Exhibition: Chintz – Cotton in Bloom

Exhibition dates: 11 March – 10 September 2017

The Museum of Friesland in Leeuwarden presents a major exhibition of its extensive and well-preserved collection of chintz: the shiny, floral, hand-painted cotton from India that conquered sixteenth-century Europe. The beautiful patterns feel familiar while at the same time convey a special story. Objects displayed range from skirts, jackets, sun hats and regional clothing to wall hangings and blankets. The exhibition Chintz  Cotton in Bloom takes the visitor on a journey from India to Hindeloopen, Indonesia and Japan.

Chintz  Cotton in Bloom shows the wide variety of colourful floral patterns on skirts and jackets, as well as huge wapenpalempores (bedspreads larger than 3.5 x 2.5 metres with a coat of arms). The regional clothing demonstrates how the chintz was cherished and preserved. The visitor discovers the special techniques of this craft and how chintz played an important role in the world in the seventeenth century. In addition, the exhibition shows that chintz still inspires new initiatives in the field of handicrafts. Together with the Textiel Factorij, the Museum of Friesland presents contemporary works by Dutch artists and designers made with Indian craftsmen.

For more information, visit the website of the Fries Museum, Netherlands.

Textile Tidbits: Handmade in Japan – The Kimono

For my latest Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about the production of kimonos in present-day Japan.

This programme visits the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk, which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.

To watch this programme online, visit the BBC iPlayer website (unfortunately for international readers, this video is only viewable in the UK).

Exhibition: Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil

Exhibition dates: 11 April – 7 December 2017

This exhibition celebrates one of the ULITA archive’s major collections – ‘katagami’, Japanese resist dyeing stencils, which form a prominent part of ULITA’s Japanese collection. Through drilling, punching and cutting, a great variety of detailed and intricate designs were cut into mulberry paper. These stencils were used for dyeing designs onto clothing ranging from everyday workers’ garments to the finest silk kimonos.

This exhibition introduces the techniques of making and using the katagami, and explores the imagery used. Although produced simply as tools, in recent years, the katagami themselves have come to be appreciated as remarkable and beautiful objects in their own right. The designs on the stencils amount to more than decoration. Whether it be evoking a season, carrying wishes for longevity and good fortune or containing an entire folk story, every katagami has a story to tell about the fashion and culture of Japan at the time of its creation and use.

Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil features forty katagami, including stencils lent by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDa),which informed the work of the British textile company the Silver Studio, whilst stencil-dyed clothing lent by Leeds Museums and Galleries shows the finishing effects. The exhibition has been realised with the support of MoDa as part of their Arts Council-funded project Katagami in Practice. The exhibition is written and curated by guest Curator Dr Alice Humphrey, who has worked with the katagami collections in both ULITA and MoDa.

For more information, visit the website of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).

Exhibition: Kimonos – Au bonheur des dames

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Exhibition dates: 22 February – 22 May 2017

Pieces from the collection of the famous Matsuzakaya fashion house are currently being exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, at the Musée Guimet in Paris. When shown together, they offer an opportunity to witness the evolution of Japanese fashion from the Edo period (1603–1868) up to the present day. The exhibition follows the development of the kimono and its accompanying accessories, in order to illustrate the position of women and the way in which women’s bodies are viewed in Japanese society, but also the ways in which these have been reinterpreted in contemporary Japanese and French fashion.

Originally worn as underclothing before being adopted by samurai and courtiers, and eventually becoming everyday wear for all social classes, the kimono, known as ‘kosode’ in the nineteenth century, is the signature item of Japanese dress. It wasn’t until the middle of the nineteenth century that kimonos were worn as indoor dress by elegant women in France, at a time when a taste for ‘japonism’ was in vogue with fashion designers such as Paul Poiret (1879–1944) or Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975), whose diaphonous creations with flowing sleeves resemble the loose construction of kimonos.

For more information, visit the website of the Musée Guimet, Paris.

Exhibition: From the Lands of Asia – The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection

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Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 19 March 2017

Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal, Canada, is currently showing the world premiere of From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition features some 400 pieces selected from among the finest objects in a collection of 5,000 works of Asian art amassed over fifty years by an American couple living in Paris. This collection – one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Chinese jade and Asian objects – includes stones, icons, textiles, ceramics, ivories, porcelains and clothing.

Sam and Myrna Myers acquired their first pieces in Switzerland in 1966 – objects mainly from the classical age (Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Orient). At the time, the couple was being advised by erudite and intellectual gallery owner Dr Rosembaum, who rubbed shoulders with such renowned writers as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann, and pioneers of surrealism like Hans Arp and Max Ernst.

Having taken this first step, the Myers then sought to enrich their collection. Everywhere they went, they frequented antique dealers, visited museums and went to auctions. From that point on, the collectors concentrated on East Asian pieces, creating unique and coherent ensembles, particularly in jade, silk, porcelain and other refined materials – some of which are described as having magical properties.

