Baluch rugs, Filipino textiles, Indian textile labels and Indonesian batik in manuscripts

On Saturday 10 December 2022 a webinar entitled The Intrigue of Baluch Rugs will be jointly hosted by the TMA/SC, NERS and the Textile Museum. The speaker will be DeWitt Mallary, an independent scholar from Vermont, who has written extensively on this subject.

“The set of rugs bought, sold and collected under the catch-all name “Baluch” actually includes the products of a number of weaving groups in different areas of northeast Iran and northwest Afghanistan.


In addition to certain iconic types, there is an uncommon diversity of idiosyncratic, creative mixing of designs and styles. The most exciting examples of Baluch weaving all use outstanding wool, enabling intensely saturated colors. This virtual presentation led by DeWitt Mallary will look at many of the finest examples of Baluch rugs and bags of various types, and discuss what makes them outstanding, letting the objects demonstrate the intrigue of this group of weavings.” – TMA/SC

This free event takes place at 09:00 PT, which is 17:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

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Baluch lovers may also be interested in this new book by Thomas Cole, From The Land Of The Sun: The Richard Stewart Collection Of Baluch Rugs, Bags & Trappings. It includes over a hundred colour plates, as well as many previously unpublished photographs from the region.

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A reminder that the Fabricating Fashion exhibition at the Art Institute Chicago ends on 02 January 2023. This exhibition “celebrates the artistry and rich legacy of an extraordinary range of fabrics for clothing around the world……. While a number of techniques showcased in this presentation—such as dyeing, embroidery, printing, and weaving—are practiced globally, other materials and methods are more closely associated with particular cultures: Indian cotton, Chinese silk, French embroidery, West African indigo, among them.” – AIC website

Woman’s Adire Wrapper, mid-20th century, Yoruba

A free virtual lecture will take place on Monday 12 December at 14:00 CST, which is 20:00 GMT. Curators Melinda Watt and Monika Bincsik will discuss the strategies they have used in this exhibition “for exhibiting clothing and textiles to highlight that fashion in locations around the globe shows mutual interrelationships”. You can register for it here.

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I’ve blogged previously about the current exhibition at the Ayala Museum in Manila. Intertwined: Transpacific, Transcultural Philippines closes at the end of this month. Next Saturday 10 December will see the launch via Zoom of the exhibition catalogue. This takes place at 17:00 local time, which is unfortunately 01:00 on the 11th GMT. Register for it here.

“The exhibition and its joint publication open up visual and verbal conversations on the complexities and contradictions of Filipino art and identity. By illuminating the Filipino’s transcultural heritage resulting from pre- and post-colonial maritime exchanges with diverse cultures in Asia, America, and Europe, Filipinos can gain a better understanding of our culture and take pride in the excellence we’ve shown throughout history in the arts, diplomacy, entrepreneurship, and the global economy.” – Ayala Museum

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OATG member Fiona Kerlogue has recently written a guest blog for the British Library on the subject of Batik designs in a Javanese manuscript: Serat Damar Wulan. This particular manuscript illustrates scenes of everyday life in Java in the late eighteenth century. In the blog Dr Kerlogue examines the clothes and textiles depicted in Serat Damar Wulan. This is an extract from her new book on the history of batik, entitled Batik: Traces through time, which is illustrated by collections in the National Museum of the Czech Republic. Many of us enjoyed the talk Fiona gave to the OATG about this collection in September, the recording of which is available to members on our website.

Figure 8. Damar Wulan’s servants in short trousers of striped lurik early in the story. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 116v
Figure 9. Now ennobled, Damar Wulan’s servants have adopted superior garments, and have servants of their own wearing lurik. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 206r 

“The story [in the manuscript] is particularly significant in relation to costume, partly because of the changes in status which the characters undergo and how these are reflected in the clothes they wear……. The central character, Damar Wulan, is a nobleman but is appointed as stable boy to the ruler of Majapahit, and then imprisoned; eventually he himself becomes king of Majapahit. His changes in status are reflected in the clothes he wears; the clothing worn by other actors in the story also indicates their status.” – Fiona Kerlogue

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Finally advance notice of a book that will definitely be on my list. Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia has long been a favourite of mine. Its author, Susan Meller, has been working on a new book, which will be published in February 2023, entitled Labels of Empire, Textile Trademarks: Windows into India in the Time of the Raj. With 1285 illustrations of the labels, most of which are in colour, this is sure to be a visual feast.

©Susan Meller

“In the 1880s, when the British textile industry was at its most prosperous to date, much of the world’s population wore at least some article of clothing made from fabric produced in the mills of Lancashire. From 1910 to 1913 alone, more than 8 billion yards of cloth were woven, cut into prescribed lengths, folded, stamped, labeled, and baled. Most of this output was for export–with 40 percent of it shipped to India.

To differentiate their goods, British textile manufacturers pasted illustrated paper labels known as “shipper’s tickets” to the faceplate of each piece of folded cloth sold into the Indian market. Designed, printed, and registered in Manchester, these appealing chromolithographed images drew attention to the offerings of a particular firm–and much like present-day branding, ensured their ongoing notice within the bustling bazaars of India. “ – Susan Meller

Thanks to Chris Martens for reminding me of the works of this author. Do let me know of events and articles to share with other textile lovers!

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Events and exhibitions featuring textiles from India, Japan, the Philippines, China and Peru

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Finally meeting again in person!

