Celebrating Chuvash embroidery

Today, 26 November 2020, is the inaugural Day of Chuvash Embroidery. This festival is associated with the birthday of Ekatherina Iosifovna Efremova (1914-2000) who dedicated her whole life to the study, preservation and development of Chuvash folk embroidery traditions.

Embroidery was the most developed genre of Chuvash decorative applied art. In the 18th to 19th century clothes and ritual objects were richly decorated with embroidery made using a counted thread technique on bleached hemp canvas. The embroidery technique was very diverse; more than 30 kinds of one-side and two-side stitches were used. Embroideries were made mainly with silk and wool threads. The predominant colour was different shades of red. The embroidery was enlivened with small highlights of yellow, green and blue. The embroidery was supplemented with appliqué of red braid and fringes made of threads and beads.

Handmade embroidery in still important in Chuvashia today; there are still numerous seamstresses working, and contests and exhibitions are carried out. In 2015 the Museum of Chuvash Embroidery was opened in Cheboksary.

The above text is translated from the original text, which was written by Kashpar Natalya. All of the images are the copyright of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

Woman’s belt, 19th century, Kazan Governorate, Zivilsky District, Koshnorui village
Wedding kerchief, 19th century, Kazan Governorate, Cheboksarsky District, Nikolskaya Volost
Chest embroidery of woman’s shirt (work piece), 19th century, Kazan Governorate
Belt pendant, 19th century. Kazan Governorate, Zivilsky District
Belt pendants. Early 20th century, Kazan Governorate, Yadrinsky District, Yangasy village
Headdress surpan. Late 19th century, Ufa Governorate, Belebeevsky District, Slakbash village
Case for sofa pillow, 1939, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary
Case for sofa pillow, 1939, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary
Tablecloth, 1983, the Chuvash ASSR, Cheboksary District, Kugesi village. Made in the factory “Paha tere” according to the sketch of E. I. Efremova

Palestinian Embroidery – online talk

This Saturday, 21 November, OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury will give an online talk on Embroidery from Palestine: Disciplining the Past to Craft the Future. He will speak about his experiences working to document and understand certain techniques of embroidery and rural textile traditions from Palestine. He will focus on the techniques themselves, the people he has worked with, and some of the ideas he has developed along the way.In 2018 he worked on updating the Palestinian textile collection catalogue at the British Museum. Some of this work was under the supervision of our Chair, Helen Wolfe.

OmarJoseph examining textiles from the British Museum collection. ©British Museum

“The British Museum’s Palestinian textile collection constitutes one of the largest textile collections at the Museum, with over 1000 pieces, and is one the largest and most extensive in the world. The BM’s collection is unique in so far as it contains men’s, women’s and children’s dress (garments, hats, headdresses and face covers), cosmetic pouches and soft furnishings that roughly cover the period over the last 150 years. Most significantly, it contains day-to-day dress of both genders that is often missing in other notable collections.” – British Museum website.

“The Palestinian textile collection is partly made up of two missionary collections which were acquired by the British Museum in the 1960s; the Church Missionary Society (CMS), and the Jerusalem and East Mission (JEM). These missions collected dress and textiles based on certain orientalist beliefs and historical misconceptions that regarded the 19th century styles of rural Palestine as unchanged since biblical times.” OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury.

During his time at the British Museum OmarJoseph examined the stitching used on the textiles in great detail. He concluded that a particular motif from the south Palestine region (irq-il-loz – almond branch) was not embroidered with stem stitch as had previously been understood, but was in fact produced using a couching technique. He has recently co-authored the book Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual.

Knotted zigzag joining stitch on silk taffeta and indigo dyed cotton – detail from a village woman’s coat (jillayeh) from the upper Galilee in the north of Palestine, early 20th century. © OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury

This talk is hosted by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. It will take place at 1600 GMT and is free, but advance registration is required.

This event is part of an eight-part monthly series entitled “Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future,” an initiative of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada. There are several talks featuring Asian textiles. For more information click here. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list, please email Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic Art and Culture, Royal Ontario Museum.


