Textiles from the Silk Road, China, Peru, Indonesian basketry, and much more….

On 10 February 2022 Cambridge University held a Dunhuang Seminar, with Professor Max Deeg of Cardiff University as the speaker. His subject was Trading Silk – Negotiating Religion: Buddhist stories and discourses about silk. The seminar was recorded and you can access the video here.

This was the second in a series of six seminars, taking place between January and March. For those interested in learning more about the rest of the series click here.

Centre: Woman wearing a pote lo’o made in twill weave during the opening of the bringing of buffa-lo ceremony (pua karapau). © Stefan Danerek.

I’ve previously blogged about the relatively new journal Fiber, Loom and Technique established by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono. A new article with excellent illustrations has just been published in it, covering the basketry traditions of Palu’e, a small island off the coast of Flores in Eastern Indonesia. The author is Stefan Danerek, a Swedish researcher who has studied the language, arts and crafts of this small island for several years. I’m familiar with Palu’e weaving, so welcomed this opportunity to get to know more about another of their crafts, especially the so-called ‘mad weave’. You can learn more about Stefan’s work from his website.

Pustaha in Mandailing Batak script, with many drawings in red and black ink, before 1844. British Library, Add 19381. 18th – early 19th century.

I recently heard of this work on Batak manuscripts through Sandra Niessen. Apparently the British Library has the “oldest dateable Batak manuscript (Add 4726), which entered the British Museum collections in 1764. Until recently, this was the only Batak manuscript in the Library accessible online. However, the complete collection of 37 Batak manuscripts in the British Library has now been fully digitised, thanks to a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at the University of Hamburg.……. A full list of the digitised manuscripts is available on the Digital Access to Batak Manuscripts page.” – British Library

These manuscripts were sometimes written bamboo and bone, but mainly on the bark of the alim tree (Aquilaria malaccensis). The bark books, known as pustaha, often contained writings on magic and divination, which were also sometimes illustrated.

You can read the full illustrated blog by Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia, here.

MSS Batak 6, which mostly contains texts on divination in war, especially by use of rambu siporhas, divination based on the position of a double string thrown on the ground. This pustaha has a beautifully carved wooden front cover, but a plain wooden back cover.

Some of these manuscripts also had protective covers, generally of wood, which was sometimes carved. The British Library also has one example, which is made of goat skin. Annabel has also blogged about the covers here.

Fragment of a tapestry weave tunic dated 1532-1700, from Cuzco or Lake

Recently the Art Institute of Chicago held a virtual lecture on Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. In it Andrew Hamilton, associate curator of Arts of the Americas, examined how “the violent conquest of the Inca Empire by Spanish forces dramatically changed Inca society, their artistic traditions, and the clothes that they wore.” The talk was recorded and is now available here.

On Wednesday 9 March there are two in-person events members may find of interest – one in the UK and one in the US.

The Norfolk Makers Festival will be held from 9-20 March 2022 in Norwich. There will be twelve days of crafting activities, open exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and talks. There is an excellent events calendar, which you can search using various filters, or just browse. Sevanti Roy, who previously worked in Jaipur for textile companies including Anokhi and Fabindia, but now has a design business based in Norfolk will give a talk entitled From Persia to Norfolk: a talk about the paisley motif. The talk begins at 16:30 and is free.

A new exhibition will be opening that day at the Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, New York. Curated by Vichai and Lee Chinalai and Jinyoung Jin the exhibition is entitled Auspicious Dreams – Tribal Blankets from Southern China, and is on view until 31 May 2022. “Often made with fine materials, exemplary techniques, and unparalleled artistry, these striking textiles convey the unique identities, statuses, and traditions of diverse Chinese tribal groups.” – University website.

Lee will be giving a talk in the Wang Center Auditorium at 16:00, before the opening of the exhibition.

Vine Leaf, 1896. Designed by May Morris, produced by Morris & Company.

