Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian textile events.

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video. 

My apologies for the long gap between blogs. I’ve been travelling in Indonesia doing some personal research and leading another textile tour. Its taken me a while to get back in gear…….

Palm leaves (some of which have been sliced into fine strips) drying on the island of Flores, and a lady using some of the dried strips for ikat binding. © Sue Richardson

A new exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection, runs until February 2023. The exhibition looks at how the kimono has changed over time. In the late Edo period (1615-1868) the main buyers of kimono were the ruling military class.

“At the same time, a dynamic urban culture emerged, and the merchant class used its wealth to acquire material luxuries. Kimono, one of the most visible art forms, provided a way for the townspeople to proclaim their aesthetic sensibility……..In the Meiji period (1868–1912), Western clothing was introduced to Japan. Simultaneously, modernization and social changes enabled more women to gain access to silk kimonos than ever before. Around the 1920s, affordable ready-to-wear kimono (meisen) became very popular and reflected a more Westernized lifestyle.” – museum website

Early nineteenth century summer robe (Hito-e) with Court carriage and waterside scene. Lent by John C. Weber Collection

If like me you missed the recent exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design you will be keen to watch this thirty minute video tour by the curator, Lee Talbot. It’s really excellent and the pace is just right, with lots of close-ups of the textiles.

Video tour of the exhibition by Lee Armstrong Talbot

Next Saturday, 25 June, OATG members Ruth Barnes and Sandra Sardjono will be taking part in an online panel for the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. The subject is Loss, Hope, and Conservation in Southeast Asian Textiles.

“Colonialism, changing customs, war, and contemporary collecting practices have all impacted the use and meaning of textiles in Southeast Asia. In this online Re-History Series discussion, a panel of experts explores themes of loss, destruction, and conservation during colonial periods as well as the present day. They will discuss efforts to center the makers’ voices and recover from losses through research, conservation, and collaboration.” – museum website.

Ruth is now Curator of Indo-Pacific Art at Yale University and Sandra is the founder and president of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The other panelists are conservator Julia Brennan of Caring for Textiles, Cherubim Quizon, who specializes in textiles of the Philippines, and Natasha Reichle, curator of the Weaving Stories exhibition.

This free event takes place via Zoom from 10:00-12:00 PDT, which is 18:00-20:00 BST. Tickets need to be booked in advance.

A kantha coverlet, Bemgal, early twentieth century. © Victoria and Albert Museum

Next Saturday also sees the opening of a new exhibition entitled Dressed by Nature: Textiles of Japan at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, showcasing some of the Japanese textiles they acquired from Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan.

“The Japanese archipelago is home to extremely diverse cultures that made clothing and other textile objects in a kaleidoscope of materials and designs. This exhibition will focus on the resourcefulness of humans to create textiles from local materials like fish skin, paper, elm bark, nettle, banana leaf fiber, hemp, wisteria, deerskin, cotton, silk, and wool. It will showcase rare and exceptional examples of robes, coats, jackets, vests, banners, rugs, and mats, made between around 1750 and 1930, including the royal dress of subtropical Okinawa, ceremonial robes of the Ainu from northern Japan and the Russian Far East, and folk traditions from throughout Japan.” – museum website

Eighteenth century Attush robe. Ainu People, Hokkaido, Japan, or Sakhalin, Siberia

The attush (elm bark) Ainu robe shown above will clearly be one of the highlights of the exhibition. It is fascinating to note the variety of talismanic pendants decorating this robe. These are made of a variety of materials including sturgeon scales, shells, bird bones and silk tassels.

On Sunday June 26 Tom will be giving a talk entitled Accounting for Taste: On the Collecting of Textiles from Japan. This is an in person talk and will take place at 14:00 CDT. Click here for tickets.

Don’t forget to let me know about textile events you hear of so I can share the information on here!

Textiles from the Silk Road, China, Peru, Indonesian basketry, and much more….

On 10 February 2022 Cambridge University held a Dunhuang Seminar, with Professor Max Deeg of Cardiff University as the speaker. His subject was Trading Silk – Negotiating Religion: Buddhist stories and discourses about silk. The seminar was recorded and you can access the video here.

This was the second in a series of six seminars, taking place between January and March. For those interested in learning more about the rest of the series click here.

Centre: Woman wearing a pote lo’o made in twill weave during the opening of the bringing of buffa-lo ceremony (pua karapau). © Stefan Danerek.

