk begins at 13:00 Eastern Time, which is 18:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Also on Saturday 11 December the China Society of Southern California will host a talk by Dr David Hugus on the subject of Chinese Rank Badges. This will be the first in a series of three talks on this subject by David, the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years. This first talk will focus on identifying the birds and animals that represent the nine civilian and military ranks of the Qing Dynasty. The talk is at 18:00 PST, which is great for our US members, but not for our UK ones as that is 02:00 GMT. Click here to register.

Harriet Powers pictorial quilt 1895-98

On Wednesday 15 December Jennifer Swope, co-curator of the current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will give a talk about Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories. “Spanning more than 300 years, the 50 plus quilts featured in this groundbreaking exhibition express the personal narratives of their makers and owners and connect to broader stories of global trade, immigration, industry, marginalization, and territorial and cultural expansion. Hear from the curator as she discusses the diverse stories of the American experience told by these artists and makers, from Harriet Powers to Bisa Butler.”

Click here to register for this free webinar, which begins at 14:00 Eastern Time – 19:00 GMT.

Finally OATG members will be delighted to hear that our Website Manager Aimée Payton, has completed her overhaul of the membership section. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m sure you will agree it was worth it. Simply go to our website and click on Membership and then Members’ Resources. You will then be asked to enter the current password and will find everything you need in one place – recordings of past talks, recent copies of Asian Textiles etc., plus a new section of Members Profiles – more on that later…..

Upcoming textile events – Peru, Mexico, China, the Silk Road and more….

There are two videos embedded in this blog. Subscribers who receive this via email will need to click on the blue title to go to our WordPress site and read the blog there to be able to view them.

I really enjoyed an online talk about the Peru exhibition at the British Museum by curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau. I’ve been informed by longstanding OATG member Pamela Cross that there are some fantastic textiles in this exhibition.

I was amazed to see this feather headdress from the Chimú-Inca culture, and enjoyed learning more about the process of preparing it for display.

I recently blogged about a talk by Elena Phipps as part of the Curator’s Choice series at the Fowler Museum. This particular talk was about Feather Embellishments in Mexican Huipiles and it is now available on Youtube for those who missed it.

Phoenix – a traditional festival badge by Margaret Lee

The Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA) has an interesting online event this week.

“Every culture in the world has some form of embroidery in their history but nowhere else has it played such a visible and significant role than in Chinese culture. With a history tracing back to the Neolithic period, embroidery has a continuous position that permeates every echelon and aspect of Chinese society, adapting with the times and, in the process, has itself developed from the fundamental purpose of decoration to fine art status. In this presentation [embroidery specialist] Margaret Lee shares with us key milestones of embroidery’s journey and its central place in Chinese history and culture.” – TAASA website.

This free event takes place on Tuesday 30 November at 18:30, which is 04:30 in the UK, so it only really works for our members in the Southern Hemisphere.

On Thursday 2 December Virginia Postrel will explore the hidden ways textiles have made our world. “The story of humanity is the story of textiles – as old as civilization itself. Textiles created empires and powered invention. They established trade routes and drew nations’ borders. Since the first thread was spun, fabric has driven technology, business, politics, and culture.”

Virginia is the author of The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World. This online event begins at 18:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

The next online meeting of the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be on Wednesday 8 December. Dr Mariachiara Gasparini will talk on the subject From Wool to Silk and Back: Development and Evolution of the Eurasian Roundel Motif.

“In the 6th century, roundel motifs began to appear on wool and silk textiles in Chinese and Iranian territories. Through the spreading of Buddhism and Islam in the 8th century, textiles with beaded, lobed, and flowery roundels spread across Eurasia; they have been found in Christian Cathedral treasuries, Egyptian and Japanese repositories, and various archaeological sites. Often used as money by the Chinese, these textiles mainly crossed the borders of empires and kingdoms as diplomatic gifts.”

The talk begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and is free, but you do need to register for it.

On Thursday 8 December the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, will host another online talk, this time with Victoria Finlay, the author of Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World. Victoria looks at how stories of our “relationship with cloth are woven in with questions of how and why people through the ages have made it, worn it, invented it, made symbols out of it, and sometimes why they have fought for it.”

