Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian textile events.

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video. 

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!

Ainu exhibition in Köln – guest blog

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. On 5 November 2021 a new exhibition about these people opened at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (RJM) in Köln. The exhibition, which is called A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan, closes on 20 February 2022.

I am honoured to present below an article about the exhibition written by the curators OATG member Walter Bruno Brix and Dr Annabelle Springer (RJM).

Key visual for the exhibition “A Soul in Everything. Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan” © RJM, http://www.mariehelenscheid.de, Büro für Gestaltung – Marie-Helen Scheid

For Ainu, everything is animate – from mountains and waterfalls to small everyday items. This spirituality has always been of elemental importance to Ainu groups in Northern Japan and remains a central element of their cultural identity today. In their imagination, there is a living/inhabiting “soul” (kamuy) in almost everything that communicates with people. In the Köln exhibition, the beauty of things is made visible. It gives an insight into the history and resistance movement of Ainu groups and at the same time an impression of the beauty of their material and immaterial culture, complemented by contemporary artistic positions.

Exhibition “A Soul in Everything” © Annabelle Springer 2021

The cooperation with the National Ainu Museum, Hokkaido, Japan and the scientists affiliated there enabled deeper insights into Ainu cultures. In close exchange with representatives of Ainu groups, aspects of handling the things were discussed from a curatorial, restorative, and conservation-ethical perspective. Contemporary artistic positions were intensively integrated into the processual creation of the exhibition and elaborated for the exhibition.

Exhibition “A Soul in Everything” – Statement by artist and activist Dr. Kanako Uzawa © Annabelle Springer 2021

These include video works by artist and Ainu activist Mayunkiki, in which she reflects on what it means to be ‘Ainu’ and thus being part of a social minority in Japan; poignant portraits of both old and young generations of Ainu by Italian documentary photographer and director Laura Liverani, who thus sets a counterpoint to the historical portraits of Ainu in the RJM’s photographic collection; video projections by French artist Boris Labbé that intertwine duplication, reflections, and interweaving of the patterns of Ainu textiles and onomatopoeia of Ainu chants; and the dance works of Norway-based Ainu activist and artist Dr. Kanako Uzawa, who not only stimulates a sensitisation in the perception of minorities, but also responds to Ainu traditions in her artistic works.

The Collections in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum

The museum’s collections include 203 items that can be attributed to Ainu groups, as well as 80 historical photographs by Polish photographer Bronisław Piłsudski, who traveled to Ainu areas in the late nineteenth century. At that time, Western interest in Ainu cultures was high. They were idealised as good-natured and noble, in line with a romantic version of Rousseau’s notion of the “noble savage.” In Germany, moreover, the thesis of Ainu as a “missing link” between “Asian” and “European” people was intensively pursued. As a result, interest in their culture grew steadily. This was also the case with Wilhelm Joest, who traveled to Hokkaido in 1881 and from whose collection 18 items have been preserved by the museum. At the same time, antique and ethnographic dealers such as the Johann Friedrich Umlauff company sensed opportunities for lucrative business. In 1906 and 1907, more than 700 things from Hokkaido and Sakhalin were first offered to the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum by the Hamburg company Umlauff. The Foundation for the Promotion of the Museum acquired 220 numbers for the collection. In the further course of the twentieth century, interest in the cultures of the Ainu ebbed away, as evidenced by the small number of only three additions from private collections within the following 106 years.

The Köln collection includes ethnographic things such as tools, knives and other weapons for hunting, as well as arrows and bows, lances and fishing accessories. Also plates, bowls, spoons and mashers for preparing and serving food. Ceremonial items include libation spatulas (ikupasuy), prayer sticks (inao), and amulets. An important inventory is the numerous textiles that were elaborately handcrafted by Ainu women. These include bags made of elm bast, carrying straps, robes, belts, headdresses, gloves and footwear, a small but important selection of which is presented in the exhibition.

Libation spatula (ikupasuy) nineteenth century. © Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055076

A New Way of Dealing with Things

Things were reclassified not only from a curatorial perspective but also from a restoration and conservation perspective. The visit of a Japanese delegation in 2019 to study Ainu-related collections in European museums allowed things to be reclassified. Most of the things in the collection are made of perishable natural materials such as wood, bark, and fibres and undergo a process of change over time: they age, become brittle, or change in colours and textures. Slowing down these processes and thus documenting and preserving the things and all the information they contain for the future is the task of conservators. In the exhibition “A Soul in Everything” Petra Czerwinske, Kristina Hopp and Stephanie Lüerßen were responsible for this. They were also in close contact with colleagues from the National Ainu Museum and representatives of the Ainu from the very beginning. In addition to material-technological aspects, they discussed the handling of the things from a restorative and conservation-ethical perspective. In addition, in cooperation with the Institute for Restoration and Conservation Sciences at the Technical University in Köln, three textile items from the collection were examined and their materials and manufacturing techniques determined. In this way, valuable findings were obtained, which are presented in the exhibition.