Several OATG members recently visited the Fashion and Textile Museum, London to see the exhibition 150 years of the Royal School of Needlework: Crown to Catwalk. The group was guided around the exhibition by Sue Miller, and were grateful for her insights.

Woollen cloak by Livia Paplernick

One of the pieces that stood out was this wonderful woollen cloak, incorporating cotton hand embroidery, glass, jewels and metal threads. It was one of four pieces made by Livia Paplernick for her final show, and was chosen to represent the contemporary aspect of the Royal School of Needlework.

In my most recent blog I mentioned an event at the Royal Ontario Museum.  The video of Curator Conversations: For the Past, Present and Future of Ajrakh Blockprinting is now available to view at your leisure.

In it Sarah Fee is in conversation with textile artist Salemamad Khatri on his work to create and revitalize Ajrakh blockprinting in Kachchh, India. They are joined by Abdulaziz Khatri, trade manager at Khamir (a platform for the promotion of traditional art) to explore the role of artists and their supporters to preserve and promote the culture, community and environment of Kachchh.  

A key collaborator of Canadian contemporary artist Swapnaa Tamhane in the creation of the exhibition Swapnaa Tamhane: Mobile Palace, Khatri’s work is an integral part of the installations. Here he gives his perspective on the process of producing the textiles for the exhibition, and the difference between producing his own artwork and working with a contemporary visual artist. 

Turning next to a few events taking place around the world.

A new permanent exhibition of textiles has opened at the Ayala Museum in Manila. Skeins of Knowledge, Threads of Wisdom: The Mercedes Zobel Collection of Indigenous Philippine Textiles has been curated by Patricia M. Araneta and Floy Quintos, and the installation was designed by Gino Gonzalez. It shows how the “indigenous textile arts in the Philippines demonstrate the ingenuity, creativity, adaptability, and sophistication of the early Filipinos.” – museum website.

Left: an important tritik technique suit worn only by men of the magani rank. Right: A Bagobo jacket of cloth discarded from sails and sacks, ornamented with trade beads and mother-of-pearl shown above a pair of pantaloons with ikat and beading. Photo © Floy Quintos

Even if (like me) you can’t go to the exhibition, I would strongly recommend reading this excellent guide, produced by the museum. It has superb images – though some of them do take a while to download. I was fascinated to learn that abaca (fibre from a plant in the banana family) cloth gets its sheen from being burnished with a cowrie shell.

Abaca cloth burnished with cowrie shell.

The temporary exhibition Langs Geborduurde Wegen (Along Embroidered Roads) at the Museum de Kantfabriek in Horst, The Netherlands will now be on show until the end of 2022. It showcases some of the textiles from the extensive collection of Ien Rappoldt, who has been visiting Guizhou province for the past two decades, recording the embroidery art of the women.

The special exhibition Humans, Beasts, Gods. Textile Treasures from Ancient Peru continues at the Abegg-Stiftung in Switzerland until 13 November 2022.

Among the holdings of the Abegg-Stiftung in Riggisberg is a small but impressive collection of textiles from Ancient Peru. The majority of these early Peruvian textiles were collected by Werner Abegg between 1930 and 1933.

“The most interesting of these are now presented to the public for the first time in a dedicated exhibition.
The peoples of Ancient Peru were already producing a vast array of finely crafted fabrics and garments over two thousand years ago. That we can marvel at them today is thanks to a combination of climatic and geographical conditions, specifically the dry, salty soils of the desert regions of coastal Peru, in which these precious artefacts were preserved. Protected against both moisture and light, they survived the ravages of time either as offerings to the gods or as grave goods, the burial customs of past civilizations being a crucial factor in the “survival” of countless Peruvian textiles. ” – Museum website

I’ve already blogged several times about the Japanese textiles exhibition currently showing at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Dark blue-ground festival kimono decorated with sea creatures; Cloth: cotton; tsutsugaki (freehand resist); The John R. Van Derlip Fund and the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke FoundationFoundation

On Thursday 18 August textile conservator Dr Ishii Mie will examine Japanese Textiles: Traditional Dyes and Conservation Methods. An associate professor of art at Saga University, Japan, Dr. Ishii will introduce methods of textile conservation and recovery using examples from the royal collection stored at Shuri Castle in Okinawa, which was severely damaged by fire in 2019, and will describe the various techniques of textile dyeing in Japan. This is an in-person event, which begins at 18:30 CDT. Click here to book.

A new exhibition opens this week at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney to coincide with the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.

Textile length decorated with beetle wings, India. Acquired 1883. Powerhouse collection. Photo by Zan Wimberley

The exhibition is called Charka and Kargha – a charka being a spinning wheel and a kargha a loom. “The exhibition will feature over 100 rare items that date back to the foundational collections of the Powerhouse acquired since the 1880s. In addition to their beauty, many of the textiles featured in the exhibition incorporate spinning, weaving, dyeing and embroidery techniques. Highlights include block-printed textiles, known as Fustat fragments, believed to be made in Gujarat in the 1400s.” – Museum website

This exhibition runs until January 2023.

I’ve blogged previously about the Kimono Style exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. On Saturday 20 August 2022 two Met experts, Monika Bincsik and Marco Leona, “explore the history and modernization of the Japanese kimono. Learn about Japan’s famed weaving, dying, and embroidery techniques along with discoveries from new scientific research.” – Museum website.

Kyōgen suit (Suō) with rabbits jumping over waves, Japan mid-19th century.

This is a pre-recorded programme which will be available on YouTube and Facebook at 10:00 EDT, which is 15:00 BST. Click here for more details.