Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian textile events.

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My apologies for the long gap between blogs. I’ve been travelling in Indonesia doing some personal research and leading another textile tour. Its taken me a while to get back in gear…….

Palm leaves (some of which have been sliced into fine strips) drying on the island of Flores, and a lady using some of the dried strips for ikat binding. © Sue Richardson

A new exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection, runs until February 2023. The exhibition looks at how the kimono has changed over time. In the late Edo period (1615-1868) the main buyers of kimono were the ruling military class.

“At the same time, a dynamic urban culture emerged, and the merchant class used its wealth to acquire material luxuries. Kimono, one of the most visible art forms, provided a way for the townspeople to proclaim their aesthetic sensibility……..In the Meiji period (1868–1912), Western clothing was introduced to Japan. Simultaneously, modernization and social changes enabled more women to gain access to silk kimonos than ever before. Around the 1920s, affordable ready-to-wear kimono (meisen) became very popular and reflected a more Westernized lifestyle.” – museum website

Early nineteenth century summer robe (Hito-e) with Court carriage and waterside scene. Lent by John C. Weber Collection

If like me you missed the recent exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design you will be keen to watch this thirty minute video tour by the curator, Lee Talbot. It’s really excellent and the pace is just right, with lots of close-ups of the textiles.

Video tour of the exhibition by Lee Armstrong Talbot

Next Saturday, 25 June, OATG members Ruth Barnes and Sandra Sardjono will be taking part in an online panel for the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. The subject is Loss, Hope, and Conservation in Southeast Asian Textiles.

“Colonialism, changing customs, war, and contemporary collecting practices have all impacted the use and meaning of textiles in Southeast Asia. In this online Re-History Series discussion, a panel of experts explores themes of loss, destruction, and conservation during colonial periods as well as the present day. They will discuss efforts to center the makers’ voices and recover from losses through research, conservation, and collaboration.” – museum website.

Ruth is now Curator of Indo-Pacific Art at Yale University and Sandra is the founder and president of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The other panelists are conservator Julia Brennan of Caring for Textiles, Cherubim Quizon, who specializes in textiles of the Philippines, and Natasha Reichle, curator of the Weaving Stories exhibition.

This free event takes place via Zoom from 10:00-12:00 PDT, which is 18:00-20:00 BST. Tickets need to be booked in advance.

A kantha coverlet, Bemgal, early twentieth century. © Victoria and Albert Museum

Next Saturday also sees the opening of a new exhibition entitled Dressed by Nature: Textiles of Japan at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, showcasing some of the Japanese textiles they acquired from Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan.

“The Japanese archipelago is home to extremely diverse cultures that made clothing and other textile objects in a kaleidoscope of materials and designs. This exhibition will focus on the resourcefulness of humans to create textiles from local materials like fish skin, paper, elm bark, nettle, banana leaf fiber, hemp, wisteria, deerskin, cotton, silk, and wool. It will showcase rare and exceptional examples of robes, coats, jackets, vests, banners, rugs, and mats, made between around 1750 and 1930, including the royal dress of subtropical Okinawa, ceremonial robes of the Ainu from northern Japan and the Russian Far East, and folk traditions from throughout Japan.” – museum website

Eighteenth century Attush robe. Ainu People, Hokkaido, Japan, or Sakhalin, Siberia

The attush (elm bark) Ainu robe shown above will clearly be one of the highlights of the exhibition. It is fascinating to note the variety of talismanic pendants decorating this robe. These are made of a variety of materials including sturgeon scales, shells, bird bones and silk tassels.

On Sunday June 26 Tom will be giving a talk entitled Accounting for Taste: On the Collecting of Textiles from Japan. This is an in person talk and will take place at 14:00 CDT. Click here for tickets.

Don’t forget to let me know about textile events you hear of so I can share the information on here!

Textile events coming shortly….

Many OATG members will know of Karun Thakar’s amazing collection of textiles, from Asafo flags to embroidered shawls from the Punjab and much, much more. On Wednesday 20 April the Textile Museum in Washington DC will host an online conversation between Karun and curator Lee Talbot. The museum’s current exhibition, Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design, features textiles from Karun’s collection alongside some from the museum.

Courtesy of Karun Collection

“After outlining some of the challenges in planning a large-scale exhibition during the pandemic, they will take a closer look at some textiles currently on view, discussing aspects of their acquisition, research and conservation. Additional topics will include Thakar’s collecting in other areas, as well as the recently established Karun Thakar Fund at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which offers scholarships for early career researchers and practitioners in the field of Asian and African textiles.” – Museum website

Choga embroidered with figurative scenes (detail), Kashmir, c. 1830. Karun Thakar Collection, London.

This free Zoom event starts at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. You can find out more and register for it here. Discover more about the Karun Thakar Fund on the website of the V&A here.

A short video overview of the exhibition, presented by Lori Kartchner, Curator of Education at the Textile Museum is now available to view here.

Video of exhibition

A reminder that the next OATG event takes place on Thursday 21 April when we will have a presentation by Victoria Vorreiter on Hmong Threads of Life: Traditional Hmong Textiles of the Golden Triangle. Victoria is a violinist and music teacher who began documenting the ceremonies and music of indigenous people several decades ago. She moved to Thailand 17 years ago and now spends her time trekking to remote villages in Laos, Myanmar, China and Thailand. Her photographs are incredible – just take a look at her website!