Elm bast and embroidered silk

In the case of Ainu textiles, two main sources come together: on the one hand, Ainu women made garments from a variety of materials. These included fish skins, bird skins, and furs from hunted animals, but fabrics were also made from the bast fibres of trees such as linden and elm and from the fibres of nettle, and mats were woven from rushes. In contrast, textiles imported from Japan, China and Russia were made of cotton, wool or silk. In most cases, these were so precious that they were only used to decorate the homemade materials.

Upper garment (attush) from elm bast, nineteenth century (back).
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055073_02

The textile highlight in the exhibition is a complete nineteenth century garment made of elm bast (attush amip), decorated with appliquéd patterns. The plain weave fabric was made on a simple loom in which the weaver controls the tension of the warp threads by means of her body posture. Fine stripes of dark blue cotton threads are woven in at irregular intervals between the warp threads of bast fibres. Two of the fabric strips with a width of about 40 cm were laid over the shoulder and sewn together to form the body, while two other shorter ones were ingeniously folded in a triangular shape and attached as sleeves. Along the hems and the collar, wide ribbons run around the robe. A complex symmetrical pattern is appliquéd on the back and in the lower part. This consists of wide stripes of indigo dyed cotton fabric from Japan, and narrow curved interwoven lines above. These are also made of imported tabby weave cotton fabrics. The fact that these line patterns were not embroidered with threads, but rather appliquéd from narrow strips of fabric, indicates that this garment originated from an Ainu group from Sakhalin that no longer exists today and was forcibly resettled to Hokkaido in 1875 [note 1].

Upper garment (attush) from elm bast, nineteenth century (front).
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055073_02
 

The bands around the openings and the applied patterns are meant apotropaically, that is, to protect the person wearing the robe. The Ainu expression for this is sermaka omare [note 2]. Characteristic of Ainu patterns are spiral or bracket-like shapes (kiraw) and thorns (ayus) attached to the corners.

Small bag (ketush), nineteenth century (exterior). © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

Three smaller textiles are presented lying in a showcase and give an insight into the work of the three students (Viola Costanza, Tjarda Rauh, Anastazia Zitzer) of the TH Köln. One of them is a small bag (ketush; Inv. No. 253251) that was also sewn together from elm bast with woven-in warp stripes of indigo cotton. In this case, the stripes are more complex and groups of two equal stripes alternate with three stripes of different widths. Several pieces, possibly remnants of a garment, were put together and bordered with a surrounding band of dark dyed cotton.

Small bag (ketush), nineteenth century (interior). © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

The bag was worn with a cord loop on the belt. However, this is now torn and pulled out of the original openings in the flap. Whether this happened in use or was done intentionally to release the inherent ‘soul’ (kamuy) before giving it away cannot be determined with certainty today.

A small piece of silk wadding (Jap. mawata) is found under the folded-over flap. Possibly this sticky silk wadding once had a counterpart, so that it functioned like a kind of Velcro, or the wadding was used in making fire. Indeed, in this bag were kept bullets and a lighter for hunting.

Sleeveless jacket, nineteenth century. © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

Also presented here is a tiny sleeveless jacket (Inv. No. 254391) for an infant. This one is made of tabby weave cotton, dyed dark brown or discoloured, partially with a printed fabric. The chrysanthemum pattern of this lining on a turquoise blue background points to an origin in China. All in all, the entire vest was probably imported from China [note 3]. A clue to this is also provided by the designation of this jacket in the purchase documents of 1907, where it is described with the Ainu word ‘imi,’ which Batchelor translates as: “Generally Japanese clothing. Clothes made after Japanese fashion. Sometimes any clothes” [note 4].

Cloth, nineteenth century. © Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, photographer: Walter Bruno Brix 2021

The third textile shown here (Inv. No. 254451) consists of four sections of a Japanese robe and two other Japanese fabrics. The four sections of damask silk on the upper side have been elaborately dyed and come from a sumptuous ladies’ robe (Jap. kosode) of the nineteenth century. The woven damask patterns show scattered flowers on a background of linked swastika. This type of damask silk was originally imported from China, but was also made in Japan during the nineteenth century. On the creamy white silk, the motifs of blooming chrysanthemums, maple and pine trees among clouds and stripes of mist were reserved with a rice paste. This was applied by hand before the fabric was dyed dark brown. After removing the rice paste, the patterns stand out light on a dark background. Details such as leaf veins were added in fine ink painting. Coloured silk and gold threads were used to additionally over-embroider some of the patterns. The reverse side consists of two Japanese fabrics, which were also patterned with rice paste in a reservage technique. Stencils were used on both. The blue fabric is decorated with flowers in rows, the brownish one shows fine dots (Jap. Edo komon), which are ordered to a dense flower pattern. What the narrow elongated cloth was used for in the Ainu culture has not yet been clarified. Certainly it was a treasured thing that was highly valued.

Amulet (hoxchiri), End of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. © Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA), photographer: Anja Wegner, rba d055081

Another highlight of the collection is a small triangular amulet (Inv. No. 253071) made of glass beads. This was woven into the forehead hair of the boys and when this part was shaved after his first successful hunt, the amulet also fell away. The small glass beads are threaded together and then sewn on a base of a Japanese fabric. This is woven in fine plain weave, whether of cotton or linen could not be investigated so far. There is a fine dot pattern on an indigo blue ground, which was created by applying rice paste using a stencil before dyeing.

