Exhibition: Embroidered Bodies – Garments, Stitches and Stories from the Ashmolean Museum

Exhibition dates: 5 May – 10 September 2017

Clothing tells a multitude of human stories, with each embroidered stitch contributing to the tale. This exhibition introduces the Ashmolean’s diverse textile collections through a selection of exquisite, crafted garments, expressing themes of personal identity, local tradition and international trade.

The exhibition, curated by the OATG’s own chairperson, Aimée Payton, includes a selection of garments drawn from the Eastern and Western textile collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Objects on view include a diverse range of garments from hats to shoes, stomachers to collars, dating from as far back as the 1400s right up to the twentieth century.

The OATG is organising two events in connection with this exhibition: one on Tuesday 13 June 2.45 pm at the Ashmolean Museum, and another on Saturday 15 July at 2.30 pm at the Broadway Museum (see the OATG events programme here).

For more information, visit the website of the Broadway Museum, Broadway, near Evesham, UK.

Exhibition: Phulkari – The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 9 July 2017

Discover the beauty and cultural significance of phulkari, ornately embroidered textiles from Punjab, a region straddling Pakistan and India. In addition to stunning examples from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, this exhibition features traditional phulkaris from the museum’s collection and high-fashion ensembles by one of India’s leading designers, Manish Malhotra.

Phulkari, meaning ‘flower work’, is a labour-intensive textile made of vibrant silk embroidery on a plain-woven cotton cloth. Deeply rooted in Punjabi life before the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan (which split the Punjab region), this tradition has become a powerful symbol of Punjabi cultural identity.

Usually worn by women as large shawls on special occasions, phulkaris were also made as blankets or as furniture covers or hangings. Women of many religious groups – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs (who consider the Punjab their holy land) – stitched phulkaris, with young girls learning needlework from older female relatives and friends. They often created the embroideries for their dowry, which they brought to their new homes when they married.

Some phulkaris depict animals and village scenes, while others display complex geometric patterns in bold colors conveying good fortune and social status. Whether figurative or geometric, all are rich in symbolism: after the 1947 partition, phulkari textiles became an important symbol for the new nation of Pakistan.

Over the past half century, phulkari techniques and patterns have experienced a revival, especially as a commercial art. As an emblem of pre-partition village life, phulkaris have been celebrated in popular music and videos. More recently, this folk tradition has entered the realm of high fashion through designers such as Manish Malhotra, who recently created a phulkari-based couture collection.

For more information, visit the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Exhibition: REMINDER – Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

pitt-rivers-embroidered-visions

Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This is a reminder that this exhibition will be open only until the end of this month, and also that a book of the same name is now available (since 25 January), priced at £10. You can find it in the PRM shop or you can purchase it online here.

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Exhibition: Kind Words Can Never Die

textile-museum-of-canada-kind-words-can-never-die

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 25 June 2017

Kind Words Can Never Die presents an extraordinary collection of Victorian needlework mottos stitched by anonymous women and girls in the mid to late nineteenth century. Mass produced by American wholesale companies, standardised sheets of perforated cardboard were printed with messages such as biblical quotes, song titles and popular maxims of the time that reflected the cultural and religious milieu of the North American evangelical Protestant middle class: ‘Do Right and Fear Not’; ‘What is Home Without a Mother?’; ‘Kind Words Can Never Die’. Women ordered the mottos from mail order catalogues, stitched them using a simple satin stitch and hung them in the home in specially designed motto frames.

With the rise of industrial manufacturing, men worked outside the home in growing numbers, setting established home and family structures into flux. Women increasingly took control of domestic space as consumers and moral influencers. Their decisions of which mottos to stitch and hang on the walls declared which of society’s ethical, cultural and religious edicts would guide the aesthetic and moral tone of the home. As objects of material culture, the mottos attest to the work women did to cultivate carefully chosen personal and social values in their families.

This particular collection of mottos was built by Jane Webster (1919–2009) from the mid to late twentieth century at her home in the Caribou Harbour area of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Family photos of the interior of the home taken in the 1940s show a few mottos on the wall ­— just enough to spark a collector’s passion in Jane, who had recently started spending time at the house. Jane purchased the mottos from farm auctions and received them as gifts, eventually amassing 173 examples that represent the vast majority of available motto texts. In Jane’s possession, the mottos were relieved of their purpose as edifying agents and re-contextualised as curious objects displayed in the spirit of generosity, welcoming and wit.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.

Exhibition: Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

pitt-rivers-embroidered-visions

Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Exhibition: Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams

brunei-gallery-embroidered-tales-and-woven-dreams

Exhibition dates: 19 January – 25 March 2017

The exhibition Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams is a colour-coded social history of the vast and geographically varied landscape known as the Silk Road (or originally the ‘Seidenstrasse’, a name given to this road by the German explorer Richthofen), which stretches from Central Asia to Western Europe. Its regional history will be explored through the embroidered tales and woven textiles of the communities who lived north and south of this ancient trade corridor across Asia.

