Selected textile events and articles

 

A selection of current and upcoming textile-related events and articles. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sample of the things that have caught my eye.

 

©British Museum EA71854, Trustees of the British Museum.

Next week the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen will host a free two-day programme on The Colour Blue in Ancient Egypt and Sudan. “Since the Neolithic, the colour blue has been highly prized all along the Nile Valley, where its strong relation to the divine is particularly embodied by the god Amun. Blue pigments and dyes occupied a very special place in the visual landscape, where they adorned temples, palaces, statues and people’s bodies thanks to a large repertoire of blue cloths and personal adornments.” – TAES Network at Centre for Textile Research. This interdisciplinary programme includes a presentation on The use of blue in Egyptian garments of the 1st millennium, another on Blue in the iconography and textiles in the medieval kingdom of Makuria (Sudan), and a workshop on Reviving indigo dyeing in Mali: from farming to contemporary arts.

Aboubakar Fofana – master indigo dyer. ©Jonas Ungar

Hole and Corner have a great interview with Aboubakar Fofana, who was born in Mali but grew up in France, in which he discusses indigo dyeing in Ancient Egypt and concludes that “What they were doing 5,000 years ago is the same as I am doing today, and in 100 years’ time we can do the same thing.”

For more details and to register please click here.

Details
3-4 March 2020
Karen Blixens Plads 8
2300 København S
Denmark

 

Lena Bjerregaard, a guest researcher at the Centre for Textile Research, has just published a catalogue of the pre-Columbian textiles from the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, northern Germany. There are 405 pre-Columbian textiles in the museum collection, of which 133 are represented in this extremely well-illustrated catalogue. “Along the coast of Peru is one of the driest deserts in the world. Here, under the sand, the ancient Peruvians buried their dead wrapped in gorgeous textiles. As organic material keeps almost forever when stored without humidity, light and oxygen, many of the mummies excavated in the last hundred years are in excellent conditions. And so are the textiles wrapped around them.” – Lena Bjerregaard. This catalogue has very generously been made available as a free download which can be accessed here.

 

Curator Oliver Gauert with a selection of textiles, including an Egungun dance costume from Benin. ©Romer-Pelizaeus Museum

In addition to their collection of pre-Columbian textiles, the Romer-Pelizaeus Museum also has extensive holdings from Africa – the focus of their current exhibitions. Voodoo has been curated by Oliver Gauert and also showcases items from other museums such as the Soul of Africa Museum in Essen and the Africa Museum in Berg en Dal. It opened last October and continues until mid-May. ZDF heute journal have produced an excellent video giving an overview of the objects in the exhibition, which includes several textiles.

Details
19 October 2019 – 17 May 2020
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum
Hildesheim Am Steine 1-2, D-31134 Hildesheim

 

Kaparamip with red cotton fabric border © Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art

The speaker at the next meeting of the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will be Thomas Murray – a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.

This talk, entitled Traditional Textiles of Japan, will explore Japan’s rich tradition of textiles, from firemen’s ceremonial robes and austere rural workwear to colourful, delicately-patterned cotton kimono. “The traditional clothing and fabrics featured in this lecture were made and used in the islands of the Japanese archipelago between the late 18th and the mid-20th century. The Thomas Murray collection includes daily dress, workwear, and festival garb and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement, which saw that modernisation would leave behind traditional art forms such as the handmade textiles used by country people, farmers, and fishermen. The talk will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics, often indigo-dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu, along with garments of the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fibre, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin to the north, and the brilliantly coloured cotton kimono of Okinawa to the far south.” – Thomas Murray.

Details
Monday 9 March 2020
The Coffee House Club, Sixth Floor, 20 West 44th St, Manhattan, NY

 

 

Japanese textiles – this time focussing on embroidery are the subject of an exhibition currently taking place at the Japanese Foundation in Los Angeles. The exhibition is entitled Melodies of Shining Silk: Japanese Embroidery and features the work of Shizuka Kusano, a leading contemporary textile artist. “Embroidery was initially introduced into Japan from China together with Buddhism.  It became open to the merchant class culture in the Edo period.  As the clothing arts flourished, advanced dyeing and weaving techniques were used to create kimonos and kimono sashes.  Today, a variety of materials are available, enabling various expressions depending on individual originality and ingenuity.” – Japan Foundation website.

