New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is 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 will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her talk is entitled 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 the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, 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 Museum, 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, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

All of this may sound familiar to OATG members, as Dr Armstrong gave this talk to us last August. It was extremely well-received, and if you missed it a recording is available in the members’ resources area of our website. However you may well want instead to join this online event, as the Q and A session afterwards is sure to be stimulating. The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Fragment (Tunic), 1532/1700
Inca; probably Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region, southern highlands, Peru. Bessie Bennett Endowment

On the same day, Thursday 13 January, the Art Institute of Chicago will host an online lecture by Andrew Hamilton entitled Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. This talk focuses on two fragments of an Inca tunic, explaining “the appearance and usage of the original tunic; the tunic’s elusive designs, called tocapus in Quechua; the European design influences manifested in the garment; and how an elite Indigenous man might have worn such a tunic to express his nobility under colonial rule. Most importantly, this talk will illuminate the knowledge and skills of the tunic’s weavers and show how their work upheld long-standing Inca techniques while also inventing new ones in response to their much-changed lives in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” – AIC website

The talk takes place at 17:00-17:45 CST, which is 23:00-23:45 GMT, and you can register for it here.

The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California begin their 2022 programme on Saturday 15 January with an online talk by Abel Trybiarz, author of Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs and Others, published in 2017 by HALI. The title of his talk is RUGS & ART: South Persian Tribal Rugs with Birds and Other Creatures.

“The so-called “bird rugs” of the Khamseh Confederation and the Qashqa’i are among the most charming and colorful of figurative rugs of the Southwest Persian tribes. Their rows and columns of birds, and all kinds of other animals including human figures, have been made in an infinite array of combinations and colors, with a huge variety of border motifs. Over many years, Buenos Aires collector Abel Trybiarz has quietly built a previously unknown collection of bird and animal rugs that has at its heart a superb selection of antique knotted-pile rugs, woven by the nomadic tribes of the Khamseh Confederation in southwestern Iran during the 19th century.”

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

Cover of Mea and the Palm Flowers. ©Tracing Patterns Foundation

OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation has been instrumental in producing a lovely book for children, telling the story of a little girl called Mea who dreams of wearing a new ikat cloth to the Harvest Festival on the island of Savu in Indonesia. One of the advisors for this book was Geneviève Duggan, who last year talked to our members about the textiles of Savu, in particular those woven by the women of Pedero village, the setting of this book. The book is beautifully illustrated, and half of the proceeds of sales will be going to the weavers – who you may remember suffered dreadfully after Cyclone Seroja. Click here to order this delightful book.

A young girl from Pedero we photographed during one of our many visits to Savu.

I missed Joe Coca’s talk on textile photography last month, so am glad to see that a recording of it is now available on Youtube. In it he talks about the trials and tribulations involved in taking some of the photographs of weavers and people in their traditional dress.

On Thursday 27 January we will hold our Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM via Zoom. It will begin at 18:00 GMT and will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. All members should have already received the Zoom link, which will be resent along with the agenda and committee reports well in advance of the meeting.

Textiles of the Philippines, Scotland, Austria, India and more….

Sad to hear of the death at 93 years old on Friday of Suraiya Hasan Bose. Suraiya was small in stature, but a powerhouse when it came to reviving many Indian textile traditions.

She was born in Hyderabad and studied textiles for one year at Cambridge University before returning to India where she worked closely with the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Association. She was heavily involved in reviving heritage fabrics such as himroo brocade, mashru and telia rumal. I’ve blogged previously about her work with kantha – the subject of the documentary Threads. I really enjoyed this article, based on an interview with Radhika Singh, the author of Suraiya Hasan Bose: Weaving A Legacy.

Now to a part of Asia I’ve rarely mentioned in previous blogs. HABI The Philippines Textile Council was established in 2009 and “sees as its mission the preservation, promotion, and enhancement of Philippine textiles through education, communication and research using public and private sources.”

They will be hosting three free online events under the heading Textiles and Identity. The first of these is tomorrow evening, 8 September at 17:00 PHT, which is 10:00 BST. The panellists will discuss Textiles woven through Culture and the Filipino identity. The second event is on 15 September at the same time, with the topic under discussion being The Journey of Textiles in Southeast Asia. One of the panellists for this event is OATG member Dr Mariah Waworuntu.

Also on the subject of Filipino textiles, this Friday, 10 September 2021 there will be an online screening of a documentary about the textiles of Panay Island, in the Western Visayas. The weavers here mainly use natural fibres. These include fibres extracted from the leaves of the red Bisaya pineapple plant, piña. Weaving is a part of life here. “The documentary surveys the making of piña and cotton textiles from plant to finished product – traditional clothing for special occasions and everyday wear – and the embroidery of the upland Panay Bukidnon.” This documentary was produced for a virtual conference which took place at SOAS, London in 2020. Register here to watch it.

