A new display has recently been created at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The subject is Wandering in Other Worlds: Evenki Cosmology and Shamanic Traditions. Through the use of virtual reality headsets, visitors are able to learn more about this “diverse cultural group living across Northern and Central Asia. They are primarily reindeer-herding and hunting people, although in the steppes, Evenki took up horse herding, while in the Arctic, fishing became an important occupation.
“In 2019, artist Anya Gleizer, researcher Pablo Fernandez Velasco and anthropologist Jaanika Vider journeyed to Evenkia in the Siberian Arctic, retracing the route of an expedition led by anthropologist Maria Czaplicka in 1914–15. Using a VR headset and digital versions of the Museum’s collections, the team hoped to learn more about the objects Czaplicka had brought to Oxford a century before. Swiping through photographs on an iPad and visiting Oxford via the VR headset, locals in Chirinda and Tura shared their stories with them.” Pitt Rivers website
I’m glad to learn this display will be in place until September 2023, as it gives me the chance to read Undreamed Shores – The hidden heroines of British anthropology by Frances Larson, which features the life and work of Maria Czaplicka among others. See this earlier blog for more details.
OATG members will be delighted to learn that three more talks have been added to the password-protected Members Resources section of our website. This can be found under Events. New members (from the UK and further afield) are always welcome to join this small but growing group of textile enthusiasts. Click here to find out more.
Thanks go to Sandra Sardjono for alerting me to this webinar, taking place on Thursday 6 October, which has an interesting line-up of speakers. The topic is Safeguarding Textile Heritage and it begins at 19:30 Indian Standard Time, which is 15:00 BST. Click here for more details and to register.
Lovers of Indonesian textiles who are able to visit Switzerland next month are in for a treat. Collector Georges Breguet, who has written recently for our Asian Textiles journal, is exhibiting some of his cloths from the island of Sumba at Vésenaz near Geneva.
The exhibition will open on Saturday 8 October and close on Sunday 23 October – just a short run so don’t delay.
Also taking place on 8 October is World Textile Day – South of England. The venue is Brockenhurst Hall in Hampshire and as usual there will be an exciting selection of textiles for sale from a variety of different traders.
Entrance is free, but there is a small charge should you wish to attend any of the talks – highly recommended. Click here for further details.
Saturday 8 October is proving to be a very busy day! The New England Rug Society will host a Zoom talk by Luca Emilio Brancati on the subject of Afghan War Rugs 1979-2022. He will examine how these rugs have developed from the Russian period until now. Dr Brancati is the co-author of this book on the subject, and in 1988 organised the first exhibition of Afghan war rugs .
“The Afghan carpets from Luca Emilio Brancati ‘s Turin collection have the particularity of portraying in their decorations the instruments of war common in Afghanistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion. These rare and extraordinary “textile documents” testify to the vitality of the culture of carpet in Afghanistan and the ability of the local nomadic and village manufacturing, capable of capturing new suggestions for carpet decoration from the environment in which it lives.
The Turin collection on the carpets of the Russo-Afghan war was the first of its kind to be exhibited for the first time thirty years ago in Milan and is the only one consisting of carpets exclusively made before the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan.”
The talk begins at 13:00 ET, which is 18:00 BST, and you can register for it here.
On Sunday 9 October John Ang will be giving a Zoom talk for the International Hajji Baba Society on Splendors of Malay World Textiles – the subject of his current exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. The exhibition has seven hundred textiles, divided into twelve major categories, plus textiles from other countries, which relate to these Malay examples.
This article from Malay Mail gives a further insight into John and his collection. The talk takes place at 17:00 EDT, which is 22:00 BST and you can register for it here.
This Sunday is also the date of the annual Textile Society London Antique and Vintage Textile Fair.
“The Textile Society London Antique Textile Fair offers an outstanding range of vintage fashion, antique textiles and costume sourced from around the world. Textiles from the 18th century up to the swinging 1960s and 70s, furnishings including pre-1950s rugs, and unique fashion accessories can be found here. Visitors can explore the fair for secondhand books, ephemera and advice on textile conservation.
Whether a textile designer or student looking for design inspiration, a collector looking for a unique addition, or just a visitor wanting to browse beautiful materials and objects, this fair cannot be missed.” Textile Society website.
The location is Chelsea Old Town Hall on the Kings Road SW3 5EZ. The Fair is open to the general public from noon, but early entry from 10:00 is available to Trade, Early Bird ticket holders and Textile Society members. Click here for more details.