The exhibition presents important historical Ainu textiles. In addition, the traditions behind these textiles are also made accessible in other ways. Thus, it is possible to touch two different pieces of the rare attush fabrics. One of them is more modern and without signs of use. Here the surface is still rough. The other piece is older and is softer on the surface because of frequent use and being washed several times. The density and thickness of the weaving threads of both pieces is also different.

Other features include two videos showing the textile craft techniques that have been handed down to the present day. One of the videos shows the weaver Yukiko Kaizawa making a length of fabric from elm bast fibres (attush). As she shows the steps of making it from fibre extraction to dyeing to the finished woven piece, she talks about her life. A second video shows Ikuko Okada sewing an Ainu garment (ruunpe) from the Shiraoi area and decorating it with appliqué. She also talks about her view of her work and the traditions she preserves.

The exhibition “A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from the North of Japan” gives a deep insight into the history of the museum collection, the traditions of Ainu groups and their beliefs. At the same time, it makes voices of Ainu of today and their way to recognition audible in a variety of ways.

Notes

  1. Josef Kreiner, Hans-Dieter Ölschleger: Ainu – Jäger, Fischer und Sammler im Norden Japans Bestandskatalog RJM Köln, 1987, S. 86, Kat. No. 133. Mashiyat Zaman: The Ainu and Japan‘s Colonial Legacy, posted 23.3.2020, retrieved 8.11.2021.
  2. Kristie Hunger: Sermaka Omare: The Ainu Motif of Protection. An Analysis of Traditional Ainu Artwork. 2017.
  3. Oral hint thanks to Yoshiko Wada.
  4. John Batchelor: An Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary, 2nd ed., Tokyo 1905, p. 173.

OATG members may recall that we had planned a trip to the RJM for the summer of 2020, but alas were forced to cancel it. Hopefully this can be rearranged for the future as the museum really is worth spending time in. To get some idea of the scale of this museum and its textiles please take a look at this blog I wrote in 2019.

More Asian textile events in November

The autumn edition of our journal Asian Textiles has now been delivered to most members. Fittingly for this time of year there is a focus on scarves, with a short article on the wedding scarves of the Chuvash by Natalia Yurievna Kashpar.

There is also a much longer one on the kelaghayi of Azerbaijan by Maria Wronska-Friend. If you have been following us for a while you may remember I devoted an entire blog to these scarves in 2019. Michael Heppell has also written on Lampung, Tampan and Ibanic speakers, spurred on by an article by Georges Breguet in the previous edition.

Kantha embroidered textile (detail), India, Bengal, late 19th/early 20th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-1907. Photo by Bruce M. White Photography.

The second annual Cotsen Textile Traces Global Roundtable takes place online on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 November and the subject this year is From India to the World. The first day is devoted to Embroidered Textiles, and the second to Painted and Printed Textiles. Each day there will be three panels, and they feature some stellar speakers including Sarah Fee, Ruth Barnes, Monisha Ahmed and Rosemary Crill. These events begin at 09:00 EST, which is 14:00 GMT. This means that OATG members with stamina can ‘attend’ these sessions before our own talk in the evening.

You can read full details of the programme, including abstracts, here and register for it here.

4-panel screen with embroidered leaves on branch in the fall with two sparrows

A reminder that the next OATG event will be on Thursday 18 November.  This will be an online presentation by Luz van Overbeeke entitled Japanese Ornamental Textiles Through a Dealer’s Eyes. Luz specialises in ornamental textiles of the Meiji era and will discuss some of the most memorable textiles she has found over the years.

This talk will take place at 18:30 GMT and is free for OATG members. There is a small (£3) charge for non-members. Full details and registration here.

Thursday 18 November is certainly a busy day for textile lovers, as the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is also holding an online event. Professor Giorgio Riello of the University of Warwick is the speaker and his subject is The Ambassador is Spoiling Us: Gifts and Material Diplomacy at the Courts of Siam and France at the End of the Seventeenth Century.

“In the pre-modern period (c. 1400-1800), gifts were at the core of the ceremonies that accompanied the formal reception of foreign ambassadors. Both in Asia and in Europe, the choreography of the reception of ambassadors was carefully staged. This was the case for the Eurasian ambassadorial exchange between the distant Kingdoms of Siam (Thailand) and France in the 1680s. The fame of this specific diplomatic cross-cultural episode is due to the quantities and value of the gifts presented by the Siamese ambassadors to the Court of France and viceversa by the French ambassadors sent to the court of Siam. This presentation argues that diplomacy should not be read only at the level of rulers, in this case between Phra Narai (r. 1656-88) and Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715). The examination of the gifts themselves shows a series of other actors, most notably the ambassadors, but also Jesuits, merchants and adventurers.” – ACM website

The talk begins at 11:00 UTC, which is 19:00 GMT. Full details, and a link to register, can be found here.

