Chintz at the ROM, Greek textiles and collection cataloguing

 

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A major exhibition on Indian Chintz was due to open at the Royal Ontario Museum this Spring, but has had to be postponed due to the current situation. However all is not lost. The exhibition curator, OATG member Sarah Fee, will be in conversation with Anjli Patel this Wednesday 15 July. They will be examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” ROM website. Sign up here for this free event which takes place at 4pm Ontario time (9pm GMT).

 

In addition to this presentation, the ROM has lots of fascinating information on the history and use of chintz on its website. This includes a look back at an earlier exhibition on chintz which took place in 1970 and a look at the global impact of Indian chintz. Why not immerse yourself in their website for a couple of hours?

 

Pages from an Embroideries Notebook of 1907, written by the author’s grandfather Alan J. B. Wace who was Keeper of Textiles at the V&A from 1924-1934

Now to a completely different topic – collecting, and more importantly, cataloguing and recording collections. This Hali article by Ann French, Collections Care Manager and Conservator (Textiles) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, looks at the role of archives in increasing our understanding of textiles. French examines how with “the opening up of museum archives, online availability of collections and access to others including family archives, a more complex picture of the interconnections, academic influences and research methods behind the early collecting of Greek embroideries is gradually emerging.” The aim is to re-catalogue certain collections of Greek embroideries, taking all of this new information into account. She discusses trying to trace a single object – in this case an embroidery from Melos – from the various recorded notes. This takes us on a journey from Liverpool to Cleveland Ohio, and from the V&A to the Textile Museum in Washington. A very detailed and interesting article .

Pholegandros pillowcase.

The importance of accurate recording of a collection was brought home to me by this statement from the article by Ann French:-

“This preservation together of labels and notebooks raises the issue of what conservators call the 10th Agent of Deterioration—Dissociation. Dissociation describes the loss of object-related data and therefore the ability to retrieve or associate objects and data. It affects the intellectual, and/or cultural aspects of an object as opposed to the other ten agents of deterioration (light, temperature etc.), which mainly affect the physical state of objects. Dissociation is a metaphysical agent and is prevented by maintaining and appreciating archives which make connections possible.” Ann French.

 

I was recently contacted by OATG member Nick Fielding on the same subject. We started a discussion on the different methods used to record private collections. As this is clearly a topic of interest to many of our members I’m including a request for suggestions on record-keeping from Nick in full below.

I am embarking on the daunting prospect of creating a virtual catalogue of Sheila Paine’s textile collection. It is ‘virtual’ because the collection itself has been broken up and is now scattered to the four corners of the globe. However, I have the card index files for each textile and, separately, photographs of each textile. Can anyone suggest a database or specific software that could be used to do this? I need approximately ten fields for info such as date of purchase, index number, location, description, price paid, etc, plus the facility of including up to five photographs for each entry. I know that museums use such (searchable) databases, but does anyone know of similar software for personal use? The aim is to produce a single searchable document of the whole collection that can then be stored by an institution or by individuals. It will be an invaluable research tool. When I have finished with Sheila’s records, I will embark on the same project in relation to my own collection. That should keep me busy for the next year or so…” 

If you have any useful suggestions – or indeed suggestions of methods to avoid – please email Nick directly. We will share this information at a later date.

 

Returning to the subject of Greek embroidery, I really enjoyed this short video by the Benaki Museum which focusses on 18th century bridal bolsters from Ioannina. It is presented in Greek by Xenia Politou, the curator of Modern Greek Culture, but has English subtitles.

 

In it Politou discusses the fascinating iconography depicted on these beautifully embroidered bolsters. We learn that the partridge is linked to fertility and that the hairpin, which looks like a branch, worn by the bride denoted a married woman. The links to the Ottomans are clear from the style of dress and the floral motifs used here can also be found on Iznik ceramics.

 

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Textile news

For subscribers who usually read this blog in their email, may I suggest that instead you access it on our WordPress site by clicking on the blue title. This should ensure you don’t have any problems watching the videos and reading the PDF documents in this blog.

 

Subscribers can look forward to the next edition of our Asian Textiles Journal landing on their doorsteps in the near future. This issue includes a substantial article by Nick Fielding on the Reverend Dr Henry Lansdell, one of the great Victorian collectors who collected thousands of objects from Central and Northern Asia as well as India and America. The article contains several photographs of textiles held in the reserve collection of the British Museum, located by our Chair, Helen Wolfe. Other features focus on Double warp weaving in Poland (Fiona Kerlogue), Ottoman saddles and saddle cloths, a Chinese child’s tiger hat (Felicity Wood), the OATG tapestry weaving clinic (Jen Gurd) and our Show and Tell from January.

Members can access pdf versions of all past issues by using the password on the back page of the Journal. Non-members can access issues from 1995 to 2017 by clicking here This is a really great resource with articles by many leading scholars and academics.

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

Several museums that have been unable to open physically have produced virtual tours of their exhibitions. I blogged about this exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada last December, but thought it was worth repeating as a video has now been added. It is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth.