Beating tree bark in Papua and attempting to spin cotton in Guatemala are just two of the textile-related experiences Victoria has had, so this should be an enjoyable talk.

Click here to find out more and to book for this talk which begins at 18:00 GMT.

More Asian textile events in November

The autumn edition of our journal Asian Textiles has now been delivered to most members. Fittingly for this time of year there is a focus on scarves, with a short article on the wedding scarves of the Chuvash by Natalia Yurievna Kashpar.

There is also a much longer one on the kelaghayi of Azerbaijan by Maria Wronska-Friend. If you have been following us for a while you may remember I devoted an entire blog to these scarves in 2019. Michael Heppell has also written on Lampung, Tampan and Ibanic speakers, spurred on by an article by Georges Breguet in the previous edition.

Kantha embroidered textile (detail), India, Bengal, late 19th/early 20th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-1907. Photo by Bruce M. White Photography.

The second annual Cotsen Textile Traces Global Roundtable takes place online on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 November and the subject this year is From India to the World. The first day is devoted to Embroidered Textiles, and the second to Painted and Printed Textiles. Each day there will be three panels, and they feature some stellar speakers including Sarah Fee, Ruth Barnes, Monisha Ahmed and Rosemary Crill. These events begin at 09:00 EST, which is 14:00 GMT. This means that OATG members with stamina can ‘attend’ these sessions before our own talk in the evening.

You can read full details of the programme, including abstracts, here and register for it here.

4-panel screen with embroidered leaves on branch in the fall with two sparrows

A reminder that the next OATG event will be on Thursday 18 November.  This will be an online presentation by Luz van Overbeeke entitled Japanese Ornamental Textiles Through a Dealer’s Eyes. Luz specialises in ornamental textiles of the Meiji era and will discuss some of the most memorable textiles she has found over the years.

This talk will take place at 18:30 GMT and is free for OATG members. There is a small (£3) charge for non-members. Full details and registration here.

Thursday 18 November is certainly a busy day for textile lovers, as the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is also holding an online event. Professor Giorgio Riello of the University of Warwick is the speaker and his subject is The Ambassador is Spoiling Us: Gifts and Material Diplomacy at the Courts of Siam and France at the End of the Seventeenth Century.

“In the pre-modern period (c. 1400-1800), gifts were at the core of the ceremonies that accompanied the formal reception of foreign ambassadors. Both in Asia and in Europe, the choreography of the reception of ambassadors was carefully staged. This was the case for the Eurasian ambassadorial exchange between the distant Kingdoms of Siam (Thailand) and France in the 1680s. The fame of this specific diplomatic cross-cultural episode is due to the quantities and value of the gifts presented by the Siamese ambassadors to the Court of France and viceversa by the French ambassadors sent to the court of Siam. This presentation argues that diplomacy should not be read only at the level of rulers, in this case between Phra Narai (r. 1656-88) and Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715). The examination of the gifts themselves shows a series of other actors, most notably the ambassadors, but also Jesuits, merchants and adventurers.” – ACM website

The talk begins at 11:00 UTC, which is 19:00 GMT. Full details, and a link to register, can be found here.

On Friday 19 November the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies at UC Berkeley will host a Zoom webinar. The speaker is Mariachiara Gasparini and her subject is Across the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: Sino-Sogdian Textiles Beyond the Main Silk Routes.

“In the 6th century, the circulation of silk and embroidered textiles with zoomorphic motifs, often enclosed in pearl medallions, influenced Eurasian art. Although they have been often mistaken as ‘Sasanian,’ these textiles originated between Sogdiana and the western regions of China. However, only after the Islamization of Central Asia in the 8th century did these weavings evolve into new structures, and floral motifs were widely used to embellish or substitute the initial pearl medallions. By examining a group of 8th-9th-century weavings, which have recently appeared on the art market, in this paper, I discuss differences and variations between early and later structures and iconographic motifs. I argue that the Sogdian and Turko-Mongol trade might have also occurred beyond the main Silk Routes across the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.” – Mariachiara Gasparini

This talk begins at 14:00 PST, which is 22:00 GMT and registration is required.

Coming soon…. exhibitions and talks on Ainu, Peruvian, Indonesian, Tudor and Arabian textiles.