On Friday 19 November the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies at UC Berkeley will host a Zoom webinar. The speaker is Mariachiara Gasparini and her subject is Across the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: Sino-Sogdian Textiles Beyond the Main Silk Routes.

“In the 6th century, the circulation of silk and embroidered textiles with zoomorphic motifs, often enclosed in pearl medallions, influenced Eurasian art. Although they have been often mistaken as ‘Sasanian,’ these textiles originated between Sogdiana and the western regions of China. However, only after the Islamization of Central Asia in the 8th century did these weavings evolve into new structures, and floral motifs were widely used to embellish or substitute the initial pearl medallions. By examining a group of 8th-9th-century weavings, which have recently appeared on the art market, in this paper, I discuss differences and variations between early and later structures and iconographic motifs. I argue that the Sogdian and Turko-Mongol trade might have also occurred beyond the main Silk Routes across the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.” – Mariachiara Gasparini

This talk begins at 14:00 PST, which is 22:00 GMT and registration is required.

New events

There are so many events coming up that I will be uploading two blogs this week.

©Minjee Kim.

On Thursday 4 November the Korean Cultural Society of Boston will host one of their regular programmes on Korean heritage. The speaker this week will be Dr Minjee Kim and the subject is Han-bok: Dress of Korean Identity. This talk “will shed light on the inception of the term “hanbok” and the composition of the ensembles for men and women, and its constant transformation in the context of modern Korean fashion history. Then it will overview contemporary hanbok ensembles for new-born babies, children, young and middle age adults, as well as weddings, burials, and funerals.” – KCSB website.

For more information click here and to register click here.

Please note that this online event takes place at 19:30 EDT, which is 23:30 GMT – fine for our many North American members but only for night owls in the UK.

Next make a note in your diaries that the proceedings of the 2021 Keimyung International Conference on the Silk Road and Central Asia will be available online from Friday 5 November. The subject of this conference is Textiles From The Silk Road: Origin, Transmission And Exchange. Nine speakers from around the world will present on a wide range of topics including Liao Women’s Dress, Animal Materials in Nomadic Costumes, Silk and Cotton Textiles in Ancient India and Central Asian Textile Motifs in Late Sasanian Art.

Brief summaries of each of the presentations can now be read here, but the videos themselves will not be uploaded until 5 November.

Saturday 6 November is a very busy day for textile lovers!

The Phoebe Hearst Museum will host a Zoom presentation on Asafo flags – these are militia insignia of the Fante states along the southern coast of Ghana. This Zoom event will feature Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford and Karun Thakar in conversation. They will “place Asafo flags within the wider context of global textile arts and reveal how the flags’ seemingly simple patterns can be ‘read’ to reveal aspects of the communities who made them, and the performances in which they played a part.”  – ETC website

To register for this event, which is co-sponsored by the Phoebe Hearst Museum and Tracing Patterns Foundation, click here. It starts at 10:00 PT, which is 17:00 GMT.

A great video of these flags in use, which really brings them to life, and a short talk by Gus Casely-Hayford can be viewed here.

I have blogged about these flags from Karun Thakar’s collection before, when some were exhibited at the Brunei Gallery in London. Over 250 of his flags now form an online exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.

Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.

“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection.

Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.

Also taking place on Saturday 6 November is the Rienzi Symposium hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This virtual event explores their current exhibition Hidden Hands: Invisible Workers in Industrial England, which is on show until 2 January 2022. This virtual symposium runs from 10:00-15:00 CDT, which is 15:00-20:00 GMT, and you can see the schedule and register here.

As if that’s not enough historian and author John Vollmer will be giving a virtual presentation for the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art the same day, linked to their current exhibition Weaving Splendor: Treasures of Asian Textiles which I have already blogged about. His talk is entitled Why are Textiles Masterpieces? Asian Textiles in Weaving Splendor and takes place at 13:00 CDT, which is 18:00 GMT.

You can register for this free talk here.

The following day, Sunday 7 November Brian Morehouse will be giving a webinar for the New England Rug Society on the subject Yastiks: A Comparative Study of the Designs of Published and Unpublished Examples. Brian is the author of Yastiks: Cushion Covers and Storage Bags of Anatolia and this talk will explore the changing visual language over time within certain yastik groups. The talk will take place at 13:00 ET, which is 17:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

On Tuesday 9 November the Hajji Baba Club of New York will hold their next meeting online via Zoom. The presenter will be Melinda Watt of the Textile Department, Art Institute of Chicago and her subject will be The Blueberry Pie Carpet: A Morris Carpet at Home in Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago has one large and important carpet made by Morris & Co. for the Glessner House, which is located in the historic Prairie District neighbourhood of the city. …. This talk will explore the decoration of the Glessner House, centred on the large entry hall carpet, and focused on the influence of historical and Middle Eastern textiles manifested in the carpet and Morris’ work.

Melinda Watt’s first exhibition at the Institute will open on 18 December and is entitled Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty.

This talk will begin at 18:00 EDT, which is 22:00 GMT. Full details and registration are available here.

