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

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

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

On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.

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

On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.

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

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.

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

Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.  Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.

Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.

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

An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem. 

A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.

Traditional embroidery today. © Ethnic Jewels Magazine.

The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.

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

Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.

© Chloë Sayer

Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.

Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-

The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.

A plethora of new talks and exhibitions!

It was a pleasure to see so many members take part in our recent AGM, and even more so that several of our overseas members were able to present textiles from their collections at the Show and Tell.

February certainly looks like being a busy month with lots of online talks and exhibitions. I’m listing them here in date order, as sadly several of them take place on the same date.

On 20 February there are no less than three online talks that I am aware of! The first of these is hosted by the Textile Museum, with Lawrence Kearney looking at American Coverlets for Rug Lovers. “In this virtual talk, carpet and textile dealer Lawrence Kearney will explore the varied art form of American wool coverlets from 1780 to 1830.

Woollen coverlets from the early 19th century are one of the great American art forms. They are often beautiful, plentiful and affordable. They were made, primarily, by itinerant weavers who travelled throughout New England and the Midwest from c. 1810 through the 1840s. After introducing the four main types of coverlets — over-shot, double-weave, winter-and-summer, and Jacquard-loomed (“figured and fancy”) — Kearney will explore the pleasures these 200-year-old woollen textiles can hold for rug lovers.” Textile Museum website.

Space for this session is limited so you are encouraged to register early.

A woman in Houaphan Province, Laos, models the hand-reeled silk, naturally dyed shaman cloth she wove on her handbuilt loom. ©Above The Fray.

Next is a Zoom Panel presented by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). This will take place at 1300 EST, which is 1800 in the UK. The panel will consist of Gunjan Jain, who “made a conscious switch from working for fast fashion industries to slow, sustainable fashion and set up Vriksh, a design studio that collaborates with handloom weavers in Odisha and other states in India.  Uddipana Goswami …. a feminist peace researcher turned peace entrepreneur who promotes eco-conscious traditional/indigenous crafts from India’s conflict-ravaged Northeast periphery, and Maren Beck, [who with] her husband Joshua founded Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 in order to document, support, and introduce to the world the incredible traditional textiles arts and cultures of Laos and Vietnam.” Maren and Joshua are the co-authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos. This talk is free, but registration is essential!

If rugs are more your thing then the talk hosted by the New England Rug Society might be for you. This also takes place at 1300 EST on 20 February, when Alberto Levi will speak on Rugs of the Golden Triangle. “While in Tibet in the early ’90s, hunting, in his words, “for the next Seljuk animal carpet,” Alberto Levi “stumbled across an entirely different kind of animal.” In time, what seemed to be a casual encounter yielded a distinct group of carpets, which Alberto labels “Tibetan Golden Triangle.” Far from being Tibetan, this elusive family of rugs, most of them fragmentary, appears to originate from a triangular region defined at its extremes by eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and Northwest Persia. How and why these rugs ended up in Tibet is yet another part of the mystery that Alberto will investigate in his talk. ” NERS Newsletter. NERS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members wishing to attend should email committee member Jean Hoffman to receive theirs.

Temple hanging, artist unknown, Gujarat 20th century

On Monday 22 February the Fowler Museum will host one of its regular Lunch and Learn sessions. Joanna Barrkman, the Fowler’s Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, will explore embroidered Jain temple and shrine hangings that offer insights into the religious beliefs and imagery of the Jain faith. This short talk will take place at 1430 PST which is 2230 GMT. Click here to register for this free event.

In addition to all of the above there is also the series of four talks hosted by the Textile Museum Journal that I covered in my previous blog. These are:- Elena Phipps on Brilliance, Colour and the Manipulation of Light in Andean textile Traditions (17th) , Raquel Santos and colleagues on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Asian Textiles in Portuguese Collections (24th) and Walter Denny on Colour, Expectations and Authenticity in Oriental Carpets (26th). The talk by Dominique Cardon on Dyers’ Notebooks in Eighteenth Century England and France, which was scheduled for 10 February has been cancelled. However the good news is that one of Dr Cardon’s co-researchers, Dr Anita Quye, will now take her place for this talk on 10 March instead.

Buddhist robe (kesa), flowers in baskets. Japan, Edo period (1615-1868). Silk and gold brocade. ©Alan Kennedy

Don’t forget that the following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.