An exhibition co-curated by OATG member Walter Bruno Brix has just opened at one of my favourite museums – the Rauchenstrauch-Joest museum in Köln, Germany.

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, RJM 10699; Japan; Ostasien; Mantel attus; 1801/1900; rba_c023086

A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from Northern Japan can be seen from November 5, 2021 to February 20, 2022. It presents the cultures of the Ainu groups who “Only after the middle of the 20th century did a strong return to its traditions and a revitalization movement emerge, which led to its recognition as an indigenous group in 2008 and its legal implementation by the Japanese government in 2019. The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. From the middle of the 19th century they were colonized, relocated and exploited by Japan.” – RJM website.

This exhibition was hailed as a ‘must see’ by Thomas Murray, whose book Textiles of Japan has a major section on the Ainu.

Closer to home the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford also has a display focusing on the Ainu. A short film by Eiko Soga entitled Autumn Salmon is playing daily on the first floor balcony until the end of November. “In 2016, Eiko lived with an Ainu woman called Ms. Katsue Kaizawa and studied the making of Ainu kimono, embroidery and salmon-skin shoes. In Ainu culture, salmon traditionally served key economic, religious and spiritual roles. Today, it still plays an important role within Ainu communities but primarily to sustain their traditional values.” – PRM website.

A pair of salmon-skin shoes which date to around 1900 can be seen in a case next to the film installation. These waterproof boots were known as chepkeri and were made from up to six dried and stretched salmon skins stitched together.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On Thursday 11 November a major new exhibition, Peru a journey in time, opens at the British Museum and will run until 20 February 2022.  This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

An online introduction to this new exhibition, featuring curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, will take place this Thursday at 17:30 GMT. This is a free event, but to do need to book to secure your place. I’m not sure how many textiles are featured in the exhibition, but will hopefully get a better idea then.

Saturday 13 November sees the next of the Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings hosted by the Textile Museum. Dr Lauren Mackay will talk about Woven Treasures From the East in the Royal Tudor Court.

“For the Tudors, the Islamic world of the 16th century was an endless source of fascination and delight, swathed in fine silks, bursting with spices and draped in luxurious and vibrant tapestries and carpets. Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, began the Tudor love affair with Orientalism, and soon English society coveted Ottoman and Persian culture: Its art, dress, textiles and carpets became highly sought–after symbols of wealth and power.” – Textile Museum.

This virtual programme, which is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. There is no charge, but you do need to register for it.

This Sunday, 14 November, the Zay Initiative will hold an online symposium on the subject of Arab Costume Collections: Sustaining Legacies. This 2-hour event will be hosted by Ben Evans of Hali and there will be two panels; the first looking at The importance of Arab Dress and Culture and the second examining The role and relevance of heritage for contemporary brands. Speakers include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Richard Wilding, Shahira Mehrez and Marriam Mossalli.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 GMT and registration is essential.

On Tuesday 16 November OATG member Lesley Pullen will give a hybrid lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society. The subject of her talk is Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th -15th century.

This free lecture begins at 18:30 GMT and the venue is 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. If you wish to attend, either in person or via Zoom, please register by emailing Matty Bradley.

Lesley’s book on this subject was published earlier this year. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader. Some of these illustrations, with detailed notes, can be seen on the excellent Art of the Ancestors website here.

Stop Press! Registration ends Monday.

“Dyes in History and Archaeology (DHA) is an annual conference that focuses on the discussion of dyes and organic pigments used in the past. This includes their history, production, application and properties, as well as their analytical characterisation and identification, mainly in textile objects, but also on painted surfaces.” – DHA website.

Sessions for this virtual conference will be held each day from 15-19 November, from 15:00 to 18:30 GMT. A wide range of subjects will be covered by the international presenters. These include indigo in 18th century tapestries, dyes of the 18th century West African textiles, calico printing in Mulhouse 1750-1914, traditional dyeing in Latvia and Estonia, shellfish purple from Oaxaca, the colour purple in the Andes and many more. The full programme can be accessed here.

Attendance is free, but registration is required. Please note that registration closes at 13:00 GMT on Monday 8 November so you haven’t got long to sign up!