The Art Institute of Chicago currently has an exhibition entitled Morris & Company: The Business of Beauty, which runs until mid June 2022.

I enjoyed reading this blog by Melinda Watt about May Morris, daughter of William, who completed many designs for the family firm. At the tender age of 23 she was responsible for supervising all of the embroidery operations in the company.

I was interested to learn that in “support of female artists and designers, she founded the Women’s Guild for Arts in 1907 to provide the support and networking opportunities they lacked, as they were excluded from the Art Worker’s Guild on the basis of gender.”

Textiles from Mali, Nigeria, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Kola Peninsula

I’ve just found out about some talks taking place later this week, which will be of interest to our members.

North House Folk School, based in Grand Marais, Minnesota, is currently celebrating its annual Fiber Week. They are having lots of events on site, but also several webinars on textile traditions from around the world. These webinars will be live, but also recorded and available until the end of February.

© Multicolores

The first webinar takes place on Thursday 17 February at 19:00 CT, which is 1am GMT – so the recording will be very useful! Multicolores is a Guatemalan non-profit organisation, which helps Maya women artists from nine different communities in rural highland villages.  Its Creative Director, Madeline Kreider Carlson, will discuss how these women are producing hooked rugs and embroideries with traditional motifs but using old clothes that would otherwise have gone to landfill. Click here to register for Stitching Stories, Crafting Change: the Maya Women Artists of Multicolores Guatemala.

There are also two talks the following day at times that will work for many of our members.

© Dinara Chochunbaeva

Dinara Chochunbaeva will give a webinar on Friday 18 February at 08:00 CT, which is 14:00 GMT, on the subject Kyrgyz Felt in the Past, Present and Future: Traditions, Problems, and Perspectives.

Feltmaking has taken place in Eurasia for centuries and many will be familiar with the Kyrgyz felt rugs known as shyrdak. Dinara will discuss how the feltmakers are trying to preserve and develop this ancient tradition, ensuring skills are passed to the next generation.

© Dinara Chochunbaeva

I particularly enjoyed this article she wrote for Garland magazine in 2019. In it she talks about some of the patterns used and their protective qualities, and invokes a real sense of the communal nature of shyrdak production. Do click on the link below the image of the women with the fleeces in the article to see more excellent images.

You might also enjoy reading this illustrated paper Kyrgyz Felt of the 20th and 21st Centuries, which she gave at the Textile Society of America Symposium in 2010. I was fascinated to read her description of the use of felt in traditional medicine.

© Tina Sovkina

The next webinar begins at 10:00 CT, which is 16:00 GMT and the speaker is Tina Sovkina. Her subject is Saami Textile Traditions of the Russian Kola Peninsula. “ She will share stories and images of the traditional dress and textile practices of the indigenous people of the Arctic, as well as her efforts to promote, protect and preserve the culture of her people.” – North House website.

Photo by Muhammed Dallatu, Kano, December 14, 2019.

On Wednesday 23 February Dr Elisha Renne will be discussing some of her research with Sarah Fee in a Zoom programme as part of the Textile Museum Journal series. She will talk about “ her research collaboration with the late Abdulkarim Umar DanAsabe on a selection of royal garments worn by the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.

Dr. Renne examines the royal garments alongside discussions with palace officials, embroiderers and tailors. By analyzing photographs of burnouses, robes and turbans worn by Sarkin Muhammadu Sanusi II and earlier emirs, she learned how these garments illustrate their public nature and how they have contributed to the continuing political authority of traditional rulers in northern Nigeria.” – Textile Museum website.

The talk is entitled Royal Garments of the Emir of Kano and it begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. You can register for it here.

An example of bogolanfini on display in Dallas

A reminder that an excellent exhibition on mud cloth continues for most of this year at the Dallas Museum of Art in the US. Bamana Mud Cloth: From Mali to the World runs until 4 December 2022.

