Upcoming textile events

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A new exhibition has just opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London and will run until 26 June 2021. Opium, Silk and the Missionaries in China retells one of the largely forgotten histories between Britain and China in the nineteenth century.  

Chinese headdress, comb and slippers from the Gladys Aylward collection. Courtesy of SOAS Special Collections.

“Drawing on several collections using artefacts to explore the history of the Opium Wars through botanical arts and tools; historical artefacts about silk; missionary work and intercultural shared experiences in China recorded by British Missionaries throughout this period. ” – Gallery website.

On Tuesday 25 May 2021 the London-based Oriental Rug and Textile Society will host an online talk by OATG member Maria Wronska-Friend of James Cook University, Queensland. Her subject will be From Sarong to Sari: Rabindranath Tagore’s fascination with the batik of Java. In 1927 Tagore developed an interest in Javanese batik, collecting several dozen examples. On his return to West Bengal “he supported the introduction of the batik technique into the curriculum of the local art school. The new technique has been embraced in Santiniketan with great enthusiasm and resulted in the production of thousands of stunning saris, stoles, fitted garments and decorative fabrics.” – ORTS website. For more details of this talk which begins at 18:00 BST click here.

On Tuesday 2 June 2021 Richard Wilding will give a talk to the Royal Society for Asian Affairs on the Traditional Costumes and Culture of Saudi Arabia. He, along with Hamida Alireza, is co-editor of a recently published book with the same title. “The Mansoojat Foundation is a UK-registered charity founded by Saudi women. The charity is dedicated to the preservation of ethnic Arabian costumes. They conduct research that is vital to our knowledge of the region’s history and culture, and make Arabian heritage accessible to the public. Their workshop in Jeddah offers employment to women with hearing and speech impediments.” – Publisher’s website. Click here to see a sample of several pages from the book.

The webinar will look at how the “costumes and jewellery of Saudi Arabia reveal a great diversity of regional and tribal identities, reflecting the Kingdom’s contrasting urban and rural, settled and nomadic, desert and mountain environments. The Arabian Peninsula sits at the centre of ancient pilgrimage and trade routes, and this has resulted in centuries of influence from textiles, beads and jewellery passing through the region.” It takes place at 14:00 BST and is free, but you do need to register for it.

Child’s Coat with Ducks in Pearl Medallions (detail), 700s. Sogdia (present-day Uzbekistan). Silk; w. 84.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1996.2.1 

Another event taking place on 2 June 2021 is the annual Pauline and Joseph Degenfelder Distinguished Lecture in Chinese Art. This is held by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the speaker this year will be Zhao Feng. His subject will be Chinese Textiles from the Silk Road.

“For centuries, the Silk Road has been an important network of trade routes that has allowed for the exchange of silk and other goods, as well as of ideas and technologies between cultures across Asia and Europe.

Zhao Feng, director of the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, presents recently excavated and conserved silk textiles from sites along the Silk Road. He shares new insight on fibers, dyes, weave structures, tailoring, and pattern designs featured in these textiles and discusses international collaborative initiatives, such as the Interactive Silk Map of the World and the Silk Road Online Museum.” – Cleveland Museum of Art website. The lecture is at 19:00 EDT, which sadly is midnight in the UK, so this is one for the night owls. Register here for this free event.

Drying the fibres. © Kyoto Women’s University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Another annual lecture will take place on Saturday 5 June 2021 – this time hosted by the Textile Arts Council. The speaker for this year’s Sinton Lecture will be Kana Taira and her subject is Ryukyu Bashofu: Banana Fiber Textiles of Okinawa.

Bashofu cloth is made from the bast fibers of the Okinawan ito-basho, a variety of banana tree. For centuries this weaving tradition thrived among people of all walks of life on the Okinawan islands. But after World War II, with changes in lifestyle, Bashofu nearly died out. However, in the village of Kijoka, Ogimi, noted for its Bashofu production from before the war, local women led by weaver Toshiko Taira put their passion and dedication into reviving this unique Okinawan weaving tradition. Working together, they established the Kijoka Bashofu Kumiai.(Kijoka Bashofu Association), whose goals were to both revitalize the traditional techniques and to train new generations of weavers. Today the Association produces the renown bashofu kimono and other textile products and trains weavers who come from all over Japan to study there.” – TAC website. Kana Taira is a granddaughter of Toshiko Taira. This online event takes place at 15:00 PDT, which is 22:00 BST. There is s small charge for non-members and you can register via this link.

