Recordings, articles and upcoming talks

For the past year we have had to hold all of our OATG events online. This means we have missed out on the social aspects of catching up with textile friends over a glass of wine after the lectures, as well as getting to actually handle the textiles. However there have been some advantages. We’ve been able to listen to speakers from other countries – Sarah Fee from Toronto, Geneviève Duggan from Singapore and Walter Bruno Brix from Köln – with more to come later this year.

One of the great benefits of OATG membership is access to recordings of these talks, enabling you to watch them at a time of your choosing – particularly important now that we have so many international members. Recordings of the most recent talks (on Chinese, Iranian and Greek textiles) have now been made available. Just go to our website, click on the relevant talk and enter the password. If you have forgotten the password please contact a committee member.

In a recent blog I mentioned the Journal of Dress History and incorrectly stated that it did not have an index. In fact three are provided on the website – one each for articles, exhibition reviews and book reviews. Just click on the relevant link in the blue box on this page.

Portrait of Dowager Empress Tse Hsi by Katharine Carl, 1904. © Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

If like me you really enjoyed the recent talk on Chinese textiles by Walter Bruno Brix, then I’m sure this article in the Spring 2020 issue of the Journal (pp. 111-136) will be of interest to you. The subject is Of Silk and Statecraft: Dowager Empress Cixi (1835–1908) and Power Dressing in Late Qing Dynasty China, 1860–1911, and the author is Felicity Yao.

Saami boots with upturned toes, Aiddjavre, Norway. © Ron Wood

On Sunday 8th August 2021 the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, will hold a virtual tour of their exhibition Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection. This will take place at 1100 EDT, which is 1600 BST and you can register for it via this link. More information about the exhibition, including some excellent images and a short video of the techniques and skills used by Canadian Inuit women to create intricate and beautiful designs on traditional kamiks, can be found here.

Chullos from Tarabuco, Bolivia

The next in the series of textile talks hosted by Andean Textile Arts will take place on Tuesday 10th August 2021 at 1900 EDT, which is midnight BST, so another one for the nightowls. The speaker will be Cynthia LeCount Samaké and her subject is the Andean Knitting of Bolivia and Peru. Cynthia is the author of Andean Folk Knitting, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia, and many textile-related articles. I can certainly attest to her love of knitting, having seen her knit her way through the nightly lectures when she joined our Indonesian textile tour!

A tiny monedero knitted in the shape of a man holding a llama. © Cynthia LeCount Samaké

In this talk she will show that “knitters in the Andes continue to produce amazing headgear and other textiles for their own use. Their intricate and innovative work today surprises viewers by going beyond typical colors and motifs, while remaining true to traditional techniques and form.” – ATA website. Click here to register.

A kalamkari hanging. © ROM

On Wednesday 18th August 2021 the Royal Ontario Museum will host a free Zoom programme linked to their current exhibition on chintz, the Cloth that Changed the World. Rosemary Crill, a long-time supporter of the OATG, will examine an important group of seventeenth century South Indian textiles. “These previously unknown, extraordinary kalamkari masterworks depict scenes from palace life, with a Hindu ruler and ladies in a palace setting and in procession with his army. This talk will place these panels in the context of other known kalamkari hangings and the elaborate decoration of the textiles and architectural settings will be discussed, as well as the probable patron and place of production.” – ROM website. This talk begins at noon EDT, which is 1700 BST and you can register for it here.

Selvedge have an interesting blog about the logos used for the current Tokyo Olympics. Designed by Tokolo Asao and called Harmonised chequered emblem, these logos are made up of rectangles and a square in a pattern called ichimatsu moyo, which apparently first became popular in the Edo period of Japan. “The three different rectangles that connect at every corner can fill a circle perfectly — at first glance the simplicity is deceptive, and further inspection reveals the complexity that can only have been made possible as a result of mathematical logic. The design is said to represent the harmony of different countries, cultures and an inclusive world.” – Selvedge blog

The links between Japan and indigo are well-known, and an excellent short article by Rowland Ricketts on the growing of indigo can be accessed here.

Nineteenth century suzani from Nurata, Uzbekistan. © Russian State Museum of Oriental Art.

Voices on Central Asia has an interesting and well-illustrated article on suzani. It is entitled The Love and Beauty of Wedding Suzani from the Collection of the Russian State Museum of Oriental Art and was written by Vera Myasina. It contains an overview of suzani production and describes the broad differences between suzani from different areas of Uzbekistan – the airy open feel of Nurata suzani, the huge dark circles from Tashkent etc.

A controversial carpet: 16th century Persia or 19th century Persia or India? Purchased by J.Paul Getty from the Kevorkian Collection, 1969

Finally on Thursday 26th August 2021 we have the next OATG talk. Our speaker will be Dr Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is 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 Sheffield, 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 Foundation, 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 and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, who should have already received their invitation but still need to register. Registration (£3) for non-members will open on 8th August. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.

Andean textiles, Seminole Indian culture, Shoes in the Age of Enlightenment

Andean textile expert Elena Phipps will be giving a lecture on the subject of Weaving Silver: Brilliance and sheen in Andean colonial textile traditions on Tuesday 27 July at 16:05 BST. This is part of an international, inter-disciplinary conference entitled The Matter of Silver: Substance, Surface, Shimmer, Trauma, which will take place over three consecutive afternoons. Each free session can be booked separately. For more information and registration details please click here.