Ensemble from Southern Moravia in Slovakia (KSUM 1995.17.574 a-e)

A new exhibition opened this week at Kent State University Museum, which will run until 19 December 2021. 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.

Quilt depicting scenes of domestic life and biblical scenes. Created by Minnie Melissa Burdick in 1876. ©Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum in Vermont was the first to exhibit quilts as works of art. Most of the pieces in their collection were produced in New England in the nineteenth century. They recently launched a new online exhibition entitled Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts, which features high-quality images of a selection of their quilts, along with detailed background information on each one. There is also an excellent video in which Katie Wood Kirchhoff previews the exhibition and explains more about the history of the collection and about certain specific quilts. The catalogue of quilt patterns produced by the Ladies Art Company certainly made me smile.

Women’s festive headdress called a shamshur. End of the 19th century Sami, Arkhangel. ©REM

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has a new mini-exhibition which will run until 28 February. The subject is Glass Decor in the Traditional Costume of the Peoples of the Baltic and Barents Regions. The exhibition showcases textiles which are adorned using different types of glass decorations and were made in the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The quality of the images is very good, and there is a toggle at the top of the page to change the language to English.

Early 20th century. Leather, satin, silk, wool and metal thread embroidery, weaving tassels. Artisan Saadagul Mademinova, Southern Kyrgyzstan

The ethnographic collection of the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts is highlighted in this article in Voices on Central Asia. In it Mira Djangaraсheva, the ex-director of the museum, Aigul Mambetkazieva, the chief conservator, and Chinara Daniyarova, a conservator, tell the story of the museum and describe some of its exhibits. The collection currently consists of over 18,000 items, including embroidered wall panels, felts, a fantastic pair of embroidered leather riding trousers and much, much more. Do take a look!

OATG member Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum has informed us of the decision to extend the deadline for the IARTS Textiles of India grant until 15 May 2021. This biennial grant of $15,000 CAD “can be used anywhere in the world by anyone in the world toward a project that enhances knowledge about Indian textiles, dress, or costume”. The scope really is very broad, and can include research, fieldwork and creative work. Please click here for full details of how to apply.

Removing the bindings from the warp threads on Savu. ©David Richardson

Don’t forget the February issue of Asian Textiles will be out later this month. Our next online talk will be on 20 March when Genevieve Duggan will speak on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? This will focus on the island of Savu, where Genevieve has conducted research over several decades. More details in my next blog!

T M Journal Interview Series, Chintz and Japanese Kesa.

This Wednesday, 27 January, OATG member Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum will discuss  the exciting revivals and innovations taking place today in India’s unique art of painting cottons using the kalam pen and natural dyes with Renuka Reddy of Bengaluru. The event, entitled Chintz Today: Breathing New Life into Traditional Textile Design, will take place at 1600 EDT which is 2100 in the UK. Further details and registration can be found here.

Hand painted mordant and resist dyed cloth by Renuka Reddy

Many of you will be familiar with the Textile Museum Journal which is published annually. It is peer-reviewed and always features a range of articles from a variety of scholars and textile experts. The most recent edition, published in autumn 2020, was guest edited by Dr Mary Dusenbury and is on the subject of colour.

A series of online interviews has been organised with some of the contributors to this edition. These interviews will take place during February and will “discuss the importance of recent advances in dye analysis, the value of collaborative, interdisciplinary research, and the multiple roles that a study of color can play in understanding a textile and shedding light on its historical and cultural context.” – Textile Museum Journal email.

There will be a total of 4 interviews, each taking place at 12pm eastern time, which is 1700 in the UK. You can register for each one individually.

The first interview will be on Wednesday 10th February and features dye specialist Dr Dominique Cardon. Dr. Cardon will discuss her research on three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology.

“Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Anita Quye and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Cardon conducted a comprehensive study of notebooks compiled by three different dyers between 1722 and 1747 in London and Languedoc, France. In this interview, she will reflect on the similarity of their palettes, the virtuosity of the dyers as colorists, their shared technical language, and the scientific accuracy of the colors in their portfolios.” – Textile Museum website. For more information on the work of Dr Cardon see my earlier blog.


Man’s ponchito (detail), 19th century. The Fowler Museum 2011.36.11. Gift of Connirae and Steve Andreas. Photo by Don Cole.

The second interview will take place one week later, on Wednesday 17 February. Dr Elena Phipps will discuss “the Andean predilection for textiles that reflect light” with Dr Mary Dusenbury. Dr Phipps has written prolifically on textiles of the Andes and a selection of her work can be found here.

