Royal Needlework, Tribal Weavings and the return of World Textile Days

There are lots of exciting events happening in April – including many in-person rather than on Zoom. I’m therefore splitting them across two blogs.

A new exhibition opens at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, this Friday 1 April 2022. It is entitled 150 Years of the Royal School of Needlework: Crown to Catwalk, and examines one of the UK’s oldest applied arts organisations.

“In 1872, the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) was founded on two key principles – the first, the preservation of hand embroidery as an art form and the second, the support of women’s independence through work” The exhibition “will explore this historic organisation’s contribution to the world of embroidery. The exhibition will present collaborations with the great names of the Arts and Crafts movement, commissions produced for the British royal family, contemporary works created for top, international designers and pieces by the RSN’s talented students.” – FTM website.

This exhibition runs until 4 September and you can book tickets here. An illustrated talk by the curators, discussing some of the key pieces will take place online on 1 April at 13:00 BST. Tickets cost £7.50 and can be booked by emailing the museum.

Excited to see that the World Textile Day team will be starting their events again this week. Their first venue is at East Horsley near Leatherhead, Surrey on Saturday 2 April 2022. Doors open at 10am and I would strongly advise you to get there early. The market place event is free, however there is a charge of £5 for entry to the talk, which is at 11am. The speaker this time will be Ian Rutherford and the topic Palestinian Dress & Costume. For more information on participating dealers and the venue please click here.

The Cotswold Art and Antique Dealers’ Association are holding a special week of exhibitions from 2-9 April 2022, under the title Cotswolds Curated.

Nine dealers will be participating, including OATG members Chris and Angela Legge. Their exhibition is entitled Tribal Weavings: Bags, Rugs and Carpets from Iran and Central Asia. They will be showing original artefacts, woven by tribal and village women for use in their homes, tents and on migration, and as symbols of identity and status on important occasions such as weddings.

A rare Ersari Engsi dating to the first half of the nineteenth century.

Their Oxford gallery will be open from 2 April through to 9 April, 9.30 am – 5 pm on weekdays and 11 am – 4 pm on the Sunday.

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is running one-day weaving workshops led by Susan Foulkes, the author of several books on band and braid weaving, on Friday 8 April and Saturday 9 April.

Participants will learn how to make a tubular filled cord using a weaving disc and a backstrap loom. These types of cords were previously used in Indonesia as lamp wicks, but their use has since died out. For more information and booking instructions please click here.

The inimitable John Gillow at a previous Mundford textile day.

Saturday 9 April sees the World Textile Day team in the East of England at Mundford, near Thetford. Entry to the exhibition and market place is free, and there is a small charge for the talks. The main talk – From Java to West Africa: Travelling Textiles – is at 11am, followed by two short talks in the afternoon. Full details here.

Pitt Rivers inspiration, Samoan barkcloth, sealskin, Indonesian ikat and more.

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In my most recent blog I shared a lot of information about the textiles of peoples of the Amur area and fish skin clothing in particular. That prompted OATG member Pamela Cross to contact me about a work by leading art quiltmaker Pauline Burbidge.

It was inspired by a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum, where she saw this Siberian seal skin pictogram.

Sealskin accession number 1966.19.1. © Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

It was collected in the 1860s or 1870s, probably by the captain of an Arctic whaler. It was made by a member of the Chukot/Chukchi culture, and has been described by some authors as a map, and by others as depicting the events of a specific year. Much more information about it can be found on the Pitt Rivers website.

Her second source of inspiration was a display of barkcloths from Samoa. The example below was collected there in 1874 by the Reverend Joseph King.

Barkcloth accession number 1891.61.24. © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pauline’s response to seeing these items was to produce a large quiltscape, incorporating some of these ideas and motifs. She has made a short video, detailing her creative process and I loved seeing the drawings she had made in her notebook, and how they eventually appeared in the finished piece.

Go to her website to see more of her work.

