Thangka, the Yemen, African Arts, and Natural Dyes……

 

Last year Karen Horton talked to OATG members about her work conserving the thangka at the Chester Beattie library. As that was so well received I thought members might be interested in this online talk by Ann Shaftel on a similar topic. It takes place on Thursday 17 September at 1730 Mumbai time (1300 in the UK). To register for this event please follow this link.

“Thangka preservation is as complicated as the thangka form itself, a complex composite artform spanning centuries and continents, and still evolving….. This talk will include important fundamental points of the thangka form, history, purpose, preservation and evolution and complexities of preservation of the sacred”. The Museum Society of Mumbai.

 

Silk tie-dyed veil from Sana’a, Yemen (2018.37.74). Donated by Jenny Balfour-Paul.

The next thing that caught my eye was this blog by Multaka, Oxford. In it Joanna Cole looks at some of the connections between a collection of photographs taken by Jenny Balfour-Paul in Yemen in the 1980s and some of the objects donated by her to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Joanna gives examples of this veil from Sana’a and a photograph of women wearing similar veils. However my favourite example is that of the woven camel muzzle. Seen out of context it isn’t very exciting, but the photograph showing how it was used really brought it to life.

 

Another museum that has now reopened is the Brooklyn Museum. Their current exhibition is entitled African Arts – Global Conversations. The exhibition takes a “unique transcultural approach [which] pairs diverse African works across mediums with objects from around the world. By considering how shared themes and ideas—such as faith, origins, modernism, and portraiture – developed independently in different parts of the globe, it offers new theoretical models for discussing African arts in relation to non-African arts. Moving beyond the story of European modernists’ so-called “discovery” of African arts, it fills in the blanks in decades of art history textbooks” Brooklyn Museum website.

 

Chris Buckley recently informed me of the new publication by natural dye expert Dominique Cardon.

“This workbook is a bilingual publication in both French and English. It presents the palette of colours produced by Antoine Janot, a French master-dyer of the 1st half of the 18th century who owned  an important dyeing business in the south of France, specialising in wool broadcloth exported to the Levant. Janot wrote treatises on dyeing illustrated with dozens of dyed textile samples.” Dominique Cardon

 

 

Another expert on natural dyes, Elena Phipps, recently wrote this article on the dye record cards produced in the 1890s by an embroidery collective based in Deerfield, Massachusetts. “these dye cards show the Deerfield embroiderers experimenting with dyestuffs that had been used for millennia…. They reflect a different type of historic preservation effort – one focused on recovering and retaining fading knowledge of the art of dyeing.” Elena Phipps 

A sample sheet or montre showing the colours of broadcloth produced.

This use of record cards reminded me of another book by Dominique Cardon – The Dyer’s Handbook: Memoirs of an eighteenth century master colourist. In it she examines a manuscript written in the late eighteenth century by a clothier involved in the export trade from the Languedoc area of France to the Levant. She provides a great deal of context, both economic and political, as well as the expected technical analysis of the dyes and weave structures. You can get a flavour of her work from this article, written for Cooper Hewitt in 2017.

 

Finally, those of you who missed the talk on the Textile of Japan by Thomas Murray will be glad to hear that it was recorded and will be made available online at a later date.

 

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Events: Textile events this week in the UK, Bangkok and New York

It’s a busy week for textile lovers with several interesting talks across a variety of subjects.

Woman’s hat, late 19th century. Photo © Wendel Swan

Tomorrow evening Roger Pratt, a Trustee of The Textile Museum, will give a talk on Selected Hats from the Silk Road as part of the Hajji Baba Club of New York’s ongoing programme. Roger will show and discuss some of the hats from his collection which featured in the exhibition held at the Corcoran Museum last June as part of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets XIV. These will include Turkmen Hats; Turkmen Tekke Hats; Central Asian Non-Turkmen Hats; Persian Conical Dervish Hats; Central Asian Longtail Hats; Inscribed Religious Hats; and Ottoman Syrian Aleppo Hats. 

Early 19th century dervish hat. Photo © Wendel Swan

Location: The Coffee House Club, 20 West 44th St (bet 5th & 6th Ave), 6th Floor, New York NY 10036
Doors open 6:00pm for cocktails, meeting starts at 6:30pm

This event is also open to non-members for a fee. For more information visit the website of the Hajji Baba Club. For those who cannot make it to this talk R. John Howe has given a wonderful overview of the exhibition, along with lots of excellent images on his Eccentric Wefts site here.

Woman’s dress made from alatzia. © Mary Spyrou.

On Wednesday 20 March Mary Spyrou will talk to members of the London-based Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) on the subject of Cypriot textiles – techniques, materials, patterns, uses and the importance of dowry textiles.

This talk will encompass the wide variety of Cypriot textile traditions, which include weaving, embroidery and lace making – now listed under the UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage of Cyprus. The ORTS website points out :- “Cyprus is located in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean sea, at the cross roads where the west meets the east, settled, conquered and occupied by many civilisations, including Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans, all of whom have had an influence on the development of the artistic heritage of Cyprus.

The raw materials used – silk, cotton,wool, flax and linen ; the designs and patterns inspired by nature, and the many items made, including garments and domestic furnishings, for example, and especially their role and importance as dowry textiles, part of a rich Folk art tradition which experienced a decline from around the middle of the 20th century will be the main focus of the talk.”

Location: St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

Non-members welcome for a fee. For more details visit the ORTS website.