Details
15 February – 21 March 2020
The Japan Foundation, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., #100 Los Angeles, CA 90036

 

A day dress from around 1800 and a portrait of Constance Pipelet, 1797. ©Art Institute Chicago

Opening at the end of the month in Chicago is a new exhibition on Western European dress. Fabricating Fashion: Textiles for Dress, 1700-1825 examines how clothing from that period was assembled by hand and looks at the importance of selecting the right fabric. “In the early 18th century, the most fashionable men’s and women’s ensembles were made of richly coloured silks and translucent lace, but by the early 1800s lighter cotton textiles, both plain and printed, became more common. The increase in Europe’s taste for cotton textiles gave rise to intense international competition for technical innovation and control of worldwide markets, which produced a wide variety of beautiful fabrics.” – Art Institute Chicago website.

Some portraits and prints will be presented alongside textiles from the period, thus bringing an extra dimension to them.

Details
28 March – 26 July 2020
Art Institute Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

 

Photo ©Barbara Kaslow.

On a similar note, the new British Galleries will open at The Met in New York next week. These will consist of ten galleries with 11,000 square feet devoted to various forms of British art from 1500-1900 including sculpture, ceramics and textiles. These textiles range from tapestries to embroideries, coats to bed panels.

You could always combine a visit to these galleries with a visit to the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which I blogged about recently.

Details
Opens 2 March 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028

 

Part of a banner which will be displayed in full at the special event. Photo courtesy The Siam Society.

The Siam Society will be hosting a special event in collaboration with the Thai Textile Society in late March. On display will be several painted Vessantara Jakata scrolls from the collection of ML Pawinee Santisiri. These banners range in length from 30 to 50 metres and this will be a unique opportunity to see them opened and displayed in full. They are usually used during the Boon Phra Ves festival – a very important Buddhist ceremony.

Details
Saturday 21 March 2020
1.30pm–4pm (Registration opens at 1pm.)
The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Members and Students THB 200,  Non-Members THB 300

 

Image courtesy of IMDB

The Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be screening a 1976 film entitled People of the Wind about Bakhtiari migrations. This film is a sequel to Grass, a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  Following the same route with descendants of the same people, People of the Wind shows what has changed and what has stayed the same over the intervening decades.

“There are two hundred miles of raging rivers and dangerous mountains to cross. There are no towns, no roads, no bridges. There is no turning back. The Bakhtiari migration is one of the most hazardous tests of human endurance known to mankind. Every year, 500,000 men, women and children – along with one million animals – struggle for eight grueling weeks to scale the massive Zagros Mountains in Iran – a range which is as high as the Alps and as broad as Switzerland – to reach their summer pastures. The film’s astonishing widescreen photography and brilliantly recorded soundtrack take the viewer out onto the dangerous precipices of the Zardeh Kuh mountain and into the icy waters of the Cholbar River.” – Fiona Kelleghan

The film will be presented by Antony Wynne who lived in rural Iran for many years. Click here for more details.

Details
Wednesday 18 March 2020, 19:00.
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, South Audley Street, London, W1K 1DB

 

Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year

Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year is an exhibition in Sydney, Australia, co-presented by the Korean Cultural Centre and the Hanbok Advancement Center in South Korea. It introduces “many different kinds of hanbok, the traditional garment worn by Korean people on many traditional and family occasions including seollal, Korea’s Lunar New Year. In this exhibition, the KCC will showcase the colourful, eye-pleasing attire highlighting various forms of seolbim or ttae-ttae-ot referring to a new set of hanbok prepared on Lunar New Year’s Day.” – The Asian Arts Society of Australia.

Details
5 February – 13 March 2020
Korean Cultural Centre, Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth St., Sydney.

 

Woollen tunic, 700-800 AD. © Bolton Museum and Art Gallery.

Back in the UK I was fascinated to read of the amazing collection of Egyptian textiles at Bolton Museum and Art Gallery. The spinning mule was invented in Bolton by Samuel Crompton in the 1780s and over the following century Bolton became famous as a textile production centre. “The first two curators of the Chadwick Museum in Bolton, William Midgley (curator 1881-1908) and his son Thomas Midgley (curator 1908-1934), were specialists in the study of ancient textiles. In some cases, they provided excavators with an assessment of the textiles found at a particular site in return for a share of the finds. As a result, Bolton’s ancient textile collection has a known archaeological context which makes them especially significant for study.” – Museum website. These curators were fascinated by the fact that the people of Ancient Egypt were producing such high quality fabrics thousands of years ago despite not having access to modern technology.