I’ve previously blogged about the relatively new journal Fiber, Loom and Technique established by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono. A new article with excellent illustrations has just been published in it, covering the basketry traditions of Palu’e, a small island off the coast of Flores in Eastern Indonesia. The author is Stefan Danerek, a Swedish researcher who has studied the language, arts and crafts of this small island for several years. I’m familiar with Palu’e weaving, so welcomed this opportunity to get to know more about another of their crafts, especially the so-called ‘mad weave’. You can learn more about Stefan’s work from his website.

Pustaha in Mandailing Batak script, with many drawings in red and black ink, before 1844. British Library, Add 19381. 18th – early 19th century.

I recently heard of this work on Batak manuscripts through Sandra Niessen. Apparently the British Library has the “oldest dateable Batak manuscript (Add 4726), which entered the British Museum collections in 1764. Until recently, this was the only Batak manuscript in the Library accessible online. However, the complete collection of 37 Batak manuscripts in the British Library has now been fully digitised, thanks to a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at the University of Hamburg.……. A full list of the digitised manuscripts is available on the Digital Access to Batak Manuscripts page.” – British Library

These manuscripts were sometimes written bamboo and bone, but mainly on the bark of the alim tree (Aquilaria malaccensis). The bark books, known as pustaha, often contained writings on magic and divination, which were also sometimes illustrated.

You can read the full illustrated blog by Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia, here.

MSS Batak 6, which mostly contains texts on divination in war, especially by use of rambu siporhas, divination based on the position of a double string thrown on the ground. This pustaha has a beautifully carved wooden front cover, but a plain wooden back cover.

Some of these manuscripts also had protective covers, generally of wood, which was sometimes carved. The British Library also has one example, which is made of goat skin. Annabel has also blogged about the covers here.

Fragment of a tapestry weave tunic dated 1532-1700, from Cuzco or Lake

Recently the Art Institute of Chicago held a virtual lecture on Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. In it Andrew Hamilton, associate curator of Arts of the Americas, examined how “the violent conquest of the Inca Empire by Spanish forces dramatically changed Inca society, their artistic traditions, and the clothes that they wore.” The talk was recorded and is now available here.

On Wednesday 9 March there are two in-person events members may find of interest – one in the UK and one in the US.

The Norfolk Makers Festival will be held from 9-20 March 2022 in Norwich. There will be twelve days of crafting activities, open exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and talks. There is an excellent events calendar, which you can search using various filters, or just browse. Sevanti Roy, who previously worked in Jaipur for textile companies including Anokhi and Fabindia, but now has a design business based in Norfolk will give a talk entitled From Persia to Norfolk: a talk about the paisley motif. The talk begins at 16:30 and is free.

A new exhibition will be opening that day at the Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook University, New York. Curated by Vichai and Lee Chinalai and Jinyoung Jin the exhibition is entitled Auspicious Dreams – Tribal Blankets from Southern China, and is on view until 31 May 2022. “Often made with fine materials, exemplary techniques, and unparalleled artistry, these striking textiles convey the unique identities, statuses, and traditions of diverse Chinese tribal groups.” – University website.

Lee will be giving a talk in the Wang Center Auditorium at 16:00, before the opening of the exhibition.

Vine Leaf, 1896. Designed by May Morris, produced by Morris & Company.

The Art Institute of Chicago currently has an exhibition entitled Morris & Company: The Business of Beauty, which runs until mid June 2022.

I enjoyed reading this blog by Melinda Watt about May Morris, daughter of William, who completed many designs for the family firm. At the tender age of 23 she was responsible for supervising all of the embroidery operations in the company.

I was interested to learn that in “support of female artists and designers, she founded the Women’s Guild for Arts in 1907 to provide the support and networking opportunities they lacked, as they were excluded from the Art Worker’s Guild on the basis of gender.”

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

PLEASE NOTE If you subscribe to this blog via email you will be unable to see the videos unless you click on the blue title in the email, which will direct you to our blog site.

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!

New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years.