On Saturday 12 February Yorkshire auctioneers Tennant’s will hold a sale of Costume, Accessories and Textiles. While the majority of the lots are Victorian (including some super sewing accessories), there are also several from China, Japan and Eastern Europe. Click here for more details.

A selection of the lots for sale at the auction

A quick reminder that there are also two talks taking place on that day. The first is by Tom Hannaher on the Mola Art of the Kuna Indians, and the second is by Chris Martens on Distinguishing Uyghur Feltmaking.

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti about to show us some of the textiles in her basket. © David Richardson

I have been travelling to Indonesia regularly for many years now, and one of my favourite destinations is the island of Sumba. We always enjoy going to Rindi, which has a great tradition of producing fine textiles and baskets.

A few years ago Threads of Life, a Bali-based organisation that works with weavers throughout the archipelago, produced a video there with Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti, documenting all of the different stages of the weaving and dyeing process. The video was in Sumbanese, however they have also produced this very useful and informative infographic in English, based on the information gained from the original video.

So much care and attention needs to go into each step, but the results are certainly worth it!

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti showed us a selection of her textiles. They are all naturally dyed, and the one at the front is woven from handspun cotton. © David Richardson.

While on the subject of Indonesia I would also like to recommend this video, An Indian Loom in Indonesia, produced by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley, in which they share some of the findings from their paper of the same name which appeared in Fiber, Loom and Technique.

“A loom in use in Balai Cacang village in the Minangkabau region of Sumatra has an unusual warp suspension system, in which the warp is attached to a cord and tensioned around a pole. We show that this system is similar to that used on traditional Indian pit looms, and that it probably crossed the Indian Ocean to Indonesia. Indian influence on Indonesian textile forms is well-documented, but this is the first identification of an Indian loom technology in Indonesia. It implies the presence of Indian craftspeople in Indonesia in the past.” – Fiber, Loom and Technique.

A pdf of the full article can be downloaded here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of events, exhibitions, articles, or anything else you think I should include here!

Coming soon…. exhibitions and talks on Ainu, Peruvian, Indonesian, Tudor and Arabian textiles.

An exhibition co-curated by OATG member Walter Bruno Brix has just opened at one of my favourite museums – the Rauchenstrauch-Joest museum in Köln, Germany.

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, RJM 10699; Japan; Ostasien; Mantel attus; 1801/1900; rba_c023086

A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from Northern Japan can be seen from November 5, 2021 to February 20, 2022. It presents the cultures of the Ainu groups who “Only after the middle of the 20th century did a strong return to its traditions and a revitalization movement emerge, which led to its recognition as an indigenous group in 2008 and its legal implementation by the Japanese government in 2019. The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. From the middle of the 19th century they were colonized, relocated and exploited by Japan.” – RJM website.

This exhibition was hailed as a ‘must see’ by Thomas Murray, whose book Textiles of Japan has a major section on the Ainu.

Closer to home the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford also has a display focusing on the Ainu. A short film by Eiko Soga entitled Autumn Salmon is playing daily on the first floor balcony until the end of November. “In 2016, Eiko lived with an Ainu woman called Ms. Katsue Kaizawa and studied the making of Ainu kimono, embroidery and salmon-skin shoes. In Ainu culture, salmon traditionally served key economic, religious and spiritual roles. Today, it still plays an important role within Ainu communities but primarily to sustain their traditional values.” – PRM website.

A pair of salmon-skin shoes which date to around 1900 can be seen in a case next to the film installation. These waterproof boots were known as chepkeri and were made from up to six dried and stretched salmon skins stitched together.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On Thursday 11 November a major new exhibition, Peru a journey in time, opens at the British Museum and will run until 20 February 2022.  This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

An online introduction to this new exhibition, featuring curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, will take place this Thursday at 17:30 GMT. This is a free event, but to do need to book to secure your place. I’m not sure how many textiles are featured in the exhibition, but will hopefully get a better idea then.

Saturday 13 November sees the next of the Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings hosted by the Textile Museum. Dr Lauren Mackay will talk about Woven Treasures From the East in the Royal Tudor Court.

