Celebrating barkcloth

In October I blogged about a project looking at Pacific barkcloth. The project was entitled Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place. I highly recommend taking a look at their website as new material is constantly being added. It has some excellent videos showing how barkcloth is produced and decorated.

Kew EBC 42861. Samoan tiputa or poncho, hand-painted in the tradition of siapo mamanu cloths. (© Economic Botany Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

The result of this five year project is a new book on barkcloth.

“Barkcloth or tapa, a cloth made from the inner bark of trees, was widely used in place of woven cloth in the Pacific islands until the 19th century. A ubiquitous material, it was integral to the lives of islanders and used for clothing, furnishings and ritual artefacts. Material Approaches to Polynesian Barkcloth takes a new approach to the study of the history of this region through its barkcloth heritage, focusing on the plants themselves and surviving objects in historic collections. ” Publisher’s website.


The collections involved are from the Hunterian, University of Glasgow; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.


The book is divided into 3 parts:-

Part I: Tapa as Fabric: Bast and Colourants

Part II: Understanding Tapa in Time and Place

Part III: Tapa in Collections and the Community

This book is now available to access free online from Sidestone Press here, or you can buy the print version.

For those who would like to learn more about barkcloth (or simply admire photos of some fantastic examples) I suggest the National Museums Scotland website. They have a collection of over 140 barkcloths, some of which were collected by Captain James Cook.

One example from a slideshow which shows a selection of 110 samples that are part of a compilation bound in half-calf, the majority of these samples were cut from larger pieces of barkcloth that still remain in the Museum’s University Collection.

Focus on conservation

Sufiyan Ismail Khatri. ©two circles

Next Friday, 20 September, the Met Museum in New York will be hosting a Textile Conservation Colloquium focussing on recent research.

Participants will “gain an inside perspective on the fascinating work of The Met’s Department of Textile Conservation. From investigating silk production in Japan and block printing in India to conserving precious tapestries and exploring applications for new technologies, conservators share their research and discoveries from the past year.” – The Met website.

In the afternoon there will be a demonstration of traditional Indian block printing by Sufiyan Ismail Khatri, a tenth-generation artisan whose family has been involved in the art of Ajrakh printing since the fifteenth century.

Advance registration is required for this event as space is limited. For more details and booking for this free event click here.

Photo ©TAASA

The Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA) recently met with textile conservation expert Kate Chidlow from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney forms part of this museum. They looked at a variety of conservation-related topics such as how to protect home textile collections from the negative effects of insects, PVC or cardboard, folding, pressure, sunlight and time. The MAAS website has a series of excellent information sheets which you can download, which will help you learn how to best care for your textiles. These include How to store a fragile garment in an acid-free box, How to create rolled storage for flat textiles, How to brush vacuum an object, and many more.

Another good source of information on caring for your textiles is the Threads of Life Gallery, based in Ubud, Bali. Take a look at their practical hints and tips here.

Maria working on an Egyptian mummy. © National Museums Scotland

On a lighter note I really enjoyed reading this blog by Maria Armstrong, former Assistant Textile Conservator at National Museums Scotland on things you might not know about working as a conservator – apparently it requires very strong core muscles!

 

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