Kijoka Bashofu thread. From the left: the soft natural colour of basho (banana fibres), dyed yellow with sap tree, and dyed brown with silverberry. © Noboru Morikawa

As is often the case when compiling information for this blog I got sidetracked and started to look for more information on this fascinating subject. I found this article by Noriko Nii on the Visit Okinawa site a useful starting point. I was amazed to learn that it takes the fibres from around two hundred trees to weave the cloth for one kimono! On the website of the Bashofu Hall I discovered some of the other ways the plant is utilised. “The surface fiber has long been used in the production of banana paper, which has recently enjoyed a surge of use for bouquets, bookmarks, papercraft, and more. The outer husk of the fiber, which is unsuitable for yarn, is called shīsāū and is an essential part of the lion masks used in the traditional lion dance performed throughout Okinawa. The fiber is used to create strands of hair to adorn the lion heads, so it is ordered in large quantities each year. The plant is also burned to create a charcoal that is used as a glaze for earthenware, among other uses. “

I would also highly recommend taking a look at this online exhibition on these textiles and the way they are produced. It was created by Ikeda Yuuka and Ueyama Emiko of the Kyoto Women’s University and has some stunning images to complement the text.

Next to a textile event which is taking place in real life – not on a screen! Many of you will be familiar with the World Textile Days which take place at various UK locations throughout the year. The pandemic put a stop to those for some time, but they are restarting next month. The first will be on Saturday 5 June 2021 from 10:00 – 16:00 in Frodsham, Cheshire. Due to Covid restrictions there will not be a talk at this event, nor any catering. However visitors are welcome to take their own food and drink and there will be space provided to consume it. These are always really fun events, with textiles available from a range of traders, including The African Fabric Shop, Textile Traders, Susan Briscoe, The Running Stitches, Fabazaar and Experience Ukraine. Full details here.

OATG members David and Sue Richardson have just added a new section to their Asian Textile Studies website, this time looking at Cambodian kiet textiles. The article looks at historical examples of Cham clothing and various resist-dyeing techniques before examining different types of Cham kiet – from the very simple to the complex.

Carpet with poetry verses, 1550-1600, Iran. Silk warp and weft, knotted wool pile, areas brocaded with metal thread. 231 x 165 cm. V&A: T.402-1910. Bequeathed by George Salting

In my most recent blog I wrote about the Epic Iran exhibition which opens at the V&A in London on 29 May 2021. I explained that Sarah Piram, Curator of the Iranian collections at the V & A, will give an online talk to the OATG next month. This talk will give an overview of some major works, from early silk fragments showing roundels of animals, to Safavid carpets and contemporary craft tradition. Textiles and carpets will be showcased in different parts of the exhibition, and I’m sure one of the highlights will be the ‘Sanguszko’ carpet belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry – one of the greatest seventeenth century Persian carpets in private hands. This talk will take place on 10 June at 18:30 BST. OATG members should already have received their invitations, and registration is now also open non-members through this link.

Some of the ryijys on show

Unfortunately I have only just found out about this exhibition which opened at the Kunsthalle, Helsinki in February and ends this Sunday 23 May 2021. “The exhibition Woven Beauty – Four centuries of Finnish ryijy textiles presents a wide and diverse selection of ryijys that shows their richness as well as their many shapes, textures and patterns that have changed over time. The ryijy has seen many colourful phases in its history and recent times, always returning in new forms to carry on its lively tradition for new generations. Kunsthalle Helsinki will exhibit ryijys from over 300 years. The selection of around 130 ryijys includes traditional types from the 18th and 19th centuries such as bridal and tree of life motifs, modern artistic ryijys from the 1960s, as well as new ryijys from recent years that exemplify a diversity of materials.” – museum website.

Thankfully there is a short video which enables us to see some of the ryijys on show and learn a little more about them. The presentation is in English.

There are so many great textile events coming up that I have had to split them across two blogs – part two coming soon…….

Textile news

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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.

 

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

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 entitled Printed 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.”

 

Utagawa Hiroshige, colour woodblock print showing a view of Edo, 1858. © British Museum

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.

 

American star quilt, 1840’s (TRC 2018.3119). ©TRC

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.