Vine-scroll design carpet (detail), Iran, 17th century. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga 10Tp.

The subject of the interview the following week (on Wednesday 24 February) is Oriental carpets found in Portuguese collections. Dr Dusenbury will be joined by Raquel Santos, Blythe McCarthy, Maria João Ferreira and Ana Claro, co-authors of three of the papers in the Journal.


Anhalt Carpet (detail), Iran, 1500-1550. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 46.128. Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1946.

Please note that the final interview is NOT the following Wednesday, but will take place on Friday 26 February. This will be with Dr Walter Denny who “will explore the controversies and difficulties surrounding any study of color in pile carpets by art historians, conservators and photographers….. and….how scholarly expectations of color in the various historical eras and geographic groups of carpets are shaped by what has survived of old traditions.”

Buddhist Priest’s Vestment (Kesa) with Phoenix, Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), Date 19th century, Japan, Silk and metallic thread tapestry, Overall: 44 x 80 in. (111.8 x 203.2 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.

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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Silk Road lectures, Japanese textile designs, Chinese silk cultivation and Madagascan textiles……

 

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.

I don’t usually do two blogs in one week, but just discovered this series of six online lectures which I thought members might enjoy.

The mummy known as Yingpan Man. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology

They took place at Penn Museum from October 2010 to June 2011. Grouped together under the title Great Adventures on the Silk Road, each video lasts around one hour. Although they can be watched in any order I would recommend watching the Introduction to the Silk Road by Nancy Steinhardt first. The lectures were geared towards an exhibition called Secrets of the Silk Road which was due to be held at Penn Museum in February 2011. Sadly the length of the exhibition was shortened, and the number of exhibits was reduced at the last moment. Edward Rothstein gives an interesting account of this in his article for The New York Times. I would also strongly recommend reading this well-illustrated article on The Mummies of East Central Asia by Victor H Mair, who also gives one of the lectures in this series.

The link to the full series of lectures can be found here.

 

 

I also really enjoyed this collection of 83 printed textiles in the Japanese style from a book in the collection of the Bibliothèques Patrimoniales in Paris .

This book of samples seems to have been published in France around 1930. Clicking on each sample brings up a larger version and you can also zoom right in as the resolution is very good.

 

Image showing a weaver at her loom. © Brooklyn Museum, 76.110d_recto_IMLS_PS4.jpg

Those interested in silk weaving might enjoy the contents of this book entitled Silk Cultivation and Production, which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. It shows all the stages of making silk, from collecting and feeding the worms up to the weaving of the threads.

 

One of the 54 Madagascan textiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. © ROM

While on the subject of silk I found this presentation on the silks of Madagascar fascinating. It is by OATG member Dr Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum. The quality of the images really enhances the excellent text. The ROM hold 54 Madagascan textiles in their collection, some of which date to the nineteenth century. It was interesting to read of a connection with Omani traders and Indian trade cloths, almost reminiscent of the Silk Road connections with which I started this blog. 

 

This video shows how the silk is processed and dyed. © ROM

 

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More reopenings!

 

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.

Many museums are either now open once again, or are preparing to reopen soon. There will obviously be some changes to the visitor experience. In many cases tickets have to be booked in advance and one-way routes have been marked out. For example the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford reopened this week and everyone, including members, has to book their ticket in advance. This should lead to a better experience for all visitors.

The British Museum will be reopening on 27 August. To begin with only a selection of galleries will be opening, with more to be added later. Click here for the full list. Visitors will need to book a timed slot and follow the one-way route marked out.

The V&A in London has also partially reopened, with more galleries to be added to the list in the coming weeks. Please check their website for the new opening hours. Most exciting is the fact that their fantastic exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk will reopen on 27 August!

Standing courtesan, colour print from woodblocks, Katsukawa Shunsen, 1804-18, Japan. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

 

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

Further afield the Textile Museum of Canada opens again to the public on 19 August. Their current exhibition is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxane Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth. Last December I blogged about this exhibition, and a video has now been added to the museum’s website. For those (most of us) who can’t get to the museum this gives us a flavour of the textiles on display.

Last month I blogged about the major exhibition of chintz at the Royal Ontario Museum which had been postponed due to the pandemic. This will now open on 12 September. The museum website has lots of interesting background information and videos, including one about a rare book of Indian chintz patterns recorded by a Japanese cloth manufacturer which was published in 1785. Best of all is the video featuring OATG member Sarah Fee (the curator of this exhibition) in conversation with Anjli Patel examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” This gives us a chance to see several of the textiles from the exhibition in close-up.