“For the Tudors, the Islamic world of the 16th century was an endless source of fascination and delight, swathed in fine silks, bursting with spices and draped in luxurious and vibrant tapestries and carpets. Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, began the Tudor love affair with Orientalism, and soon English society coveted Ottoman and Persian culture: Its art, dress, textiles and carpets became highly sought–after symbols of wealth and power.” – Textile Museum.

This virtual programme, which is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. There is no charge, but you do need to register for it.

This Sunday, 14 November, the Zay Initiative will hold an online symposium on the subject of Arab Costume Collections: Sustaining Legacies. This 2-hour event will be hosted by Ben Evans of Hali and there will be two panels; the first looking at The importance of Arab Dress and Culture and the second examining The role and relevance of heritage for contemporary brands. Speakers include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Richard Wilding, Shahira Mehrez and Marriam Mossalli.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 GMT and registration is essential.

On Tuesday 16 November OATG member Lesley Pullen will give a hybrid lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society. The subject of her talk is Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th -15th century.

This free lecture begins at 18:30 GMT and the venue is 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. If you wish to attend, either in person or via Zoom, please register by emailing Matty Bradley.

Lesley’s book on this subject was published earlier this year. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader. Some of these illustrations, with detailed notes, can be seen on the excellent Art of the Ancestors website here.

Exhibitions, talks, fairs and books…….

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One of the rugs currently on show in Santa Fe

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.

Ralli quilt created by Mrs Meeran in Ketlari, Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan, circa 1985
Hand appliquéd, embroidered, pieced, and quilted
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
2006.0001.0005E

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.

Details of beadwork and imitation coins on a headdress of a married Palestinian woman.
Collected 1885-1887
1967.28.26

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.

Chloe Sayer and textiles, courtesy of ORTS

On Wednesday 22 September the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will host a talk by Chloe Sayer on The Textile Arts of Mexico. Chloe is the author of many books on Mexico, including Textiles from Mexico and Fiesta: Day of the Dead & other Mexican Festivals.

“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.

Detail from a Qashqai horse cover circa 1900

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.

Deel (Garment), Mongolia, Early 19th century CE, 2002-15-1. © Penn Museum

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.

One of the traditional outfits on show. © Alaa Eddine Sagid

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.

Romanian newlyweds from Vâcea or Oltenia. Photo from Les 32 Mariages Roumains, 1893. Collection of Maryhill Museum.

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.

Hawaiian quilts, early textiles by the Nile, First Nations robes from Alaska, Miao and Greek textiles.

This blog will be much shorter than usual, but I’ve just heard of a few events taking place that may be of interest to subscribers.

Cissy Serrao and Patricia Gorelangton at Iolani Palace in Honolulu. © Josiah Patterson

The first of these is TOMORROW night, Thursday 6 May at 09:00 BST. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host an online conversation with Cissy Serrao, director of Poakalani & Company. This is a quilting school and guild in Hawai’i. Cissy’s family has created Hawaiian quilts for many generations. “In conversation with Jeremy Uden [Head of Conservation] and Misa Tamura [Senior Conservator], she shares her thoughts with us on the cultural significance and symbolism of quilting in Hawaiian culture, why the patterns and tradition are so important to keep alive, and how she teaches this exciting and beautiful art.” – Pitt Rivers website. Full details and registration for this free event here.

On Saturday 8 May the Fashion Institute of Technology and The Textile Society of America will jointly host a free online event on the subject of Early Fashion and Textiles by the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris. “This panel brings together scholars and practitioners who will introduce their studies of and encounters with ancient textiles, clothes, and fashion. Exploring practical textile and dress making techniques of the cultures along the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris rivers during the 3rd millennium BCE, they ask: How was fashion used to express cultural, societal, and personal identities?” Full details and registration for this event, which begins at 15:00 EDT (20:00 BST) here.

