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I really enjoyed an online talk about the Peru exhibition at the British Museum by curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau. I’ve been informed by longstanding OATG member Pamela Cross that there are some fantastic textiles in this exhibition.
I was amazed to see this feather headdress from the Chimú-Inca culture, and enjoyed learning more about the process of preparing it for display.
I recently blogged about a talk by Elena Phipps as part of the Curator’s Choice series at the Fowler Museum. This particular talk was about Feather Embellishments in Mexican Huipiles and it is now available on Youtube for those who missed it.
The Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA) has an interesting online event this week.
“Every culture in the world has some form of embroidery in their history but nowhere else has it played such a visible and significant role than in Chinese culture. With a history tracing back to the Neolithic period, embroidery has a continuous position that permeates every echelon and aspect of Chinese society, adapting with the times and, in the process, has itself developed from the fundamental purpose of decoration to fine art status. In this presentation [embroidery specialist] Margaret Lee shares with us key milestones of embroidery’s journey and its central place in Chinese history and culture.” – TAASA website.
This free event takes place on Tuesday 30 November at 18:30, which is 04:30 in the UK, so it only really works for our members in the Southern Hemisphere.
On Thursday 2 December Virginia Postrel will explore the hidden ways textiles have made our world. “The story of humanity is the story of textiles – as old as civilization itself. Textiles created empires and powered invention. They established trade routes and drew nations’ borders. Since the first thread was spun, fabric has driven technology, business, politics, and culture.”
Virginia is the author of The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World. This online event begins at 18:00 GMT and you can register for it here.
The next online meeting of the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be on Wednesday 8 December. Dr Mariachiara Gasparini will talk on the subject From Wool to Silk and Back: Development and Evolution of the Eurasian Roundel Motif.
“In the 6th century, roundel motifs began to appear on wool and silk textiles in Chinese and Iranian territories. Through the spreading of Buddhism and Islam in the 8th century, textiles with beaded, lobed, and flowery roundels spread across Eurasia; they have been found in Christian Cathedral treasuries, Egyptian and Japanese repositories, and various archaeological sites. Often used as money by the Chinese, these textiles mainly crossed the borders of empires and kingdoms as diplomatic gifts.”
The talk begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and is free, but you do need to register for it.
On Thursday 8 December the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, will host another online talk, this time with Victoria Finlay, the author of Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World. Victoria looks at how stories of our “relationship with cloth are woven in with questions of how and why people through the ages have made it, worn it, invented it, made symbols out of it, and sometimes why they have fought for it.”
Beating tree bark in Papua and attempting to spin cotton in Guatemala are just two of the textile-related experiences Victoria has had, so this should be an enjoyable talk.
Click here to find out more and to book for this talk which begins at 18:00 GMT.
There are so many events coming up that I will be uploading two blogs this week.
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.
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.
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 ofBeauty.
This talk will begin at 18:00 EDT, which is 22:00 GMT. Full details and registration are available here.
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.
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.
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The exhibition From Combat to Carpets, the Art of Afghan War Rugs at the Cotsen Gallery, Santa Fe International Folk Art Museum ends on Sunday. It is a travelling exhibition of forty examples, supplemented here by rugs from the museum’s own collection.
“This unique subset of handwoven rugs can teach us about the innovative nature of rug design and production, as well as the long history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan. Rug producers, provoked by decades of traders and invaders in the country, adapted traditional motifs and compositions, translating them into depictions of world maps, tourist sites, weapons, and military figures. Such war rugs have proven popular among occupying military personnel, journalists, foreign aid workers, international collectors, and contemporary art curators. Over the years, rug makers have continued to update popular imagery and themes to reflect current events, changing technologies, and the tastes of potential buyers.” – Museum website.
Through the wonders of modern technology you can visit this exhibition virtually and can also read more on this intriguing subject in this article by the exhibition’s co-curator Annmarie Sawkins.
The International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is currently showing quilts in an exhibition entitled Diverse Traditions: South Asian Quilts. This exhibition will run until 7 October 2021.