Among other elements of the exhibition, visitors are wrapped up in the world of textiles. Costumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the Myers Collection prove to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge about the customs and know-how of many societies.

In China, silk fabrics reflected the wearers’ wealth and social status. At court, for example, the colour and decorations of dress changed from dynasty to dynasty. In this colourful, silk-filled space, we are introduced to key characters, including the scholar, whom we learn about through a robe – a rare complete example of a garment of this type – and through accessories such as inkstones, which these experts in writing would retain for their entire lives. From Japan, we discover the kimono, considered by some to be the most elegant garment in the world. We also cross paths with the samurai and their clothing, adapted for wearing armour. Also in Japan, we learn about the Noh theatre, with its actors dressed in sumptuous silk costumes. And we imagine the lives of Uzbek merchants and riders crisscrossing the steppes, clad in flamboyantly colourful garments that take our breath away. A brilliant finale to this journey to East Asia through the works of the Sam and Myrna Myers Collection.

If you can’t make it to Canada to see this exhibition in person, there is a catalogue available.

For more information, visit the website of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Montreal, Canada.

Exhibition: Bingata! Only in Okinawa

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Exhibition dates: 5 November 2016 – 30 January 2017

Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, was an independent kingdom until 1879, with its own language, culture, and distinctive textile traditions. This special showing at the Textile Museum, Washington DC, of textile treasures from Okinawan museum collections features brightly coloured bingata – traditional resist-dyed fabrics – and contemporary works by Okinawan artists and fashion designers.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Exhibition: Kimonos from the Okura collection

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Exhibition dates: 21 October – 13 December 2016

Discover the colourful tales from ‘No’, one of Japan’s oldest forms theatrical forms, this autumn. Last month, the Rijksmuseum unveiled seven magnificent No theatre kimonos that exemplify the changes in No through the centuries.

No theatre originated in the fourteenth century and is a stylised Japanese dramatic form in which song, music and dance come together. The highlight of the presentation is a magnificent eighteenth-century kimono with embroidered moonflower tendrils on saffron-coloured woven silk damask.

The seven kimonos from the Okura Collection provide a representative overview of No theatre costumes. They give an impression of the colourful atmosphere that must have existed during No performances in the past. The leading man who slowly made his entrance, looming up in the half-darkness of the bridge to the main stage, with an abundance of fabrics decorated with gold, silver and contrasting colours glittering in the subdued light.

That atmosphere was also created by the masks that the actors wore during their performance. The masks conveyed the personality of their character. A number of these masks are also on display, as well as prints that show how the colourful kimonos were worn, often layered over each other.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Netherlands.

Event: Bingata! Only in Okinawa: Textiles and Traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom

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Event date: Saturday 5 November 2016, 9am – 5pm

The Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA – 2016 Fall Symposium

Known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until 1879, Okinawa has a rich tradition of textile production and design, including the unique resist-dye method known as bingata. Inspired by the exhibition Bingata! Only in Okinawa, the 2016 fall symposium will feature five distinguished scholars from Okinawa – folklorists, curators and historians of textiles and theatre – who will provide a broader context for Okinawa’s celebrated textile art.

Online registration for the 2016 fall symposium is now open.
Rates: $40/museum members; $50/public.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Event: REMINDER – Clare Pollard Talks about Ornamental Meiji Textiles at the National Museum of Ireland

OATG - Clare Pollard Talks about Meiji Textiles

Japanese fukusa wrapping cloth; silk embroidered with gold and coloured silk, c. 1878, National Museum of Ireland, 1879.204. © National Museum of Ireland.

Event date: Wednesday 28 September 2016, 4.15 – 5pm (viewing), 5.15pm (presentation)

This is just a reminder about the OATG event taking place next Wednesday, comprising a viewing of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century decorative Japanese textiles from the Ashmolean Museum’s collection, followed by a presentation by Dr Clare Pollard on discoveries made during a recent visit to Dublin.

Dr Clare Pollard is Curator of Japanese Art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. She has previously worked as Curator of the East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

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

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

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

Exhibition: The Box Project – Uncommon Threads

box-project-uncommon-threadsExhibition dates: 11 September 2016 – 15 January 2017

This dazzling exhibition, currently on display in Los Angeles, features commissions by three dozen acclaimed international artists including Richard Tuttle, Cynthia Schira, Helena Hernmarck, James Bassler, Gyöngy Laky, Gerhardt Knodel, Sherri Smith, N. Dash, Lewis Knauss, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Kiyomi Iwata, Nancy Koenigsberg and John Garrett. It showcases these skilled artists’ ingenious use – and often expansive definitions –  of fibre, while exploring the collector/artist relationship.

The commissioned works come from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection.

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