In my most recent blog I mentioned this exhibition which opens on Saturday in Juneau, Alaska.  “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website.

There will be two lectures on Saturday linked to this exhibition, with limited attendance allowed. The first is at 13:00 ADT, which is 22:00 BST, when Lani Hotch will talk about Klukwan’s Legacy of Weaving. The second is at 15:00 ADT, which is midnight in the UK and Steve Henrikson will talk about A History of Native Textiles on the Northern Northwest Coast. Full details and registration for those able to attend in person here. I’ve been in touch with the museum and they inform me that recordings of these lectures will be available online by around 14 May. I will provide a link to these as soon as I have it.

There will be a livestream dedication of of The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles (SWAY) exhibit this Friday 7 May at 17:00 ADT, which is 02:00 BST – so probably one for our international members or UK night owls!

Miao festival, Guizhou, China, 2008. © Minneapolis Institute of Art

One of the current exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ends on 23 May 2021. To Beautify and Protect: Miao Clothing and Jewelry from China  showcases examples drawn from the Institute’s large collection of more than 1,200 textiles and 450 pieces of jewellery made by Miao artisans. “Miao people consider textiles, clothing, and accessories as expressions of identity. This is especially true at communal festivals, where an individual might wear an elaborate, embroidered costume and intricately worked silver jewelry. In these settings, ceremonial clothing could indicate a wearer’s age and marital status, or mark important rites of passage. Motifs on these garments and silver jewelry can reveal Miao history and beliefs, while decorative techniques, patterning, and stitchwork distinguish one community from another. The silver material and designs also serve a protective function, promoting the health and safety of the wearer, while presenting a dazzling display that delights the eyes. ” MIA website.

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

Don’t forget that the next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

If you here of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

Savu, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, female pioneers and more…..

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Last month many members (and non-members) enjoyed a talk by Geneviève Duggan about weaving on the Indonesian island of Savu. Dr Duggan showed how women are the keepers of history in the form of oral genealogies, and how this information can help us to date their textiles.

© Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

She looked at historical written reports – starting with those of Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770 – in comparison to oral tradition. She also explained the binary structure of society on Savu and how men and women complement each other in their roles. She focused on the structure of the maternal line, and how weavers are able to exercise power via the gift of the textiles they produce. This was all accompanied by an excellent slide presentation.

Illustration of a chief’s house on Savu by Sydney Parkinson, who travelled there with James Cook in 1770

Dr Duggan ended her talk with a presentation on the need for a Weavers House, and explained how she was raising funds for this. Sadly in the last week Cyclone Seroja devastated large parts of eastern Indonesia, including the island of Savu and the weaving village with which Geneviève mainly works. Many houses were severely damaged and in some cases totally destroyed. The local government is hoping to get electricity working again in the village in August – yes that’s right – in August! This short video shows the current situation. It was very jerky so I have slowed it down to make it more watchable.

Their immediate needs are a generator, a couple of chainsaws, 1000 sheets of corrugated roofing and nails to secure them. If you would like to help with this please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

A recording of Dr Duggan’s talk is now available for members on the OATG website. Just scroll down to that talk and click on the link, then use the current password. This password can be found in the recent edition of Asian Textiles. If any member needs a reminder of it please contact one of the committee.

Recordings of all talks are now being added to the website so that members can view them at their leisure. This is yet another good reason to join the OATG. It doesn’t even matter if you are in a different time zone, you can still get to enjoy the lectures. In addition members receive our excellent journal Asian Studies three times per year.

Woman’s costume from Hama, Syria. © Iwatate Folk Textile Museum

A new exhibition has opened at the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum in Tokyo, entitled Textiles from Syria and its Neighboring Countries. Click through the images to see several lovely textiles from this area. This exhibition closes on 10 July 2021.

The current issue of Textiles Asia. © Bonnie Corwin

Those with a particular interest in the textiles of Syria should read the article Reflections on Late Ottoman Robes from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection by Sandra S Williams in the current issue of Textiles Asia. The woman’s coat which graces the front cover dates to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and was gifted to the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles by the Reisbords. Textiles Asia is published and edited by OATG member Bonnie Corwin. This particular issue also has a lengthy article on Uyghur Feltmaking in Xinjiang by Christine Martens.