This will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Museum, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

All of this may sound familiar to OATG members, as Dr Armstrong gave this talk to us last August. It was extremely well-received, and if you missed it a recording is available in the members’ resources area of our website. However you may well want instead to join this online event, as the Q and A session afterwards is sure to be stimulating. The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Fragment (Tunic), 1532/1700
Inca; probably Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region, southern highlands, Peru. Bessie Bennett Endowment

On the same day, Thursday 13 January, the Art Institute of Chicago will host an online lecture by Andrew Hamilton entitled Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. This talk focuses on two fragments of an Inca tunic, explaining “the appearance and usage of the original tunic; the tunic’s elusive designs, called tocapus in Quechua; the European design influences manifested in the garment; and how an elite Indigenous man might have worn such a tunic to express his nobility under colonial rule. Most importantly, this talk will illuminate the knowledge and skills of the tunic’s weavers and show how their work upheld long-standing Inca techniques while also inventing new ones in response to their much-changed lives in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” – AIC website

The talk takes place at 17:00-17:45 CST, which is 23:00-23:45 GMT, and you can register for it here.

The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California begin their 2022 programme on Saturday 15 January with an online talk by Abel Trybiarz, author of Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs and Others, published in 2017 by HALI. The title of his talk is RUGS & ART: South Persian Tribal Rugs with Birds and Other Creatures.

“The so-called “bird rugs” of the Khamseh Confederation and the Qashqa’i are among the most charming and colorful of figurative rugs of the Southwest Persian tribes. Their rows and columns of birds, and all kinds of other animals including human figures, have been made in an infinite array of combinations and colors, with a huge variety of border motifs. Over many years, Buenos Aires collector Abel Trybiarz has quietly built a previously unknown collection of bird and animal rugs that has at its heart a superb selection of antique knotted-pile rugs, woven by the nomadic tribes of the Khamseh Confederation in southwestern Iran during the 19th century.”

The talk takes place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Cover of Mea and the Palm Flowers. ©Tracing Patterns Foundation

OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation has been instrumental in producing a lovely book for children, telling the story of a little girl called Mea who dreams of wearing a new ikat cloth to the Harvest Festival on the island of Savu in Indonesia. One of the advisors for this book was Geneviève Duggan, who last year talked to our members about the textiles of Savu, in particular those woven by the women of Pedero village, the setting of this book. The book is beautifully illustrated, and half of the proceeds of sales will be going to the weavers – who you may remember suffered dreadfully after Cyclone Seroja. Click here to order this delightful book.

A young girl from Pedero we photographed during one of our many visits to Savu.

I missed Joe Coca’s talk on textile photography last month, so am glad to see that a recording of it is now available on Youtube. In it he talks about the trials and tribulations involved in taking some of the photographs of weavers and people in their traditional dress.

On Thursday 27 January we will hold our Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM via Zoom. It will begin at 18:00 GMT and will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. All members should have already received the Zoom link, which will be resent along with the agenda and committee reports well in advance of the meeting.

A couple of reminders and some new textile events happening soon!

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the videos further down the blog.

First a final reminder of the next OATG talk, which takes place this Thursday 21 October. Members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation will give an online talk on the subject of Fiber Arts from Papua.

Young girl in a Dani village. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation.

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST and those who have registered will already have received their Zoom link. If you do still wish to attend please register as soon as possible. Registration is also open for non-members for a small (£3) donation. This should be a fascinating talk so do join us!

Cybele Tom sharing her work on the Seated Guanyin, Song Dynasty (960-1279)

On Saturday 23 October there will be a Zoom talk hosted by one of the Textile Society of America Affinity Groups, Textiles x Science. Four conservators will share highlights of their work. “Few people get to engage with works of art directly, yet this is a key feature and privilege of conservation work. Through close looking, intimate interaction, consultation, collaboration, and scientific analysis, conservators and scientists piece together the evidence of what remains to give insight into an object’s complex narrative.” – TSA website

This talk will begin at 13:00 EDT, which is 18:00 BST. Please email for the Zoom link to what sounds like a fascinating talk.

Three generations of Qashqa’i women. Photo courtesy of Vedat Karadag.

Also taking place on Saturday 23 October is another of the regular series of Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings, hosted by the Textile Museum. The speaker this time will be Vedat Karadag and his subject is Traveling the Textile Lands of Greater Anatolia, Persia, Central Asia and Beyond. For the past four decades Vedat has been involved with textiles, both as a dealer and leading cultural and textile-oriented trips. In this virtual talk Vedat will share some of the highlights of his textile travels. More information can be found here. Click on this link to register for this event which begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST.

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website.

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition is also now available (German text).