 

 

Click to access lecturelist.pdf

 

 

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.

 

Click to access mtm-webinar-kaleidoscope-biboki-2020.pdf

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Mud glorious mud!

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.

 

A weaver re-aligning the threads. © Charlotte Linton.

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.”

An example of a tsumugi textile from Amami Ōshima. ©David Richardson

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

 

Karanja Ngana immersing her threads in mud on Sumba. ©David Richardson.

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….

Details
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100

 

Demonstration of how to fold a kimono collar. © Staphany Cheng.

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.

Details
15 February 2020,10:00 – 11:30
Emma Baillargeon Stimson Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, 1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle

 

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Feature: The Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia

Publication of this guest blog is for information only and does not indicate an endorsement of this tour by the OATG.

THE LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS OF INDONESIA

OATG member Jenny Spancake recently joined a Textile Tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia on which fellow OATG members David and Sue Richardson were the textile experts. Here she shares her some of her experiences:-

My husband and I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1983. One of our first trips in the region was to Bali where a friend asked if I would buy her a piece of ikat; this was my introduction to this technique. As an embroiderer, I was fascinated with ikat and wanted to learn more about it. Living in a number of locations around the world, including around four years in Thailand and seven in total in Kuala Lumpur, I was able to learn quite a bit about the ikat textiles of Southeast Asia. However living in mainland Southeast Asia meant I focused on weft ikat, mostly done on silk, and these are the type of ikats we began to collect. With travels to India, Central and South America and Central Asia, I broadened the base of that knowledge. What was needed to close the circle of study was a trip to the islands of Indonesia.

The perfect opportunity came in May 2019 with a trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands with David and Sue Richardson. As these islands we visited are part of the province of Indonesia known as Nusa Tenggara Timur I will refer to them as NTT. Traveling with the Richardsons was a good choice for us as they are very willing to share the knowledge of Indonesia and its textiles that they have gained over many years. The Richardsons focus on the textile techniques and visit only villages that still do natural dyeing.   As my husband’s undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering, he was eager to travel with someone as interested in the chemistry of natural dyes as David Richardson is.   The islands of NTT were perfect – a gorgeous landscape with fascinating textiles still woven in the traditional way with natural dyes.

Cotton threads which were bound with strips of a palm leaf and then dyed indigo.

At each village we visited we were welcomed by villagers dressed in their traditional costume, dancing their traditional dances and perhaps the most unexpected joy, playing their traditional music. Videos truly are the only way to capture the magic of these moments. The music is not heard looking at pictures in books and the music is the way the spirit of the village is actually captured. We were entertained in one village by a man playing the hoe as the main performer. In still another village, it was obvious that when they had done the planned program, they continued to play and sing for the sheer joy of the music. These are the moments that only visiting in person can provide.

This man was having such fun and creating great sounds just by hitting his hoe with a stone!

A visit to the village of Lamalera was of twofold interest – of course, we saw textiles. But we also talked to the villagers about their traditional livelihood of whaling and saw a demonstration of how they actually practice it. It is very easy for us in the West to see whaling as only the large scale enterprise that has a negative impact on the existence of whales. We forget that traditionally villages existed in harmony with the environment and depended and still depend on the whales for food and products. Risking their lives to harpoon a whale is a different way of life. The number of whales taken by a village is also a small fraction of that worldwide. [Editor’s note: this is the village where OATG founder Ruth Barnes did much of her research].

A demonstration of traditional whaling from a small boat at Lamalera.

In every village we saw demonstrations of the entire process of creating a textile from picking the cotton, processing it, spinning, dyeing, tying, and then the weaving process. In NTT textiles are produced in cotton in the warp ikat technique. As stated above, one of the things that most appealed to us about this tour was its emphasis on natural dyeing. Natural dyes are making a comeback in some parts of the world, but it is in fact an uphill battle. It is more expensive to use natural dyes because it takes more time to create the desired color. Synthetic dyes are much quicker, so cheaper in the long run when the final price of the piece is considered. In today’s market it is difficult for a weaver to charge a price that reflects the extra time spent in using natural dyes. Also part of the price must reflect the time it takes to produce a multi-colored complex design in ikat. Therefore, what tourists generally see are textiles produced with synthetic colors and a very simple ikat design – which exactly describes my first purchase. But as I learned more about ikat and dyes, I began to desire the more complex, naturally dyed examples. Steve and I have always tried to buy the most well produced pieces as we travel to encourage women to keep weaving at a high quality. Weavers must be able to earn a fair wage so that traditional textiles can continue to be made.