© Elena Phipps

A new exhibit has opened at Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida, dedicated to the life and culture of the Seminole Indians. Entitled Seminole People of Florida – Survival and Success it “will focus on the rich material culture that the Seminoles created and sustained during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From isolation in the mid-1800s to the establishment of two sovereign tribes that oversee modern, successful businesses, the Seminole people have experienced an extraordinary journey.” – Knowhere article. The exhibition will run until 4 October 2021.

© Elliott Museum

A new scholarship supporting the study of Asian and African textiles and dress has been established by Karun Thakar, in collaboration with the V&A. Awards of up to £10,000 are available for those studying these subjects both in the UK and internationally. Click here for more details.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is now open again. They are running a series of virtual tours this summer. This Sunday, 25 July, at 11am Eastern time (16:00 BST) the tour will focus on Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment. It will look at how clothing codified the distinctions between people, and how “a close examination of 18th century footwear reveals a great deal about the power dynamics of the period.” – museum website. More information about the exhibition can be found here. You can register for the online tour here.

Three exhibitions and some new online talks

The exhibition Drachen aus goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads is reopening on 16 March at the German Textile Museum in Krefeld and will run until September 2021.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website.

Wedding garment (mang ao) for a Han Chinese lady, and three skirts (qun) with different patterns and different techniques: left: embroidery with silk on damask, centre: slit tapestry (kesi), right: embroidery with gold threads on patterned gauze. ©Walter Bruno Brix

More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online. An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!

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

In my most recent blog I shared a link to an online exhibition of socks from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. A reminder that next Saturday, 20 March, the Textile Museum will host an online talk as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. 

©Kent State University Museum

 As a complete contrast to the embroidered shoes shown above, I was struck by the simple elegance of these woven wicker shoes from the collection of Kent State University Museum. They are Chinese and were made in the twentieth century. The craftsmanship is superb!

Embroidered pillow, nineteenth century. ©REM

A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Russian Ethnographic Museum (REM). This exhibition is entitled Avant-garde? Dagestan Tradition! Kaitag embroidery from the collection of the REM and features a selection of embroideries from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. “The embroidery owes its name to the ethnographer E.M. Shilling, who in the middle of the twentieth century first described small canvases with a peculiar decor, found by him among the Kaitags (subethnos of the Dargins) in the Kaitag region of Dagestan.” – REM website. More information and excellent detailed images of some of the exhibits is available here.

Chand Baori stepwell, Abhaneri, Rajasthan. The oldest parts of this building date to the eighth century, though much of it was built around the eighteenth century. ©Victoria Lautman

Next Saturday, 20 March (a very busy day for events as regular readers will know) the Bowers Museum in California will host an online talk by Victoria Lautman on the subject of stepwells. These are magnificent subterranean water-harvesting structures found in India for many centuries. “Victoria Lautman has spent years documenting hundreds of the little-known underground edifices and her landmark book, The Vanishing Stepwells of India, was first published in 2017 (Merrell Publishers, London). Newly released in paperback, the book and Victoria’s lavishly illustrated talk trace the fascinating history, variety, and current state of India’s least-known marvels.” – Bowers website. The talk takes place at 13:30 PDT, which is 16:30 in the UK. Click here for more details and talk registration.

Riga (gown), ca. 1870, Hausa, Nigeria.
Cotton and silk plain weave (strip woven) with cotton embroidery. ©Rhode Island School of Design Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum currently has an interesting exhibition called It Comes in Many Forms: Islamic Art from the Collection. This “presents textiles, decorative arts, and works on paper that attest to the pluralism of Islam and its expressions. From an Egyptian textile fragment dating to the 1100s to a contemporary woman’s top by the Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa, 30 objects offer explorations into migration, diasporas, and exchange and suggest the difficulty of defining arts from a transnational religious viewpoint.” – RISD website. This exhibition runs until 14 August 2021.

A reminder of the other talks taking place next weekend:

Ms Boua at her loom, weaving naga head cloth. © Carol Cassidy

On Saturday 20 March at 10:00 PDT, which is 17:00 in the UK, the Textile Arts Council will host Carol Cassidy who will talk on the subject of Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Indigo in a locally produced pot in a village on Savu. ©David Richardson

Also on 20 March the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”. The talk will begin at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

Finally, copies of the next edition of Asian Textiles should be arriving with members any day now – ours arrived yesterday. It’s always a treat to make a cuppa and see what delights are inside its covers. If you have any ideas for future editions of the journal or the Lockdown Newsletter please contact our editor Gavin Strachan.

Interesting workshop, talks and exhibitions.

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

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

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

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

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

Poster for the 2019 exhibition in Kyushu

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

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

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

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

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

©Art Gallery of South Australia

“From the austerity of lacquer and tea bowls to the opulence of golden screens and armour, this exhibition demonstrates how the ethos and tastes of the Samurai (a military elite whose name means ‘one who serves’) permeated every aspect of Japanese art and culture from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.” – AGSA website.

©Art Gallery of South Australia

This set of armour is definitely one of the highlights of the Samurai exhibition, which ends on 28 March 2021. It dates to 1699 and is made from iron, copper, gold leaf, wood, silk, cotton, leather and animal fur. The date can be ascribed so precisely as it is written on the inscription on this wonderful breastplate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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