Rugs and textiles from Greece, Morocco, Iran and Japan.

A final reminder that the next OATG talk will be this Thursday, 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST, when Dr Francesca Leoni of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford will speak on the subject of Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Detail from a cushion cover. Crete 17th-18th century
Linen, cotton and silk EA2004.6

Dr Leoni gave a lecture on this topic at the weekend to a US textile group and I’ve heard lots of great feedback about it. OATG members should already have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details. Don’t forget – one of the many advantages of becoming a member of the OATG is that you have access to recordings of the lectures, so if you can’t attend for any reason you don’t miss out.

Bou Oumlil, 2015

In a blog last month I wrote about the Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series of discussions hosted online by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. In Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco  French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou was in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Sara and Mariam covered a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. For those who missed it a recording of this event has now been made available and can be viewed here. A full playlist of all of the talks in the Crafting Conversations series can be found here.

While on the subject of Morocco, Roger Pratt of the Hajji Baba Club in New York gave a presentation in June last year on Rugs and Textiles of Morocco. This was hosted by the George Washington Museum and Textile Museum as part of their regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. Presented in the form of a travelogue Roger journeyed “through a number of rarely seen private collections, highlighting Berber weavings, contemporary rugs, and historical silk embroideries and workshop production.” – GWM website. A recording of this talk is available here.

Aba, male robe, before 1877, Kashan, Iran. Museum no. 883-1877. Museum no. 883-1877. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A major new exhibition entitled Epic Iran is opening at the V & A in London on 29 May. “Exploring 5,000 years of art, design and culture, Epic Iran will shine a light on one of the greatest historic civilisations, its journey into the 21st century and its monumental artistic achievements, which remain unknown to many.” – V & A website. A short overview of the exhibition contents and themes is provided here. However to get a more comprehensive idea of what the exhibition contains I suggest reading this article from Asian Art Newspaper.

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

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. Invitations to the talk, which will take place on 10 June at 18:30 BST, will go out to OATG members at the end of this week. Registration is essential, and will open to non-members a week after members. I will provide links and further details later on.

Camel chest band (detail), Qashqa’i people. Collection of Fred Mushkat

Staying on the subject of Iran, Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, recently gave a talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat [provided] an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another.  ” – Textile Museum website. The talk was recorded and you can now watch it by clicking on this link.   You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.

Photo courtesy: CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong

And finally something completely different! Aimèe Payton has informed me that a new exhibition, MAKING NUNO Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko, will open on 17 May at Japan House London. This exhibition “showcases the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko, who is renowned for pushing boundaries of textile production and championing new methods of sustainable manufacturing.” There is an interesting article about this artist in Design Week by Molly Long. Describing one of the installations she writes ”  Kibiso Crisscross, a collaborative project with the Tsuruoka Textile Makers Cooperative, showcases the process that the team developed to reuse discarded kibiso, the protective outer layer of silk cocoons. A machine that takes these tough remnants and creates yarns from them. The idea is to create “no waste and use everything”, according to the designer.”

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.

Hawaiian quilts, early textiles by the Nile, First Nations robes from Alaska, Miao and Greek textiles.

This blog will be much shorter than usual, but I’ve just heard of a few events taking place that may be of interest to subscribers.

Cissy Serrao and Patricia Gorelangton at Iolani Palace in Honolulu. © Josiah Patterson

The first of these is TOMORROW night, Thursday 6 May at 09:00 BST. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host an online conversation with Cissy Serrao, director of Poakalani & Company. This is a quilting school and guild in Hawai’i. Cissy’s family has created Hawaiian quilts for many generations. “In conversation with Jeremy Uden [Head of Conservation] and Misa Tamura [Senior Conservator], she shares her thoughts with us on the cultural significance and symbolism of quilting in Hawaiian culture, why the patterns and tradition are so important to keep alive, and how she teaches this exciting and beautiful art.” – Pitt Rivers website. Full details and registration for this free event here.

On Saturday 8 May the Fashion Institute of Technology and The Textile Society of America will jointly host a free online event on the subject of Early Fashion and Textiles by the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris. “This panel brings together scholars and practitioners who will introduce their studies of and encounters with ancient textiles, clothes, and fashion. Exploring practical textile and dress making techniques of the cultures along the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris rivers during the 3rd millennium BCE, they ask: How was fashion used to express cultural, societal, and personal identities?” Full details and registration for this event, which begins at 15:00 EDT (20:00 BST) here.