Patterns showing naga, which is very traditional in many parts of Southeast Asia.

I plan to describe just a few interesting experiences from the trip. First, natural dyeing involves a complicated chemical process. Dyers in the villages use both inherited knowledge plus trial and error today to create a wide range of colors.   In NTT the two major colors are indigo (blue) and morinda (red). It is very interesting to see that each village had its own variation on using these dyes.   Indigo is perhaps one of the most common dyes used around the world. Morinda is less well known and I will concentrate on this dye.

Threads dyed with morinda at a workshop on Timor.

Please note that I have used the website of David and Sue Richardson, Asian Textile Studies, as my source for the information detailed here. A great deal more information is included on that website than I will present here. On this trip we saw very detailed demonstrations of how red and brown colors are achieved by using this dye.   This can take a huge amount of root to complete the process to achieve the color desired for the finished textile. Once the bark is collected and prepared to begin to dye, a complex process begins.   Cotton that is to be dyed with morinda must be pretreated and a mordant must be used to fix the color. In NTT the most frequently used mordant is the leaf or bark of the tree belonging to the genus Symplocos. I was intrigued to learn that what made this possible was that the tree draws aluminium from the soil and accumulates it in the leaves and bark. Once processed these produce aluminium salts that then act as a mordant.

However, this process does not work unless the cotton is prepared before the dye made from morinda is applied. The first part of this preparatory process is cleaning the cotton. This is done by washing the yarn in water filtered through wood ash, thus creating an alkaline solution.   Then the cotton must be soaked in oil made from the candlenut tree, widely known as kemiri. Oil is produced from the candlenuts themselves. I have just described in a very simplistic way how cotton is dyed with morinda; for those interested in more detail and the chemistry of this process, please consult the morinda page of the Richardson’s website. The final process of any dyeing sequence is to rinse the cotton in water and here was the insight that interested me most.   I had of course read about the dramatic difference credited to the water of certain production areas when oriental rugs are woven and then washed after their completion. But for some reason I never carried that thought on to natural dyes and cotton and silk textiles.   It was one of those ideas that floats around in your mind but then one day you suddenly say, “Of course, the water is the final important piece of the dyeing puzzle.”   Water is a localized issue; each source of water has its own particular chemical makeup and the minerals present are the final creator of the color produced by the natural dye in question. Pointed out by the Richardsons on this trip, I finally saw the obvious.

Adding alkaline ash water to the morinda dye bath.

Although the main colors that we saw produced were blue and red from indigo and morinda, on one particular island we saw an astonishing array of different colors – all from natural dyes. This was on the tiny island of Ternate where we saw how they made dyes from a huge variety of plants as well as sea sponges and, most fascinating of all, a gastropod called a sea hare. We were told they had dived at 5am to get these creatures, which release purple ink as a defense mechanism. The innards are also used to make a pale green color and finally the sea hare is cooked and eaten so nothing is wasted.

An amazing demonstration of dyeing on Ternate.

Another highlight was our visit to the workshop of Freddy Hambuwali on Sumba. Modern hinggi, a man’s cloth with a long history, are created with a very high standard of warp ikat and finishing.   We were able to see all of these steps, beginning with the drawing of the pattern on the warps. I was particularly interested in the beautiful shade of indigo blue produced here. The ikat threads are dyed with indigo and morinda but a different method is used in Sumba to add a yellow dye – it is painted on after the weaving of the hinggi.   Another Sumbanese method is used to finish the hinggi; the hinggi is turned and the warp threads become the weft as a band called a kabakil is woven on to the bottom to create a finished end to stop the threads from unraveling.

The hinggi produced here are very detailed and are made in a wide variety of designs. We also learned about the computation of bundles of threads to facilitate the process of tying and dyeing. I myself was most attracted to the hinggi that are so obviously based on the patterns of Indian patola cloths. These patola have been a high status cloth in Indonesia for hundreds of years and are preserved as heirlooms in many households in the islands.   The layout of many Indonesian textiles can be seen to originate in the design of patola. Involving complex ikat, these hinggi were for me personally the most interesting ones.

