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

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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.

A Helping Hand For Savu Weavers


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In her recent OATG talk Geneviève Duggan spoke of the need for a Weavers’ House for the community she works with on the island of Savu. Here is the background to this story, and a link to how you can help.

An indigo dyers hands

In 2006 several women on the small and isolated island of Savu got together to form a weaving group called Tewuni rai (placenta of the earth). The forty current members still produce their fabulous textiles on back tension looms, and use only vegetable dyes.

Ice Tede Dara, Secretary of the Tawuni rai weaving group and Desi Lodo, a young weaver from the village
A selection of textiles in the weaving village. © Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

In the past few years they have been hit hard, not only by Covid – which has meant no visitors coming to the island to buy their textiles – but also by African swine flu and a prolonged drought. These challenges have only increased their determination to plan for a better future.

Their aim is to build a Weavers’ House, in the shape of a traditional Savunese house with an extended roof ridge. Having such a building would give them somewhere to weave together, exchanging their knowledge of traditional patterns and techniques, and passing this on to the next generation. It would also provide them with a comfortable place to demonstrate their skills to visitors, instead of sitting out in the burning sun.

Plan of the proposed Weavers’ House
A traditional community building on Savu

The community already has a track record of working together on large projects such as this. From 2016-2018 they worked with Geneviève and André Graff to install a phyto-sanitation system, bringing clean water to their village, and so making a massive difference to their lives. They now have showers, toilets, a laundry area and another area for dyeing the threads for their textiles.

Water flows from the tap at the new block

 A plot of land close to this block has been donated for the Weavers’ House. The project will be overseen by Geneviève, in conjunction with Ice Tede Dara (Secretary of Tewuni rai), and the head of the village. The anticipated cost is $10,000, and every donation – no matter how small – will be appreciated.

If you would like to help make their dream a reality please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website here . Under ‘designation’ please tick Meet the Makers – Tewuni rai. Those donating $250 or more will receive a naturally dyed ikat or striped shawl as an expression of the weavers’ appreciation.

Example of shawls

Three exhibitions and some new online talks

The exhibition Drachen aus goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads is reopening on 16 March at the German Textile Museum in Krefeld and will run until September 2021.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website.

Wedding garment (mang ao) for a Han Chinese lady, and three skirts (qun) with different patterns and different techniques: left: embroidery with silk on damask, centre: slit tapestry (kesi), right: embroidery with gold threads on patterned gauze. ©Walter Bruno Brix

More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online. An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

In my most recent blog I shared a link to an online exhibition of socks from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. A reminder that next Saturday, 20 March, the Textile Museum will host an online talk as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. 

©Kent State University Museum

 As a complete contrast to the embroidered shoes shown above, I was struck by the simple elegance of these woven wicker shoes from the collection of Kent State University Museum. They are Chinese and were made in the twentieth century. The craftsmanship is superb!

Embroidered pillow, nineteenth century. ©REM

A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Russian Ethnographic Museum (REM). This exhibition is entitled Avant-garde? Dagestan Tradition! Kaitag embroidery from the collection of the REM and features a selection of embroideries from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. “The embroidery owes its name to the ethnographer E.M. Shilling, who in the middle of the twentieth century first described small canvases with a peculiar decor, found by him among the Kaitags (subethnos of the Dargins) in the Kaitag region of Dagestan.” – REM website. More information and excellent detailed images of some of the exhibits is available here.

Chand Baori stepwell, Abhaneri, Rajasthan. The oldest parts of this building date to the eighth century, though much of it was built around the eighteenth century. ©Victoria Lautman

Next Saturday, 20 March (a very busy day for events as regular readers will know) the Bowers Museum in California will host an online talk by Victoria Lautman on the subject of stepwells. These are magnificent subterranean water-harvesting structures found in India for many centuries. “Victoria Lautman has spent years documenting hundreds of the little-known underground edifices and her landmark book, The Vanishing Stepwells of India, was first published in 2017 (Merrell Publishers, London). Newly released in paperback, the book and Victoria’s lavishly illustrated talk trace the fascinating history, variety, and current state of India’s least-known marvels.” – Bowers website. The talk takes place at 13:30 PDT, which is 16:30 in the UK. Click here for more details and talk registration.