“Mud cloth, or bogolanfini, originated among the Bamana peoples of Mali and its designs can be spotted in products across the world, although the source is not always credited. Bamana peoples used the dye-decorated cloth to make tunics for male hunters and wrappers for females to mark the most important milestones in their lives. While the cloth was previously associated with rural village life, today bogolanfini is worn by urban people, identifying them as native Malians.​

The culturally significant designs on bogolanfini are painted by women with a dye made from fermented mud onto cloth handwoven by men”. – Dallas Museum website

This article by Kimberly Richard for the NBC Dallas website gave a bit more background and a reminder of what a lengthy process making a piece of bogolanfini can be.

I also found this very detailed information on the website of the British Museum useful.

OATG members with our Chair Helen Wolfe in the courtyard of the British Museum. Photo by Cecilia Lloyd.

Speaking of the British Museum, the OATG were delighted to finally be able to offer a small group tour of the Peru exhibition last week. Our Chair, Helen Wolfe gave a short talk before showing the group the exhibits – with special emphasis on the textiles of course!

The exhibition runs until 20 February 2022 so if you want to see some fantastic textiles be quick!

Helen enlightening the group about the textiles they were to see. Photo by Gavin Strachan
Cecilia Lloyd and Jan Thompson admiring two colourful woven shawls, 19th – 20th century. Photo by Helen Wolfe
Felicity Wood and Judith Condor-Vidal viewing a tunic (unku) in the Colonial section of the exhibition, AD 1650-1700. Photo by Helen Wolfe

Textile talks and articles from around the world!

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email will need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video in this blog. 

I recently blogged about a lovely book for children, Mea and the Palm Flowers, produced by OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation, with the help of Geneviève Duggan and Ice Tede Dara.

Young girl photographed in Pedero, the setting of the book. © David Richardson

Half of all sale proceeds will be donated to the weavers of the Tewuni Rai group, many of whom lost their homes during the devastating Cyclone Seroja last year. If you are a keen weaver, dyer or collector this would make a great gift for the children in your life.

I loved the enthusiasm of this young boy in his short video review of the book, which can be ordered here!

Video of book review

Sonja Mohr of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Köln has just informed me of this very interesting article on Philippine piña textiles.

Scarf length, Philippines, mid 1800s, Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

Interrogating Translucence: Biological and Cultural Definitions of Piña is by Abi Lua, whose current thesis project explores Philippine piña textile connoisseurship and mentality. Here she discusses some of the difficulties in identifying piña, from both a biological and cultural point of view.

Sea snail and threads dyed with its ink. ©Selvedge

This article by Keith Recker for Selvedge also caught my attention. In it Keith looks at the colour purple and how it is produced by milking sea snails. The illustrations are excellent, and it was interesting to learn how the “community’s way of life was shaped around the making of purple, and the journey to the coast to dye yarns was a major event. A group of dyers would walk eight days to the coast. It was a real journey……. ‘involving several river crossings. The men would carry their own food, and when their tortillas, beans and coffee ran out, they would work in local farms to be reprovisioned. Once they reached their campsite on the coast, they’d stay for about three months before heading back to Pinotepa”. – Selvedge

Obtaining ink from the sac of the sea snail on Ternate. ©David and Sue Richardson
Sage green from the innards is used to dye these threads. © David and Sue Richardson

This reminded me of the marine dyes, which I have seen produced on the small island of Ternate in the Alor archipelago of Eastern Indonesia. There, two different colours – purple and green – are produced from the same creature. The purple comes from the ink sac and the green from the innards, with what remains going into the pot for supper.

