Selected textile events in July

A new exhibition entitled Baghs – Abstract Gardens opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London today Tuesday 13 July 2021. This exhibition showcases excellent examples of baghs and phulkaris from the Karun Thakar collection. These were domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab, which were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women. There was also an export market for them in the nineteenth century. Bookings for this free exhibition, which runs until 25 September 2021, are available through this link.

Part of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery

OATG members in the UK should now be receiving their hard copy of our journal Asian Textiles. It takes a little longer to reach our overseas members, but for those who can’t wait a pdf will soon be available on our website in the password-protected area.

This is a particularly eclectic edition, with articles on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif (Gaspard de Marval and Georges Breguet), Multaka-Oxford and the Jenny Balfour Paul pieces at the Pitt Rivers (Thandiwe Wilson), Textiles from the Yemen (Angela Thompson), Finnish ryijy rugs (Igor Honkanen and Gavin Strachan) and much more. We are now using a different printing company and I think the illustrations really shine through.

Another publication that you may find of interest is The Journal of Dress History, produced by The Association of Dress Historians. This Association “supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day.” Each edition of the journal contains lengthy scholarly articles, along with numerous book and exhibition reviews. They can be accessed completely free of charge here. My only criticism would be that it would be good to have an index of the articles too. EDIT – I have since been informed that three separates indices are in fact available – one covers the articles, one the book reviews and one the exhibition reviews. lick the relevant link in the blue box on the right on this page. Apologies for not spotting this earlier!

Detail, Yūzen Pattern Dyeing on Silk, a Textile Design and Color Sample for Girls’
Kimono, Early Showa period, circa 1926–1945, © The Private Collection of Keiko
Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan

On Saturday 17 July 2021 the George Washington Textile Museum will be hosting one of its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. In Silk Stories docent Pamela Kaplan will introduce her project looking at the history of silk production in India and around the world. “The project documents the changing lives of silk farmers and textile producers through photographs, videos, interviews and more.” – Textile Museum website. This virtual event takes place at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. It is free, but registration is required.

© Pamela Kaplan

Don’t forget the next OATG event is our talk by Walter Bruno Brix of the German Textile Museum at 18:30 BST on Thursday 22 July 2021. Walter will be talking to us about the museum’s current exhibition Dragons Woven With Golden Threads. This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website. This Zoom talk is also open to non-members for a small (£3) donation. Please click here to register, but hurry as there are not many spaces remaining!

A new exhibition will open on 23 July 2021 at The Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. The exhibition is entitled In Harmony with Red: Turkmens and will run until 23 January 2022. It examines the dominance of the colour red in their textiles, carpets, horse and camel decorations, how it was used in ritual items and as part of decorative designs. Click here for more details and several more examples of the exhibits.

Fragment of a Yomud yurt band, nineteenth century. © REM

On Thursday 29 July 2021 the Textile Museum have another film discussion in their regular Fashion on Film series. This time the film in question is Threads – an award-winning documentary by Cathy Stevulak looking at the late Surayia Rahman and her role in transforming traditional kantha embroidery from “patchworks of old clothing to articles of fashion”. When you sign up for this event you will receive a link to watch the 32 minute documentary at your leisure, as well as instructions for joining the program for a group discussion. As the discussion is at 18:00 EDT (23:00 BST) it may be too late for our UK members, but that doesn’t preclude you from watching the documentary.

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

© Cathy Stevulak

If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ersari chuval, private collection

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

Image © Cathy Stevulak

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

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

OATG member David Richardson discussing textiles with Geneviève Duggan on Savu

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

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

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

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

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

The scarf and shawls I collected in 1997 and 2000

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

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

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

Textiles from Japan, Africa, the Pacific, Asia…….

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.

Tomorrow, 15 October 2020, the Japan House, London will host a panel discussion on the making of the film Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan by director Mizoguchi Naomi.

“Filmed in Biratori, Hokkaido, this documentary follows the everyday life of four elder members of the Ainu community, focussing on their experiences and efforts in the preservation of history and culture through Ainu language classes and participation in several daily activities.” – Japan Society website.

After the panel discussion, registered participants will be able to watch a full screening of the film via a video link. For more information and a link to how to book click here.