Riga (gown), ca. 1870, Hausa, Nigeria.
Cotton and silk plain weave (strip woven) with cotton embroidery. ©Rhode Island School of Design Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum currently has an interesting exhibition called It Comes in Many Forms: Islamic Art from the Collection. This “presents textiles, decorative arts, and works on paper that attest to the pluralism of Islam and its expressions. From an Egyptian textile fragment dating to the 1100s to a contemporary woman’s top by the Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa, 30 objects offer explorations into migration, diasporas, and exchange and suggest the difficulty of defining arts from a transnational religious viewpoint.” – RISD website. This exhibition runs until 14 August 2021.

A reminder of the other talks taking place next weekend:

Ms Boua at her loom, weaving naga head cloth. © Carol Cassidy

On Saturday 20 March at 10:00 PDT, which is 17:00 in the UK, the Textile Arts Council will host Carol Cassidy who will talk on the subject of Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Indigo in a locally produced pot in a village on Savu. ©David Richardson

Also on 20 March the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”. The talk will begin at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

Finally, copies of the next edition of Asian Textiles should be arriving with members any day now – ours arrived yesterday. It’s always a treat to make a cuppa and see what delights are inside its covers. If you have any ideas for future editions of the journal or the Lockdown Newsletter please contact our editor Gavin Strachan.

Interesting workshop, talks and exhibitions.

OATG member Maria Wronska Friend has just informed me of a two-day online workshop taking place next week, on 11 and 12 March 2021. The subject of the workshop is Dutch Textiles in Global History: Interconnections of Trade, Design, and Labour, 1600-2000.

From a pattern book of sarasa (chintz) made in the Edo period, 18th or early 19th century. © National Diet Library, Japan.

This free event is jointly organised by the University of Utrecht, Hosei University, Tokyo and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto and will take place via Zoom. An overview of the programme is available here, and abstracts of the papers can be viewed here. If you would like to attend the workshop please fill in this contact form.

One of the papers that intrigues me is on the subject of Dutch Textile Designs and Japanese African Prints, 1950s-1980s. In it the author, Aya Ueda, looks at the intricate relationships between Dutch textiles and Japanese African prints, focussing on the Dutch company Vlisco and the Japanese company Daido-Maruta.

Several of the papers in this workshop look at different aspects of the printed cloth trade in Japan. Indian chintz that arrived in Japan was known as sarasa. Not surprisingly Japanese craftsmen began to copy these textiles, but in their own unique way. I found this article by the Art Research center, Ritsumeiken University, gave a useful overview.

Poster for the 2019 exhibition in Kyushu

In 2019 the Kyushu National Museum held an exhibition entitled Sarasa – Exuberant cotton fabrics with vibrant foils and flowers; Masterpieces from the Museum Collection. Although the exhibition has long since ended, this section of their website still gives an overview and shows images of some of the textiles which were exhibited. 

An example of chintz from the Fashion and Textile Museum exhibition. ©FIT

At the moment museums in the UK are still closed due to government guidelines. However they will hopefully reopen in mid-May, when we will have a lot to look forward to. This includes the Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I will of course add details in this blog when dates are confirmed.

The Field Museum in Chicago currently has an exhibition celebrating the Apsáalooke people. On until 18 July 2021, Apsáalooke Women and Warriors highlights examples of beadwork, textiles, shields and more from these people of the Northern Plains, who were also known as the Crow. The work of several contemporary Apsáalooke artists is also on show. I found the video of Elias Not Afraid creating a beadwork bag fascinating.

The Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide is also currently open to the public. They are hosting an excellent exhibition showcasing the warrior culture of the Japanese Samurai.

©Art Gallery of South Australia

“From the austerity of lacquer and tea bowls to the opulence of golden screens and armour, this exhibition demonstrates how the ethos and tastes of the Samurai (a military elite whose name means ‘one who serves’) permeated every aspect of Japanese art and culture from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.” – AGSA website.

©Art Gallery of South Australia

This set of armour is definitely one of the highlights of the Samurai exhibition, which ends on 28 March 2021. It dates to 1699 and is made from iron, copper, gold leaf, wood, silk, cotton, leather and animal fur. The date can be ascribed so precisely as it is written on the inscription on this wonderful breastplate.