On Saturday 10 September experts from the World Textile Day team will descend on The Guild Hall in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, for a one day pop up textile bazaar. They will bring with them a range of amazing textiles for sale from around the globe. They will also be happy to look at any textiles or pieces of costume you bring in to help identify what it is and where it comes from – they may even offer to buy it!
Experts confirmed are:
Martin Conlan of Slow Loris Textiles – an absolute authority on the minority textiles of southwestern China with stunning indigos, embroideries and fabulous costume pieces.
Susan Briscoe well-known author, teacher and expert in Japanese textiles.
Tanya Byrne of The Running Stitches with beautiful kantha work scarves, throws and quilts from northern India.
John and Joan Fisher with a stunning collection of applique and quilting from Egypt.
Diane and Jim Gaffney of Textile Traders with their 40 years of experience in south east Asian textiles – particularly in the batik and ikat of Indonesia and the indigo and natural dyes of Northern Thailand.
Magie Relph and Bob Irwin of The African Fabric Shop with an amazing array of West African wax print plus textiles from the traditions of all the corners of the Continent.
Entry is free and the event runs from 10 am to 4 pm. More details here.
Please note this is an in person event and is not available online.
Also taking place on 17 September is an online talk as part of the Textile Museum’s Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. The subject this time is Carpet Masters of Persia, and the speaker is Hadi Maktabi, the author of The Persian Carpet: The Forgotten Years, 1722-1872.
He will present “a detailed overview of the urban workshop tradition in Persia from the Timurid era to the 20th-century revival. This virtual lecture will cover all major weaving centres and explore the distinct characteristics of workshop structure and organization in each”. – TM website
This free talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST and you can register for it here.
“In the opening two decades of the twentieth century, at a time when women were barely recognized at the University of Oxford, five women trained at the Pitt Rivers Museum and became Britain’s first professional female anthropologists. Between them, they did pioneering research in Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Siberia, Egypt, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the pueblos of southwest America. Through their work they challenged the myths that constrained their lives. Yet when they returned to England, they found loss, madness and regret waiting for them.” – PRM website
The talk begins at 18:00 BST and you can register for either the in-person event or an online ticket here.
Also taking place on 21 September, but this time in Canberra, Australia, is a talk by Toolika Gupta, the Director of the Indian Institute of Craft and Design. Her subject is Sherwani: The influence of British rule on elite Indian menswear.
She will explore “the history of Indian menswear fashion by looking at the changing trends— clothing preferences, popular garments, and style—during the British rule. She traces Indian menswear from the 17th century to the early decades of the 21st century narrating how the flowing jamas and angrakhas of the earlier era changed to the achkan which was followed by a more tailored sherwani during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.”
This talk takes place by Zoom at 18:00 local time, which is 09:00 BST and 13:30 in Jaipur. More information and a link to registration can be found here.
On Saturday 24 September the San Diego Museum of Art will host an online talk by Sylvia Houghteling, Assistant Professor of the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. Her first book, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India, was published earlier this year. The subject of this particular talk is Cultures of Cloth in Mughal South Asia.
“In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a vast array of textiles circulated throughout South Asia in the lands ruled by the Mughal Empire. Made from rare fibers and crafted using virtuosic techniques, these exquisite objects animated early modern experience, from the intimate, sensory pleasure of garments to the monumentality of imperial tents. This lecture tells stories of how textiles crafted and collected across South Asia participated in political negotiations, fostered social conversations, and conveyed personal feeling across the breadth of the Mughal Empire.” – museum website
You can find out more about this lecture, for which there is a small charge, and register for it here. It begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST.
Some rug and textile groups have really come into their own during the pandemic. One of these is the New England Rug Society (NERS), who have an excellent programme of online talks, and a newsletter called View from the Fringe.
On Saturday 24 September Walter Denny, author of How to Read Islamic Carpets, will give a webinar entitled What the Hell Is That? – Encountering Unknown Carpets in Private and Museum Collections and the Marketplace.
“One of the pleasures—and frustrations—of studying and enjoying carpets is encountering the unexpected or the unknown. Yesterday’s close encounters with alien carpets have often morphed into today’s basic knowledge. In this illustrated lecture, Walter Denny will discuss his experiences with “wild cards” that have continued to appear, with disconcerting frequency, during his fifty-six years of studying, photographing, and analyzing carpets in private collections, museum collections, and the marketplace.” – NERS newsletter
The webinar begins at 13:00 ET, which is 18:00 BST and you can register for it here.