I have oversimplified all of the aspects of weaving and dyeing just briefly mentioned here and have omitted so much, especially the supplementary warp weaving techniques we encountered.

Supplementary warp weaving on Sumba. Here we are being shown how the pattern is kept on sticks.

And I have not even begun to describe all of the villages visited, the many rewarding encounters with villagers and all that I learned. I relaxed on the beautiful Ombak Putih with its attentive crew, delicious food and comfortable cabins, learned so many new things about textiles, experienced new cultures in majestic landscapes and made new friends. I doubt one can ask for more in life.

What I really wanted to express to readers is the great joy that I experienced throughout this trip, which is extremely well designed and lends itself to a constant learning experience.  We’ve been on many textile tours, quite a few led by textile experts, but none of these leaders have ever been so generous with their knowledge as David and Sue – they love Indonesian culture so much it’s infectious and inspires you to want to learn more We’re always looking for trips that focus on textiles and this one exceeded our expectations.

For full details of this tour visit the Tour page of Asian Textile Studies or email David and Sue directly.

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News: Focus on mud dyeing

Event date: 15 June 2019 at 14:00.

 

Following on from yesterday’s blog we now have the details of the second dyeing talk and demonstration.

“Amami Oshima is an island in the Ryūkyū archipelago, southern Japan. It is renowned for Oshima tsumugi, a kimono cloth dyed by dorozome (mud-dyeing), an ancient technique that gives a unique black colour to textiles. The dyeing workshop KANAI KOUGEI specializes in dorozome for Oshima tsumugi. Alongside their own products dyed using plant materials sourced from Amami’s unique natural environment, KANAI KOUGEI also dye fashion and interior objects for international contemporary designers. This is a rare opportunity to see the process of Dorozome by Japanese practitioners using actual materials from Amami Oshima in the UK.

This talk and workshop are initiated by designer and anthropologist Charlotte Linton, University of Oxford, who has invited Yukihito Kanai (vice-president/dyer) and Akiyo Shidama (maker/dyer) from KANAI KOUGEI to present with her a lecture about Amamian traditional textiles.

Following the talk, there will be a tour of the Dye Garden with Wesley Shaw, the Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum.

Workshop
In addition, a small number of participants will be able to dye a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) using dorozome materials brought from Amami. Due to limited materials and supervision, the workshop numbers are necessarily small. Lecture attendees are welcome to stay and watch the workshop.

Please note that this event is only suitable for children over 16.”

This event at the Horniman Museum in London is free and open to the public, but booking is necessary. For further details of the event visit the website of the Japan Society and follow this link to book. Please note spaces are very limited so early booking is essential!

 

A selection of mud-dyed textiles. Photo by Kentaro Takahashi for The New York Times

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 – one of the presenters of the Horniman event:  

“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 also documented the process of mud-dyeing used by the last practitioner of this craft on the Indonesian island of Sumba and will be adding this to their website in the near future. In the meantime here are a few photos to whet your appetite!

 

 

 

 

 

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Article: Kisar Textiles

OATG members David and Sue Richardson are passionate about Indonesian textiles and recently have been researching the weavings of the small island of Kisar in the Lesser Sundas, to the east of Bali. As part of this research, last year they corresponded with Sonja Mohr, the curator for Insular Southeast Asia at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Köln, about the museum’s collection of Kisar textiles. These were collected by Heinrich Kühn in 1888, Professor Alexander W. Pflüger in 1900 and Wilhelm Müller-Wismar in 1914. Sonja very kindly invited them to Köln to examine these textiles for themselves. The information gained during that visit, along with field research, has resulted in the publication of the final page on Kisar textiles on their website Asian Textile Studies. Below is their report of their trip to the museum.

Most of the visitors heading to Köln in December are there to see the Christmas markets, but we had a different objective in mind – textiles – and not just any old textiles, but textiles with excellent provenance collected on Kisar in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Textile heaven! A fantastic selection of Kisar textiles ready for us to examine.

We had corresponded with Sonja Mohr for several months and she and her colleague, Senior Conservationist Petra Czerwinske-Eger, had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit. Christian Andert, the chief storekeeper, had brought the Kisar textiles from the main storage area to one of the laboratories so that we could all examine them in detail. All of the information they held on each piece had been printed out, along with questions it was hoped we might be able to answer together.