Victoria’s online presentation begins at 13:00 BST. It’s an afternoon event as she is based in Chiang Mai in Thailand. It will of course be recorded and the recording will later be made available to members. Non-members are welcome to attend for a small fee. More details and registration here.

In 2016 Victoria wrote a long, beautifully illustrated article for our OATG journal Asian Textiles, which you can read here.

Members may also be interested to learn more about an exhibition currently on at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. Hidden Complexities: Unfolding Miao Women’s Textile Skills runs until January 2023.

“Since the 16th century CE, the manifold textile varieties in the South-Western Chinese mountain regions has received unwavering interest from all over China – texts, drawings and, much later, political posters and photography have all engaged with Miao clothing.

This exhibition attempts to unlock the complexity of the textile knowledge and skill of Miao women’s work through an examination of Karola Kauffmann’s collection. It highlights questions about the proximity or distance of the self-presentation and representation of ethnic diversity in the context of social change and cultural-political tensions.” – Museum website

Indigo dyed cotton jacket. The back is decorated with silk felt appliqués, themselves embroidered with coloured silk. Such jackets characterise a Miao group living in Baibei village in the southeast of Guizhou province. The style is called the “hundred-bird style”. EMZ inv. no. 33523. Photograph: Kathrin Leuenberger 2021, Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich.

I particularly enjoyed reading this insight into how the exhibition is laid out and could really imagine myself entering the ‘indigo box’.

Thomas Murray recently gave a very well-received lecture for the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. His subject was Archetypes, Aesthetics and Agency: Adat Textiles of Early Indonesian Cultures.

“Indonesian textiles are known to convey messages across time and space by means of an archetypal iconography that includes human figures, trees, boats, reptiles, birds and geometric patterns. These encoded images follow ancestral traditions and customary laws known as adat; cloth becomes sacred through a combination of fine spinning, dying, and weaving that creates a sense of aesthetic wonder……. This lecture will follow the themes presented in the newly published book, Textiles of Indonesia, and will focus on some of the finest cloths to come out of the archipelago, presenting each object with impeccable photographs.” – Thomas Murray

The TMA/SC have arranged for two Zoom presentations for those living further afield who missed out on this lecture. The first is intended for participants living in Southeast Asia and Australasia and starts at 19:00 PDT on Friday 22 April. As an example this is 09:00 on Saturday morning for those in Jakarta and Bangkok. Register here.

The second is timed for those in Europe and the Middle East. It will take place on Saturday 23 April at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. You can register for it here.

Please ensure you register for the programme that best suits your time zone. Thomas Murray will be live at both Zoom presentations for the Q&A sessions.

Next an event that those in the UK won’t want to miss! It’s the Textile Society’s annual Antique and Vintage Textile Fair in Manchester next Sunday 24 April. This is always such an eclectic mix, with textiles from around the world and across several centuries. It’s always very busy and the car park fills fast so get there early!

Full details and ticket booking via this link.

On Wednesday 27 April the Textile Museum in DC will host a virtual programme linked to their current exhibition Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design. Textile specialist Rosemary Crill (ex V&A) will discuss Abstract Patterns in Indian Textiles.

Sari (detail), Patan, Gujarat, 19th century. The Textile Museum Collection 6.63. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1931.

“The abstract and geometric patterns of Indian textiles are as varied as the innumerable techniques used to produce them, encompassing woven, surface and embellished cloths of all kinds. Geometric structures form the basis of all cloth with intersecting warps and wefts, and as such stripes and checks are found in the oldest textiles known from South Asia.” 

This event takes place at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST . You can find out more and register for it here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you are aware of textile-related events that could be shared!

From Indonesia to Persia, India to Peru, the Golden Triangle to Egypt – something for everyone!

We have just been informed (by the curators) that the exhibition Ships and Passages, which was shown last year at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, can now be experienced virtually, through the wonders of technology.

Make sure you click EN on the bottom blue menu, unless of course you speak fluent German. If you use the zoom function you also have the option to see the back of the textiles, which I found really useful.

Asian Textiles has published two articles relevant to this exhibition. The first, entitled Alfred Steinmann and the ship motif, was co-authored by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval and appeared in number 79. The second appeared in our most recent edition (number 81) and was entitled Alfred Steinmann’s ship tapis inuh. It was co-authored by the curators Andreas Isler and Paola von Wyss-Giacosa, along with OATG members Richard Isaacson and Louise Shelley.

Asian Textiles is a great searchable resource and all issues, apart from the past three years which are password-protected for members, can be freely accessed here.

On Saturday 9 April 2022 the New England Rug Society (NERS) will host an online presentation by Michael Rothberg entitled Saddlebags from Persia and the Caucasus: An Examination of Selected Design Motifs.

Michael’s presentation will focus on aspects of design in nineteenth century knotted-pile transport bags woven by tribal women. He will draw most of his examples, including Shahsevan, Kurdish, Afshar, Khamseh Confederation, Qashq’ai, Luri, and Baluch bags, from his book, Nomadic Visions, which was published by HALI and the Near Eastern Art Research Center in 2021. He will also discuss examples from the Transcaucasus, Persian Azerbaijan, and Varamin.