This Thursday Karen Horton, Independent Textile and Ethnographic Conservator, will give a talk to Oxford Asian Textile Group members on the subject of Lifting the Veil: The Conservation and Mounting of Thangkas at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. The talk will focus on the conservation of the Tibetan thangkas textile mounts and the minimal intervention policy that the Chester Beatty Library adheres too. She will discuss the methods and materials used, the ethical implication of conserving sacred textiles and the non-invasive mounting method she designed and developed with her colleagues at the library to install the thangkas allowing them to be displayed with their veils pleated as they would have hung in their Himalayan temple setting.

The Chester Beatty Library Dublin, is an art museum and library that houses the world-class collection of East Asian, European and Islamic art assembled by the great philanthropist and collector Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The Tibetan collection, which is mainly Buddhist, includes Tibetan sacred texts, ritual objects and forty-eight predominantly nineteenth century thangka’s of which 26 retain their textile mounts.

Karen is currently conserving and researching a group of Ming Dynasty textiles in Xi’an China where she works each year. She is studying for her Ph.D. and her research topic is Tibetan/Chinese Embroidered and Woven Thangka’s and Buddhist Textiles, Collections, Provenance and the Art Maker 1400 to present.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Time: 6.00 p.m. (for a 6.15 p.m. start) – 8 p.m.

Non-members welcome for a small fee. Visit the OATG website for more details.

This short video by the Asia Society of New York has some wonderful black and white images of thangkas in use in monasteries. Adriana Proser, the John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, also gives an insight into several richly coloured thangkas which formed part of an exhibition called Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting, which she co-curated with Deborah Klimburg-Salter.

Screenshot from the video by Dawa Drolma. © Smithsonian Institution.

Thangkas have been produced since at least the 14th century and are still being produced today. Some are made from small pieces of fabric and others are painted. This article in the magazine of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage discusses modern thangka production, contrasting the work of dedicated painters who use traditional mineral pigments and have studied the relevant techniques for many years, with thangkas which are mass-produced by companies in factories by printing images on canvas with acrylic paint.

The article includes an excellent video produced by Dawa Drolma which shows all of the steps taken in producing a thangka, beginning with making the actual canvas on which the image will be painted. The painters describe the three different styles of thangka painting and it is a joy to watch them producing these paintings right down to the final gilding.

Thangka held at the Met Museum. © Metropolitan Museum.

Kristine Kamiya, a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, has written a great blog on restoring a particular appliquéd textile thangka. After careful examination with a microscope they discovered that it was made up of lots of different textiles which may even have spanned the duration of the Ching dynasty. The enlarged images showing the use of horsehair to give an extra dimension to the cloth are fascinating.

Saturday 23 March sees two events, luckily in different parts of the globe. World Textile Day Wales, the first World Textile Day of 2019,  will take place in Llanidloes. This will include an exhibition of world textiles, a presentation by Jacqui Carey (Japanese kumihimo expert), a demonstration by Liz Beasley (expert in Chilean dyeing and weaving), a braiding demonstration by the Braid Society and much, much more.

For full details visit the World Textile Day website.

Two examples of 18th century Indian chintz intended for European clientele. © Thweep Rittinaphakorn.

The second event is a talk to the Thai Textile Society in Bangkok by Thweep Rittinaphakorn (known as Ake), on the subject of Export Chintz – The Flagship Indian Trade Cloths. Ake is the curator of the Siam Society textiles collection and an avid textile scholar. 

“India has clothed the world for centuries. Its rich textile heritage has left imprints on and influenced textiles artistic sense and production worldwide. Among all textiles exported from India to other lands, “Chintz” (fine cotton fabric with hand-drawn motifs and details) were the most prized items. Known locally by the technical term of “Kalamkari”, the type produced for export has distinctive characteristics and held high virtue in various ways from its complex production technique, perplexing range of colours, and vast design customisation for different markets they were intended for.  Although in Thailand Indian Chintz has been known to Thai textiles collectors and enthusiasts for years, it was rather limited to only those that were made for the Siamese court. Little is known about the Chintz produced for other markets, both in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. This talk intends to provide a glimpse of examples of Chintz produced by the Indians for other markets, to provide a basic understanding in the differences from design aspect to usage context.” – Thai Textile Society website.

Location: Bandara Suites Silom, 4th floor conference room, first building 75/1 Soi Saladaeng 1, Bangkok

For further information on this talk, which is also open to non-members, please visit the website of the Thai Textile Society.

 

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Exhibition: Himalayan Fashion – High Altitude High Fashion

 

Exhibition dates: 23 March – 26 October 2018

The current exhibition at Lotherton Hall, an Edwardian country house and estate near Leeds, Yorkshire, showcases textiles from Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. It is a very eclectic mix, ranging from mountaineering gear to a colourful apron on loan from Joss Graham. One of the highlights is a rare woman’s headdress called a pagor, which is made from rolls of cotton, covered in red wool cloth, studded with silver mounted turquoise jewels and smaller turquoise and coral stones. The story of the restoration of this headdress by conservator Karen Horton can be read here

Other highlights include a snow leopard rug, Gurkha clothing and men’s and women’s outfits from Bhutan. Further details about the exhibition can be found on the Museum’s website here

In addition, a special Himalayan Fashion Study Day will be held at Lotherton on 10 September 2018. This will include talks by the conservator as well as the well known author Gina Corrigan. Participant numbers are limited and places can be booked through this link