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.

Selected textile events in July

A new exhibition entitled Baghs – Abstract Gardens opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London today Tuesday 13 July 2021. This exhibition showcases excellent examples of baghs and phulkaris from the Karun Thakar collection. These were domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab, which were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women. There was also an export market for them in the nineteenth century. Bookings for this free exhibition, which runs until 25 September 2021, are available through this link.

Part of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery

OATG members in the UK should now be receiving their hard copy of our journal Asian Textiles. It takes a little longer to reach our overseas members, but for those who can’t wait a pdf will soon be available on our website in the password-protected area.

This is a particularly eclectic edition, with articles on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif (Gaspard de Marval and Georges Breguet), Multaka-Oxford and the Jenny Balfour Paul pieces at the Pitt Rivers (Thandiwe Wilson), Textiles from the Yemen (Angela Thompson), Finnish ryijy rugs (Igor Honkanen and Gavin Strachan) and much more. We are now using a different printing company and I think the illustrations really shine through.

Another publication that you may find of interest is The Journal of Dress History, produced by The Association of Dress Historians. This Association “supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day.” Each edition of the journal contains lengthy scholarly articles, along with numerous book and exhibition reviews. They can be accessed completely free of charge here. My only criticism would be that it would be good to have an index of the articles too. EDIT – I have since been informed that three separates indices are in fact available – one covers the articles, one the book reviews and one the exhibition reviews. lick the relevant link in the blue box on the right on this page. Apologies for not spotting this earlier!

Detail, Yūzen Pattern Dyeing on Silk, a Textile Design and Color Sample for Girls’
Kimono, Early Showa period, circa 1926–1945, © The Private Collection of Keiko
Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan

On Saturday 17 July 2021 the George Washington Textile Museum will be hosting one of its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. In Silk Stories docent Pamela Kaplan will introduce her project looking at the history of silk production in India and around the world. “The project documents the changing lives of silk farmers and textile producers through photographs, videos, interviews and more.” – Textile Museum website. This virtual event takes place at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. It is free, but registration is required.

© Pamela Kaplan

Don’t forget the next OATG event is our talk by Walter Bruno Brix of the German Textile Museum at 18:30 BST on Thursday 22 July 2021. Walter will be talking to us about the museum’s current exhibition Dragons Woven With Golden Threads. 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. This Zoom talk is also open to non-members for a small (£3) donation. Please click here to register, but hurry as there are not many spaces remaining!

A new exhibition will open on 23 July 2021 at The Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. The exhibition is entitled In Harmony with Red: Turkmens and will run until 23 January 2022. It examines the dominance of the colour red in their textiles, carpets, horse and camel decorations, how it was used in ritual items and as part of decorative designs. Click here for more details and several more examples of the exhibits.

Fragment of a Yomud yurt band, nineteenth century. © REM

On Thursday 29 July 2021 the Textile Museum have another film discussion in their regular Fashion on Film series. This time the film in question is Threads – an award-winning documentary by Cathy Stevulak looking at the late Surayia Rahman and her role in transforming traditional kantha embroidery from “patchworks of old clothing to articles of fashion”. When you sign up for this event you will receive a link to watch the 32 minute documentary at your leisure, as well as instructions for joining the program for a group discussion. As the discussion is at 18:00 EDT (23:00 BST) it may be too late for our UK members, but that doesn’t preclude you from watching the documentary.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

© Cathy Stevulak

If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

Upcoming textile events

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the ryijys on show

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

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

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

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.

Textiles from Morocco, China, Ghana and Central Asia

Regular readers may remember that in my previous blog I wrote about the Textiles on the Move online conference, explaining that videos of the full proceedings were now available to view. They will only be available until tomorrow, 15 November 2020, so if you still haven’t seen them you need to act fast!

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

Click here for more information and to access all of the videos .

Last October the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London hosted a very successful exhibition of African textiles from the renowned collector Karun Thakar. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a group of Asafo flags from Ghana. Now over 250 of these flags form an online exhibition, in which the flags have been divided into three groups by age – 19th century to early 1900s, 1920s to 1957, and 1957 to the 1970s.

Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.

“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.

A flag being displayed. ©Karun Collection

Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.

Having read the article I had a better understanding of and appreciation of the flags in the exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection. 

Now to two exhibitions on a very different theme. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is showcasing Chinese textiles in the exhibition Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976. We might not be able to travel at the moment, but thankfully a virtual online tour is available. Clicking the arrow in the bottom left of the screen will give you a very quick overview. I then found it easiest to press the View Floor Plan button (just along from the arrow). If you then point to a circle it will bring up information about that particular textile.

Silk robe 1890-1905 with chrysanthemums and longevity characters. ©Dante Singaland

The Textile Museum in Krefeld, Germany, has a new exhibition entitled Drachen aus Goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads. This exhibition has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix and contains some very special pieces, including the priest’s robe shown below. 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.

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

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!

The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh has a new exhibition from the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutchman who moved to the city in 1957. He collected textiles, jewellery and other beautiful items from across North Africa, the Shara and the Sahel. He also has a small museum in the heart of the old part of the city.

Our recent online lecture by Sarah Fee was a great success, and we have received lots of positive responses to it. The talk was recorded and will be available for members to view shortly in a password-protected area of our website. A notification of the password will be sent to members.

Our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles. Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.

The cover of Nick’s new book Travellers in the Great Steppe: from the Papal Envoys to the Russian Revolution.

This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Registration will be open for OATG members EXCLUSIVELY until 20 November (you should have already received the invitation), after which any remaining places will be offered to non-members.

The next edition of Asian Textiles should have reached most members by now. This includes a lengthy article on Naga textiles by Joanna Cole and Julia Nicholson of the Pitt Rivers Museum and another on Pekalongan batik by Maria Wronska-Friend. I’m sure weavers will be fascinated to read the research on a Taiwanese Kahabu flag by Tsai Yu Shan. 

Don’t forget that members can access pdf copies of all editions through our website. Non-members can access all but the last three years here

In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him by 7 December. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share?

With all of these exciting developments why not consider becoming a member? Although we are the Oxford Asian Textile Group we do have many members from throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Details of how to join can be found here.

Events: Upcoming textile events

Several new talks and exhibitions coming soon….

Chinese cloth banknote

A reminder that this Thursday Dr Paul Bevan will talk about Chinese Cloth Banknotes to the Oxford Asian Textile Group. This event is open to the public. Click here for further details.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6QS. 18:00 – 20:00.

©Jenny Balfour-Paul

Also on Thursday, but this time in the US, Jenny Balfour-Paul will be lecturing on Indigo and the Orient: The Story of the Blues at Yale University Art Gallery. In her talk Jenny will look at ” this fascinating dyestuff, focusing on its past and present use in Asia, particularly among the ethnic minorities of Southwest China.” Full details can be found here.

Location: Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel Street (at York Street) New Haven, Connecticut. 17:30 – open to the general public.

Woman’s funeral tunic and headscarf

The reason for this particular emphasis is that this lecture is being held in conjunction with the exhibition Ceremonial Dress from Southwest China: The Ann B. Goodman Collection. This exhibition, which was co-curated by OATG founder Ruth Barnes, draws on the ceremonial clothing of communities from Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan, Yunnan, and other provinces of southwestern China. It includes fifteen outfits which use a variety of techniques such as batik, embroidery, and appliqué. Silver jewellery is also featured. For more details, and images of several items from the exhibition,  go to the website of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Exhibition dates: September 6 2019 – January 5 2020.

Jenny will also be giving another talk on indigo, but with a different theme, in New York next week. Entitled Indigo Trail: From Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans! this will clearly be a wide-ranging lecture from an expert in the field. Details of this event, which is open to the public, can be found here.

Location: The Explorers Club, 46 East 70th Street, New York City, NY 10021, United States. October 1, 18:30.