Image: Xunka Tulan (Navenchauc, San Lorenzo Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico); Wedding huipil, commissioned late 1970s; cotton, feathers; Fowler Museum at UCLA, X91.546; Gift of Mrs. Gene Stuart

On Wednesday 10 November the Fowler Museum has organised another in its Curator’s Choice series. Elena Phipps, author of several books on the textile traditions of the Andean people, and Hector M. Meneses Lozano, Director of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in Mexico, will discuss Feather Embellishments in Mexican Huipiles.

“The program will briefly trace the history of the huipil and highlight some of its special features. Lozano will share some examples from the extensive collection of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, alongside a few special pieces from the Fowler Museum. The discussion will then focus on a unique group of huipiles woven with spun downy bird feathers.” – Fowler Museum. 

This programme begins at 11:00 PST, which is 19:00 GMT. More details and registration here.

©Victoria Vorreiter.

Gavin Strachan kindly sent me information about this Songs of Memory Journal, written by Victoria Vorreiter, who specialises in documenting spirit intermediaries. There are some remarkable photographs of various ceremonies. Those with a particular interest in the Hmong will enjoy reading her beautifully illustrated article Bridging the Realms of Mortals and Deities. Hmong Spirit Intermediaries and their Numinous Powers.

OATG members may recall that Victoria wrote a long article for our Asian Textiles journal in 2016, which is now available for non-members to read online.

Finally an advance notice of the next OATG meeting. This will be an online presentation by Luz van Overbeeke entitled Japanese Ornamental Textiles Through a Dealer’s Eyes. Luz specialises in ornamental textiles of the Meiji era and will discuss some of the most memorable textiles she has found over the years.

This talk will take place on Thursday 18 November at 18:30 GMT and is free for OATG members. There is a small (£3) charge for non-members. Full details and registration 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.

Recordings, articles and upcoming talks

For the past year we have had to hold all of our OATG events online. This means we have missed out on the social aspects of catching up with textile friends over a glass of wine after the lectures, as well as getting to actually handle the textiles. However there have been some advantages. We’ve been able to listen to speakers from other countries – Sarah Fee from Toronto, Geneviève Duggan from Singapore and Walter Bruno Brix from Köln – with more to come later this year.

One of the great benefits of OATG membership is access to recordings of these talks, enabling you to watch them at a time of your choosing – particularly important now that we have so many international members. Recordings of the most recent talks (on Chinese, Iranian and Greek textiles) have now been made available. Just go to our website, click on the relevant talk and enter the password. If you have forgotten the password please contact a committee member.

In a recent blog I mentioned the Journal of Dress History and incorrectly stated that it did not have an index. In fact three are provided on the website – one each for articles, exhibition reviews and book reviews. Just click on the relevant link in the blue box on this page.

Portrait of Dowager Empress Tse Hsi by Katharine Carl, 1904. © Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

If like me you really enjoyed the recent talk on Chinese textiles by Walter Bruno Brix, then I’m sure this article in the Spring 2020 issue of the Journal (pp. 111-136) will be of interest to you. The subject is Of Silk and Statecraft: Dowager Empress Cixi (1835–1908) and Power Dressing in Late Qing Dynasty China, 1860–1911, and the author is Felicity Yao.

Saami boots with upturned toes, Aiddjavre, Norway. © Ron Wood

On Sunday 8th August 2021 the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, will hold a virtual tour of their exhibition Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection. This will take place at 1100 EDT, which is 1600 BST and you can register for it via this link. More information about the exhibition, including some excellent images and a short video of the techniques and skills used by Canadian Inuit women to create intricate and beautiful designs on traditional kamiks, can be found here.

Chullos from Tarabuco, Bolivia

The next in the series of textile talks hosted by Andean Textile Arts will take place on Tuesday 10th August 2021 at 1900 EDT, which is midnight BST, so another one for the nightowls. The speaker will be Cynthia LeCount Samaké and her subject is the Andean Knitting of Bolivia and Peru. Cynthia is the author of Andean Folk Knitting, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia, and many textile-related articles. I can certainly attest to her love of knitting, having seen her knit her way through the nightly lectures when she joined our Indonesian textile tour!

A tiny monedero knitted in the shape of a man holding a llama. © Cynthia LeCount Samaké

In this talk she will show that “knitters in the Andes continue to produce amazing headgear and other textiles for their own use. Their intricate and innovative work today surprises viewers by going beyond typical colors and motifs, while remaining true to traditional techniques and form.” – ATA website. Click here to register.

A kalamkari hanging. © ROM

On Wednesday 18th August 2021 the Royal Ontario Museum will host a free Zoom programme linked to their current exhibition on chintz, the Cloth that Changed the World. Rosemary Crill, a long-time supporter of the OATG, will examine an important group of seventeenth century South Indian textiles. “These previously unknown, extraordinary kalamkari masterworks depict scenes from palace life, with a Hindu ruler and ladies in a palace setting and in procession with his army. This talk will place these panels in the context of other known kalamkari hangings and the elaborate decoration of the textiles and architectural settings will be discussed, as well as the probable patron and place of production.” – ROM website. This talk begins at noon EDT, which is 1700 BST and you can register for it here.