In my most recent blog I mentioned this exhibition which opens on Saturday in Juneau, Alaska.  “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website.

There will be two lectures on Saturday linked to this exhibition, with limited attendance allowed. The first is at 13:00 ADT, which is 22:00 BST, when Lani Hotch will talk about Klukwan’s Legacy of Weaving. The second is at 15:00 ADT, which is midnight in the UK and Steve Henrikson will talk about A History of Native Textiles on the Northern Northwest Coast. Full details and registration for those able to attend in person here. I’ve been in touch with the museum and they inform me that recordings of these lectures will be available online by around 14 May. I will provide a link to these as soon as I have it.

There will be a livestream dedication of of The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles (SWAY) exhibit this Friday 7 May at 17:00 ADT, which is 02:00 BST – so probably one for our international members or UK night owls!

Miao festival, Guizhou, China, 2008. © Minneapolis Institute of Art

One of the current exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ends on 23 May 2021. To Beautify and Protect: Miao Clothing and Jewelry from China  showcases examples drawn from the Institute’s large collection of more than 1,200 textiles and 450 pieces of jewellery made by Miao artisans. “Miao people consider textiles, clothing, and accessories as expressions of identity. This is especially true at communal festivals, where an individual might wear an elaborate, embroidered costume and intricately worked silver jewelry. In these settings, ceremonial clothing could indicate a wearer’s age and marital status, or mark important rites of passage. Motifs on these garments and silver jewelry can reveal Miao history and beliefs, while decorative techniques, patterning, and stitchwork distinguish one community from another. The silver material and designs also serve a protective function, promoting the health and safety of the wearer, while presenting a dazzling display that delights the eyes. ” MIA website.

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

Don’t forget that the next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

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

From Indonesia to the Arctic, Greece to Iran, Russia to the Indus Valley and more!

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.

There is just so much going on in the textile world at the moment, that this will therefore be quite a long blog,,,,,

OATG member Lesley Pullen is the author of a new book examining the way textiles were presented on eighth to fifteenth century Javanese sculptures. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader.

A new display was revealed at the Fashion and Textiles Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 5 April 2021. It is based around the theme Fashionable in Asia and a good overview of the themes covered and some of the textiles on show can be found here.

According to the museum’s website “Early fashion theorists excluded the non-Western world. They saw dress of “uncivilised” people outside of urban Europe as static and unchanging, hobbled by tradition. Seeking to challenge Eurocentric misconceptions, with the latest display in the Fashion and Textiles gallery, we re-centre on Southeast Asia, where indigenous fashions moved at their own pace and with their own standards – but were no less fashionable!”


Image courtesy Adriana Sanroman, From Birth to Death: The Silk Flower Industry in Mexico, Session 1A.

The 2020 Textile Society of America Symposium Hidden Stories/Human Lives had, of necessity, to be held online. The advantage of this virtual format is that the TSA were able to record many of the sessions. Those recordings have now been made available. The subjects are incredibly varied – the silk flower industry in Mexico, inscribed textiles from Egyptian burial grounds, the white Haku of Peru, Hmong dress in China and the ‘Mamluk’ quilt cover, to name just a few. There are over seventeen hours of recordings – enough to satisfy even the most devoted textilian! The easiest way to work out which parts may be of most interest to you is to go to the pdf of the full programme here. The programme is listed on pages 19-27, followed by the abstracts for each paper. Simply identify the talks of interest to you and which session they were part of. For example “Materials and Making of Ṭirāz Textiles” was the third paper in session 2A. This should help when deciding which recordings to watch first.

Next Thursday, 6 May 2021, Dr Moya Carey (Curator of Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin) will be the speaker for an online event hosted by the Hajji Baba Club of New York. The title of her presentation is Safavid Dynastic Vision: Shah Tahmasp’s Commission of the Ardabil Carpets. The pair of Ardabil carpets were woven for the Safavid dynastic shrine in northwestern Iran. Today they are celebrated as masterpieces of sixteenth-century design and technique,. One of the pair is in the V & A Museum and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Remembered together, the pair offer a rich context for Safavid Shah Tahmasp’s visionary intentions, for himself and for his dynasty’s sacred tomb complex in Ardabil, northwestern Iran. This talk examines Iran’s political conditions in the year 946H (1539-40, the date woven into each carpet), and the likely dynastic significance of the two hanging lamps that form each carpet’s central axis.” – Hajji Baba website. The talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. To attend the meeting please compete the RSVP here.