Registration is free for this programme, which begins at 13:00 Eastern Time, which is 18:00 BST. If you have any questions please email Jean Hoffman.

Khorjin front, Northeast Transcaucasia, Dagestan region.

An online exhibition by Hali of sixteen knotted pile bags from the Michael and Amy Rothberg Collection can be viewed here. The exhibition also includes several wonderful textiles from the collection of the late Neville Kingston, who was a member of the OATG for many years.

Also happening on Saturday 9 April is an in-person talk by Thomas Murray for the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. His subject will be Archetypes, Aesthetics and Agency: Adat Textiles of Early Indonesian Cultures.

“Indonesian textiles are known to convey messages across time and space by means of an archetypal iconography that includes human figures, trees, boats, reptiles, birds and geometric patterns. These encoded images follow ancestral traditions and customary laws known as adat; cloth becomes sacred through a combination of fine spinning, dying, and weaving that creates a sense of aesthetic wonder……. This lecture will follow the themes presented in the newly published book, Textiles of Indonesia, and will focus on some of the finest cloths to come out of the archipelago, presenting each object with impeccable photographs.” – Thomas Murray

The programme begins at 10:00 PDT in Santa Monica, California and entry is limited to those with reservations. These must be received by 17:00 PDT on Thursday 7 April, so act now if you want to attend.

Don’t live in Southern California but would love to see this presentation? Then you just need to wait a little longer. The TMA/SC have arranged for two Zoom presentations later this month. The first is intended for participants living in Southeast Asia and Australasia and starts at 19:00 PDT on Friday 22 April. This is therefore 09:00 on Saturday morning for those in Jakarta and Bangkok as an example. Register here.

The second is timed for those in Europe and the Middle East. It will take place on Saturday 23 April at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. You can register for it here.

Please ensure you register for the programme that best suits your time zone. Thomas Murray will be live at both Zoom presentations for the Q&A sessions.

Patola-inspired ‘Cepuk’ cloth used as protection in a tooth-filing ceremony in Ubud, Bali. © Urmila Mohan

On Sunday 10 April the Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India will host an online talk by Urmila Mohan on Patola-inspired textiles in Indonesia as Forms of Spiritual Power. Dr Mohan is an anthropologist of material culture with a focus on clothing.

“While some of us know double-ikat as luxury textiles and handwoven traditions, based on Patola’s history as a trade commodity, we may be less familiar with the local ways in which Patola-inspired textiles are used in parts of Southeast Asia. This talk focuses on how these textiles acquire a new and different life in the Indonesian archipelago based on the creativity of weavers and dyers, and the ritual context of usage. While we can certainly admire these clothes for their artisanry and aesthetics, it is valuable to recognize that those very same qualities have real and tangible spiritual and cosmological effects in the societies within which they are embedded.” – SACHI website

This talk begins at 22:00 BST and you can register for it here.

On Tuesday 12 April Andean Textile Arts are hosting an intriguing Zoom presentation by Juan Antonio Murro entitled Written in Knots: What We Know Today About Khipus.

“Peru’s long-lived Wari and vast Inca empires employed sophisticated devices called khipu to record information, such as census data and labor obligations……. Made of cords, both Inca and Wari khipu seem to have recorded not only quantitative or statistical content, but narrative information as well. The variation in cord structures, colors, wrapping patterns, and knots encoded and conveyed information, while the basic elements—flexible knotted cords—offered a lightweight and compact means of transporting information across distances.” Andean Textile Arts

The talk begins at 19:00 Eastern Time, which is midnight in the UK – one for the nightowls. Click here for more details and registration.

Late nineteenth century jacket for a woman in a glazed and block printed cotton, Iran.

On Tuesday 12 April the New York based Hajji Baba Club will host a Zoom presentation by Augusta de Gunzbourg on From Buteh to Paisley: The History of a Global Icon.

“This curved, drop-like shape is one of the rare forms that features on textiles from all around the world and on clothing worn by all genders or ages. The motif has many names and meanings according to the different cultures that have all adopted it. Seen on Indian saris or on the Queen of England’s clothing, the questions we ask are: where and when did this motif originate and how did it become such a global icon?

The way the motif traveled historically and geographically will be illustrated with a wide range of items with Paisley from the TRC’s exhibition such as Iranian Qajar jackets, 19th century British ladies’ shawls or even a modern Japanese kimono.”

Augusta’s talk will feature the exhibition held at the Textile Research Centre, Leiden in 2021, on the history of the Paisley motif. It is well worth delving into this online resource here.

The talk will begin at 11:00 Eastern, which is 16:00 BST. Places do need to be reserved by 8 April so send your RSVP now!

The next OATG event takes place on Thursday 21 April when we will have a presentation by Victoria Vorreiter on Hmong Threads of Life: Traditional Hmong Textiles of the Golden Triangle. Victoria is a violinist and music teacher who began documenting the ceremonies and music of indigenous people several decades ago. She moved to Thailand 17 years ago and now spends her time trekking to remote villages in Laos, Myanmar, China and Thailand. Her photographs are incredible – just take a look at her website!

Victoria’s online presentation begins at 13:00 BST. It’s an afternoon event as she is based in Chiang Mai in Thailand. It will of course be recorded and the recording will be made available to members. Non-members are welcome to attend for a small fee. More details and registration here.