I was contacted recently by Jill Winder, Associate Curator (Decorative Arts & Artefacts) at the University of Leeds – the home of the International Textile Collection. They are looking to recruit a Project Collections Officer to catalogue a significant collection of Indonesian textiles.
This collection was previously loaned to them by a member of the OATG. Closing date for applications is 23 September 2022 and you can find out more about it here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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The exhibition From Combat to Carpets, the Art of Afghan War Rugs at the Cotsen Gallery, Santa Fe International Folk Art Museum ends on Sunday. It is a travelling exhibition of forty examples, supplemented here by rugs from the museum’s own collection.
“This unique subset of handwoven rugs can teach us about the innovative nature of rug design and production, as well as the long history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan. Rug producers, provoked by decades of traders and invaders in the country, adapted traditional motifs and compositions, translating them into depictions of world maps, tourist sites, weapons, and military figures. Such war rugs have proven popular among occupying military personnel, journalists, foreign aid workers, international collectors, and contemporary art curators. Over the years, rug makers have continued to update popular imagery and themes to reflect current events, changing technologies, and the tastes of potential buyers.” – Museum website.
Through the wonders of modern technology you can visit this exhibition virtually and can also read more on this intriguing subject in this article by the exhibition’s co-curator Annmarie Sawkins.
The International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is currently showing quilts in an exhibition entitled Diverse Traditions: South Asian Quilts. This exhibition will run until 7 October 2021.
“South Asia is rich in quiltmaking traditions. Women have made quilts in this region for centuries and have used them in a multitude of ways: as bed covers, seating mats, tent panels, and dowry items. Varying techniques, color palettes, and formats can be found among different ethnic and regional groups, and certain styles can help identify where a quilt likely was made. In this group of Indian and Pakistani quilts from the International Quilt Museum’s Education Collection, we look at how the techniques of appliqué, piecing, and quilting are used among diverse South Asian communities.” – Museum website.
Make sure you click on ‘Works in the Exhibition’ and then on the images to see the quilts in their full glory.
On Saturday 11 September 2021 the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host a day of events showcasing Palestinian embroidery and textiles. “Sessions include behind the scenes viewing of selected textiles, screenings of embroidery demonstrations with embroidery kits to take away, including a chart designed by American-born Palestinian artist, Wafa Ghnaim, and drop-in sessions to hear about the Palestinian History Tapestry and view pieces from the tapestry.” – Pitt Rivers Museum. In addition to the in-person events at the museum, there will also be online events for those outside of Oxford.
These events are free, but you do need to book both an event slot and a museum entry slot for the live events. For bookings and further details please click here.
Also taking place on 11 September is World Textile Day Scotland. Great traders who always have a wonderful selection of textiles for sale! For full details click here.
Textile lovers in the London area will be delighted to hear that the next Pop-Up in Pimlico takes place on Wednesday 15 September. This will feature textiles and jewellery from John Gillow, Martin Conlan (aka Slow Loris) and Barbie Campbell Cole, as well as a range of fine contemporary Indian clothing from Antonia Graham. The location is St James the Less Church Hall, Moreton Street, London SW1V 2PF, close to Pimlico tube station and set back from Westminster Bridge Road. Entry is free and this will run from 11:00-18:00.
15 September also sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. And other monuments will run until 14 November 2021, and will be available both in-person and online. This is “an exhibition tracing the movement of the ‘Oriental rug’ and other orientalia in relation to colonial trade, imperial bordering, and power. The exhibition includes an interactive workbook, archival documents, Tatreez (Palestinian cross stitch) by textile artist Samar Hejazi, and an intervention of the British Museum by multidisciplinary artist Roya DelSol. Placed alongside West Asian and Middle Eastern rugs, carpet bags, and other pieces from the Textile Museum of Canada’s permanent collection, And other monumentsinvites a reading of textiles as maps or guides which are capable of tracing broader relationships to who moves, what moves, and how transnational, globalized mobilities of goods have always relied on ‘immobilizations’ of people.” – museum website.