©Karun Thakar Collection

Back in the UK the Brunei Gallery at SOAS will be hosting an exhibition, supported by HALI, of African textiles from the collection of Karun Thakar. With more than 150 exhibits from a wide geographical area this “will examine the links between west and north African textile traditions through a selection of important and rare examples of textile art, being shown here for the first time.” Details are on the SOAS website here.

Location: SOAS University of London 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. October 11 – December 14 2019.

October has been designated Textile Month in Portland, Oregon, with a huge listing of events taking place. These include talks, exhibitions, and hands-on workshops. One that stood out for me was Symbolism and Significance: The Evolution of the Kimono by Andrea Aranow who will be showing several kimonos from her extensive collection on October 5 – click here for more detail.

I was also intrigued by the work Emily Miller is doing in the Ghost Net Landscape exhibition which runs from 7-31 October. Details are here.

 

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Events: Textile events in London and Singapore

Lots of exciting textile events happening soon!

22 – 30 June

It’s going to be a busy week in London with the Handcrafted Heritage events celebrating Indian textiles at The Bhavan in West Kensington, which is the largest centre for classical Indian arts and culture outside of India. A free exhibition and sale will showcase heritage textiles including Benarasis, Patan Patolas, and Dhakai Jamdanis and vintage silver jewellery.

On Wednesday 26th and Saturday 29th June there will be a workshop devoted to patolas. The tutor for this workshop will be Shri Kanubhai Salvi, a master weaver and holder of the UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award. His family have been producing these double ikat textiles in Patan for many generations.

Photo courtesy of Patan Patola Heritage

Also on 26 June (but in the evening) there will be a screening of the fascinating documentary Legend of the Loom, which tells the story of Bengal muslin and how the trade in it flourished and then declined. The screening will be followed by a conversation session with its producer Saiful Islam. An excellent review of this film by Hannah Sayer can be found here.

 

21 June- 8 September 2019

Opening shortly at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, is an exhibition entitled Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru. This exhibition ” explores the processes and practices of both historic and contemporary Peruvian costume via garments, textiles, photographs, tools, illustrations and paintings, dating from pre-Hispanic to present day.”

Photo courtesy of Fashion and Textile Museum

There will be a panel on the opening day discussing Peruvian Fashion with several of the designers whose work is featured in the exhibition along with its curator. Attendance at the panel is free with an exhibition ticket, but places must be booked as numbers are limited.

Contemporary designs by Mozhdeh Matin, who works with artisans and champions Peruvian textiles and techniques

24 – 30 June 2019

HALI London – this is a series of events to celebrate the 200th edition and 40th year of HALI. These include a fair with twenty of the best international dealers in attendance, a 6-day tour of Great British Collections, two symposia – each with twelve lectures, and a whole series of miscellaneous events. Full information can be found on their website. Please note that several of the events have already sold out – so act quickly if you want to book for those that are still available!

Selected highlights:-

The exhibition at Francesca Galloway’s gallery entitled Textile Splendours From The East. “The gallery will present a plethora of textiles from Asia, including a magnificent Sogdian costume, a delicate Ming period needle loop embroidery, Indian chintzes for domestic and export markets, as well as textiles made for spiritual pursuits.”

One of the items featured in Francesca Galloway’s exhibition

The other event that really stands out (of those that are not already sold out) is the visit to the Karun Thakar Collection. Participants will go to Karun’s private residence where they will be able to view his extraordinary collection. This includes Asian textiles ranging from 14th century Indian Trade cloths to folk textiles and costumes from Central Asia, Japan, Bhutan and Afghanistan; African textiles—predominantly narrow loom weavings from Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries, plus North African embroideries, veils and haiks from Morocco and Tunisia.(Information from Hali website). You can browse through images of some of his collection here.

Winter chuba from Western Tibet

15 June – 15 September 2019

Finally a new exhibition has just opened at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Guo Pei: Chinese Art and Couture showcases twenty pieces from the Museum’s own collection along with twenty nine pieces created by the designer.