In 2016 Victoria wrote a long, beautifully illustrated article for our OATG journal Asian Textiles, which you can read here.

On Saturday 23 April the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, has an in-person event – still something of a novelty for many of us. Egyptian artist Lamis Haggag and professional khayamiya craftsman Mostafa El-Lathy will host a presentation and workshop on the traditional Egyptian appliqué craft of khayamiya, used to decorate tents. This event will run from 14:00 – 16:00. Click here for more details.

Next an event that is definitely in-person! It’s the Textile Society’s annual Antique and Vintage Textile Fair in Manchester on Sunday 24 April. This is always such an eclectic mix, with textiles from around the world and across several centuries. It’s always very busy and the car park fills fast so get there early!

Full details and ticket booking via this link.

Sari (detail), Patan, Gujarat, 19th century. The Textile Museum Collection 6.63. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1931.

On Wednesday 27 April the Textile Museum in DC will host a virtual programme linked to their current exhibition Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design. Textile specialist Rosemary Crill (ex V&A) will discuss Abstract Patterns in Indian Textiles.

“The abstract and geometric patterns of Indian textiles are as varied as the innumerable techniques used to produce them, encompassing woven, surface and embellished cloths of all kinds. Geometric structures form the basis of all cloth with intersecting warps and wefts, and as such stripes and checks are found in the oldest textiles known from South Asia.” 

This event takes place at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST . You can find out more and register for it here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you are aware of textile-related events that could be shared!

From India to Indonesia, Denmark to Turkmenistan and much, much more…..

The Spring edition of Asian Textiles is out now!

There is lots of excellent material inside, including articles on textiles from Bhutan, kelaghayi from Iran, baandha from Odisha and Alfred Steinmann’s ship tapis inuh from Indonesia. UK members should have already received their copies and they should arrive with our many international members shortly.

Sheila photographed in Bukhara in 1996 by David Richardson

Some of you will be aware of the passing last week of Sheila Paine, an honorary member of the OATG. Sheila lived such a full and active life travelling, researching textiles, writing numerous books – as well as being the life and soul of the party. She will be greatly missed. OATG will be organising an event to honour her life and a full obituary will appear in the next edition of Asian Textiles.

This short video is a great reminder of everything she stood for, and some of her excellent travel images were featured in an exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum called Embroidered Visions a few years ago.

This Wednesday, 16 March, the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will host a talk by Rosemary Crill on Four aspects of Indian embroidery: early traditions; European exports; embroidery for the courts and embroidery in South India.

“Rather than attempting a survey of India’s many embroidery traditions, this talk will explore several separate aspects of Indian embroidery from the 15th to the 19th century, with a particular focus on groups of textiles that continue to raise questions of different kinds. These include embroidery in the pre-Mughal period; embroidery made for export to Portugal and Britain; embroidery at the Mughal and Deccani courts; coverlets (rumals) from the Punjab Hills and embroidery in South India.” – ORTS website

This will be a hybrid event, taking place at the University Women’s Club in London and simultaneously on Zoom. Non-members are welcome to attend, but those wanting Zoom access need to email Dimity Spiller.

Vase carpet, Persia, around 1600, wool // Courtesy Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst.
 

On Sunday 20 March the International Hajji Baba Society – DC will host a talk by Anna Beselin, Curator for Carpets and Flat Weaves at the Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin entitled The Berlin Carpet Collection: Today and Tomorrow.

“At the end of the 19th century, Berlin became both the birthplace for oriental carpet studies and the center for collecting and preserving the most extraordinary examples. The Carpet Collection of the Museum für Islamische Kunst, located in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin, is one of the most important and oldest carpet and textile collections in Europe………In 2023, the museum will close, only to reopen in the summer of 2026 in completely new rooms and a larger space. What measures and what transformation the museum will go through to make the leap into the future is the subject of this lecture, based on its rich carpet collection. Aiming to catch a new and wider audience this talk will introduce you to a fascinating variety of individual histories of the carpet collections highlights, which will be presented in the new Galleries of the Museum for Islamic Art Berlin in 2026.” – IHBS website.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 Eastern time, which is 17:00 GMT.

Anna Beselin is also the author of Knots: Art & History The Berlin Carpet Collection, published in 2019.

I found this article about an exhibition in 2018 of some of these carpets really interesting. The exhibition was called Traum und Trauma (Dream and Trauma) and showed carpets in various states of repair following fire and bomb damage in Berlin during the Second World War.

On Tuesday 22 March Tom Murray will give a talk to the New York based Hajji Baba Club on Archetypes, Aesthetics and Agency: Adat Textiles of Early Indonesian Cultures.

“Indonesian textiles are known to convey messages across time and space by means of an archetypal iconography that include human figures, trees, boats, reptiles, birds and geometric patterns. These encoded images follow ancestral traditions and customary laws known as adat; cloth becomes sacred through a combination of fine spinning, dying, and weaving that creates a sense of aesthetic wonder…..

This lecture will follow the themes presented in the newly published book, Textiles of Indonesia, and will focus on some of the finest cloths to come out of the archipelago, presenting each object with impeccable photographs. Geographically arranged, this lecture pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands.” – HBC website

Click here for more information about this talk, which begins at 18:00 Eastern time, which unfortunately is 22:00 GMT.