“South Asia is rich in quiltmaking traditions. Women have made quilts in this region for centuries and have used them in a multitude of ways: as bed covers, seating mats, tent panels, and dowry items. Varying techniques, color palettes, and formats can be found among different ethnic and regional groups, and certain styles can help identify where a quilt likely was made. In this group of Indian and Pakistani quilts from the International Quilt Museum’s Education Collection, we look at how the techniques of appliqué, piecing, and quilting are used among diverse South Asian communities.” – Museum website.
Make sure you click on ‘Works in the Exhibition’ and then on the images to see the quilts in their full glory.
On Saturday 11 September 2021 the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host a day of events showcasing Palestinian embroidery and textiles. “Sessions include behind the scenes viewing of selected textiles, screenings of embroidery demonstrations with embroidery kits to take away, including a chart designed by American-born Palestinian artist, Wafa Ghnaim, and drop-in sessions to hear about the Palestinian History Tapestry and view pieces from the tapestry.” – Pitt Rivers Museum. In addition to the in-person events at the museum, there will also be online events for those outside of Oxford.
These events are free, but you do need to book both an event slot and a museum entry slot for the live events. For bookings and further details please click here.
Also taking place on 11 September is World Textile Day Scotland. Great traders who always have a wonderful selection of textiles for sale! For full details click here.
Textile lovers in the London area will be delighted to hear that the next Pop-Up in Pimlico takes place on Wednesday 15 September. This will feature textiles and jewellery from John Gillow, Martin Conlan (aka Slow Loris) and Barbie Campbell Cole, as well as a range of fine contemporary Indian clothing from Antonia Graham. The location is St James the Less Church Hall, Moreton Street, London SW1V 2PF, close to Pimlico tube station and set back from Westminster Bridge Road. Entry is free and this will run from 11:00-18:00.
15 September also sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. And other monuments will run until 14 November 2021, and will be available both in-person and online. This is “an exhibition tracing the movement of the ‘Oriental rug’ and other orientalia in relation to colonial trade, imperial bordering, and power. The exhibition includes an interactive workbook, archival documents, Tatreez (Palestinian cross stitch) by textile artist Samar Hejazi, and an intervention of the British Museum by multidisciplinary artist Roya DelSol. Placed alongside West Asian and Middle Eastern rugs, carpet bags, and other pieces from the Textile Museum of Canada’s permanent collection, And other monumentsinvites a reading of textiles as maps or guides which are capable of tracing broader relationships to who moves, what moves, and how transnational, globalized mobilities of goods have always relied on ‘immobilizations’ of people.” – museum website.
“Contemporary Mexican textiles are among the finest in the Americas. Five centuries have passed since the Spanish Conquest, yet Mexico is still home to more than fifty Indigenous peoples. The arts of spinning, dyeing and weaving are practised in hundreds of rural communities, where distinctive clothing styles endure. Cloth is elaborately patterned and textured on the backstrap loom. After 1521, colonisation brought new materials, treadle-loom weaving, beadwork, and an increased emphasis on embroidery.” – ORTS website.
The talk will be live at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair, London and also streamed via Zoom. If you plan to go to the event or wish to attend via Zoom, please email Dimity Spiller to book a place.
On Thursday 23 September at 18:30 BST the OATG will be hosting a Show and Tell session – please note this is for OATG members only. One of the advantages of Zoom is that we can involve some of our many overseas members in this ever-popular event. Members should shortly receive an invitation with full details of this event. This is your chance to get involved, and we are really looking forward to seeing and hearing about a wide range of different textiles. The event will be ably hosted by Gavin Strachan, the editor of our Journal.
The Textile Society of America has several Affinity Groups who meet online to discuss topics of interest. You don’t have to be a TSA member to attend one of these meetings. The Historic and Ancient Textiles group “brings together people engaged in research on heritage textiles, including those recovered archaeologically, held in the collection of a community, university or museum.” – TSA
The next meeting will be on Saturday 25 September at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. The presenters will be Amanda Phillips, whose subject is Ottoman textiles, and Christine Martens, who will discuss Uighur Felt making. Saturday 25 September is a busy day for textile lovers. For more information and to join this online event please email Lee Talbot.