Nineteenth century knitted socks from Croatia. © Bata Shoe Museum.

The final exhibition is one we can all ‘visit’ as it is a virtual one. Entitled Socks: Between You and Your Feet it takes a look at an item of clothing we probably don’t pay much attention to, but would miss if it wasn’t there.

The Spring issue of Asian Textiles is currently at the printers and should be with members shortly. It includes two major articles – Persian gardens, qanats and the Wagner Carpet (Katherine Swift) and The dress and textile art of the Australian Hmong (Maria Wronska-Friend) – as well as the regular My favourite… feature, book reviews and the minutes of our recent AGM.

Children from a small village on Savu, showing us their traditional dress. ©David Richardson

Don’t forget that our next OATG lecture will be on 20 March when Geneviève Duggan will talk on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? There are only a few spaces remaining so if you want to attend don’t delay in reserving one here!

On 22 April Anna Jackson from the V&A will talk about the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition she curated last year which sadly we were unable to visit at the time. Registration will open four weeks before the talk for members and one week later for non-members. Talks are recorded and are available in the member password-protected area of our website.

Finally a plea to members and non-members alike. Many of you have said how useful you have found this blog. However there is a limit to how many talks and exhibitions I am aware of. If you do know of anything that you feel could be included here please email me.

Azerbaijan culture, talks on Savu, Lao textiles, kantha and much more…..

Although here in the UK the museums are still closed, in other parts of the world new exhibitions are opening. Weaving the Thread of Fate into the Carpet – Decorative and Applied Art of Azerbaijan opened last week at the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. This exhibition is a collaboration between the REM and the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It will run until 18 May 2021. On show are more than forty carpets, as well as embroidery, printed textiles, leatherwork and jewellery.

Gadirga. Shirvan, Azerbaijan. Late nineteenth century. The warp and weft are wool. Collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

The majority of the carpets date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but the exhibition also features a Surakhani carpet from Baku which dates to the late eighteenth century. A short article about the exhibition has been published in Jozan magazine and can be accessed here. The website of the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum is well worth visiting. It gives an overview of their collection, and you can also take a virtual tour of the museum.

Pages from a dye book in the Crutchley Archive (SLHLA 2011/5-13). Photo by Dominique Cardon.

Turning now to talks taking place in March. The first of these is on Wednesday 10 March when Dr Anita Quye will be interviewed by Dr Mary Dusenbury, guest editor of the recent edition of The Textile Museum Journal, about  three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology. “Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Dominique Cardon and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Quye conducted comparative research on notebooks compiled by three different dyers between 1722 and 1747 in London and Languedoc, France. In this interview, she will reflect on the similarity of their palettes, the virtuosity of the dyers as colorists, their shared technical language, and the scientific accuracy of the colors in their portfolios.” – Textile Museum website. This event will take place at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Ersari chuval, private collection

On Saturday 13 March Dr Richard Isaacson will give an online presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Woven Gems along the Silk Road: Small Pile Weavings of the Turkic Nomads of Central Asia. This will take place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT. The red carpets and rugs of the Türkmen have long been appreciated in the West. However it wasn’t until much later that textile lovers began to become familiar with the weavings of other related ethnic Turkic groups such as the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Qaraqalpaqs. Dr. Isaacson’s talk will begin with a review of the principal small weavings of the various Türkmen tribes. In the second part of the programme, he will show examples from the other related Turkic tribal groups in Central Asia, and compare them to their Türkmen counterparts. Richard has studied these weavings for many years and in 2007 he curated an exhibition on the Tent Bands of Central Asia for the Textile Museum in Washington. This event is free, but again registration is essential so please do click here if you wish to attend.