Tom’s new book, Textiles of Indonesia, is a must for anyone interested in the textiles of this archipelago. The quality of the textiles depicted and of the photography is outstanding. It includes essays by some of the leading researchers in that area – Lorraine V. Aragon, Joanna Barrkman, Christopher Buckley, Kristal Hale, Valerie Hector, Janet Alison Hoskins, Itie van Hout, Etsuko Iwanaga, Fiona Kerlogue, Eric Kjellgren, Brigitte Khan Majlis, Robyn Maxwell, Thomas Murray and Sandra Sardjono.

Registration is now open for Costume Society of America Symposium, which takes place from 24-29 May in Minneapolis/St Paul. The theme this year is Land of 10,000 Ideas – Innovation through Dress. Please note that Early Bird registrations are only available up to 8 April 2022. More information and a link to how to register can be found here. You can access the full schedule here.

A seminar on Margrethe Hald and the Nordic History of Textile Research will take place at the University of Copenhagen 22 April, 2022 and it will also be possible to follow the seminar online. Details of the various lectures can be seen in the image above.

If you wish to participate please email Morten Grymer-Hansen before the 7 April, 2022 specifying whether you want to participate at the university or online.

Asia Week takes place in New York from 16-25 March. There will be exhibitions, auctions and lectures on a variety of topics, but I couldn’t find many on textiles. The offering by Tom Murray was of course an exception….

Attush robe

“A magnificent Attush robe, is just one of the pieces inImportant Indian & Indonesian Textiles at Thomas Murray, and was made by the Ainu people, in Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan. The tan-colored ground cloth is from elm-bark fiber and decorated with appliquéd indigo cotton, silk tassels, shells, marine creatures, and white embroidery. With compelling ancient graphic designs known to ward off evil, this robe is one of the finest ever to come to light and likely belonged to a shaman or a high-status chief.” – Asia Week Press Release

On Saturday 26 March the New England Rug Society host Alan Rothblatt, who  will be talking about Rare Turkmen Asmalyks.

Alan Rothblatt holding a Tekke ‘bird’ asmalyk

“Of all Turkmen weavings, asmalyks—trappings that adorn the flanks of the camel carrying the bride on her wedding day— have been the most captivating to collectors. This webinar, “Rare Turkmen Asmalyks,” will present a selection of the best asmalyks from the various Turkmen tribes and will provide insights into some of these highly desired items. The majority of Turkmen collectors share a welldeveloped trait: the ability to focus on the tiny details of Turkmen rugs that help determine age and tribal origin and that distinguish the greatest examples. Alan Rothblatt … acquired his first Turkmen weaving over thirty years ago and has been an active participant and frequent presenter at meetings of the International Collectors of Turkmen Carpets, in Hamburg, Germany, as well as at the Rug Collectors’ Weekend, in California.” – NERS website

This webinar begins at 13:00 Eastern time, which is 17:00 GMT. It is free, but non-members do need to email Jean Hoffman to receive an invitation.

And finally please don’t forget that I am always on the lookout for information about events to share in this blog. If you know of any please do email me.

Pitt Rivers inspiration, Samoan barkcloth, sealskin, Indonesian ikat and more.

PLEASE NOTE If you subscribe to this blog via email you will be unable to see the videos unless you click on the blue title in the email, which will direct you to our blog site.

In my most recent blog I shared a lot of information about the textiles of peoples of the Amur area and fish skin clothing in particular. That prompted OATG member Pamela Cross to contact me about a work by leading art quiltmaker Pauline Burbidge.

It was inspired by a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum, where she saw this Siberian seal skin pictogram.

Sealskin accession number 1966.19.1. © Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

It was collected in the 1860s or 1870s, probably by the captain of an Arctic whaler. It was made by a member of the Chukot/Chukchi culture, and has been described by some authors as a map, and by others as depicting the events of a specific year. Much more information about it can be found on the Pitt Rivers website.

Her second source of inspiration was a display of barkcloths from Samoa. The example below was collected there in 1874 by the Reverend Joseph King.

Barkcloth accession number 1891.61.24. © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pauline’s response to seeing these items was to produce a large quiltscape, incorporating some of these ideas and motifs. She has made a short video, detailing her creative process and I loved seeing the drawings she had made in her notebook, and how they eventually appeared in the finished piece.

Go to her website to see more of her work.

On Saturday 12 February Yorkshire auctioneers Tennant’s will hold a sale of Costume, Accessories and Textiles. While the majority of the lots are Victorian (including some super sewing accessories), there are also several from China, Japan and Eastern Europe. Click here for more details.

A selection of the lots for sale at the auction

A quick reminder that there are also two talks taking place on that day. The first is by Tom Hannaher on the Mola Art of the Kuna Indians, and the second is by Chris Martens on Distinguishing Uyghur Feltmaking.

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti about to show us some of the textiles in her basket. © David Richardson

I have been travelling to Indonesia regularly for many years now, and one of my favourite destinations is the island of Sumba. We always enjoy going to Rindi, which has a great tradition of producing fine textiles and baskets.

A few years ago Threads of Life, a Bali-based organisation that works with weavers throughout the archipelago, produced a video there with Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti, documenting all of the different stages of the weaving and dyeing process. The video was in Sumbanese, however they have also produced this very useful and informative infographic in English, based on the information gained from the original video.