A quick reminder that this is your last chance to sign up for a couple of talks taking place online tomorrow, Saturday 12 February. The first is on molas by Tom Hannaher, whose online presentation is entitled Painting With Scissors: Mola Art of the Kuna (Guna) Indians and takes place at 13:00 EST, which is 18:00 GMT. he second is on Uyghur feltmaking with Christine Martens.  It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

A weaver at work. ©Andean Textile Arts

The first of the 2022 series of Textile Talks, hosted by Andean Textile Arts, takes place next Tuesday 15 February, when the subject will be Textile Traditions of the Peruvian Highlands. Participants will learn “how Andean weavers use corn husks in their weaving, which natural dye was part of the Incan taxation system, why Andean brides often receive handwoven jakimas as wedding gifts, and so much more.” – ATA website

The talk also features a video, narrated by one of the presenters Jennifer Moore. The other presenter is Ercil Howard-Wroth. Click here for more information and to register. Please note this talk begins at 19:00 EST, which is midnight in the UK.

An akotifahana from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.

On Wednesday 16 February ORTS will host a Zoom presentation by Dr Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum entitled Born of the Indian Ocean:The Textile Arts of Madagascar. The ROM hold 54 Madagascan textiles in their collection, some of which date to the nineteenth century. It was interesting to read about the connection with Omani traders and Indian trade cloths, almost reminiscent of the Silk Road connections. 

There is a lot of excellent information, with very good images and some videos on the ROM website, which I strongly recommend to those interested in Malagasy textiles and culture.

The talk takes place at 18:00 GMT. Non-members wishing to attend should contact Dimity Spiller.

Chief or nobleman’s headdress (detail), Congo, 20th century. The Textile Museum Collection 1962.1.15. Textile Museum acquisition.

Sarah is going to be very busy as she also features in the next in the series of talks from the Textile Museum, centred on the latest edition of the Textile Journal, which she guest-edited.

Cécile Fromont of Yale University will be in discussion with Sarah about Kongo textiles, “which are celebrated as masterpieces of exquisite workmanship but garner limited attention in scholarship.”

This talk takes place on Wednesday 16 February at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Hanbok, © Minjee Kim

On Thursday 17 February the Korea Society will host a live webcast by Dr Minjee Kim entitled Hanbok: A new lexicon of women’s fashion.

“In 2021, hanbok – the generic term referring to traditional style Korean clothing – was registered in the Oxford English Dictionary. In this comprehensive series of lectures, Dr. Minjee Kim, the preeminent scholar of Korean textile and fashion in the U.S., illustrates and elucidates hanbok in sartorial, socio-cultural, and historical contexts.

In the first lecture of the series, Dr. Kim discusses some distinctive qualities of women’s hanbok in comparison with other dress traditions; terminologies of the components and their structural parts; colors, materials, and embellishments; and symbols and ideas behind design principles and ways of dress.” – Korea Society

The webcast begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Working at the loom. ©Susan Schaefer Davis

On Saturday 19 February the Textile Museum associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) will host a presentation by Susan Schaefer Davis. Her subject will be Women Artisans of Morocco: Their Textiles, Their Stories, Their Lives.

Most textile talks focus, naturally, on the textiles themselves, looking at which materials and techniques were used to create them, in which area they were made etc.

“In this talk, anthropologist, and author of Women Artisans of Morocco, Dr. Susan Schaefer Davis, whose work focuses on Moroccan women, their textiles, changing gender roles, and adolescence, will include all of those aspects of textiles, but will also introduce you to the actual Moroccan women who make them. You will meet several of these women virtually, and to see and learn about the unique textiles they produce, the lives in which they produce them, and their thoughts about their work and goals.”

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

Textile with embroidered hummingbirds, early Nasca, Peru 100BC – AD 200 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

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

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

Don’t forget to let me know of any textile-related events or articles you think I should include here!

Molas, Uyghur felt, Suzani and fish skin robes

There are lots of exciting events coming up this month and I’m highlighting a few of them below.

