Textiles from the Silk Road, China, Peru, Indonesian basketry, and much more….

On 10 February 2022 Cambridge University held a Dunhuang Seminar, with Professor Max Deeg of Cardiff University as the speaker. His subject was Trading Silk – Negotiating Religion: Buddhist stories and discourses about silk. The seminar was recorded and you can access the video here.

This was the second in a series of six seminars, taking place between January and March. For those interested in learning more about the rest of the series click here.

Centre: Woman wearing a pote lo’o made in twill weave during the opening of the bringing of buffa-lo ceremony (pua karapau). © Stefan Danerek.

I’ve previously blogged about the relatively new journal Fiber, Loom and Technique established by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono. A new article with excellent illustrations has just been published in it, covering the basketry traditions of Palu’e, a small island off the coast of Flores in Eastern Indonesia. The author is Stefan Danerek, a Swedish researcher who has studied the language, arts and crafts of this small island for several years. I’m familiar with Palu’e weaving, so welcomed this opportunity to get to know more about another of their crafts, especially the so-called ‘mad weave’. You can learn more about Stefan’s work from his website.

Pustaha in Mandailing Batak script, with many drawings in red and black ink, before 1844. British Library, Add 19381. 18th – early 19th century.

I recently heard of this work on Batak manuscripts through Sandra Niessen. Apparently the British Library has the “oldest dateable Batak manuscript (Add 4726), which entered the British Museum collections in 1764. Until recently, this was the only Batak manuscript in the Library accessible online. However, the complete collection of 37 Batak manuscripts in the British Library has now been fully digitised, thanks to a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at the University of Hamburg.……. A full list of the digitised manuscripts is available on the Digital Access to Batak Manuscripts page.” – British Library

These manuscripts were sometimes written bamboo and bone, but mainly on the bark of the alim tree (Aquilaria malaccensis). The bark books, known as pustaha, often contained writings on magic and divination, which were also sometimes illustrated.

You can read the full illustrated blog by Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia, here.

MSS Batak 6, which mostly contains texts on divination in war, especially by use of rambu siporhas, divination based on the position of a double string thrown on the ground. This pustaha has a beautifully carved wooden front cover, but a plain wooden back cover.

Some of these manuscripts also had protective covers, generally of wood, which was sometimes carved. The British Library also has one example, which is made of goat skin. Annabel has also blogged about the covers here.

Fragment of a tapestry weave tunic dated 1532-1700, from Cuzco or Lake

Recently the Art Institute of Chicago held a virtual lecture on Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. In it Andrew Hamilton, associate curator of Arts of the Americas, examined how “the violent conquest of the Inca Empire by Spanish forces dramatically changed Inca society, their artistic traditions, and the clothes that they wore.” The talk was recorded and is now available here.

On Wednesday 9 March there are two in-person events members may find of interest – one in the UK and one in the US.

The Norfolk Makers Festival will be held from 9-20 March 2022 in Norwich. There will be twelve days of crafting activities, open exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and talks. There is an excellent events calendar, which you can search using various filters, or just browse. Sevanti Roy, who previously worked in Jaipur for textile companies including Anokhi and Fabindia, but now has a design business based in Norfolk will give a talk entitled From Persia to Norfolk: a talk about the paisley motif. The talk begins at 16:30 and is free.

A new exhibition will be opening that day at the Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, New York. Curated by Vichai and Lee Chinalai and Jinyoung Jin the exhibition is entitled Auspicious Dreams – Tribal Blankets from Southern China, and is on view until 31 May 2022. “Often made with fine materials, exemplary techniques, and unparalleled artistry, these striking textiles convey the unique identities, statuses, and traditions of diverse Chinese tribal groups.” – University website.

Lee will be giving a talk in the Wang Center Auditorium at 16:00, before the opening of the exhibition.

Vine Leaf, 1896. Designed by May Morris, produced by Morris & Company.

The Art Institute of Chicago currently has an exhibition entitled Morris & Company: The Business of Beauty, which runs until mid June 2022.

I enjoyed reading this blog by Melinda Watt about May Morris, daughter of William, who completed many designs for the family firm. At the tender age of 23 she was responsible for supervising all of the embroidery operations in the company.

I was interested to learn that in “support of female artists and designers, she founded the Women’s Guild for Arts in 1907 to provide the support and networking opportunities they lacked, as they were excluded from the Art Worker’s Guild on the basis of gender.”

New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years.

This will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Museum, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhibition: Inca Dress Code – Textiles and Adornments of the Andes

Exhibition dates: 23 November 2018 – 24 March 2019

The Americas collections of the Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels are among the finest and most extensive in Europe.  Although the various Andean cultures (Peru, Bolivia and Chile) are well-known mainly for their ceramics, their precious metalwork, and their mummies, the public does not have a clear picture of how these people lived and dressed.  Textiles were particularly valued because they were considered an extremely precious commodity: they were not only items for wearing, but also symbols of power and identity and could be used as offerings or as a currency of exchange.

This exhibition offers the opportunity to admire the magnificence of the textiles, the quality of the precious metalwork and the beauty of pre-Colombian feather work.  Visitors will also discover the mastery of the art of weaving, the sophistication of the motifs, and the varied and still vibrant colours of the fibres and feathers.  Through the discovery of their wardrobe (shoes, clothes, head dresses and jewellery) visitors will share in the daily life of these people from the past and admire exceptionally high quality, vividly coloured items as well as impressive precious metalwork.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Museum of Art & History

Location: Art & History Museum, Parc of the Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 Brussels