Upcoming textile events

A short blog to highlight some textile events taking place in the next couple of weeks – there is a lot on later in October so I will cover that in another blog.

Want to see one of the rarest textiles in the world? Oliver Hoare Limited in London currently has an exhibition (ending 22 October 2021) called The Natural World and the stand-out pieces are two shawls and a lamba made from golden spider silk from Madagascar. Only four pieces from this silk exist today.

“Estimates for the numbers of spiders necessary to produce silk are astonishing: a single ounce (28 grams) of golden spider silk requires 23,000 spiders. To produce the brocaded textile alone required drawing the silk from the spinnerets of over 1 million spiders.” – gallery website

You can learn a lot more about how these amazing textiles were produced, along with photographs of the different processes involved here.

Example of smocking. © Textile Society

On Thursday 30 September at 13:00-14:00 BST the Textile Society will be hosting a talk entitled Deception and Disguise: Smock Narratives. Alison Toplis will look at “the history of the English smock and how it developed in the 19th century as part of working-class clothing cultures and more specifically menswear. The smock has had a fascinating heritage and Alison will question assumptions about who wore smocks and discuss why they became popular as working attire as well as signifiers of individuality. Join us to hear more about a significant and understated part of English social and costume history.“ – Textile Society website.

Alison is the author of The Hidden History of the Smock Frock in which she traces how it was used in England and also in export markets such as Australia. It’s fascinating that something that was originally a man’s garment has now largely become part of the wardrobe of women and children.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

One of the stalls from a previous World Textile Day event.

Also on 2 October is the West of England World Textile Day. The location for this one is Saltford, which is between Bristol and Bath.

Textiles will be available from the following specialists:-

Textile Traders 

African Fabric Shop

Susan Briscoe designs (Japanese)

The Running Stitches (vintage Kantha)

Slow Loris (Chinese tribal minorities)

Treasures from the Silk Road

Fabazaar (Indian)

Textile from the collection of Louise Teague

On Wednesday 6 October at 18:00 BST our friends at ORTS (Oriental Rug & Textile Society) will host an online talk by Louise Teague on her collection of Lakai textiles. If you would like to attend please email Dimity Spiller.

Egyptian tent hangings at a World Textile Day event.

On Saturday 9 October its the South of England World Textile Day in Hampshire. This will be at Brockenhurst in the New Forest.

Textiles will be available from the following specialists:-

Textile Traders 

African Fabric Shop

Susan Briscoe designs

Egyptian Tent Hangings from John & Joan Fisher

Helen Murchie (tweed)

Ruth Smith

Gaynor Williams (animal trappings)

And as if that’s not enough the Textile Society will be hosting their London Antique & Vintage Textile Fair in Chelsea on the following day, 10 October. I’ve never been to the London event, but have been to the Fair they hold in Manchester and it always has an interesting range of textiles.

Children’s Festival Hats, late Qing dynasty (1644-1912) © Bowers Museum

I really enjoyed this blog by the Bowers Museum about Qing Dynasty Children’s Headwear. I was interested to learn that the hats above “functioned as masks to fool evil entities into thinking the child was an animal. Dogs, lions, tigers, and dragons were among the adorably rendered disguises donned by children to scare off even the most sinister spirits. “ – Bowers Museum website. Apparently wearing a hat with cat ears helped children to see evil spirits in the dark and escape from them!

Finally on Tuesday 12 October Elena Phipps will give an online talk on The Andean Textile Tradition of Four-Selvaged Cloth. “A textile with four complete, uncut woven edges, or selvages, is a rare thing in the world of weaving. And yet, it has been a tradition in the Andes for thousands of years. In this presentation, textile expert Elena Phipps will share how Andean cloth with four selvages is precisely planned and woven to a specific size and shape for its intended purpose. The weaver knows exactly what they want to make when the cloth is created. The results are textiles admired for their mastery of color, technique, and design.“ – ATA website

This will take place at 19:00 Eastern Time, which is midnight in the UK, so probably one for our many international members.

Focus on Indonesia

There are so many exciting things happening in the world of Indonesian textiles at the moment that it’s clear I need to devote a whole blog to them. Several of the talks don’t take place until later next month but are filling fast!

© Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono

A fascinating new paper has recently been published by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley. They write “We have discovered an Indian loom technology in use in Indonesia (Minangkabau region). The loom has been published before, but the Indian origins of its unusual ‘cord and pole’ warp suspension system have not been pointed out as far as we know. This is significant, since it implies that Indian craftspeople crossed the Indian ocean to Java or Sumatra at some point in the past.”

This paper is available to read and download here.

The Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is published three times a year and always has a Focus section.

In the current issue the focus is on textiles, with twelve articles about their changing roles in society. “The articles explore ever-present processes of adoption and adaption of ‘foreign’ elements into a local cultural context.” – IIAS. The image above shows a list of the articles. Please click here to access the articles themselves.

Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world……. Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel.

There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US. Published on 19 October 2021 and available to pre-order now.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

Cutting the ikat bindings on Savu.© David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

© Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Invitations will be sent out to members in a couple of weeks time, and registration will open to non-members a week later. This should be a fascinating talk so do mark it in your diaries!

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now.

Event: REMINDER – The Iban of Borneo – Talk by Mike Heppell

Event date: Thursday 25 May 2017, 6.15–8 pm

Talk by Michael Heppell about the beaded garments and wealth of the Iban, their skill in weaving textiles and how these ‘trump Malay textiles’.

This is a reminder that this talk by Mike Heppell will be taking place tomorrow evening in Oxford, so do remember to register your interest if you can make it!

Mike is one of OATG’s overseas members visiting the UK from his home in Australia. In the 1970s he carried out his doctoral research among the Iban in the Batang Ai in Borneo. He has written books and articles on the Iban and other peoples in Borneo. Probably his most well-known book is Iban Art, Sexual Selection and Severed Heads: Weaving, Sculpture, Tattooing and Other Arts of the Iban of Borneo jointly authored with Limbang Anak Melaka and Enyan Anak Usen. More recent is The Seductive Warp Thread: An Evolutionary History of Ibanic Weaving.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

Please note that we regret that no disabled access will be available that day. We are very sorry about the inconvenience caused.

For more information, and to register for a place at this event, visit the event’s Eventbrite page.

Event: The Iban of Borneo – Talk by Mike Heppell

Event date: Thursday 25 May 2017, 6.15–8 pm

Talk by Michael Heppell about the beaded garments and wealth of the Iban, their skill in weaving textiles and how these ‘trump Malay textiles’.

Mike is one of OATG’s overseas members visiting the UK from his home in Australia. In the 1970s he carried out his doctoral research among the Iban in the Batang Ai in Borneo. He has written books and articles on the Iban and other peoples in Borneo. Probably his most well-known book is Iban Art, Sexual Selection and Severed Heads: Weaving, Sculpture, Tattooing and Other Arts of the Iban of Borneo jointly authored with Limbang Anak Melaka and Enyan Anak Usen. More recent is The Seductive Warp Thread: An Evolutionary History of Ibanic Weaving.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

Please note that we regret that no disabled access will be available that day. We are very sorry about the inconvenience caused.

For more information, and to register for a place at this event, visit the event’s Eventbrite page.