Chair Cover with Crane Design, Chinese, 17th century Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Silk tapestry (kesi) woven with silk and metallic threads, Overall: 20 3/8 x 63 3/4 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, 59-18/5.

On Saturday 30 October the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host a Zoom programme looking at some of the textiles featured in the  current exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Weaving Splendor: Treasures of Asian Textiles opened in late September and runs until 6 March 2022. “For the first time in decades, rarely seen Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Persian, and Turkish clothing and textiles from the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are assembled for an extraordinary exhibition. Made with fine materials, exemplary techniques, and superb artistry, Asian luxury textiles were prized domestically and were central to global trade.” – museum website

One Hundred Cranes Imperial Robe, Chinese, Late 17th-early 18th century Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Embroidered damask, 91 × 57 7/8 in. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 35-275.

Covering the highlights of the exhibition from the 1500s to today, this talk will include two outstanding and historically important classical Persian carpets; velvet tent hunting fragments and some Kashmir shawls and hangings; several Chinese court robes and interior furnishings; and Japanese theatre robes and Meiji-era tapestries. The Zoom talk begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST and is free, but registration is required.

Selected textile exhibitions and events

Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Kikuo Morimoto at his Wisdom of the Forest project in Cambodia.

Kikuo Morimoto

“In 1975 the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and, in events often overlooked by a good portion of today’s world, proceeded to almost completely wipe out Cambodian culture, including textiles.  Twill-woven weft ikat was an important part of that culture with textiles playing a major role in both every day and ritual life.  With many of the weavers killed and the basics to create the fibers and dyes needed for weaving deliberately destroyed, there was a need for assistance to bring back the traditional means of producing ikat textiles.  Kikuo Morimoto from Japan began the arduous task of finding the few women surviving who knew how to tie the designs and dye the colors using natural dyes.” – Jenny Spancake

Mr Morimoto wrote a memoir detailing his endeavours, which was published in 2008 under the title Bayon Moon. Sadly he passed away in 2017, but his work continues through the IKTT organisation and proceeds from this second expanded e-book edition of his memoir will help continue the work he started and to which he dedicated so much of his life.

It is available through iTunes and your local Amazon website – for example here in the UK and here in the USA.

One of the rooms in Paul Hughes Fine Arts with an amazing Huari Cushma from camelid fibre dating to around 800AD at the centre

Paul Hughes Fine Arts in Somerset currently has a fascinating exhibition entitled Continuities (ending 24 October 2021). Here you can see pre-Columbian textiles on show next to contemporary works in various mediums – textiles, painting, sculpture.

“All Art was Once Contemporary – Continuities is intended to illustrate how works from different periods and cultures are visually interwoven despite their diverse chronological and geographical background, whether it is an affinity in aesthetics or intentionality imbued within the living artist’s creations.” – PHFA website

There are some fabulous textiles illustrated in the online catalogue, but they will have to wait until I win the lottery.

Lubaina Himid’s Lost Threads at the British Textile Biennial 2021 at Gawthorpe Hall, uses 1,300ft of fabric to reflect on the history of cotton
© James Speakman/Mercury Press

As part of the British Textile Biennial 2021 there is a major new installation by Turner-prize winning artist Lubaina Himid at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. The placing of this in the Great Barn is just perfect.

Detail of one of the textiles on show.

“Cascading through the structure of Gawthorpe Hall’s Great Barn, 400 metres of Dutch Wax fabric reflect the movement of oceans and rivers that have been used to transport cotton across the planet and over centuries. Waterways historically carried raw cotton, spun yarn, and woven textiles from continent to continent, as well as enslaved people from Africa to pick raw cotton in the southern states of America or workers who migrated from South Asia to operate looms here in East Lancashire.” – British Textile Biennial website.

The irrepressible John Gillow with his stand at a previous World Textile Day event

Saturday 16 October is the East of England World Textile Day in Norfolk. The venue is at Mundford near Thetford. Traders confirmed so far are Textile Traders, the African Fabric Shop, Susan Briscoe Designs and OATG member and author of several textile tomes John Gillow. The event starts at 10:00 – get there early to browse through a great range of ethnic textiles!

Cutting the binding threads on Savu. © David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

Young girl in a Dani village. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation.

Plaited orchid fibre. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Members should have already received their invitations and hopefully registered. Registration is now also open for non-members for a small (£3) donation.This should be a fascinating talk so do join us!