Selvedge have an interesting blog about the logos used for the current Tokyo Olympics. Designed by Tokolo Asao and called Harmonised chequered emblem, these logos are made up of rectangles and a square in a pattern called ichimatsu moyo, which apparently first became popular in the Edo period of Japan. “The three different rectangles that connect at every corner can fill a circle perfectly — at first glance the simplicity is deceptive, and further inspection reveals the complexity that can only have been made possible as a result of mathematical logic. The design is said to represent the harmony of different countries, cultures and an inclusive world.” – Selvedge blog

The links between Japan and indigo are well-known, and an excellent short article by Rowland Ricketts on the growing of indigo can be accessed here.

Nineteenth century suzani from Nurata, Uzbekistan. © Russian State Museum of Oriental Art.

Voices on Central Asia has an interesting and well-illustrated article on suzani. It is entitled The Love and Beauty of Wedding Suzani from the Collection of the Russian State Museum of Oriental Art and was written by Vera Myasina. It contains an overview of suzani production and describes the broad differences between suzani from different areas of Uzbekistan – the airy open feel of Nurata suzani, the huge dark circles from Tashkent etc.

A controversial carpet: 16th century Persia or 19th century Persia or India? Purchased by J.Paul Getty from the Kevorkian Collection, 1969

Finally on Thursday 26th August 2021 we have the next OATG talk. Our speaker will be Dr Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is 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 Sheffield, 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 Foundation, 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 and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, who should have already received their invitation but still need to register. Registration (£3) for non-members will open on 8th August. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.

Textiles from Japan, Africa, Bolivia, Tibet, Iran……..

Good news! Some museums are now reopening. Among these is the Östasiatiska Museet in Stockholm.

Their current exhibition, which runs until 15 August 2021, is entitled Boro – The Art of Necessity. On show will be a unique collection of boro objects loaned from the Amuse Museum in Tokyo, as well as newly produced works by Swedish artists. “Ripped, worn, patched and lovingly mended. Boro textiles tell us about the art of surviving on scarce resources in a harsh place. In northern Japan, the winters are cold and the population has historically been poor. Here, among farmers and fishermen, a distinctive female craft was developed in which nothing went to waste.” – museum website.

I like the fact that the textiles have been displayed in such a way that the viewer can see all sides clearly.

Another new exhibition opens in London on Granary Square, King’s Cross on 8 April 2021. This outdoor photography exhibition is called The Silk Road: A Living History . Over 160 images are used to document a journey along this historic trade route undertaken by the photographer in 2019.

Tajik girl dancing in the Pamir mountains. © Christopher Wilton-Steer.

“The exhibition’s linear design creates a physical route for the viewer offering them the chance to travel by proxy…… The show aims to celebrate the diversity of cultural expressions found along the Silk Road, highlight examples of how historical practices, rituals and customs live on today, and also reveal some of the connections between what appear at first glance to be very different cultures. It also seeks to engender interest and understanding between distant cultures and challenge perceptions of less well known and understood parts of the world. Photographs from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, China and elsewhere will feature in the show. Visitors will be able to access additional content including videos and music via QR codes on each panel of the exhibition.” – Christopher Wilton-Steer. The exhibition runs until 16 June 2021.

Outer-kimono for a young woman (uchikake), 1800 – 30, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Image Courtesy of the Joshibi University of Art and Design Art Museum

Registrations are now open for non-members for the OATG’s next exciting talk (£3 donation) which will take place on Thursday 22 April 2021 at 18:30 BST, which should also work out for our many members in the US. The speaker will be Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian department at the V&A and curator of their blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. In this talk Anna will take us on a fascinating journey from the sophisticated culture of seventeenth century Kyoto to the contemporary catwalk and reveal some of the stories behind the exhibition. 

Anna also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book Textiles of Japan (see my blog of December 2019). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she said her aim in this exhibition was to “overturn the idea of the kimono as static, atrophied object and show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion”. She also discussed the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the talk. In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly. The exhibition was in three sections. “It begins by unpicking the social significance and heritage of the kimono in 17th century Japan, moving to consider the kimono and its position across a more international agenda, finishing with the progressive transformation of its comtemporary (sic) identity.” Scarlett Baker, LOVE magazine.

This is certain to be a very popular talk so I strongly suggest you register for it as soon as possible via this link. If you are enjoying our programme of talks why not consider becoming a member?

“Furisode with Wave and Crane Design, Made for Nishimura Tokuko, the fourteenth Madame Nishimura” by Chiso Co., Ltd, 1938. Yuzen-dyeing and embroidery on woven silk.

Those with a serious interest in kimono will be delighted to hear of not one, but two more exhibitions dedicated to that topic, both at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. The first of these is an online exhibition entitled Kimono Couture: The Beauty of Chiso. This exhibition is organised by the Worcester Art Museum in partnership with Chiso, a 465-year-old kimono design and production house based in Kyoto, Japan. I highly recommend spending some time ‘visiting’ this exhibition. It is divided into eleven parts, covering topics such as design, symbolism and decorative techniques. Clicking on each part will bring up much more information and a video.