I mentioned in my most recent blog that the OATG have arranged a small group visit to the exhibition Peru: a journey in time at the British Museum on Friday 11 February at 14:00 GMT. Cecilia Pardo, lead curator for the exhibition, will give a short talk in the Great court first. Then our Chair, Helen Wolfe, who has recently retired from her role as Textile Collection Manager at the British Museum will take the group through to the exhibition and be available to answer questions. Our tickets are available at a reduced price of £10, payable on the day to Helen. There are still two places available for this very special visit. To reserve one please email our Secretary Cecilia Lloyd.

A mola in the collection of the British Museum featuring nine squirrels or ‘ukswinni’. These are one of the Kuna’s favourite subjects for molas. © The Trustees of the British Museum
 

On Saturday 12 February Tom Hannaher will give an online presentation on Painting With Scissors: Mola Art of the Kuna (Guna) Indians. This programme is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California and the New England Rug Society. The focus of the presentation will be early and middle-period molas (1910-1970) and will include many rare pieces.

“Molas are panels used in blouses worn by women of the Kuna (Guna) culture of Panama and Colombia. Using a combination of applique, reverse applique, and embroidery, Kuna women create dazzling imagery based on Kuna mythology, customs, and daily life. They also seek graphic inspiration from non-Kuna references ranging from political posters to cartoons to advertising campaigns. This presentation by Tom Hannaher will focus on pre-1970 examples and will include a number of unpublished masterpieces, some from the early part of the twentieth century. Many of the pieces are from the collections of Kit Kapp and Ann Parker Neal, two authors of early books on mola art.” – TMA/SC

The talk begins at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT.

Slightly earlier that same day the Textile Museum will hold its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning by Zoom. The speaker will be Christine Martens and her subject is Distinguishing Uyghur Feltmaking.

“Feltmaking has existed for millennia in the cities and villages of what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China — homeland of the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. Archeological discoveries give a sense of this ancient art, which continued to flourish in the oases that dot the southern rim of the Taklamakan desert.

In this virtual talk researcher Christine Martens examines the felt processes and compares Uyghur felt with the traditions of the Turkmen, Kyrgyz and Turks, including gender roles in felt making.

Martens also examines how Uyghur cultural history and the “everyday” exist within the spiritual landscape of southern Xinjiang. She explores the participation in shrine visitation and the use of the “risala,” a treatise or guidebook governing the moral, spiritual and ethical behavior of artisans, to shed light on little-known aspects of Uyghur sacred history and accompanying rituals.” – TM website

Chris has conducted fieldwork and led tours in Central Asia for many years and I’m sure this will be a fascinating programme. It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

On Thursday 17 February the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be hosting London-based specialist and dealer Ali Istalifi. His online talk is entitled Central Asian Suzani: Understanding the Tradition and Attribution of Silk Dowry Embroideries.

“Over the past half a century, Suzani embroideries of Central Asia have captured the imagination of textile collectors and aficionados around the world. Examples from the late 18th Century up to the early 1900s are now considered as some of the most coveted of all textile arts and most tend to demand high prices at major auctions, antique fairs and galleries.

This talk will explore the aesthetic and artistic merits of these traditional dowry embroideries in order to help understand and appreciate their appeal. By analyzing and categorizing the specific characteristics of design, color, type of stitches and material used to make them, dating and attribution will become easier for both those who are familiar and unfamiliar to this textile art.” – Hajji Baba Club website

The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT . More details and registration available here.

Woman’s festive robe, Nanai people, REM

I recently shared a post from the Russian Museum of Ethnography about clothing from fish skins. The robe (pictured above) was stunning and I wanted to learn more about this type of clothing. It appears that the skins used were mainly those of large salmon, and the clothes produced were lightweight and waterproof. Decorations were added in various forms – appliqué, embroidery, and drawing directly on the garment either freehand or using a stencil. It clearly took months to make a robe such as this.

Tanned fish skin leather  and products made from it. © Kathleen Hinkel

I was delighted to then be directed to this article on The Art of Turning Fish into Leather by Chloe Williams in Hakai magazine. In it she examines how various artists are rediscovering this ancient craft, and explains some of the different methods they have tried – some more successful than others. Coffee, black tea, eggs, alder bark and even urine have all played a part.