So much care and attention needs to go into each step, but the results are certainly worth it!

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti showed us a selection of her textiles. They are all naturally dyed, and the one at the front is woven from handspun cotton. © David Richardson.

While on the subject of Indonesia I would also like to recommend this video, An Indian Loom in Indonesia, produced by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley, in which they share some of the findings from their paper of the same name which appeared in Fiber, Loom and Technique.

“A loom in use in Balai Cacang village in the Minangkabau region of Sumatra has an unusual warp suspension system, in which the warp is attached to a cord and tensioned around a pole. We show that this system is similar to that used on traditional Indian pit looms, and that it probably crossed the Indian Ocean to Indonesia. Indian influence on Indonesian textile forms is well-documented, but this is the first identification of an Indian loom technology in Indonesia. It implies the presence of Indian craftspeople in Indonesia in the past.” – Fiber, Loom and Technique.

A pdf of the full article can be downloaded here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of events, exhibitions, articles, or anything else you think I should include here!

Indigo, batik, Chinese and Serbian textiles

An exhibition has opened at the Albuquerque Museum entitled Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe. It examines the history, techniques, and movement of indigo as it has been used and exchanged around the world for millennia.

Hispanic New Mexican, Frazada, 1840-1850, wool and indigo, Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 1983 General Obligation Bonds, PC1984.25.15

“The chemical compound (indican) required to produce indigo dye is present in various levels in several different plant families and hundreds of different plant species. Individuals around the globe have ingeniously developed and utilized various methods for extracting and applying indigo dye for at least the last 6,200 years. While many diverse local techniques and uses of indigo have existed, the allure of the famous blue dye has made the story of indigo inseparable from the history of trade, colonialism, slavery, globalism, and cultural exchange.” – Albuquerque Museum website.

This exhibition will run until 24 April 2022.

Today marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Parish House of the Serbian Orthodox Church Municipality in Ljubljana, Slovenia, entitled Two Faces of the Pirot Carpet from the Collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. The exhibition was curated by Marina Cvetković of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.

The sixteen carpets displayed represent the highest achievement of Serbian textile creativity. “The collection of Pirot carpets of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, one of the oldest and most important collections in Serbia, consists of 169 objects created in the interval from 1892-1932….. The exhibits classified in three historical periods indicate the specific development and transformation of Pirot carpet weaving viewed from the aspect of broader socio-economic and historical changes in Serbian society.” – Museum website.

OATG member Maria Friend has kindly informed me about an upcoming webinar hosted by the Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center Foundation. The subject of the programme is Chinese Attire and Batik in Indonesia: Tempo Doeloe until the 21st Century.

“As Chinese New Year is approaching, CIHC invites you to get a glimpse into how the Chinese in Indonesia dressed themselves – both in daily life and on special occasions – during the Dutch colonial times all the way to present-day Indonesia. Batik has always played an important role in Chinese Indonesian clothing. In this webinar, experts and batik artists from Indonesia and the Netherlands will share their insight about clothing and batik, then and now.” – CIHC

The presentations and discussions will be in English and will take place on Saturday 29 January at 15:00-17:00 GMT. This event is free, but you do need to register for it before 26 January.

I would strongly recommend going to the CIHC website and looking at the articles on traditions and culture. Christopher Ng has written a series of thirty one short pieces looking at Chinese dress, funeral rites, wedding rituals etc. Many of these are illustrated with interesting old photographs.

Ceremonial attire of a woman with simple “cloud collar” and a man without “Mandarin square”

Finally, a reminder that the Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM takes place on Thursday 27 January at 18:00 GMT. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, a conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. Members should have already received their invitations.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of any interesting talks, exhibitions, new textile books, so that I can share the information here.

Coming soon…. exhibitions and talks on Ainu, Peruvian, Indonesian, Tudor and Arabian textiles.

An exhibition co-curated by OATG member Walter Bruno Brix has just opened at one of my favourite museums – the Rauchenstrauch-Joest museum in Köln, Germany.

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, RJM 10699; Japan; Ostasien; Mantel attus; 1801/1900; rba_c023086

A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from Northern Japan can be seen from November 5, 2021 to February 20, 2022. It presents the cultures of the Ainu groups who “Only after the middle of the 20th century did a strong return to its traditions and a revitalization movement emerge, which led to its recognition as an indigenous group in 2008 and its legal implementation by the Japanese government in 2019. The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. From the middle of the 19th century they were colonized, relocated and exploited by Japan.” – RJM website.

This exhibition was hailed as a ‘must see’ by Thomas Murray, whose book Textiles of Japan has a major section on the Ainu.

Closer to home the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford also has a display focusing on the Ainu. A short film by Eiko Soga entitled Autumn Salmon is playing daily on the first floor balcony until the end of November. “In 2016, Eiko lived with an Ainu woman called Ms. Katsue Kaizawa and studied the making of Ainu kimono, embroidery and salmon-skin shoes. In Ainu culture, salmon traditionally served key economic, religious and spiritual roles. Today, it still plays an important role within Ainu communities but primarily to sustain their traditional values.” – PRM website.