Itō Shinsui (1898–1972), Woman with Marumage Hairstyle, 1924, Publisher: Watanabe Shōzaburō, color woodblock print on mica (kirazuri) ground, Gift of Edward Kenway, 1960.7

The second exhibition opened on 6 February 2021 and will end on 2 May 2021. It is entitled The Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design and looks at the kimono as a source of design and inspiration through seventy prints. “Print artists from 17th to 20th -century Japan documented ever-evolving trends in fashion, popularized certain styles of dress, and even designed kimonos. The works begin with early prints from the late 17th century, when a more complex and sophisticated attitude towards clothing first appeared, as seen in the lavish prints of the floating world’s celebrity kabuki actors and courtesans. Modern design books and prints from the early 20th century, inspired by or made for kimono, demonstrate how the boundaries between print and textile fashion and design became more fluid.” – museum website. Monika Bincsik of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will give an online talk entitled Kimono Fashion in Kyoto at 18:00 EDT on Thursday 15 April. That works well for our US members, but UK members should note that this starts at 23:00 BST!

An interesting article by Karla Klein Albertson giving the background to these two exhibitions appeared in Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Another very detailed article just looking at the prints appeared in Asian Art newspaper.

Image: Bisa Butler, Broom Jumpers, 2019. Cotton, silk, wool and velvet, 221 cm x 132.7 cm.

In my most recent blog I wrote about an event on 7 April hosted by Selvedge, which has a panel of speakers looking at the subject of African wax prints. They have now added the extraordinary quilt artist Bisa Butler to the list of speakers for that event. Click here for full details and how to book. A reminder that two events linked to the upcoming Chintz exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum take place online on 8th and 9th April – see my previous blog for full details.

Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist Meghann O’Brien wearing the Sky Blanket she wove from mountain goat wool

Next Thursday, 8 April 2021 the Fowler Museum will host a conversation with artist Meghann O’Brien and textile scholar Elena Phipps about Indigenous knowledge and creative practice. “Meghann O’Brien is a Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist whose Chilkat textiles are based on the knowledge and artistic practices of her ancestors. Her projects engage specialized techniques of basketry and weaving, and use mountain goat wool, cedar bark, and other earthly materials to connect to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. With these materials, she explores issues related to Indigenous fashion and couture, reframing the past and applying it to present-day life. ” – Fowler Museum.

This event takes place at 11:00 PDT , which is 19:00 in the UK. It is free, but you do need to register for it. There is also an interesting article in Mountain Life Media, which gives more background into how Meghann began weaving and the creation of her Sky Blanket. The short video shows how the blanket moves when worn.

© Cheri Hunter

On Saturday 10 April Cheri Hunter, the dynamic President of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, will be the speaker at their next event. Her topic will be the Textiles, Costumes & Pile Trappings of the Eastern Grasslands of Tibet. Cheri’s background is in film editing in Hollywood and she certainly brings that artistic eye to her photography. She has written many articles with photo-spreads for Hali. This illustrated talk “will emphasize both the local and imported textiles, costumes and pile horse trappings in use throughout the Kham and Amdo grasslands, as well as in shaman rituals and horse competitions, where all of the participants, including the horses, are dressed in their finest…… Please note that this program is a cultural travelogue rather than a scholarly program, with an emphasis on the textiles, costumes and horse trappings worn in festivals.” – Cheri Hunter. The talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 in the UK. More details and registration here.

The Andean Textile Arts organisation will be hosting a talk on 13 April entitled Renewing Value in Southern Bolivia’s Textiles. The speaker will be Kevin Healy, who will introduce the audience to Antropologos del Surandino (ASUR). “ASUR is a Bolivian cultural foundation that has pioneered efforts to revitalize the Andean textile traditions in southern Bolivia. Since the late 1980s, ASUR has developed community-based programs that provide a way for the region’s rural indigenous weavers to continue creating and producing their beautiful Andean designs. Kevin will discuss how ASUR ’s work has provided a commercial outlet for the weavers in the capital city of Sucre, while also establishing a textile museum visited by multitudes of Bolivian schoolchildren and national and foreign tourists.” – ATA. The talk begins at 19:00 EDT, which is midnight in the UK – one for the night owls!

Carpets in the Bardini Museum, Florence

Next, one for the carpet lovers. On Thursday 15 April the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will host Alberto Boralevi who will talk about Stefano Bardini and the International Carpet Trade at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Bardini was an Italian antiques dealer based in Florence who handled many historical carpets, building up relationships with prominent collectors and museums. Twenty-two such carpets are housed in the Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence. The Bardini archives have a collection of over six thousand original negatives which show most of the objects which passed through his hands. To register for this talk, which takes place at 11:00 EDT (16:00 BST), please contact Elisabeth Parker, Vice-President of the Hajji Baba Club, using this form.

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

On Saturday 24 April Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, will talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat will provide an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another. Mushkat will also explore design repertoire, function and the importance of these textiles to the women who made them. ” – Textile Museum website. The talk takes place at 11:00 EDT which is 16:00 BST and you can register for it here.   You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.