This Thursday sees the start of an online course looking at Mayan textiles at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Classes will be held weekly from 18:30-20:00 ET, which is 23:30-01:00 BST so clearly unsuitable for our UK members.

“Maya weavers use the backstrap loom to create beautiful, colorful textiles that express their social and aesthetic traditions, as well as their individual creativity and contemporary fashions. Join us as we explore the roots and meanings of this living tradition through five weekly interactive conversations, beginning September 9 and concluding October 7. We will cover the history, materials, techniques, and woven symbols of this ever-evolving art form, and participants will be treated to a demonstration by a master weaver. Expert lecturers will use textile samples from the Penn Museum, Friends of the Ixchel Museum, the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena, and private collections to bring lessons to life in each virtual class.” – Penn Museum website.

The recording of our most recent event, a talk by Dr Dorothy Armstrong on Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A carpet controversy, is now available for members. This was yet another extremely successful and well-attended event organised by our events team. Don’t forget to respond to your invitation to our upcoming Show and Tell. We are really looking forward to seeing what textiles OATG members have to show us.

Our journal editor, Gavin Strachan, has alerted me to this series of events celebrating Scotland’s first Flax and Linen Festival. Many of them are in-person, but this Zoom Roundtable stood out for those living farther away. Think Global, Grow Local: A Flax and Linen Festival Roundtable takes place on Thursday 9 September at 14:00-16:00 BST.

“In the early 1950s, Berta Pumberger-Windhager married her husband in a tiny Austrian village. Following the local tradition, Berta brought two chests with her to her new home. One was filled with woven linen, and one was full of unspun flax. In some parts of Europe, this was a common dowry. The chests enabled women to dress their households, and even more importantly, flax and linen were of great value. This fiber belonged to the woman alone and served as an insurance policy for whatever life might bring. By the time Berta received her chests, the custom was more symbolic. The necessity to spin and weave for loved ones no longer existed. Nevertheless, Berta treasured the flax and linen. Until her death, she made sure that the fabric and fibers where dry and neatly tucked away.” – Spin-Off Magazine. Christiane Seufferlein acquired these trunks through Berta’s son, and set about sending hanks of the processed flax to people all over the world. She soon ran out of flax from the original trunks, but more was then supplied by other Austrians who had been storing it for many years. Christiane is just one of the speakers at this roundtable.

I’m always looking for new material for this blog, so do let me know if you are aware of a textile-related event.

Persian/Indian carpets, Chintz, Anatolian rugs, Textile Fair and Kutchi tie-dye

First a reminder that this Thursday, 26 August 2021, the OATG will host a talk by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the new May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The talk is entitled 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. Dr Armstrong will talk about some of the difficulties faced in answering the questions posed in the slide below, and the particular line that May Beattie took regarding John Paul Getty’s carpet.

Slide from her presentation © Dr Dorothy Armstrong

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, and just £3 for non-members. Click here to register for the few remaining place.

On Thursday 2 September 2021 the Fashion and Textile Museum will have another online event related to their current Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition. Their Collections Officer, Gill Cochrane, will “share the secrets hidden within these garments and explore how chintz was used – and re-used – in garment construction in 18th and early 19th centuries. This is a unique opportunity to learn what happens ‘behind the seams’ of a costume exhibition and discover some of the most beautiful fabrics and well-constructed garments of the period.” – FTM.

The talk starts at 18:00 BST and costs just £5. Please click here for more details and to register.

On Saturday 4 September 2021 at 16:00 BST there will be a live online talk by Michael Franses, on carpets from the Orient Stars Collection. This talk is hosted by the Textile Museum, in association with the New England Rug Society and the New York-based Hajji Baba Club. You are strongly advised to watch this very professionally produced one hour video, introducing some of these pieces set out as a virtual exhibition, before attending the online talk. There will be a Q andA session after the talk. For further details and registration please click here.

Also taking place on 4 September 2021 is World Textile Day Wales, which I highlighted in my previous blog. Here is the list of traders:-

Magie and Bob of The African Fabric Shop with fabrics, baskets and beads from all over Africa. Diane and Jim of Textile Traders with batik, ikat, indigo and hemp fabrics, silver hilltribe jewellery and clothes. Susan and Glyn from Susan Briscoe Designs with a huge selection of sashiko, boro and kimono fabrics from Japan. Bronwen of Fabazaar with textiles and clothes from India and Nepal. Tanya of The Running Stitches with kantha work blankets, throws, scarves and jackets from Northern India. Finally, internationally famous but local to Llani – hand knitter Sasha Kagan will be there with her knitting designs and finished pieces.

On 11 September 2021 the World Textile Day team move up to the Bridge of Allan in Scotland for their next event. This will run from 10:00 until 16:00 – but be sure to get there early to get the best selection!