We started by looking at the sarongs, which had been prepared for us. These were more varied than expected, with some, such as the one below, having very little ikat but lovely rich deep colours.

A simple Oirata lau which might date to the late nineteenth century.

We then looked at the ceremonial sarongs, from both the Oirata and Meher communities and discovered that one Oirata tubeskirt had been mislabelled as Meher.

An Oirata mauwesi lau which had been mislabelled as a Meher homnon.

We then moved onto examining the male loincloths and it was again interesting to first see some very simple examples.

Sonja and David looking at a man’s simple loincloth.

The ceremonial loincloths collected in 1914 were just stunning – woven from fine hand-spun cotton with narrow bands of ikat and end sections of continuous supplementary weft.

A fantastic niala or irä from Oirata, which led to much discussion.

One of the unexpected highlights for us was the collection of waistbands, which really were little gems.

Analysing waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar in 1914.

We discovered silk threads had been used in some narrow warp stripes and the twinned end band of one of these.

Sue and Sonja discussing more waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar.

After two lengthy sessions we left the museum with a huge sense of satisfaction with our goal achieved, and looking forward to working together with Sonja, Petra and the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in the future.

If you would like to read more about these textiles, along with many detailed photographs, please visit the Kisar page of our Asian Textile Studies website.

 

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Event: Textiles events in Norfolk

 

Norfolk is definitely the place to be this weekend!

It’s World Textile Day East at Mundford near Thetford and OATG members David and Sue Richardson of Asian Textile Studies will be giving a presentation on the fantastic textiles of the Indonesian island of Sumba. Yuza Sashiko Guild will be there from Japan, so you can find out how to stitch traditional hitomezashi sashiko and even have a go yourself! They recently participated in the World Shibori Symposium and will be exhibiting some pieces from their May exhibition in Yamagata city. The highlight for many visitors will be the Fair Trade market featuring Slow Loris (Chinese textiles), The African Fabric Shop, Textile Traders (mainly Asian textiles), Susan Briscoe (Japanese textiles), Tukuru Textiles (South America), and OATG member John Gillow (pictured above) with his usual eclectic selection.

Two venues in Norwich with an emphasis on textiles will be taking part in the annual Heritage Open Days – the Old Skating Rink and the Textile Conservation Studio. The Old Skating Rink is the home of the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection with some fantastic pieces from across South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Burma, northern Thailand and Indonesia. The National Trust Textile Conservation Studio is housed in a converted barn complex where their specialist facilities enable them to treat the most significant and complex textile objects. Their conservators are a skilled and flexible team, undertaking textile conservation work for the whole of the National Trust and private clients. This is a rare opportunity to see important and unique historic textiles up close and personal and learn how they are cared for.

So many great things to see – why not make a weekend of it?

 

Textile Tidbits: Asian Textile Studies – Update

 

OATG members David and Sue Richardson have just uploaded the first of what will be two parts  to their website Asian Textile Studies. It covers the geography and history of Sumba from pre-history to 1866. Although this isn’t specifically about textiles the authors firmly believe that you need to understand a people’s history and culture to understand their costume. For example, the relationship with the Dutch led to new motifs in the Sumba iconography as shown in the photo above.

Part Two will eventually cover from 1866 to the present day, linguistics and ethnography.

They hope you enjoy reading Part One here

Textile Tidbits: Asian Textile Studies – Update

 

You wait ages for an update and then two come at once!

Following their research trip to the Indonesian island of Kisar last autumn, OATG members David and Sue Richardson have just uploaded a new section on the current state of textile production there to their website, Asian Textile Studies.

This new section looks at the textiles of the two different communities – the Meher and the Oirata – and includes a short video of how they spin using a small basket. It also discusses the unusual way they outline the warp ikat motifs after they are woven. They hope you enjoy reading it here

Textile Tidbits: Asian Textile Studies – Update

OATG members David and Sue Richardson have been working hard recently on the textiles of Kisar Island, Indonesia, and have uploaded the first two parts of what is intended to be a three-part section to their website, Asian Textile Studies. They hope you enjoy reading it.

Part I is available here, and Part II is available here. There is a great deal of well-researched, detailed historical information available here, both on the culture and textiles of Kisar, and it’s very well illustrated. I recommend taking a look!

Thanks for making this information available, David and Sue!