One of the ceremonial robes which will be displayed during the exhibition

On 8 May 2021 a new exhibition entitled The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles opens at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska. “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website. The website mentions a couple of lectures. I have checked with the museum and there will be limited attendance with online registration opening soon. The good news is that they also informed me the lectures will be recorded. More information when I have it!

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

The next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of 18th- and 19th century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

Valance. Nineteenth century, Olonetskaya province. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

On Saturday 15 May 2021 Andrea Rusnock will give an online talk on Russian Folk Embroidery, hosted by the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. Andrea is a Professor of Art History and will be discussing “Russian embroidery at the end of the Imperial period, when middle-class women increasingly created their own needlework, aided by a proliferation in pattern books, and, at the same time, there was a renewed interest in folk embroidery.” This talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST, and you can register for it here.

The Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London is due to open on 18 May 2021 subject to government guidelines. This exhibition has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, where a version of it was on display in 2017. “

The complicated technical craftsmanship required to fix bright dyes to cotton, devised across centuries and using complex chemical formulae, meant that for many years Chintz was a closely guarded secret, or preserve of the elite. However, by the 18th century chintz had become more widely accessible. The lightweight, washable, gaily coloured and boldly patterned cottons eventually became a sensation throughout England and across Europe. These developments resulted in the intricate, colourful flowers of chintz fabric being cherished and preserved by generations.

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom showcases some 150 examples of this treasured textile, originating from all around the world; from mittens to wall hangings and from extravagant 18th-century sun hats to stylish mourning dresses.” – FIT website. For more details and booking please click here. You may also enjoy reading this short blog about chintz by Emma Sweeney.

© TRC Leiden

The buteh/boteh motif often appears on chintz, so I thought it was worth sharing the link to this talk by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Many thanks to Cheri Hunter of the TMA/SC for this information. Gillian recently did a Zoom lecture for the Fowler Textile Council, examining the global history of the paisley pattern. The recording of this talk can be viewed here. If you want to know more about this motif it is also well worth visiting the website of the TRC Leiden, which has an excellent online exhibition on the subject.

Stone statue of the Priest-King discovered in Mohenjodaro. He is believed to be wearing resist-printed ajrak cloth.

Those with an interest in early textiles will want to sign up for this talk, Cotton & Colour: A Deep History of Indus Valley Textiles, hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum on 18 May 2021 at 16:00 EDT, which is 21:00 BST. From the earliest evidence of cotton (7,000 BCE) to the importance of fibre arts in the emergence of early urban centres, ROM botanist Deborah Metsger and archaeologist J. Mark Kenoyer will explore the rich and diverse history of textiles in the early settlements of the Indian subcontinent. Click here for more details and to register.

Young woman’s outer parka, Kalaallit, Greenland – before 1860s. © British Museum

The British Museum exhibition Arctic: Culture and Climate has now ended, but the good news is that the museum have now made a virtual tour of it available. You can take your own route, or go to specific sections – the parka above is from the ‘weather proofing’ section. Clicking on the lower case ‘i’ gives additional information. Highly recommended!

Finally, readers will know from my previous blogs of the devastating impact Cyclone Seroja had on the tiny eastern Indonesian island of Savu. I know some of you contributed to the appeal for help, and thought you would like to see that the first load of roofing material has now arrived. This had to be transported ashore by small boats as the jetty is still blocked by a capsized ferry.  If you would like to help please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

Event: Talismanic Textiles from the Islamic World – A Talk by Dr Francesca Leoni

Event date: Friday 9 December 2016, 2.30 pm 

Dr Francesca Leoni is the Yousef Jameel Curator of Islamic Art and a Research Associate at the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford. She is the curator of the exhibition Power and Protection, Islamic Art and the Supernatural currently on display at the Ashmolean (showing until 15 January 2017). In her talk for the OATG, Dr Leoni will focus on the talismanic textiles included in the exhibition.

Location: Ashmolean Museum Education Centre, Oxford.

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members. Registration is essential.

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

The exhibition Power and Protection can be visited afterwards until 5 pm. Find more information on the exhibition here.