I’m really looking forward to an online talk next Wednesday, 21 April, hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is “There Were No Women”: The Pitt Rivers Museum and Britain’s first female anthropologists. The speaker, Frances Larson, is the author of a new book entitled Undreamed Shores – The hidden heroines of British anthropology. This is essentially a “group portrait of five anthropologists all linked by Oxford University’s diploma in anthropology, and by the Pitt Rivers Museum, in the years before, during and after the First World War.” – Boyd Tonkin. The women discussed in this book, and their areas of research, are Beatrice Blackwood (New Guinea), Katherine Routledge (Easter Island), Maria Czaplicka (Siberia), Barbara Freire-Marreco (New Mexico and Arizona) and Winifred Blackman (Egypt). An excellent review of Larson’s book by Boyd Tonkin appeared on The Arts Desk website last month and really inspired me to order it immediately. The talk takes place at 17:00 BST and you can register for it here.

Maria Czaplicka © Pitt Rivers Museum

For those interested in learning more about Maria Czaplicka and her work in Siberia I recommend this article and podcast from the Women in Oxford’s History series. “The First World War has often been presented as a period of stagnation in anthropology. However, for Maria it was a time of opportunity – she was made lecturer in ethnology for three years between 1916 and 1919, becoming the first appointed female lecturer in Oxford.” – Jaanika Vider.

Summer kimono for a woman, 1680-1705. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

Don’t forget the next OATG talk takes place on Thursday 22 April when Anna Jackson of the V&A will give a presentation about their recent kimono exhibition. Click here to register.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, recently gave a talk on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) explored “the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” The good news is that if you missed this talk, which took place at the end of March, the  Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative have now made a full recording of it available here

Bou Oumlil, 2015

That event was part of their Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series. The next event in the series is entitled Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco and will take place on Saturday 24 April at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 BST. French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou will be in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This conversation will be co-hosted by the series organizer, Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic World, Royal Ontario Museum. Sara and Mariam will cover a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Textiles from Indonesia, Palestine, Europe, Japan, Mexico and more….

This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.

Ritual cloth palepai with ship motif and trees of life, Kalianda, province Lampung, Southern Sumatra. Inv. no. 9709. Photo: Kathrin Leuenberger.

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.

The fifteenth century ‘dancing ladies’ ceremonial cloth on loan to the ROM from the Textile Museum of Canada

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.

One of the displays in the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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.

Yemen, Bayt al-Faqih. Woman’s korta (dress) with embroidery, couched silver bands and white braided cotton (2018.37.67) © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

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.

Shatweh (married woman’s headdress adorned with coins. Bethlehem, Palestine. Early twentieth century. Oriental Institute A35640E 

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.

Traditional embroidery today. © Ethnic Jewels Magazine.

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.

Ensemble with two striped aprons. Romanian, Oltenia, 1925-45
This outfit belonged to Queen Marie of Romania who brought attention to her country’s regional dress by writing about it as well as wearing it.
Princess Ileana of Romania Collection, KSUM 1987.15.5 a-c

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.

© Chloë Sayer

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.

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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Silk Road Symposium, Japanese textiles, Pitt Rivers reopens

 

Great news! The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (a personal favourite of mine) is reopening on 22 September 2020. In line with current regulations, visitors will have to pre-book a free ticket in advance.

The museum is accessed through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, an awe-inspiring space with wonderful informative displays.

 

You can just see the entrance to the Pitt Rivers behind the skeleton of the young Asian elephant. © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

 

Interior of the Pitt Rivers. © Charlotte-Brown.com

For those not familiar with this museum, you can visit it virtually through this link on their website. You can use this tool to zoom around the display cases while in the comfort of your own home. When you find something of interest you can then search their database for more information.