Image © Cathy Stevulak

The following day, Sunday 14 March, the Textile Arts Council will host a viewing of the award-winning documentary Threads, which shows how the late Surayia Rahman transformed “kantha, the traditional Bengali technique of repurposing old sarees into patchwork embroidered fabrics, into an internationally recognized art form. Today in Bangladesh kantha continues to support women’s economic opportunities and sustains artisan enterprise and the evolution of indigenous design.” – Textile Arts Council. The screening will be followed by a conversation between the documentary-maker, Cathy Stevulak, and Dr. Sanchita Saxena, during which they will discuss the future of this art form, women artisans in Bangladesh and how indigenous arts can be preserved, while at the same time creating a sustainable future for their makers. Non-members are welcome to attend this screening for a small fee. It will take place at 13:00 PST, which is 20:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

OATG member David Richardson discussing textiles with Geneviève Duggan on Savu

The following weekend is a rather busy one, with no less than three talks (that I am aware of) taking place. Firstly the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk – although sadly this one will be online only. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. I have to declare a special interest in this as I too first visited Savu thirty years ago – coincidentally on the same boat as Geneviève, but at a different time. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”.

Collecting salt which has been produced by evaporating seawater in lontar palm baskets

The talk will take place on Saturday 20 March at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

The next talk on the same day – Saturday 20 March – will be hosted by the Textile Museum as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. Do also take a look at the website of the Bata Shoe Museum as it has lots of interesting posts, particularly on the conservation of different shoes.

The scarf and shawls I collected in 1997 and 2000

The final talk is again on the same day and hosted by the Textile Arts Council. The speaker is Carol Cassidy and the subject is Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. Some of the challenges Carol and her husband faced are brought to life in this article in the Wall Street Journal. An experienced weaver herself, Carol made some design alterations to the looms. I’ve been fortunate to visit her twice, in 1997 and again in 2000 and the quality of the textiles is superb. I enjoyed reading this article by someone else who also visited in the 1990s and then much more recently in 2020. She pointed out that “Artisans can only replicate what they have been taught. To bridge the gap between the simplicity of an artisan’s lifestyle and our western sophisticated retail market, Carol and the like are the necessary link to success.” – Valerie Gregori McKenzie. The talk takes place at 10:00 PST which is 17:00 GMT. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Rampant Lions Mola panel, c. 1950–70.   The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.197

I’ve been working for some time on a list of museums with textile collections and came across a small private museum in Germany dedicated to the molas of Panama. The Forum Mola-Kunst is in the city of Bremen and has a small permanent exhibition of these panels which in the past were only used in women’s blouses, but now are increasingly used on bags etc. Today I discovered that an exhibition of entitled Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá is currently on at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum website has an excellent gallery guide, which gives an overview of the history and culture of the people who produce these vibrant textiles.

A plethora of new talks and exhibitions!

It was a pleasure to see so many members take part in our recent AGM, and even more so that several of our overseas members were able to present textiles from their collections at the Show and Tell.

February certainly looks like being a busy month with lots of online talks and exhibitions. I’m listing them here in date order, as sadly several of them take place on the same date.

On 20 February there are no less than three online talks that I am aware of! The first of these is hosted by the Textile Museum, with Lawrence Kearney looking at American Coverlets for Rug Lovers. “In this virtual talk, carpet and textile dealer Lawrence Kearney will explore the varied art form of American wool coverlets from 1780 to 1830.

Woollen coverlets from the early 19th century are one of the great American art forms. They are often beautiful, plentiful and affordable. They were made, primarily, by itinerant weavers who travelled throughout New England and the Midwest from c. 1810 through the 1840s. After introducing the four main types of coverlets — over-shot, double-weave, winter-and-summer, and Jacquard-loomed (“figured and fancy”) — Kearney will explore the pleasures these 200-year-old woollen textiles can hold for rug lovers.” Textile Museum website.

Space for this session is limited so you are encouraged to register early.

A woman in Houaphan Province, Laos, models the hand-reeled silk, naturally dyed shaman cloth she wove on her handbuilt loom. ©Above The Fray.

Next is a Zoom Panel presented by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). This will take place at 1300 EST, which is 1800 in the UK. The panel will consist of Gunjan Jain, who “made a conscious switch from working for fast fashion industries to slow, sustainable fashion and set up Vriksh, a design studio that collaborates with handloom weavers in Odisha and other states in India.  Uddipana Goswami …. a feminist peace researcher turned peace entrepreneur who promotes eco-conscious traditional/indigenous crafts from India’s conflict-ravaged Northeast periphery, and Maren Beck, [who with] her husband Joshua founded Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 in order to document, support, and introduce to the world the incredible traditional textiles arts and cultures of Laos and Vietnam.” Maren and Joshua are the co-authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos. This talk is free, but registration is essential!