On Friday 22 October Silk Road a newly renovated gallery is due to open at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. It will feature a new exhibition entitled Crossroads: Exploring the Silk Road.

“Presented as a journey through Dunhuang, an ancient oasis connecting peoples and cultures, along the southern Silk Road route, this gallery engages an intergenerational audience through play and discovery. The sights and sounds of the ancient city come to life through stories and music, dress up, tactile objects, an interactive discovery map, and highlights from the museum’s collection. “ – USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Three generations of Qashqa’i women. Photo courtesy of Vedat Karadag.

On Saturday 23 October the Textile Museum will host another of its regular series of Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings. The speaker will be Vedat Karadag and the subject is Traveling the Textile Lands of Greater Anatolia, Persia, Central Asia and Beyond. For the past four decades Vedat has been involved with textiles, both as a dealer and leading cultural and textile-oriented trips. In this virtual talk Vedat will share some of the highlights of his textile travels. More information can be found here. Click on this link to register for this event which begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST.

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website.

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition is also now available (German text).

Lydie Bonfils/Arab Image Foundation

Finally, I recently enjoyed reading this article entitled Women Behind the Lens: The Middle East’s First Female Photographers by Tom Verde in AramcoWorld. It shows how women were involved in photography in the Middle East since the middle of the nineteenth century. Some worked behind the scenes, often in the family business, but others took a more prominent role, especially in the field of portraiture as women often felt more at ease sitting for another female.

Focus on Indonesia

There are so many exciting things happening in the world of Indonesian textiles at the moment that it’s clear I need to devote a whole blog to them. Several of the talks don’t take place until later next month but are filling fast!

© Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono

A fascinating new paper has recently been published by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley. They write “We have discovered an Indian loom technology in use in Indonesia (Minangkabau region). The loom has been published before, but the Indian origins of its unusual ‘cord and pole’ warp suspension system have not been pointed out as far as we know. This is significant, since it implies that Indian craftspeople crossed the Indian ocean to Java or Sumatra at some point in the past.”

This paper is available to read and download here.

The Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is published three times a year and always has a Focus section.

In the current issue the focus is on textiles, with twelve articles about their changing roles in society. “The articles explore ever-present processes of adoption and adaption of ‘foreign’ elements into a local cultural context.” – IIAS. The image above shows a list of the articles. Please click here to access the articles themselves.

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. Published on 19 October 2021 and available to pre-order now.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

Cutting the ikat bindings on Savu.© David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

© Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Invitations will be sent out to members in a couple of weeks time, and registration will open to non-members a week later. This should be a fascinating talk so do mark it in your diaries!

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now.

Tracing Patterns update and new textile journal

OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono are well known to many for their work in the field of textiles. Indeed Chris has given presentations to us in Oxford, and always brings great textiles to our Show and Tell sessions. OATG also sponsored one of their recent videos. In this guest blog they describe the work they are currently undertaking.

Tracing Patterns Foundation (TPF) is a small, non-profit foundation based in Berkeley, California. Our focus is on recording textile traditions (past and present) and making this information available to as many people as possible. We live in an era in which things are changing rapidly and much information is being lost.

TPF consists of the wife-and-husband team of curator and conservator Sandra Sardjono and researcher Chris Buckley. We organise seminars and create video material that is shared online via our Youtube page.

Part of the Hampton Archive of artifacts and documentation from the Highland of Papua. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Recently we have been joined by conservator Katarina Kaspari, who is doing conservation work on an important collection of ethnographic material from Papua. We will be giving an online talk to OATG members on this topic in October, but you can get a flavour of it by watching this short video. [Editor – registration for this talk will open one month in advance and will be listed on the OATG website and included in a blog].

We have now embarked on a new project, launching a journal called Fiber, Loom and Technique (FLT). As its name suggests, it’s for publications on topics related to the making of textiles and fibers … not just the woven variety, we are also interested in papers on non-woven textiles such as bark-cloth, and non-loom techniques.

Why a new journal? We think that the textile field is well-served with book-length publications, such as books on collections or conference proceedings, but there are limited opportunities to publish journal articles, particularly in a timely manner. Textile scholars will be familiar with the responses ‘it doesn’t fit with our upcoming theme issues’, ‘we might be able to publish it the year after next’ and ‘this is too long/short for our journal’. FLT will provide a new way to publish material more rapidly, and there are no limits on length or the number of illustrations.