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In a previous blog (2 October) I mentioned another Japan Foundation event – an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST. 

OATG member Felicity Wood has kindly informed me of another kimono-related talk – The Unbounded Potential of Kimono, Kyoto to Catwalk – this time organised by the Embassy of Japan. This online talk takes place on Tuesday 20 October at 1300 BST.

Kimono, designed by Jotaro Saito for the Fog Empire Collection Show

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing exhibition at the V&A, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, its curator and Keeper of Asian department, Anna Jackson, will be in conversation with Kimono designer Jotaro Saito, who will join from Japan. The two will talk about the exhibition, how they met, and about Jotaro’s convicition that the kimono is an everyday object of fashion that fits into modern life. In following the notion of a total look, in which the designer creates the garment, obi, and all the accessories, the session will explore what this philosophy means in practice for Jotaro Saito’s designs.”

Click here to register for this event.

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A new exhibition entitled Fibres Africaines opened at the Musée de la Toile de Jouy near Paris on 1 October, and this will run until 28 March 2021.

This exhibition will celebrate “the creativity and diversity of African textiles. While some fabrics are made with precious materials such as silk or glass pearls, others have the audacity to be real luxury pieces, yet designed from humble materials. Raffia fabrics, tree bark, cottons colored with natural dyes such as indigo can be regarded as real works of art for the virtuosity of their manufacturing techniques.” – museum website. 

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I found this blog by Sarah Foskett of the University of Glasgow Textile Conservation team really interesting. In it she gives some background to a five year project looking at Pacific barkcloth.

The Hunterian GLAHM E.537. A small section of the outer border of a late 19th century Fijian masi kesa fabric, stencilled in black, red and brown. (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow)

Last month they held several online workshops and a website has now been launched. This is still being developed, with new information constantly being added.

There are also a series of videos showing some aspects of barkcloth production. The one above focusses on some of the dyes used.

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On Saturday 7 November the Textile Museum, Washington will host another Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning. The presenter will be Alberto Levi, and the subject is Italian Peasant Rugs. “In this illustrated lecture, independent researcher Alberto Boralevi will explore how textiles produced in the Italian folk tradition blend designs and techniques from the East and West……. The term “peasant rugs” generally refers to textiles produced by Italian folk tradition, primarily from the peninsula’s central-southern zones, as well as Sicily and Sardinia. The techniques and patterns of these Italian rural weavings share a striking affinity with the tribal weavings of Anatolia, Persia, and the Caucasus.” – Museum website.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

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On Wednesday 21 October and Thursday 22 October the Textile Museum will host a two-day roundtable to celebrate the creation of the new Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center.

Patchwork trade cloth robe (detail), Indonesia, 18th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-2852. Bruce M. White Photography.

“Beginning with an introduction to Lloyd Cotsen’s collecting and an overview of the collection and study center, the roundtable will feature five one-hour panels highlighting textiles from five continents, including an Indian robe for Indonesia, a Kuba hat, and Captain Cook’s sample book of tapa cloth.” – museum website.

The subjects of the five panels are : Asia, Europe-Central Asia, Africa, Americas and Oceania. Our founder, Ruth Barnes, will look at a patchwork coat (pictured above), created from over 100 small pieces of Indian block-printed textiles. and intended for Indonesia.

In her presentation Hélène Dubied will look at a Central Asian silk weft-faced compound twill, which dates to the seventh to tenth century. This is part of the permanent exhibition of the Abegg Stiftung. The presenter will give details of how this delicate textile was conserved.

I have a particular fascination with Captain James Cook, so will be most interested in Adrienne Kaeppler’s talk on the Alexander Shaw Barkcloth Books. These books are made up of pieces of barkcloth from Cook’s actual voyages!

These are just a few of the highlights of this event – the pdf with the full programme can be accessed here. Please note registration is essential.

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I’ve mentioned the superb videos produced by the Tracing Patterns Foundation in previous blogs. Their latest release is called Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public . This was co-produced with Kantha Productions LLC.

The presenter this time is Cathy Stevulak, who explains the importance of kantha as a women’s artform in Bengal. I was intrigued to learn of references in the 6th century BCE to kantha being worn by ascetics.

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