The article is also available in audio format here.

Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. Coll.no. RV-434-1

That led me to another Hakai article, this time by Jude Isabella, called The Secret Language of Salmon Skin Coats. She describes how a Nivkhi woman from the Amur River area would have prepared around 100 salmon skins to make one robe. “She would have scraped away the flesh before washing the skins in salt water (women keeping the craft alive today use soap), then drying and beating the skins before piecing together the coat with thread fashioned from fish skin or sinew.” I was amazed to read how the thread expands when it gets wet, meaning that the holes made by the sewing needle are then filled and the garment becomes watertight – ingenious!

Nanai stencil

Tom Murray (he of the Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection fame) then directed me to this website on the Costume of the Peoples of the Lower Amur, which again has lots of useful and fascinating information and images, including a diagram of the coat construction. The author notes how in some instances the fish skin leather has been dropped in favour of woven cloth, but the motifs have remained in the form of appliqué. He also includes many excellent black and white images. Tom has also informed me that the long-awaited Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibit based on his book will open in June and will feature not one but two salmon skin robes!

AGM , textile conservation, Peru, Morocco and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more images and close-ups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Textile fragment with embroidered humming birds

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

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

Yet more textile talks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Minjee Kim

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

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

Hat from the collection of Roger Pratt

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

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

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

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

Harriet Powers pictorial quilt 1895-98

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix – a traditional festival badge by Margaret Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Press! Registration ends Monday.

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

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

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

From Indonesia to the Arctic, Greece to Iran, Russia to the Indus Valley and more!

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

There is just so much going on in the textile world at the moment, that this will therefore be quite a long blog,,,,,

OATG member Lesley Pullen is the author of a new book examining the way textiles were presented on eighth to fifteenth century Javanese sculptures. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader.

A new display was revealed at the Fashion and Textiles Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 5 April 2021. It is based around the theme Fashionable in Asia and a good overview of the themes covered and some of the textiles on show can be found here.

According to the museum’s website “Early fashion theorists excluded the non-Western world. They saw dress of “uncivilised” people outside of urban Europe as static and unchanging, hobbled by tradition. Seeking to challenge Eurocentric misconceptions, with the latest display in the Fashion and Textiles gallery, we re-centre on Southeast Asia, where indigenous fashions moved at their own pace and with their own standards – but were no less fashionable!”


Image courtesy Adriana Sanroman, From Birth to Death: The Silk Flower Industry in Mexico, Session 1A.

The 2020 Textile Society of America Symposium Hidden Stories/Human Lives had, of necessity, to be held online. The advantage of this virtual format is that the TSA were able to record many of the sessions. Those recordings have now been made available. The subjects are incredibly varied – the silk flower industry in Mexico, inscribed textiles from Egyptian burial grounds, the white Haku of Peru, Hmong dress in China and the ‘Mamluk’ quilt cover, to name just a few. There are over seventeen hours of recordings – enough to satisfy even the most devoted textilian! The easiest way to work out which parts may be of most interest to you is to go to the pdf of the full programme here. The programme is listed on pages 19-27, followed by the abstracts for each paper. Simply identify the talks of interest to you and which session they were part of. For example “Materials and Making of Ṭirāz Textiles” was the third paper in session 2A. This should help when deciding which recordings to watch first.