A pair of salmon-skin shoes which date to around 1900 can be seen in a case next to the film installation. These waterproof boots were known as chepkeri and were made from up to six dried and stretched salmon skins stitched together.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On Thursday 11 November a major new exhibition, Peru a journey in time, opens at the British Museum and will run until 20 February 2022.  This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

An online introduction to this new exhibition, featuring curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, will take place this Thursday at 17:30 GMT. This is a free event, but to do need to book to secure your place. I’m not sure how many textiles are featured in the exhibition, but will hopefully get a better idea then.

Saturday 13 November sees the next of the Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings hosted by the Textile Museum. Dr Lauren Mackay will talk about Woven Treasures From the East in the Royal Tudor Court.

“For the Tudors, the Islamic world of the 16th century was an endless source of fascination and delight, swathed in fine silks, bursting with spices and draped in luxurious and vibrant tapestries and carpets. Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, began the Tudor love affair with Orientalism, and soon English society coveted Ottoman and Persian culture: Its art, dress, textiles and carpets became highly sought–after symbols of wealth and power.” – Textile Museum.

This virtual programme, which is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. There is no charge, but you do need to register for it.

This Sunday, 14 November, the Zay Initiative will hold an online symposium on the subject of Arab Costume Collections: Sustaining Legacies. This 2-hour event will be hosted by Ben Evans of Hali and there will be two panels; the first looking at The importance of Arab Dress and Culture and the second examining The role and relevance of heritage for contemporary brands. Speakers include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Richard Wilding, Shahira Mehrez and Marriam Mossalli.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 GMT and registration is essential.

On Tuesday 16 November OATG member Lesley Pullen will give a hybrid lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society. The subject of her talk is Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th -15th century.

This free lecture begins at 18:30 GMT and the venue is 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. If you wish to attend, either in person or via Zoom, please register by emailing Matty Bradley.

Lesley’s book on this subject was published earlier this year. “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. Some of these illustrations, with detailed notes, can be seen on the excellent Art of the Ancestors website here.

A couple of reminders and some new textile events happening soon!

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 videos further down the blog.

First a final reminder of the next OATG talk, which takes place this Thursday 21 October. Members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation will give an online talk on the subject of Fiber Arts from Papua.

Young girl in a Dani village. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation.

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST and those who have registered will already have received their Zoom link. If you do still wish to attend please register as soon as possible. Registration is also open for non-members for a small (£3) donation. This should be a fascinating talk so do join us!

Cybele Tom sharing her work on the Seated Guanyin, Song Dynasty (960-1279)

On Saturday 23 October there will be a Zoom talk hosted by one of the Textile Society of America Affinity Groups, Textiles x Science. Four conservators will share highlights of their work. “Few people get to engage with works of art directly, yet this is a key feature and privilege of conservation work. Through close looking, intimate interaction, consultation, collaboration, and scientific analysis, conservators and scientists piece together the evidence of what remains to give insight into an object’s complex narrative.” – TSA website

This talk will begin at 13:00 EDT, which is 18:00 BST. Please email for the Zoom link to what sounds like a fascinating talk.

Three generations of Qashqa’i women. Photo courtesy of Vedat Karadag.

Also taking place on Saturday 23 October is another of the regular series of Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings, hosted by the Textile Museum. The speaker this time will be Vedat Karadag and his subject is Traveling the Textile Lands of Greater Anatolia, Persia, Central Asia and Beyond. For the past four decades Vedat has been involved with textiles, both as a dealer and leading cultural and textile-oriented trips. In this virtual talk Vedat will share some of the highlights of his textile travels. More information can be found here. Click on this link to register for this event which begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST.

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website.

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition is also now available (German text).

Chair Cover with Crane Design, Chinese, 17th century Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Silk tapestry (kesi) woven with silk and metallic threads, Overall: 20 3/8 x 63 3/4 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, 59-18/5.

On Saturday 30 October the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host a Zoom programme looking at some of the textiles featured in the  current exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Weaving Splendor: Treasures of Asian Textiles opened in late September and runs until 6 March 2022. “For the first time in decades, rarely seen Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Persian, and Turkish clothing and textiles from the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are assembled for an extraordinary exhibition. Made with fine materials, exemplary techniques, and superb artistry, Asian luxury textiles were prized domestically and were central to global trade.” – museum website

One Hundred Cranes Imperial Robe, Chinese, Late 17th-early 18th century Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Embroidered damask, 91 × 57 7/8 in. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 35-275.

Covering the highlights of the exhibition from the 1500s to today, this talk will include two outstanding and historically important classical Persian carpets; velvet tent hunting fragments and some Kashmir shawls and hangings; several Chinese court robes and interior furnishings; and Japanese theatre robes and Meiji-era tapestries. The Zoom talk begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST and is free, but registration is required.

Selected textile exhibitions and events

Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Kikuo Morimoto at his Wisdom of the Forest project in Cambodia.

Kikuo Morimoto

“In 1975 the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and, in events often overlooked by a good portion of today’s world, proceeded to almost completely wipe out Cambodian culture, including textiles.  Twill-woven weft ikat was an important part of that culture with textiles playing a major role in both every day and ritual life.  With many of the weavers killed and the basics to create the fibers and dyes needed for weaving deliberately destroyed, there was a need for assistance to bring back the traditional means of producing ikat textiles.  Kikuo Morimoto from Japan began the arduous task of finding the few women surviving who knew how to tie the designs and dye the colors using natural dyes.” – Jenny Spancake

Mr Morimoto wrote a memoir detailing his endeavours, which was published in 2008 under the title Bayon Moon. Sadly he passed away in 2017, but his work continues through the IKTT organisation and proceeds from this second expanded e-book edition of his memoir will help continue the work he started and to which he dedicated so much of his life.

