OATG members who were unable to attend the recent talk by Nick Fielding – or indeed those who would like to see it again – will be pleased to hear that a recording of this has now been added to our website. Simply go to Events Programme – Online Events – and then enter the password for 2020. This is shown on the inside back cover of our Asian Textiles journal, or contact any committee member for details. A digital copy of the December Lockdown Newsletter has also been added under the Journals section of the website, and again you will need the password to access this.
A reminder of two talks taking place this Saturday 9th January. The first is organised by the Textile Museum, Washington and features Sylvia Fraser-Lu on Burman Textiles. For full details see my blog of 23rd December. Click here to register.
The second event is hosted by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Craig Diamond will speak on two types of textiles from Mindanao in the Philippines. See my blog of 18th August for a video of Craig talking about these warp ikat cloths known as T’nalak and woven by the Tboli people from banana fibre. Click here to register for this free event.
On Saturday 23rd January Ann Marie Moeller will discuss Small Japanese Treasures from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection at the Textile Museum. Click here for full details and how to register for this free talk.
On Monday 25th January the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles will be hosting a short online talk by Elena Phipps on the subject of a Peruvian cloth woven with four selvedges. This is part of their Lunch & Learn series, but it will be at 8pm in the UK.
Don’t forget we have our own AGM on Saturday 30th January. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a short Show and Tell of textiles from members’ collections. This is the first time we will have held this event online, so we are seizing this opportunity to invite our overseas members to present one of their textiles. We look forward to “virtually” meeting you all.
Finally I enjoyed many of the images in this online exhibition about headwear. Curated by Stacey W. Miller, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality has wonderful examples of headwear from across the globe. This exhibition should have currently been touring several museums in the US. As that has not been possible it has instead been made available online. Several of the images are accompanied by short videos, providing more information about how and when the hats were worn.
Several new online talks are scheduled for December. Here is my selection.
On 9 December Selvedge will host three specialists from different areas of the globe talking about the craft of resist dyeing. The speakers are Yoshiko Wada, renowned textile artist and President of the World Shibori Network, Abduljabbar Khatri from the Kutch region of India who specialises in bandhani, in which thousands of tiny knots are hand-tied onto stencilled designs and Sang Made Erass Taman, a leading batik artist who was born on Bali but now lives on Java. Booking is essential – click here for more details.
Don’t forget that our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles.Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.
This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Non-members may attend for a donation of £3 payable via PayPal. Please note there are very few tickets remaining so if you haven’t got yours – act now!
On 12 December the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, in conjunction with rug and textile groups from Seattle, Colorado, San Francisco and Chicago present a free online talk entitled The Beauty of Boteh: A Textile Journey Across Village & Tribal Rugs by Dr Hadi Maktabi, a researcher, author and dealer from Beirut.
“What is the source of the boteh, or paisley, design, and how has it spread throughout the oriental rug world, transforming into both elegant and sophisticated swirling configurations, and more tribal geometric forms? It can be seen in a large variety of rugs and trappings, from high end urban Kermans to rustic Farahans all the way to nomadic Q’ashqais—and that’s just within Qajar Persia. Hadi Makabi’s program will discuss how this famous motif travelled from Kashmir shawls onto Persian textiles and ended up ubiquitously on rugs in the 19th century, by way of costumes and urban decorative pieces. This high-end association influenced rural and ethnic societies irrepressibly. What is wondrous is that the motif is still relevant today and has a seemingly endless variety of reinterpretation.” TMA/SC.
This talk takes place at 10am Pacific time (6pm in the UK) on Saturday 12 December. To register please contact the organiser Cheri Hunter.
Moving from rugs to textiles Fatima Abbadi will discuss Embroidery in the Age of Corona: Documentation and Practice from Iraq, Jordan and the Netherlands for the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada, on Saturday 19 December at 11am EST (4pm in the UK).
“In this conversation, Fatima will share her passion for Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery traditions and her ongoing project to teach embroidery in the Netherlands. She will also talk about the work of Suzan Sukari, a contemporary embroiderer from a Christian community in the northern Iraqi city of Qaraqosh. Despite the upheavals of war in her region, Suzan continues to produce special festive garments (charuga), that combine age-old designs and motifs with newly developed iconography representing scenes from everyday life. Fatima will also discuss her recent publication, Al-Salt: A Photo Documentary Project, and how she has employed photography to document, promote and preserve her Jordanian culture and heritage.” ROM
Our journal, Asian Textiles, is produced three times each year. In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him as soon as possible. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share? If so, Gavin would love to hear from you.
Regular readers may remember that in my previous blog I wrote about the Textiles on the Move online conference, explaining that videos of the full proceedings were now available to view. They will only be available until tomorrow, 15 November 2020, so if you still haven’t seen them you need to act fast!
The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.
Click here for more information and to access all of the videos .
Last October the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London hosted a very successful exhibition of African textiles from the renowned collector Karun Thakar. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a group of Asafo flags from Ghana. Now over 250 of these flags form an online exhibition, in which the flags have been divided into three groups by age – 19th century to early 1900s, 1920s to 1957, and 1957 to the 1970s.
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.
Having read the article I had a better understanding of and appreciation of the flags in the exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.
Now to two exhibitions on a very different theme. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is showcasing Chinese textiles in the exhibition Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976. We might not be able to travel at the moment, but thankfully a virtual online tour is available. Clicking the arrow in the bottom left of the screen will give you a very quick overview. I then found it easiest to press the View Floor Plan button (just along from the arrow). If you then point to a circle it will bring up information about that particular textile.
The Textile Museum in Krefeld, Germany, has a new exhibition entitled Drachen aus Goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads. This exhibition has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix and contains some very special pieces, including the priest’s robe shown below. More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online.
An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!
The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh has a new exhibition from the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutchman who moved to the city in 1957. He collected textiles, jewellery and other beautiful items from across North Africa, the Shara and the Sahel. He also has a small museum in the heart of the old part of the city.
Our recent online lecture by Sarah Fee was a great success, and we have received lots of positive responses to it. The talk was recorded and will be available for members to view shortly in a password-protected area of our website. A notification of the password will be sent to members.
Our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles. Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.
This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Registration will be open for OATG members EXCLUSIVELY until 20 November (you should have already received the invitation), after which any remaining places will be offered to non-members.
The next edition of Asian Textiles should have reached most members by now. This includes a lengthy article on Naga textiles by Joanna Cole and Julia Nicholson of the Pitt Rivers Museum and another on Pekalongan batik by Maria Wronska-Friend. I’m sure weavers will be fascinated to read the research on a Taiwanese Kahabu flag by Tsai Yu Shan.
Don’t forget that members can access pdf copies of all editions through our website. Non-members can access all but the last three years here
In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him by 7 December. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share?
With all of these exciting developments why not consider becoming a member? Although we are the Oxford Asian Textile Group we do have many members from throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Details of how to join can be found here.
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 video.
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 .
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.
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.
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 entitledPrinted 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.