Also taking place on 25 September is the opening of a new exhibition at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia, entitled The Stories We Wear. “The clothing, accessories, and decorations we put on our bodies tell stories about who we are. They shape how others see us and how we see ourselves. What we wear can prepare us for important events or transform us into someone new. It may follow tradition or a recent trend. And it can show that we belong or help us stand out. Now and in the ancient past, close to home and far away, the stories we wear connect us. Showcasing 2,500 years of style and adornment through approximately 250 remarkable objects, The Stories We Wear reveals how clothing and accessories offer powerful expressions of identity—examining the purpose and meaning behind what we wear.” – Penn Museum.
On the same day the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host a talk by Dr Anne Tiballi of the Penn Museum entitled Threads and Themes of The Stories We Wear. Dr Tiballi was a consultant for the exhibition and in this talk she will “dig deep into several of the exhibitions ‘outfits’, making connections between the technological skill, creativity, and cultural significance of the peoples who made and wore them. ….. the items she will discuss include a Pre-Columbian Andean warp-patterned tunic, headband, and bag; a Qing Dynasty Chinese court costume; and early 20th century coconut fibre armour from Kiribati, a Mongolian silk deel and boots, and a Hopi wedding dress.” – TMASC
This free talk begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Please click here to register.
Now for something rather unexpected from the Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Rabat, Morocco. As the name of the museum suggests, the permanent exhibition focuses on modern and contemporary art. However, the temporary exhibitions cover a wide range of subjects. At the moment it highlights the French painter Eugène Delacroix, particularly his travels in Morocco in 1832. An interesting article about his life and travels appeared in Siente Marruecos Magazine. Delacroix collected many objects, including textiles, which he used in his paintings on his return to France. The exhibition cleverly shows some of his sketches, the types of items that appear in them (textiles, ceramics, leather goods) and the finished paintings.
The exhibition opened in July and runs until 9 October 2021.
Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, WA, is currently holding a special exhibition entitled A Particular Beauty: Romanian Folk Clothing. This will run until 15 November 2021. “When she was Romania’s crown princess (1893–1914), Marie of Edinburgh (later Queen Marie of Romania) began wearing peasant-inspired clothing from the country’s eastern provinces — a fashion trend long promoted by Elisabeth of Wied, Queen of Romania, and her court. A Particular Beauty draws from Maryhill’s collection of more than 450 items of Romanian clothing and textiles. The display will include about 20 fully dressed mannequins, and numerous individual garments such as coats, vests, shirts and blouses.The exhibition will showcase a remarkable variety of Romanian embroidery techniques, mediums, and styles that have evolved through the influences of adjacent ethnic populations, resident invaders, other outsiders, and – in recent decades – urbanization.” – museum website.
There are some really fabulous textiles in this short video. If you cannot see it, please click on the blue title at the top of this blog and view this through our WordPress site.
Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world…….Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel. There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US.
This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.
On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.
On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.
Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.
Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.
An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem.
A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.
The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.
Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. 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. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.
Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.
Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-
The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.
Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light showcases the art and lives of the Huicholes, an indigenous group from western Mexico whose history dates back 15,000 years. Featuring dazzling yarn paintings created using traditional techniques, the exhibition includes ceremonial objects, handmade textiles and photographs documenting a unique and threatened way of life.
This exhibition is on loan from Artes de México with the support of the Consulate General of Mexico and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation.
The Wixárika people, commonly referred to as the Huichol, traditionally reside in Western Mexico. Since the 1960s, Wixárika artists have garnered international acclaim for their paintings (nierakate) composed of colourful yarn attached to wooden boards with beeswax. Inspired by mythology and shamanic visions associated with the use of the hallucinogenic ‘divine cactus’, peyote (Lophophora williamsii), the paintings are thickly populated with images of sacred animals, humanoid ancestral figures, holy plants and important ritual objects.
Highlighted in this exhibition at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, are early works by Ramón Medina Silva, a Wixárika artist who played a major role in the global popularization of nierakate. A master at translating belief and ritual into stunningly arranged strands of spun fibre, Silva’s yarn paintings pulse with vivid depictions of the Wixárika cosmos.
For more information, please visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.