If rugs are more your thing then the talk hosted by the New England Rug Society might be for you. This also takes place at 1300 EST on 20 February, when Alberto Levi will speak on Rugs of the Golden Triangle. “While in Tibet in the early ’90s, hunting, in his words, “for the next Seljuk animal carpet,” Alberto Levi “stumbled across an entirely different kind of animal.” In time, what seemed to be a casual encounter yielded a distinct group of carpets, which Alberto labels “Tibetan Golden Triangle.” Far from being Tibetan, this elusive family of rugs, most of them fragmentary, appears to originate from a triangular region defined at its extremes by eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and Northwest Persia. How and why these rugs ended up in Tibet is yet another part of the mystery that Alberto will investigate in his talk. ” NERS Newsletter. NERS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members wishing to attend should email committee member Jean Hoffman to receive theirs.

Temple hanging, artist unknown, Gujarat 20th century

On Monday 22 February the Fowler Museum will host one of its regular Lunch and Learn sessions. Joanna Barrkman, the Fowler’s Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, will explore embroidered Jain temple and shrine hangings that offer insights into the religious beliefs and imagery of the Jain faith. This short talk will take place at 1430 PST which is 2230 GMT. Click here to register for this free event.

In addition to all of the above there is also the series of four talks hosted by the Textile Museum Journal that I covered in my previous blog. These are:- Elena Phipps on Brilliance, Colour and the Manipulation of Light in Andean textile Traditions (17th) , Raquel Santos and colleagues on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Asian Textiles in Portuguese Collections (24th) and Walter Denny on Colour, Expectations and Authenticity in Oriental Carpets (26th). The talk by Dominique Cardon on Dyers’ Notebooks in Eighteenth Century England and France, which was scheduled for 10 February has been cancelled. However the good news is that one of Dr Cardon’s co-researchers, Dr Anita Quye, will now take her place for this talk on 10 March instead.

Buddhist robe (kesa), flowers in baskets. Japan, Edo period (1615-1868). Silk and gold brocade. ©Alan Kennedy

Don’t forget that the following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.

Ensemble from Southern Moravia in Slovakia (KSUM 1995.17.574 a-e)

A new exhibition opened this week at Kent State University Museum, which will run until 19 December 2021. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website.

Quilt depicting scenes of domestic life and biblical scenes. Created by Minnie Melissa Burdick in 1876. ©Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum in Vermont was the first to exhibit quilts as works of art. Most of the pieces in their collection were produced in New England in the nineteenth century. They recently launched a new online exhibition entitled Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts, which features high-quality images of a selection of their quilts, along with detailed background information on each one. There is also an excellent video in which Katie Wood Kirchhoff previews the exhibition and explains more about the history of the collection and about certain specific quilts. The catalogue of quilt patterns produced by the Ladies Art Company certainly made me smile.

Women’s festive headdress called a shamshur. End of the 19th century Sami, Arkhangel. ©REM

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has a new mini-exhibition which will run until 28 February. The subject is Glass Decor in the Traditional Costume of the Peoples of the Baltic and Barents Regions. The exhibition showcases textiles which are adorned using different types of glass decorations and were made in the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The quality of the images is very good, and there is a toggle at the top of the page to change the language to English.

Early 20th century. Leather, satin, silk, wool and metal thread embroidery, weaving tassels. Artisan Saadagul Mademinova, Southern Kyrgyzstan

The ethnographic collection of the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts is highlighted in this article in Voices on Central Asia. In it Mira Djangaraсheva, the ex-director of the museum, Aigul Mambetkazieva, the chief conservator, and Chinara Daniyarova, a conservator, tell the story of the museum and describe some of its exhibits. The collection currently consists of over 18,000 items, including embroidered wall panels, felts, a fantastic pair of embroidered leather riding trousers and much, much more. Do take a look!