Postcard from Japan-British Exhibition, The Bear Killer, Ainu Home, 1910. Misa Tamura, private collection.

Their website also has a selection of conservation stories, explaining how conservators have worked on an object. In some cases the before and after photographs show a marked difference, in others it is much more subtle. This particular example shows the work done to preserve an Ainu hunting quiver, which was purchased for the museum in 1910. Staff collaborated with the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and in reading this article we gain some insight into the position of the Ainu in Japanese society.

 

I have mentioned Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan, several times in previous blogs. Tomorrow, Saturday 12 September, he will be discussing the central themes of this book as part of the regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions hosted by the Textile Museum. “The talk will cover daily dress, work-wear, and festival garb, and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement. Murray will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics – often indigo dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu – along with garments from the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fiber, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the north, and the brilliantly colored cotton kimonos of Okinawa to the far south.” Museum website. Spaces for this online event are limited and registration is necessary through this link. Please note the session takes place at 11am EDT which is 1600 in the UK.

 

 

Regrettably I have only just become aware of a Symposium currently taking place at the University of Kansas entitled Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s). This two-day event began today, but hopefully you might still have time to register vis this link for tomorrow’s sessions. Timing is 0900-1215 Central time, which is 1500-1815 in the UK.

“Inspired by the Eurasian trade routes that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century, this symposium highlights how artworks, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both overland and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas. While the term “Silk Road,” invented in the 19th century, may conjure an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, speakers in this symposium challenge us to envision instead a dynamic pattern of cross-cultural exchanges occurring between Asia, Africa, and beyond that continues today.” University website.

 

Woman’s pleated wedding skirt 1800s, Qing Dynasty. © Spencer Museum of Art

The Spencer Museum of Art will be running an online exhibition to accompany this symposium. The exhibition, entitled Interweaving Cultures along the Silk Road, will run until 13 December 2020.

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Video: Ursula Graham Bower – Fieldwork in Nagaland (1939-1944)

Last month several OATG members attended special walk-throughs of the Intrepid Women exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum, led by two of the curators of that exhibition Julia Nicholson and Zena McGreevy.

One of the highlights for me was the display of textiles from Nagaland, collected by Ursula Graham Bower. When she was only 23 years old she went to Manipur and the Naga Hills. She was fascinated by the Naga culture – as was I on my first visit several decades later. She returned a couple of years later with the idea of doing some medical work and taking photographs. She succeeded in doing both. As well as dispensing medicines she took several thousand photographs and shot some of the earliest colour film taken by an anthropologist.

The time she was there was certainly a dangerous one. According to the Pitt Rivers website “During the Second World War, when the Japanese threatened to launch an invasion of India through the north-eastern hills, the British asked Bower to form a band of Naga scouts as part of the ‘V Force’ guerrilla unit. Her forces became so effective that the Japanese put a price on her head.”

The Pitt Rivers Museum has an excellent collection of Naga textiles, several of which are on permanent display. Several years ago while attending a festival in Nagaland I was approached by a woman who explained she was a researcher from the Pitt Rivers and was taking images of textiles held in their collection to show the local people so she could gain more information about them. This turned out to be a two-way process as some of the patterns and techniques used on the textiles now in the UK had not been in use locally for some years.

 

This nine-minute video clip was originally shown as part of the ‘Intrepid Women: Fieldwork in Action” exhibition. It shows highlights of film footage, in both black and white and in colour, which was recorded by Ursula Graham Bower during fieldwork in Nagaland between 1939 and 1944.

Although the opening sequence is not so relevant to textile lovers, patience is rewarded. From 02.02 to 06.40 we see the fabulous beaded headcovers worn at the Tangkhul Spring Festival and this then leads on to footage of the weaving and spinning by various different groups – the Kabui, Kuki and Chiru. It was very interesting to see the angle at which the backtension loom was placed. Stick with this right to the end and you will see some great blankets and jewellery too.

Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Video editing by OATG member Katherine Clough.

 

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