 

©visitmanchester.com

I highly recommend reading this article by Emily Oldfield which gives a great overview of the museum and certainly made me want to head over there.

Details

Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton, BL1 1SE

 

Layout of pattern with prefelt – beginning to fill in with fleece, Khotan. ©Christine Martens

Finally the March programme from the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMASC) is a talk by Christine Martens, an expert on Central Asian felts and patchwork.

“Felt-making 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 continues to flourish in the oases that dot the southern rim of the Taklamakan. Christine Martens will … examine the processes, and tools that distinguish Uyghur felt from those of the Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Turks and Mongolians” – TMA/SC newsletter.

Details
Saturday 21 March 2020 09:30am
Luther Hall, St Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd., Los Angeles

For further information please email info@tmasc.org

 

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Article: Kelaghayis of Azerbaijan

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The kelaghayi (kelagayi/kalaghayi) is a traditional silk scarf made in Azerbaijan. In 2014 this was added  to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This video was made by Asif Abramov and Rena Ibrahimbeyova to support the process of adding kelaghayi to this list.

These fine silk headcovers have been produced in Azerbaijan for generations. In 1862 Nasir Abdulaziz from Basgal showed his kelaghayis at the International Exhibition in London, gaining a silver medal for his work. In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian painter Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin depicted a woman from Shamakhi (probably a musician or dancer) wearing a kelaghayi over a small cap, in the local style.

“Woman of Shamakhi” by Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin

The silk scarf provided warmth in the cold weather, and protected the wearer from the heat in hot weather. It was produced in a variety of colours. Many believe that older women tended to wear darker colours, while younger women preferred lighter ones. Red was associated with weddings, and black with mourning – with scarves sometimes being used to cover the deceased too. It was tied in a variety of different ways, depending on the region. There were many beliefs associated with the production of these scarves – people should not enter the silkworm-incubation premises wearing gold or silver jewellery or a wristwatch, the scarves should never be folded with the pattern on the outside etc, etc.

Although these scarves used to be made throughout Azerbaijan, production is now centred on Sheki and Basgal. Basgal is also the home of the Kelagayi museum, the walls of which are decorated with some of the traditional motifs used on the scarves.

 Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The scarf shown below was bought by the author in Khiva, Uzbekistan, from an Azerbaijani shop owner. It was made in the Sheki Ipek Kombinat named after Lenin, in Sheki. At one time this was one of the largest silk-weaving centres in the Soviet Union, employing 7,000 people at its peak. The factory closed after the collapse of the USSR in 1995. The twin towns of Sheki and Shamakhi have been silk-weaving centres since medieval times and in the early twentieth century there were 127 silk mills in the Sheki region, employing 3,500 people. The seller told me that scarves such as mine date to the 1970s, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

The patterns on the kelaghayi are produced using a resist technique. They are applied using stamps which were traditionally carved from pear or walnut wood, but were often also made of metal.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

These stamps are dipped in a mixture of paraffin, resin and solid oil, before being carefully applied to the surface of the silk cloth. Various natural dyes are used to colour the cloths, before the wax is removed with hot water.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

Obviously the workload and time needed to produce such scarves is increased if several different colours are used. Kelaghayi with six or seven colours were perceived as the most valuable and desirable and are still being produced in Basgal today. Versions of traditional kelaghayi produced in China using synthetic fabric are now entering the market, providing stiff competition for the workshops who produce silk scarves in the time-honoured way.

Similar scarves seem to have been produced in other areas too. The author bought this one in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2001. It had been made in a factory in Chardzhou in the east of the country. The factory had closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many thanks to Christine Martens for allowing me to reproduce some of the photos she took in Basgal following the “Intersections in felt” Symposium in October 2018.

Some fabulous images, along with an interview with a workshop-owner which really gives a sense of the working conditions, can be seen in an article by Samra Sadraddinli on the Chai Khana website here.

More background information for this article comes from this piece by Emil Eyyabov for the Azerbaijan State News Agency, this article  by Valentina Reznikova for Region Plus, and finally this article by Afat Rustamayova and Ruslan Huseynov on irs-az.com.

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