“Contemporary Mexican textiles are among the finest in the Americas. Five centuries have passed since the Spanish Conquest, yet Mexico is still home to more than fifty Indigenous peoples. The arts of spinning, dyeing and weaving are practised in hundreds of rural communities, where distinctive clothing styles endure. Cloth is elaborately patterned and textured on the backstrap loom. After 1521, colonisation brought new materials, treadle-loom weaving, beadwork, and an increased emphasis on embroidery.” – ORTS website.
The talk will be live at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair, London and also streamed via Zoom. If you plan to go to the event or wish to attend via Zoom, please email Dimity Spiller to book a place.
On Thursday 23 September at 18:30 BST the OATG will be hosting a Show and Tell session – please note this is for OATG members only. One of the advantages of Zoom is that we can involve some of our many overseas members in this ever-popular event. Members should shortly receive an invitation with full details of this event. This is your chance to get involved, and we are really looking forward to seeing and hearing about a wide range of different textiles. The event will be ably hosted by Gavin Strachan, the editor of our Journal.
The Textile Society of America has several Affinity Groups who meet online to discuss topics of interest. You don’t have to be a TSA member to attend one of these meetings. The Historic and Ancient Textiles group “brings together people engaged in research on heritage textiles, including those recovered archaeologically, held in the collection of a community, university or museum.” – TSA
The next meeting will be on Saturday 25 September at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. The presenters will be Amanda Phillips, whose subject is Ottoman textiles, and Christine Martens, who will discuss Uighur Felt making. Saturday 25 September is a busy day for textile lovers. For more information and to join this online event please email Lee Talbot.
Also taking place on 25 September is the opening of a new exhibition at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia, entitled The Stories We Wear. “The clothing, accessories, and decorations we put on our bodies tell stories about who we are. They shape how others see us and how we see ourselves. What we wear can prepare us for important events or transform us into someone new. It may follow tradition or a recent trend. And it can show that we belong or help us stand out. Now and in the ancient past, close to home and far away, the stories we wear connect us. Showcasing 2,500 years of style and adornment through approximately 250 remarkable objects, The Stories We Wear reveals how clothing and accessories offer powerful expressions of identity—examining the purpose and meaning behind what we wear.” – Penn Museum.
On the same day the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host a talk by Dr Anne Tiballi of the Penn Museum entitled Threads and Themes of The Stories We Wear. Dr Tiballi was a consultant for the exhibition and in this talk she will “dig deep into several of the exhibitions ‘outfits’, making connections between the technological skill, creativity, and cultural significance of the peoples who made and wore them. ….. the items she will discuss include a Pre-Columbian Andean warp-patterned tunic, headband, and bag; a Qing Dynasty Chinese court costume; and early 20th century coconut fibre armour from Kiribati, a Mongolian silk deel and boots, and a Hopi wedding dress.” – TMASC
This free talk begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Please click here to register.
Now for something rather unexpected from the Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Rabat, Morocco. As the name of the museum suggests, the permanent exhibition focuses on modern and contemporary art. However, the temporary exhibitions cover a wide range of subjects. At the moment it highlights the French painter Eugène Delacroix, particularly his travels in Morocco in 1832. An interesting article about his life and travels appeared in Siente Marruecos Magazine. Delacroix collected many objects, including textiles, which he used in his paintings on his return to France. The exhibition cleverly shows some of his sketches, the types of items that appear in them (textiles, ceramics, leather goods) and the finished paintings.
The exhibition opened in July and runs until 9 October 2021.
Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, WA, is currently holding a special exhibition entitled A Particular Beauty: Romanian Folk Clothing. This will run until 15 November 2021. “When she was Romania’s crown princess (1893–1914), Marie of Edinburgh (later Queen Marie of Romania) began wearing peasant-inspired clothing from the country’s eastern provinces — a fashion trend long promoted by Elisabeth of Wied, Queen of Romania, and her court. A Particular Beauty draws from Maryhill’s collection of more than 450 items of Romanian clothing and textiles. The display will include about 20 fully dressed mannequins, and numerous individual garments such as coats, vests, shirts and blouses.The exhibition will showcase a remarkable variety of Romanian embroidery techniques, mediums, and styles that have evolved through the influences of adjacent ethnic populations, resident invaders, other outsiders, and – in recent decades – urbanization.” – museum website.
There are some really fabulous textiles in this short video. If you cannot see it, please click on the blue title at the top of this blog and view this through our WordPress site.
Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world…….Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel. There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US.
This 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.
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!
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.
On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.
On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.
Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.
Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.
An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem.
A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.
The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.
Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.
Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.
Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-
The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.
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.