The Zay Initiative aims to “promote an understanding of regional culture, and preserve, collect, document, and conserve Arab historic dress and adornment”. One of the ways they are doing this is through a series of talks called Dialogue on the Art of Arab Fashion. The next in this series takes place on Tuesday 7 September 2021 at 17:00 BST. The Founder of the Zay Initiative, Dr Reem El Mutwali will be in conversation with Shila Desai of EYHO Tours, looking at the tie-dyed head coverings worn by women in Kutch, India. “In the traditional societies of Kutch, tie-dyed head coverings play an important role in every aspect of a woman’s life. They provide protection from the elements, create identity, signify status, express joy or sorrow, and denote inter-religious relations. Over many generations, Kutchi Muslim and Hindu communities have shared a common culture in this harsh desert land and regularly interact with each other. By looking at the ubiquitous odhani, or head covering, this conversation will shed new light on both the intra- and inter-social relationships in these distinct communities. ” – Zay Initiative.

You can register for this event here. Registration will also give you access to a recorded version of this event, so you can watch it at your leisure.

Saka treasures, chintz and carpet studies

Advance notice of a major new exhibition! September 28th sees the opening of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge entitled Gold of the Great Steppe. The exhibition will run until 30 January 2022.

A golden stag plaque from a Saka burial mound. © Fitzwilliam Museum

The Saka culture of Central Asia, flourished 2,500 years ago. This exhibition will present artefacts from the extraordinary burial mounds (kurgans) of the Saka people of East Kazakhstan. Several hundred gold items will be on display, including jewellery and horse harness decorations. What does this have to do with textiles you may ask? Special items of clothing were sometimes decorated with small gold embossed plaques, some of which will be on display.

Gold dove headdress plaques unearthed from ancient burial mounds built by Saka warrior people in Kazakhstan.Photograph: Amy Jugg/PA

A catalogue to accompany the exhibition will be published by Casemate and is now available to pre-order. It is edited by the exhibition curator Rebecca Roberts and includes contributions by experts from Kazakhstan and Cambridge.

Next a reminder of the online talk at the Royal Ontario Museum next week.

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.

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 is NOW OPEN. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.”

Photograph of May Beattie attached to a travel document held in the archive

“The Beattie Archive was established at the Ashmolean Museum in June 2000, thanks to May Beattie’s generous bequest and vision for the creation of a centre devoted to the study of carpets. Her legacy comprises her specialized library of more than 1400 books, and her collection of carpets and weavings – more than 100 items dating from the 19th and 20th century. These are not for display, but were meant by Beattie to be for hands-on study at the Museum.

The unique significance of the archive, however, lies in the detailed documentation of carpets that May Beattie compiled during the course of her life. Based on her own physical examination, Beattie’s notes (about 55 volumes) record the results of her meticulous analysis of carpets – many of which are no longer available for study – in public and private collections throughout the world. About 15,000 analysis sheets detailing the structure of pieces she was able to access are now housed in the Department of Eastern Art, constituting an unrivalled resource for scholars in the field. Numerous files of articles, correspondence, and journals complete this part of the archive.” – Ashmolean, Eastern Art Online.

Carpets drying in the sun in Ray, Iran, in the 1970s. © Ashmolean Museum

In 2015 we published a mini-series of blogs, written by Katherine Clough, former Beattie Archive Assistant, which I have found fascinating. They really give you an understanding of the woman herself and some of the challenges that she faced. “A bacteriologist by training with a PhD from Edinburgh, Beattie is widely recognized for the scientific approach she brought to the study of carpets reflected in her use of analysis sheets.” – Katherine Clough. In these blogs we learn of some of the difficulties she and her husband Colin faced travelling in pursuit of carpets, as well as the problems of photographing them in far from ideal conditions – highly recommended reading!

A previous World Textile Day event in Wales

The next World Textile Day event will take place in Wales on 4th September 2021 from 10am to 4pm. The venue will be the Minerva Arts Centre at Llanidloes. Full details, including a map, are given here. These are always great events, with a good selection of ethnic textiles available from knowledgeable dealers – don’t miss out!

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.

Event: Reframing the Carpet – The Afterlife of the Ardabil Carpets in the West

Event date: Monday 13 November 2017, 6–7:45pm

Talk by Dorothy Armstrong, PhD candidate Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK.

We welcome back Dorothy, who last shared about her research on synthetic dyes in Persian carpets in an Asian Textiles article (number 56) and at an OATG talk in 2013. This time we will hear about her current research and how the West reinvented the Ardabil carpet as the world’s greatest carpet.

Dorothy is a visiting lecturer on the Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art’s History of Design MA, where she teaches Material Histories of Asia. She is also writing a PhD entitled ‘The Relationship between the West and “Oriental” carpets since 1840: Re-making, Re-purposing and Re-imagining’. Before she joined the Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art, she studied Islamic art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.

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

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

Should you require disabled access, please do get in touch beforehand to make sure the necessary provisions are made.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.