Next Thursday, 6 May 2021, Dr Moya Carey (Curator of Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin) will be the speaker for an online event hosted by the Hajji Baba Club of New York. The title of her presentation is Safavid Dynastic Vision: Shah Tahmasp’s Commission of the Ardabil Carpets. The pair of Ardabil carpets were woven for the Safavid dynastic shrine in northwestern Iran. Today they are celebrated as masterpieces of sixteenth-century design and technique,. One of the pair is in the V & A Museum and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Remembered together, the pair offer a rich context for Safavid Shah Tahmasp’s visionary intentions, for himself and for his dynasty’s sacred tomb complex in Ardabil, northwestern Iran. This talk examines Iran’s political conditions in the year 946H (1539-40, the date woven into each carpet), and the likely dynastic significance of the two hanging lamps that form each carpet’s central axis.” – Hajji Baba website. The talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. To attend the meeting please compete the RSVP here.

One of the ceremonial robes which will be displayed during the exhibition

On 8 May 2021 a new exhibition entitled The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles opens at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska. “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website. The website mentions a couple of lectures. I have checked with the museum and there will be limited attendance with online registration opening soon. The good news is that they also informed me the lectures will be recorded. More information when I have it!

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

The next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of 18th- and 19th century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

Valance. Nineteenth century, Olonetskaya province. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

On Saturday 15 May 2021 Andrea Rusnock will give an online talk on Russian Folk Embroidery, hosted by the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. Andrea is a Professor of Art History and will be discussing “Russian embroidery at the end of the Imperial period, when middle-class women increasingly created their own needlework, aided by a proliferation in pattern books, and, at the same time, there was a renewed interest in folk embroidery.” This talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST, and you can register for it here.

The Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London is due to open on 18 May 2021 subject to government guidelines. This exhibition has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, where a version of it was on display in 2017. “

The complicated technical craftsmanship required to fix bright dyes to cotton, devised across centuries and using complex chemical formulae, meant that for many years Chintz was a closely guarded secret, or preserve of the elite. However, by the 18th century chintz had become more widely accessible. The lightweight, washable, gaily coloured and boldly patterned cottons eventually became a sensation throughout England and across Europe. These developments resulted in the intricate, colourful flowers of chintz fabric being cherished and preserved by generations.

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom showcases some 150 examples of this treasured textile, originating from all around the world; from mittens to wall hangings and from extravagant 18th-century sun hats to stylish mourning dresses.” – FIT website. For more details and booking please click here. You may also enjoy reading this short blog about chintz by Emma Sweeney.

© TRC Leiden

The buteh/boteh motif often appears on chintz, so I thought it was worth sharing the link to this talk by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Many thanks to Cheri Hunter of the TMA/SC for this information. Gillian recently did a Zoom lecture for the Fowler Textile Council, examining the global history of the paisley pattern. The recording of this talk can be viewed here. If you want to know more about this motif it is also well worth visiting the website of the TRC Leiden, which has an excellent online exhibition on the subject.

Stone statue of the Priest-King discovered in Mohenjodaro. He is believed to be wearing resist-printed ajrak cloth.

Those with an interest in early textiles will want to sign up for this talk, Cotton & Colour: A Deep History of Indus Valley Textiles, hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum on 18 May 2021 at 16:00 EDT, which is 21:00 BST. From the earliest evidence of cotton (7,000 BCE) to the importance of fibre arts in the emergence of early urban centres, ROM botanist Deborah Metsger and archaeologist J. Mark Kenoyer will explore the rich and diverse history of textiles in the early settlements of the Indian subcontinent. Click here for more details and to register.

Young woman’s outer parka, Kalaallit, Greenland – before 1860s. © British Museum

The British Museum exhibition Arctic: Culture and Climate has now ended, but the good news is that the museum have now made a virtual tour of it available. You can take your own route, or go to specific sections – the parka above is from the ‘weather proofing’ section. Clicking on the lower case ‘i’ gives additional information. Highly recommended!

Finally, readers will know from my previous blogs of the devastating impact Cyclone Seroja had on the tiny eastern Indonesian island of Savu. I know some of you contributed to the appeal for help, and thought you would like to see that the first load of roofing material has now arrived. This had to be transported ashore by small boats as the jetty is still blocked by a capsized ferry.  If you would like to help please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.