Exhibition: How to Make the Universe Right – The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China

Exhibition dates: 30 July 2017 – 7 January 2018

‘How to Make the Universe Right’ presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors. The Yao’s practices are most prominently associated with Daoism, a religious and philosophical tradition of Chinese origin, while for the other peoples, Daoist beliefs are combined with aspects of Buddhism, Tantrism and Confucianism.

The works of art in the exhibition, most of which date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provide the material foundation for the regional manifestations of religious practices. Examples in the exhibition include vibrantly coloured and intricately embroidered ritual robes and headdresses worn by priests, and a spectacular set of eighteen scrolls of elaborately painted deities, made for those engaged in the higher levels of initiation. The exhibition also features a display evoking the shrines constructed for ceremonies, a film on contemporary religious practices in the region, and a selection of scrolls highlighting their recent conservation and what this has revealed.

All of the works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated by the Kitnicks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2015.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Exhibition: Piña-Seda – Pineapple and Silk Cloth from the Tropics

Exhibition dates: 24 October – 22 November 2017

Learn the history behind the famous cloth used for the Philippine national dress, and the art of its intricate and delicate designs.

The Philippine Embassy in London is currently showing a month-long textile exhibition, entitled PIŇA-SEDA (Pineapple and Silk Cloth from the Tropics), a Hibla ang Lahing Filipino Travelling Exhibition, featuring the Kalibo Aklan Piňa-Seda Weavers and the Lumban, Laguna Piňa-Seda Embroiderers.

This is the first international exhibition developed by the National Museum of the Philippines to promote traditional fabrics from the Philippines. It comprises 12 handmade pineapple and silk textiles, an Aklan foot loom, 8 embroidery samplers, 2 herbarium specimens and 50 associated weaving implements and materials brought from the Philippines. Complementing them are illustrations and texts to convey the uniqueness and intricacy of these revered heritage material used in formal wear.

The exhibition is being held in the exhibition halls of the Philippine Embassy, 10 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HG.

For more information, contact events@philemb.co.uk or write to Ms. Tess Albano at the Philippine Embassy, mtjalbano@philemb.co.uk

Event: Ali Istalifi Talks about Suzani, Ikat and other Central Asian Textiles for ORTS

Event date: Wednesday 25 October, 7pm

This is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event.

Ali Istalifi gave the successful lecture on Central Asian Ikat at the SOAS Brunei Gallery World Ikat Textile Symposium in 2016. Born in Afghanistan to a family of dealers for three generations on Kabul’s famous Chicken Street, Ali has a large collection, and unique access to the subject as a fluent speaker of Dari. He will bring textiles to show us.

The talk will be held at St James Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL.

The Conference Room entrance is in the Church Place passageway, which runs between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly.  There is a wrought iron gate signed ‘Church Hall Conference Room’ leading downstairs.  Drinks and snacks will be served.

Piccadilly Circus tube is 5 minutes’ walk, and Green Park Tube is 10 minutes’ walk.  There is free parking in St James Square after 6.30pm.

Please note this is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event, but non-members are welcome to attend: £7 single lecture, £5 students, or choose £20 for one year’s membership (11 events).

For more information, visit the website of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society.

Event: Gender Twists in the Weaving, Embroidery and Structure of Shidong Miao Festival Costume – Talk by Iain Stephens

Event date: Saturday 14 October 2017, 2:15–4pm

Talk by Iain Stephens followed by a show and tell session – you are welcome to bring your own Shidong Miao pieces!

This talk will explore the seemingly endless creativity of the Shidong Miao employed on festival jackets. It will share insights into the sexuality of weaving and embroidery as well as essential pattern hierarchies.

Iain Stephens is a currently a master upholsterer, and previously a lecturer of biochemistry and English and tutor of Biblical Hebrew. Iain is an avid collector of Xhosa beadwork, Chinese ethnic minority costume and Taiwanese budaixi puppets. He presently lives on a narrowboat in Oxford.