 

Kate Taylor has written an interesting article on this exhibition for The Globe and Mail. In it she explains that as “the Canadian government forced a people living on the land into permanent settlements, the Inuit began to need cash. The art projects…… were initially introduced by government agents. The idea was that the skills used to carve stone, incise bone and sew clothing could be adapted to produce handicrafts for southern markets. But carving and printmaking were just two possibilities: This show offers a wide selection of rarely seen textiles, startlingly modernist and highly colourful designs created in the 1950s and 60s.”

 

Utagawa Hiroshige, colour woodblock print showing a view of Edo, 1858. © British Museum

The British Museum has a new series of blogs in the style of historical travel guides. I really enjoyed this guide to 19th century Edo (Tokyo) by Alfred Haft, JTI Project Curator for Japanese Collections. He discusses the best time to visit, how to get there, getting around (sedan chairs can be rented), things to see and do, where to stay and even what to eat. Visitors are reminded that they must bow to every samurai they encounter – they are easily recognised by the two swords that they wear. The blog has lots of excellent woodblocks and paintings so do take a look.

 

American star quilt, 1840’s (TRC 2018.3119). ©TRC

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden reopened on 2 June, obviously subject to some Covid restrictions. Their current exhibition is on the subject of American Quilts and several are featured in this article on the Selvedge website, including one with a rather heartbreaking back story.

 

‘Safety First Veil, a Flu Preventive’, WWD, October 23rd, 1918.

While checking the details on the TRC website this blog by Loren G. Mealey caught my eye. In it she looks at the different types of face coverings that were used during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. I was amazed to hear that people poked holes in their masks so that they could smoke – hopefully the fabric was flame-retardant! One of the punishments for breaking the masking rules was to have your name printed in the newspaper…..

 

 

On Sunday 14 June the British-Uzbek Society will host a Zoom talk by Marinika Babanazarova, the former curator of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, Qaraqalpaqstan, which many OATG members will be familiar with through the work of Sheila Paine and David and Sue Richardson. This museum is full of fantastic avant-garde paintings, as well as a remarkable collection of textiles and jewellery. This 55 minute talk will take place at 15:00 GMT and costs £5. For more information click here or email Rosa at this address. The number of places are limited so don’t delay!

 

 

OATG member Chris Buckley has put together another fascinating short video, filmed and edited by Sandra Sardjono. This one focusses on a blue and white Kerek batik from East Java. Chris looks at the similarities of the technique and materials used with those of mainland Southeast Asia, in particular Chinese blue and white ceramics with marine designs as a possible source of design inspiration. He also examines indigo paste resist in China and the wax resist techniques used by the Hmong in Vietnam.

 

 

Click to access lecturelist.pdf

 

 

The Indonesian Heritage Society have supported “Meet the Makers” for many years. This event usually takes place near Jakarta and brings artisans from all over the archipelago together. Keen to continue to spread the word about these artists the Society have put together a set of 10 talks on a variety of subjects. Each webinar will be available for a donation of 5 USD, which can be paid using PayPal. These donations will be used to directly support the craftspeople. The full list of talks and further information is given in the PDF above.

 

Click to access mtm-webinar-kaleidoscope-biboki-2020.pdf

The first talk takes place on 18 June and features Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific Arts at the Fowler Museum and Yovita Meta, Director of Tafean Pah – a non-profit organisation which serves 150 weavers in 10 villages. See the PDF above for full details.

 

Finally, OATG members David and Sue Richardson have added another section to their Asian Textile Studies website. This examines the textiles of the Klon people of the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia, giving information on their history, language, culture and of course their textiles. There are some wonderful images of Klon beadwork as you can see from the image above.

 

 

 

 

 

Textile Tidbits: South to the Great Steppe – The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52

Nick Fielding - Atkinson book - Sultan Souk and family

For today’s Textile Tidbit, I wanted to share with you some news about OATG member Nick Fielding’s new book. South to the Great Steppe, about the English explorers Thomas and Lucy Atkinson was, in part at least, inspired by his interest in Central Asian textiles. He says:

“It was while trying to work out the various population movements in Central Asia that I first came across the Atkinsons. That led me to Thomas’ book Oriental and Western Siberia, which contains many interesting descriptions of Steppe nomads and their clothing. Thomas was also a very accomplished artist and his watercolours show their costumes to great effect. I realised that the Atkinsons had been almost forgotten and decided to find out more about them. That eventually led to the publication of the book, as well as taking me on many fascinating journeys to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Siberia.”

Nick says he has now started on a second book on the Atkinsons, this one covering all their travels, including in Eastern Siberia. In total the intrepid couple travelled more than 40,000 miles, much of it on horseback, during almost seven years of travel. Lucy also gave birth to their son in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. This summer Nick will take a group of ten of the Atkinson descendants to this region to visit the place where their ancestor was born and to see other sites associated with the couple.

South to the Great Steppe: The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52 was published by FIRST, London, in 2015 (ISBN-13: 978-0954640996). Link to the book on Amazon here. The picture above is an engraving of one of Thomas Atkinson’s paintings from his book.