The textiles on display have recorded a wonderful vernacular art, as embroidered tales, told by women storytellers, who were guardians of their customs and traditions for their individual tribes, castes and communities.

This exhibition, with a series of related lectures by internationally renowned lecturers, will examine the immensely rich, culturally fascinating identity of the Central Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian landscapes, through the heritage of their embroidered textiles and costumes. It is a rich seam of historical material, meticulously embroidered and woven.

While the Silk Road, as a concept, refers to an area that underwent a thousand years of turbulent history, the physical links were comprised of smaller land routes, often through difficult terrain, and passable only by specialised trade caravans.

The northern ‘–stans’ of the Uzbeks, Kyrghiz, Tajiks, Turcoman and Khazaks exchanged goods with distant neighbours in Afghanistan and northern India, and, depending upon varying political arrangements, the even more distant powers of South Asia, Persia, Byzantium, Russia and China.

The exhibition will briefly examine the political upheavals that destroyed the lives of these communities and their nomadic, semi-nomadic and settled lifestyles.

For more information, visit the website of the Brunei Gallery, London, UK.

Event: Sheila Paine – Traveller, Writer, Photographer and Collector

oatg-john-gillow-talks-about-sheila-paine

Event date: Wednesday 2 November 2016, 6.30 pm

OATG member John Gillow will give an illustrated talk next week about Sheila Paine and her extraordinary travels, writing, talent as a photographer and passion for embroidered textiles.

John Gillow has travelled the world for many years, studying, collecting and writing about textiles. His books include African Textiles, Traditional Indian Textiles and World Textiles.

Location: Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (South entrance, from South Parks Road). The museum will be open half an hour before the talk and afterwards to view the two associated displays of Sheila Paine’s textiles and photographs.

Admission is free for members, and £3 for non-members. To book your place at this event, please RSVP on the Eventbrite page.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Event: REMINDER – Talk by Author and Specialist Chris Aslan Alexander – A Carpet Ride to Khiva

oatg-a-carpet-ride-to-khiva

Event date: Thursday 13 October 2016, 6.15 – 8pm

This is just a reminder about the OATG event taking place next Thursday, in which Chris Alexander will be speaking about carpet weaving in Uzbekistan. Chris has also recently let us know that he will be bringing carpets and other textiles for a show and tell session after his presentation for attendees of the event to see.

Chris Aslan Alexander established two workshops in Khiva in Uzbekistan, recreating fifteenth-century Timurid carpet designs from forgotten illuminations and reviving silk carpet weaving, natural dye-making and suzani embroidery. To find out more about Chris, and about the book he has written on this subject, visit his website.

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

Admission is free for members, and £3 for non-members.

There are still a few places remaining at this event, so please book yours now if you’d like to come.

For more information, and to book your place at this event, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

Event: Talk by Author and Specialist Chris Aslan Alexander – A Carpet Ride to Khiva

oatg-a-carpet-ride-to-khiva

Event date: Thursday 13 October 2016, 6.15 – 8pm

Chris Aslan Alexander established two workshops in Khiva in Uzbekistan, recreating fifteenth-century Timurid carpet designs from forgotten illuminations and reviving silk carpet weaving, natural dye-making and suzani embroidery. To find out more about Chris, and about the book he has written on this subject, visit his website.

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

Admission is free for members, and £3 for non-members.

For more information, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

Exhibition: From Sweden to Sardinia – Embroidered Garments from All Over Europe

TRC - From Sweden to Sardinia

Exhibition dates: opens 30 August 2016

For centuries, people all over Europe have been decorating their clothing with what are often highly intricate forms of ornamental needlework. The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in the Netherlands is therefore very pleased about their recent acquisition of about sixty embroidered Hungarian garments and over 1,400 items of European regional dress, many of which are embroidered. The TRC now has one of the largest collections of traditional European clothing in Europe. Over the next few years they plan to highlight various aspects of this stunning array of European material culture, in both actual and digital exhibitions.

To celebrate the recent acquisitions, and to draw attention to regional European decorative needlework, the latest TRC gallery exhibition – opening today – will show needlework from many parts of Europe. The exhibition includes a wide variety of colourful, subtle, marvellous outfits and individual garments, as well as many women’s lace and embroidered caps. They derive from all over Europe, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and of course the Netherlands, to name just a few countries. Emphasis is laid on the many different forms and techniques of decoration that have been used, and which are often still used by people all over Europe in order to indicate their region’s particular character.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden, Netherlands.