Textile events in early April

April seems to be a particularly busy month for textile events, so I am splitting this across two blogs – this one and then another next week.

On Thursday 1 April the Royal Society for Asian Affairs hosts a talk by James Crowden, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, on Mr Consta and the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers.

This is a “terrifying yarn about the geopolitics of carpet making, from the burning of Smyrna in 1922 to Partition in Amritsar in 1947, via Athens, Leeds, Vichy France, Tabriz, Kerman… and Dorset. The view from one Greek/French/British family involved up to the neck for over 120 years…… The Moderator for this talk will be Antony Wynn, author of Three Camels to Smyrna, the history of the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers, for which he worked as a buyer in Iran in the 1970s.” – RSAA website. Click here to register for this talk which begins at 14:00 BST.

Ghanaian designer Atto Tetteh wearing a print by Dutch designer Simone Post for Vlisco.

On Wednesday 7 April Selvedge will be hosting an evening of discussion on the topic of African wax print, followed by the screening of a documentary film. Participants in the discussion include Adaku Parker of Dovetailed London, whose company brings together African fashion and British design. Joining her will be Dutch designer Simone Post, who has worked on a range of prints for Vlisco. Despite strong quality controls, things can sometimes go wrong in a manufacturing process with 27 separate steps. “Safeguarding their quality standard, Vlisco cannot bring the misprints to market. Only the best of the best goes to Africa.” – Simone Post’s website. Simone realised that the rejected fabric could in fact be repurposed and used in an entirely different way. She is now developing a range of high-quality rugs from this waste material.

The final participant is Anne Grosfilley, a French anthropologist who has undertaken over 20 years of fieldwork on the African continent. She is the author of many articles, as well as several books on the subject. I particularly enjoyed reading this interview with her by Godfrey Deeney in Fashion Network in which they discuss the collaboration between Dior and Uniwax, a company on the Ivory Coast that uses traditional methods and local African cotton.

The discussion will be followed by a screening of the film Wax Print by the Nigerian-British filmmaker Aiwan Obinyan. Full details of this event can be found here. It starts at 18:00 BST and you can register for it here.

The opening of the major exhibition devoted to chintz at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London has been delayed until 18 May 2021. The exhibition of 150 textiles has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. I will blog about this in more detail nearer the time.

Part of the upcoming exhibition

In the meantime the museum has organised several events to whet your appetite. The first of these takes place on Thursday 8 April at 18:00 BST. This is an online talk by Honorary Senior Research Fellow Mary Schoeser, entitled The Flowering of English Chintz: 1800-1875. “This online lecture demonstrates how designs changed over the period, as well as highlighting the importance of women as consumers, whose tastes were informed by new trends in gardening and collections of botanical prints. Mary will also illustrate the chintzes that were criticised as bad taste and reveals whether that made them more of less popular.” – Museum website. Click here for more information and to book.

The following day, Friday 9 April at 13:00 BST there is an opportunity to meet the curators involved with the exhibition during an illustrated panel discussion which will be chaired by Dennis Nothdruft (Head of Exhibitions). Panellists will include Mary Schoeser, who was responsible for the Victorian Chintz and its Legacy section of the exhibition, and Gieneke Arnolli, who was curator at the Fries Museum for almost four decades. There will be an opportunity to see several of the images from the exhibition as well as to learn more about its conception and the history of chintz. Click here for more information and to book for this curator talk.

On Saturday 10 April Historic Deerfield will host a one-day virtual forum entitled Invisible Makers: Textiles, Dress, and Marginalized People in 18th- and 19th- century America.

Selection of eighteenth and nineteenth century clothing

There will be a series of lectures by “a dynamic roster of academic and museum professionals discussing examples of the important roles and contributions of BIPOC textile and clothing producers and consumers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Presented as case studies, the research includes textiles and clothing produced by forced labor within plantations; people of color working as tailors and dressmakers in Massachusetts; and marginalized people who fashioned their dressed bodies using Anglo-European garments in ways that both subverted normative styles while expressing “other” cultural identities.” – Deerfield website. Recordings of each session will be available to those who register for two weeks after the event, so it doesn’t really matter if you are in a different time zone. More information can be found here.

Kimono for a young woman (furisode), 1905–20, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Khalili Collection, K106

Many members were looking forward to the OATG visit to the V&A’s blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which we sadly had to cancel. We are delighted that our April speaker will be the curator, Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department. In this talk Anna will take us on a fascinating journey from the sophisticated culture of seventeenth century Kyoto to the contemporary catwalk and reveal some of the stories behind the exhibition. This is certain to be a very popular talk so I strongly suggest you register for it early. Members have already been sent a link to the booking form. Registrations for non-members will open next Friday (2 April) and I will include a link in my next blog.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Finally, in January I blogged about a series of interviews that the Textile Museum were hosting on a variety of topics – eighteenth century dyers, Andean textiles, Oriental carpets in Portuguese collections etc. I’m delighted to say that the recordings of these sessions are now available to watch at your leisure. Make a cup of coffee, get comfortable and click here to watch them.

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.

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!