Image courtesy of the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Curator led tours will be held on 26 June, 31 July and 28 August and can be booked via the museum website. Steven G. Alpert has pulled together a huge amount of information about this exhibition on his excellent website Art of the Ancestors. It has stunning images and information on the links with the Peranakan – the golden bridal dress is simply a work of art! It seems pointless for me to attempt to replicate Steven’s piece so instead I simply recommend you click here to read it.

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Exhibition: Enchanting China – Costumes, Jewellery, Utensils and Accessories from the Miao and Dong

Exhibition dates: 13 November 2018 – 27 January 2019, Tuesdays to Sundays

This exhibition at the Museum Rijswijk, near The Hague, is showing objects from the collection of Mieke Gorter. For years, together with her ethnic Dong tour operator and guide Wu Zeng Ou, Gorter has organised cultural tours through south-western China where the Miao and Dong people live. She has always kept her eyes open for hidden treasures and has built a beautiful collection of costumes, jewellery, accessories and utilitarian objects.

Several ethnic minorities live in the mountainous southwest region of China, in the province of Guizhou. The Miao are one of the largest groups (9 million people) and live throughout this area along with other minority groups like the Dong (3 million). Over the centuries the Miao migrated throughout the southern part of China and in all of the different villages where they settled they developed their own form of dress. There are some 175 to 200 different kinds of traditional Miao costumes! The groups are often named on the basis of their clothing. For example, there are the Long-horn Miao, the Long-skirt Miao, the Red-embroidery Miao and the Tin- embroidery Miao. While the Miao usually live in the mountains, the Dong can be found near the rivers. They are renowned for their beautiful wooden bridges and towers.

Among the Miao and the Dong there is always a reason to celebrate something – a wedding, the birth of a child, a finished house – and they wear their traditional clothing on these occasions. The women are prolific in their artisanal crafts, such as weaving, painting with indigo dyes, batik techniques and embroidery (this is what they are most famous for). Headdress, collars, jackets, skirts, aprons and baby carriers, everything is extravagantly embroidered. The festive garb is then lavished with ornate silver hairpins and necklaces.

For more information visit the website of the Museum Rijswijk

Event: Chinese Indigo Dyeing

 

Event date: Wednesday 19 September, 19:00.

This event, run by the Oriental Rug and Textile Society, features John Abbate of Bluehanded talking about how the  ancient cultural heritage of hand-printed fabrics has a rich history and exciting contemporary future. Artisanal traditions of naturally dyed indigo ‘Lan Yin Hua Bu’ textiles are used for interior decor and fashion design. All the work is done by the hands of an Indigo Master and his family using locally sourced materials, which makes the fabric sustainable and ethical.

The dyeing technique, which has been unchanged for centuries, involves applying traditional hand-cut decorative patterns to natural cotton. Coating the fabric in soybean and lime paste, before soaking in specially formulated vat dyes, gives the timeless blue and white finish. Traditionally used as wedding gifts in the form of bedding and cloth bags, the patterns bestow auspicious wishes such as good luck, long life and wellbeing.

After 25 years of retail design experience with Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Alfred Dunhill John moved to China as a retail brand consultant where he stumbled upon a beautiful blue and white cloth in the rubble of a Hutong in China. This discovery served as a starting point for his textile company. To John, luxury is in the unique perfect imperfection, individuality and craftsmanship that goes into the making each length of fabric. He works with designers to create new patterns that keep the ancient traditions alive.
For more details visit the website of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society

 

Location:  St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

Article: Chinese Village Keeps Alive a Tradition of Indigo Dyeing

“For a Dong family, having a loom is just as important as having a cow,” said Lai Lei, the founder of a weaving and dyeing co-op in a nearby village. “As children, we grow up listening to the sound of the loom.”

 

 

 

 

This article looks at the attempts to keep the tradition of indigo dyeing and polishing alive in Guizhou province, southern China. The cloth is dyed evry day for two weeks and then has an application of either cowhide extract or egg whites. The shine is achieved by hitting the cloth repeatedly with a wooden mallet. Deep indigo-stained hands are a badge of honour.

To read the full article please visit the website of  The New York Times