OATG member Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum has informed us of the decision to extend the deadline for the IARTS Textiles of India grant until 15 May 2021. This biennial grant of $15,000 CAD “can be used anywhere in the world by anyone in the world toward a project that enhances knowledge about Indian textiles, dress, or costume”. The scope really is very broad, and can include research, fieldwork and creative work. Please click here for full details of how to apply.

Removing the bindings from the warp threads on Savu. ©David Richardson

Don’t forget the February issue of Asian Textiles will be out later this month. Our next online talk will be on 20 March when Genevieve Duggan will speak on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? This will focus on the island of Savu, where Genevieve has conducted research over several decades. More details in my next blog!

Focus on Savu

 

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Savu is an island in eastern Indonesia which OATG members David and Sue Richardson have returned to many times since their first visit in 1991. It’s not hard to understand why, when you see the beautiful scenery and of course the wonderful textiles created by the skilled weavers there.

Savu dancers in 1991. © David Richardson.

But this isn’t the only OATG link to Savu. In 2004/5 the Horniman Museum held an exhibition about the culture of Savu entitled Woven Blossoms, organised by OATG member Fiona Kerlogue (who was at that time their curator of Asian Collections) in conjunction with French anthropologist Geneviève Duggan. Several members of the Savunese community accompanied Geneviève to London to take part in a series of events and workshops built around this exhibition. Ten years later David and Sue were able to take some of Fiona’s photos back to Savu, where the exhibition participants were delighted to show them to their friends and family.

Sue Richardson and Geneviève Duggan giving photos from the Horniman exhibition to the local community. Looking over Geneviève’s shoulder is Ina Koro, a very experienced weaver who demonstrated her skills in London.

 

Being welcomed by members of the community

The community that Geneviève works most closely with is in the Mesara district and has 28 active weavers. In Savu society women belong to one of two origin groups (moieties) – the Greater Blossom and the Lesser Blossom. Each of these groups has particular textile motifs associated with it.

The diamond-shaped wo kelaku motif is typical of the hubi ae moiety

The serpent-shaped èi ledo motif is typical of the hubi iki moiety

This is a piring (plate) motif on an ei worapi sarong. This type of sarong can be worn by members of either moiety

As is common in this area of Indonesia the two dyes most frequently used are indigo and morinda.

A locally produced dyepot. For more background on these see My favourite: dye pot in Asian Textiles no. 70, 2018.

After binding the threads to form the pattern, then dyeing them (often several times) the threads need to be untied before they can be put on the loom.

Removing the bindings

Here, as in much of southeast Asia, the textiles are woven on a backstrap loom. Sometimes handspun cotton is used, and sometimes machine spun.

One of the most positive developments in this village is that young girls are also learning to produce textiles. In so many communities weaving seems to be the preserve of the older generation and it is so heartening to see these traditions carried on. The young weaver pictured below was 12 years old at the time the photo was taken. She did the binding and weaving for the indigo sash that she is wearing.

A young Savunese weaver

The island is extremely dry and the local people have to rely on the juice of the lontar palm for sustenance. The fresh juice is very thirst-quenching, but they can also distill this into a very powerful drink! The lontar palm is also the source of the delicious palm sugar and of course the leaves are used in making the roofs for the traditional houses, making baskets, and so much more.

Climbing a lontar palm tree to collect the juice. The basket hanging from the man’s belt is also made from lontar palm.

However lontar palm is not enough, especially as over the last few years Savu has sadly undergone several periods of serious drought. This year has been especially difficult with the added problems of Covid 19 and Asian Swine Flu. To raise funds for the weavers Geneviève will be speaking about the ikats of Savu on a webinar this Thursday. Joining her will be Ice Tede Dara, a teacher and the secretary of the local weaving group.

Ice Tede Dara, photographed in her village with a beautiful sarong

Just to whet your appetite here is a short video of just some of the gorgeous textiles woven on Savu! The textiles with the fringes are men’s blankets known locally as hi’i.

 

Geneviève has spent several decades studying Savu and has published a great deal on this subject. She spends months there each year, staying in the village and is fluent in Savunese. I highly recommend setting some time aside on Thursday to watch this webinar by a real expert in this area!

 

 

 

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