It is available through iTunes and your local Amazon website – for example here in the UK and here in the USA.

One of the rooms in Paul Hughes Fine Arts with an amazing Huari Cushma from camelid fibre dating to around 800AD at the centre

Paul Hughes Fine Arts in Somerset currently has a fascinating exhibition entitled Continuities (ending 24 October 2021). Here you can see pre-Columbian textiles on show next to contemporary works in various mediums – textiles, painting, sculpture.

“All Art was Once Contemporary – Continuities is intended to illustrate how works from different periods and cultures are visually interwoven despite their diverse chronological and geographical background, whether it is an affinity in aesthetics or intentionality imbued within the living artist’s creations.” – PHFA website

There are some fabulous textiles illustrated in the online catalogue, but they will have to wait until I win the lottery.

Lubaina Himid’s Lost Threads at the British Textile Biennial 2021 at Gawthorpe Hall, uses 1,300ft of fabric to reflect on the history of cotton
© James Speakman/Mercury Press

As part of the British Textile Biennial 2021 there is a major new installation by Turner-prize winning artist Lubaina Himid at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. The placing of this in the Great Barn is just perfect.

Detail of one of the textiles on show.

“Cascading through the structure of Gawthorpe Hall’s Great Barn, 400 metres of Dutch Wax fabric reflect the movement of oceans and rivers that have been used to transport cotton across the planet and over centuries. Waterways historically carried raw cotton, spun yarn, and woven textiles from continent to continent, as well as enslaved people from Africa to pick raw cotton in the southern states of America or workers who migrated from South Asia to operate looms here in East Lancashire.” – British Textile Biennial website.

The irrepressible John Gillow with his stand at a previous World Textile Day event

Saturday 16 October is the East of England World Textile Day in Norfolk. The venue is at Mundford near Thetford. Traders confirmed so far are Textile Traders, the African Fabric Shop, Susan Briscoe Designs and OATG member and author of several textile tomes John Gillow. The event starts at 10:00 – get there early to browse through a great range of ethnic textiles!

Cutting the binding threads on Savu. © David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

Young girl in a Dani village. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation.

Plaited orchid fibre. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Members should have already received their invitations and hopefully registered. Registration is now also open for non-members for a small (£3) donation.This should be a fascinating talk so do join us!

On Friday 22 October Silk Road a newly renovated gallery is due to open at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. It will feature a new exhibition entitled Crossroads: Exploring the Silk Road.

“Presented as a journey through Dunhuang, an ancient oasis connecting peoples and cultures, along the southern Silk Road route, this gallery engages an intergenerational audience through play and discovery. The sights and sounds of the ancient city come to life through stories and music, dress up, tactile objects, an interactive discovery map, and highlights from the museum’s collection. “ – USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Three generations of Qashqa’i women. Photo courtesy of Vedat Karadag.

On Saturday 23 October the Textile Museum will host another of its regular series of Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings. The speaker will be Vedat Karadag and the subject is Traveling the Textile Lands of Greater Anatolia, Persia, Central Asia and Beyond. For the past four decades Vedat has been involved with textiles, both as a dealer and leading cultural and textile-oriented trips. In this virtual talk Vedat will share some of the highlights of his textile travels. More information can be found here. Click on this link to register for this event which begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST.

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website.

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition is also now available (German text).

Lydie Bonfils/Arab Image Foundation

Finally, I recently enjoyed reading this article entitled Women Behind the Lens: The Middle East’s First Female Photographers by Tom Verde in AramcoWorld. It shows how women were involved in photography in the Middle East since the middle of the nineteenth century. Some worked behind the scenes, often in the family business, but others took a more prominent role, especially in the field of portraiture as women often felt more at ease sitting for another female.

Focus on Indonesia

There are so many exciting things happening in the world of Indonesian textiles at the moment that it’s clear I need to devote a whole blog to them. Several of the talks don’t take place until later next month but are filling fast!

© Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono

A fascinating new paper has recently been published by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley. They write “We have discovered an Indian loom technology in use in Indonesia (Minangkabau region). The loom has been published before, but the Indian origins of its unusual ‘cord and pole’ warp suspension system have not been pointed out as far as we know. This is significant, since it implies that Indian craftspeople crossed the Indian ocean to Java or Sumatra at some point in the past.”

This paper is available to read and download here.

The Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is published three times a year and always has a Focus section.

In the current issue the focus is on textiles, with twelve articles about their changing roles in society. “The articles explore ever-present processes of adoption and adaption of ‘foreign’ elements into a local cultural context.” – IIAS. The image above shows a list of the articles. Please click here to access the articles themselves.

Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world……. Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel.

There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US. Published on 19 October 2021 and available to pre-order now.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

Cutting the ikat bindings on Savu.© David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

© Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Invitations will be sent out to members in a couple of weeks time, and registration will open to non-members a week later. This should be a fascinating talk so do mark it in your diaries!

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now.