Before the talk, a viewing at the Eastern Art Study room will display Miao textiles from the Ashmolean collection.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Center Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and the Education Centre (for the presentation)

Time: 2.15–3pm (viewing) and 3.10pm (presentation)

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

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

Exhibition: Diligence and Elegance – The Nature of Japanese Textiles

Exhibition dates: 12 July 2017 – 21 January 2018

Diligence and Elegance: The Nature of Japanese Textiles presents over 50 textiles and garments from the Textile Museum of Canada’s collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artifacts made in Japan for both everyday and occasional use. Luxurious silk and gold fabrics produced in Kyoto’s professional weaving workshops are juxtaposed with domestic indigo-dyed cotton, plant-fibre cloth, and silk kimonos crafted in an astonishing spectrum of time-honoured techniques – weaving, dyeing, hand painting, gold foil application and embroidery – that exemplify venerable social and cultural values. The exhibition focuses on the highly refined skills and materials by which textiles have been constructed and decorated over centuries, and on how diligence and ingenuity have shaped their timeless beauty. The persistence of traditions seen in such rigorously executed textiles has come to embody the heart of Japanese aesthetics. Every material, colour and technique has a story to tell.

Diligence and Elegance features the contemporary work of Hiroko Karuno and Keiko Shintani, two Japanese-Canadians whose consummate craftsmanship and philosophies are profoundly connected to the evolution of Japanese textile traditions of spinning, dyeing and weaving. Their internationally renowned artistic achievements are testimony to the ethics of labour associated with a lifelong investment of time, practice and precision; they position living traditions as opportunities for personal reflection and the acknowledgement of the significance of collective human accomplishments.

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

Exhibition: Embroidery from Koto, the East of the Lake  

Exhibition Dates:  5 August – 18 September 2017

Held at the Aisho-cho Museum of Culture and History, Japan.

OATG member Hiroko McDermott writes:

Exhibiting about 15–20 works, this is the first solo show of the works of the Aoki Embroidery in Hikone, an old castle town seated on the east shores of Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture. Some visitors to the Ashmolean exhibition, Threads of Silk and Gold (2012), might still remember its very large and elegant landscape hanging depicting ‘View of Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto’ (pl. 28) and a lively ‘Nikko’ (pl. 29).  As the whereabouts of Aoki was discovered only in the last minutes before the editing deadline of the catalogue, Clare Pollard and I could give only minimal information about this firm.  But the Aoki was very active and important in Japan’s export of embroidered pictures in the 1900s, and still keeps up its operation.  Presently it is led by Mr Tsuneo Aoki, the fourth head since its initiation by Hachiemon Aoki back in the 1890s.

Since 2013, Hiroko McDermott has visited the firm every time she has been back in Japan, and she is very happy to introduce Aoki-san and his works on this occasion.    

This local museum is small, but it is located next to a large ancient temple in a beautiful mountain setting. Anybody who is interested in joining Hiroko at the beginning of September will be very welcome. Also, for more information, just email her at hirokomcd@aol.com.

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10–5, and also the national holiday of Monday, 18 September.

For more information, visit the website of the Aisho-cho Museum of Culture and History (website in Japanese), Japan, or contact Hiroko McDermott directly.

Event: Tour of the Exhibition ‘Embroidered Bodies – Garments, Stitches and Stories from the Ashmolean Museum’ with Curator Aimée Payton

Event date: Saturday 15 July 2017

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

The exhibition, curated by the OATG’s 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.

Location: Broadway Museum & Art Gallery, Tudor House, 65 High Street, Broadway, WR12 7DP.

Time: Meet at 2.30 pm for a 3 pm start.

Cost: Discounted entrance fee £4.

Please bring the money in cash on the day so that we can collect the entrance fee before entering the museum together as a group! We will meet in front of the main entrance.

Advanced registration is essential. Please book your place on the Eventbrite page.

News: Spring-cleaning India’s Most Magnificent Tent

For those of you who might have missed it, Asian textiles got into the news last month when a royal Rajasthani tent was cleaned for the first time in over three hundred years. A totally unique textile, made in imperial workshops from red silk velvet and gold, unfurled it stands four metres high – as high as a London double-decker bus. It’s known as the Lal Dera, or the Shahi Lal Dera – the Royal Red Tent, and is believed to have been the home of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

To read the article in full, visit the BBC website.