 

I was recently checking some of the Asian textile links on our WordPress site and noticed the Harris Museum in Preston, UK was listed. I checked out their website to see what collections they held, and became fascinated by the story of John Forbes Watson. In 1866 he put together an 18 volume set of fabric sample books entitled The Textile Manufactures of India. This was published by the India Office of the British Government. Forbes Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at the India Museum in London. As such he was responsible for identifying and cataloguing Indian products for the Secretary of State for India. “Forbes Watson’s great skill was as an organiser and cataloguer of information and objects. He re-organised the India Museum’s collections and published on a variety of subjects, including Indian tobacco, tea cultivation, and cotton. He even tried to catalogue the population of India in a photographic series called The Peoples of India (8 vols, 1868-75).” – Harris Museum website.

John Forbes Watson 1827-1892

Although he had worked in India for several years as a physician in the Bombay Medical Service, he did not return to India to collect the samples used in these books. Instead – textile lovers and curators look away now – he cut out sections from fabrics held in the stores of the India Museum and used them to create 20 sets of the 18 volume books. As you can imagine this involved hundreds of samples. The India Museum closed in 1879 and much of its contents were sent to the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A.

It’s important to realise that the fabrics chosen were not intended to fully represent the wide variety of textiles made in the region. Forbes Watson’s focus was on those fabrics which could be useful to British industry, more specifically to show manufacturers what they could copy. According to him “The 700 specimens … show what the people of India affect and deem suitable in the way of textile fabrics, and if the supply of these is to come from Britain, they must be imitated there. What is wanted, and what it is to be copied to meet that want, is thus accessible for study”.

 

Sample no 24 listed as a turban from fine cotton made in Jeypoor in Rajpootana.

 

A design registered by a British manufacturer which is clearly a copy of the sample shown above. ©Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.

The Harris Museum website has a lot of fascinating background to these volumes and has now made all 700 textile samples in these books available to explore digitally for the first time. It is possible to just browse through each volume, or you can search under different categories. The title of the volumes is actually misleading as it only mentions India but they do contain some textiles from further afield such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Nepal. I highly recommend taking a look.

A few days after discovering that website 2 different friends shared an article about these volumes from an Indian perspective. Written by Kaamya Sharma for The Hindu, we learn how copies of these books were sent to many British manufacturing locations and “As a result, cheap, mass-produced, British replicas of these samples inundated the Indian market within a decade. These were print imitations of intricate weaves whose technique had been developed and perfected by Indian weavers over several centuries. The cheaper prices of British textiles had a predictably devastating impact on Indian handlooms.” Forbes Watson was clearly a great admirer of Indian textiles and his books of samples are invaluable to textile historians, but we also need to acknowledge the devastating impact their publication had on the very textiles he so admired.

 

Moving to another area of Asia, I found this video by the Tracing Patterns Foundation on banana fibre cloths from Mindanao fascinating. This time the speaker is Craig Diamond, who has a passion for these T’nalak cloths woven by the Tboli people. The technique used is warp ikat and the colours are obtained using natural dyes. Craig explained that black is seen as the background, red as an embellishment, and white as the primary pattern. This was most helpful and something not every presenter would have thought of. The cloths have several uses, both for ceremonies and as a form of currency. I was amazed to learn that some are 35 feet in length!

With my interest piqued I started to look for more information on this textile tradition and found this article on the Narra Studio website provided a lot of background on how textiles are seen as a form of storytelling.

We hope OATG members enjoyed the special Lockdown Newsletter with a variety of interesting articles which was sent out last month. Please don’t forget to email our editor Gavin Strachan by the end of August if you have ideas for the next newsletter. These are being produced in addition to our usual Asian Textiles journal in recognition of the fact that we are currently not able to provide our usual programme of events. Don’t forget that all 76 back issues of our journals are available to search through and view online for members, with the first 62 also being available to non-members.

Newsflash!

Another exciting treat will also soon be arriving in your inboxes. Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono have produced an excellent video for us on Minangkabau Looms and Textiles. This will be in a password-protected area of our website and all members will receive the password in the coming days.

 

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Chintz at the ROM, Greek textiles and collection cataloguing

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Pholegandros pillowcase.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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