It’s an online-only journal, and papers will be added as soon as they are ready for publication. It’s Open-Access, which means you can download material freely. There are no publication fees. Each issue corresponds to one calendar year. The journal submission process is completely online, and would-be authors are welcome to write to us with proposals if you’d like feedback on whether your paper is likely to be a good fit with the journal. We welcome submissions from established scholars, young scholars and independent people who have knowledge to share. Degrees and letters after your name are not necessary, and we welcome contributions from all parts of the globe. Perfect English is not essential, our editors can tidy things up provided the meaning is clear to us. We already have an illustrious international team of editors:

As mentioned, technique … meaning how things are made … is the core of what the journal is about, but we hope our authors will explain the context and background too. Our first two papers link historical, archaeological and ethnographic information together, and we hope that this intersection will be a continuing theme in FLT.

Songket weaver from Palembang © Bo Long and Feng Zhao.

The first paper is by Bo Long and Feng Zhao of the China National Silk Museum, and it compares the loom models from the celebrated Laoguanshan tomb, which dates from the Han dynasty (around 2000 years ago) with ethnographic looms in China and Southeast Asia. The Laoguanshan loom had multiple heddles with which patterns were woven in early silk textiles, a method which is still widely used today by rural weavers and small-scale commercial workshops, such as weavers in Palembang, Indonesia who make songket cloths. This is not a true drawloom, but it is an important step in loom evolution.

Early silk taqueté fragment, carbon 14 dated to 5th or 6th century. Chris Hall Collection. © Eric Boudot

The second paper, by Eric Boudot, describes the structure of a remarkable early textile fragment in Chris Hall’s collection. This has an early form of the simurgh, a mythical creature which later became common on Sasanian weavings, particularly those with the famous ‘pearl roundel’ designs. These are the creatures that look like lean, rangy dogs at the top of the textile. Eric shows that the loom used had a mechanism for making a repeating design in the weft direction, and speculates that the loom used was related to the upright zilu loom that is still used in Iran today. As will be clear to readers looking at his structure diagrams, he has done an amazing amount of detailed work with a microscope.

These first two papers are long and somewhat technical. We hope to publish shorter papers as well, which we call ‘Field Notes’ and which will consist of observations ‘in the field’ of weaving and fiber related techniques. In the interests of faster turnaround we will try to use our editorial judgment to match the review process to the material. Longer, technical articles need more peer review (which will be done ‘blind’), but short, factual descriptions do not. In some cases we will publish pieces with just a brief editorial review, if we think it’s appropriate.

If you’d like to contribute, or if you’d like to volunteer your help as a reviewer or editor please get in touch with us.

You can look at the papers online and download them without ‘signing up’ to the journal, but if you’d like to be notified when new papers are added then do please ‘sign up’ on the website.

Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley

Conference videos, new online talks, and a new exhibition

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

Last month I blogged about the major online conference organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference was Textiles on the Move, and it took place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

The good news for those who were unable to participate is that recordings of this conference have now been made available and you can watch them online until 15 November.

The first video begins with a welcome by Willem Vogelsang of the International Institute for Asian Studies. He is followed by Sumru Belger Krody of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum whose subject is Beauty & Purpose, Prayer Carpets and their Design Impact.

Next is Ariane Fennetaux of the Université de Paris, speaking on Interwoven Gowns: Japanese Inspired Night Gowns Ready Made on the
Coromandel c. 1700. Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum then talks about Wiener Werktätte Textiles from the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection.

Finally OATG member Chris Buckley and his partner Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation show a modified version of the presentation on Minankabau Textiles and Looms, which was previously exclusive to OATG members for a while.

The above is just the first of 4 videos. Click here for more information and to access all of the videos – but remember they are only available until 15 November 2020.

Print of the icon at Kalighat temple, eastern India, 1880-1890

Two new exhibitions have recently opened at the British Museum. I’ve mentioned the Arctic one several times already. The other exhibition is on Tantra : enlightenment to revolution.

“A philosophy originating in medieval India, Tantra has been linked to successive waves of revolutionary thought, from its sixth-century transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture……

Elements of Tantric philosophy can be found across Asia’s diverse cultures, but it remains largely unknown – or misrepresented – in the West. The exhibition showcases extraordinary objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, Japan and the UK, from the seventh century AD to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.” British Museum website.

Tibetan thangka depicting the Mahasiddha Saraha, after conservation.

One of the objects which features in this exhibition is this beautiful thangka from Tibet. It was initially in a sorry state and in desperate need of conservation. I really enjoyed reading this blog by Alice Derham and Teresa Heady about just what this entailed.

Scholar’s Equipment (detail), folding screen, painting on silk, Joseon Dynasty, 19th century, photo: National Museum of Korea.

Seattle Art Museum are running a series of lectures under the heading Virtual Saturday University. The topic which caught my eye is Korean Culture in Five Colors. This takes place at 10am on Saturday 7 November (1800 in the UK). Sunglim Kim of Dartmouth College will “Explore the traditional five-color system of East Asia in its Korean expressions, which identified the elemental colors as white, black, blue/green, red, and yellow. Kim’s talk investigates the pigments used, color associations, and their use in various art media including painting, ceramics, textiles, architecture, and even food.” SAM website.

News of another interesting lecture reached me via OATG member Judy Cottrell. Serena Lee will be giving a presentation on The Yi Tribes: Extraordinary Ethnic Dress in Southwest China to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California on Saturday 31 October, but non-members are also welcome to attend this online lecture. It takes place at 0930, which is 1630 in the UK. Registration is essential.

A dancing girl of Bali, resting. Photographed by Thilly Weissenborn c.1925

I also recently came across a wonderful collection of photographs, taken in Indonesia. They are from an exhibition entitled Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s – 1940s, which was held in 2014 by the National Gallery of Australia. The accompanying video shows a great variety of these images, many of which show people in traditional dress.

More exciting online lectures and videos ….

PLEASE NOTE The video referred to in the title is no longer available. I will add it to a future blog when it is.

OATG member Dr Sarah Fee will be giving our first Zoom lecture later this month. Dr Fee is Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles (Asia and Africa) at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

For the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz is being presented to the public in a new original exhibition. Lead curator Dr. Sarah Fee will share highlights from the exhibition and discuss its wider narrative arc that traces 750 years of global trade in, and desire for, this most-influential of India’s trade textiles, from medieval times to the present. She will also share the challenges of bringing the exhibit to fruition during this time of global pandemic.

This online talk will take place on Wednesday 21 October at 1830 BST. This event is free for OATG members and just £3 (payable by Paypal) for non-members. Please note that registration is essential.

We have another excellent talk lined up for December, and the next edition of Asian Textiles is out later this month so why not consider joining us? Click here for more details.

The Seattle Art Museum will host an online lecture TOMORROW with the intriguing title of Dragon’s Blood and the Blood of Dragons. This is part of their Saturday University Lecture Series: Color in Asian Art – Material and Meaning. The presenter is Jennifer Stager, Associate Professor of Art History, Johns Hopkins University.

As an entry point into attitudes toward color, this talk considers the red pigment identified as cinnabar or dragon’s blood in the ancient Mediterranean. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder attributes this pigment (derived from Socotra tree resin) to the blood of actual dragons living on the Indian subcontinent. His critique of painters for their indulgence and excess in using it—and the persistent idea that colors contaminate—stands against an idealized whiteness constructed in opposition to the materials and geopolitics of other cultures. Prof. Stager examines the afterlives of Pliny’s fantastical slander. Seattle Art Museum website.

This talk will take place on Saturday 3 October at 1000 Seattle time, which is 1800 in the UK. You need to register in advance.

Mrs. George nee Elizabeth Blakeway by Frederic William Burton, private collection

The Japan Foundation are hosting an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST.  Renowned fashion historian and curator, Fukai Akiko, will discuss how the kimono was depicted in the latter half of 19th century and the intriguing relationship between the kimono and artists.

For progressive artists such as Manet and Whistler, as well as innovative fashion designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, the kimono was not merely a beautiful garment invoking exoticism, but an inspirational source for their creativity and, as a result, we are able to perceive its significant influence in their pieces. – Japan Foundation.

The talk will be preceded by an introduction  by Anna Jackson, the Curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, and a brief conversation with Fukai Akiko will follow her lecture. Register for the talk here.

Finally Marilyn Murphy and her team at ClothRoads have put together another great list of textile-related events. Their list is definitely worth subscribing too as they often feature events that I don’t come across elsewhere.

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