Andean textiles, Seminole Indian culture, Shoes in the Age of Enlightenment

Andean textile expert Elena Phipps will be giving a lecture on the subject of Weaving Silver: Brilliance and sheen in Andean colonial textile traditions on Tuesday 27 July at 16:05 BST. This is part of an international, inter-disciplinary conference entitled The Matter of Silver: Substance, Surface, Shimmer, Trauma, which will take place over three consecutive afternoons. Each free session can be booked separately. For more information and registration details please click here.

© Elena Phipps

A new exhibit has opened at Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida, dedicated to the life and culture of the Seminole Indians. Entitled Seminole People of Florida – Survival and Success it “will focus on the rich material culture that the Seminoles created and sustained during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From isolation in the mid-1800s to the establishment of two sovereign tribes that oversee modern, successful businesses, the Seminole people have experienced an extraordinary journey.” – Knowhere article. The exhibition will run until 4 October 2021.

© Elliott Museum

A new scholarship supporting the study of Asian and African textiles and dress has been established by Karun Thakar, in collaboration with the V&A. Awards of up to £10,000 are available for those studying these subjects both in the UK and internationally. Click here for more details.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is now open again. They are running a series of virtual tours this summer. This Sunday, 25 July, at 11am Eastern time (16:00 BST) the tour will focus on Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment. It will look at how clothing codified the distinctions between people, and how “a close examination of 18th century footwear reveals a great deal about the power dynamics of the period.” – museum website. More information about the exhibition can be found here. You can register for the online tour here.

Three exhibitions and some new online talks

The exhibition Drachen aus goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads is reopening on 16 March at the German Textile Museum in Krefeld and will run until September 2021.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website.

Wedding garment (mang ao) for a Han Chinese lady, and three skirts (qun) with different patterns and different techniques: left: embroidery with silk on damask, centre: slit tapestry (kesi), right: embroidery with gold threads on patterned gauze. ©Walter Bruno Brix

More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online. An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

In my most recent blog I shared a link to an online exhibition of socks from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. A reminder that next Saturday, 20 March, the Textile Museum will host an online talk as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. 

©Kent State University Museum

 As a complete contrast to the embroidered shoes shown above, I was struck by the simple elegance of these woven wicker shoes from the collection of Kent State University Museum. They are Chinese and were made in the twentieth century. The craftsmanship is superb!

Embroidered pillow, nineteenth century. ©REM

A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Russian Ethnographic Museum (REM). This exhibition is entitled Avant-garde? Dagestan Tradition! Kaitag embroidery from the collection of the REM and features a selection of embroideries from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. “The embroidery owes its name to the ethnographer E.M. Shilling, who in the middle of the twentieth century first described small canvases with a peculiar decor, found by him among the Kaitags (subethnos of the Dargins) in the Kaitag region of Dagestan.” – REM website. More information and excellent detailed images of some of the exhibits is available here.

Chand Baori stepwell, Abhaneri, Rajasthan. The oldest parts of this building date to the eighth century, though much of it was built around the eighteenth century. ©Victoria Lautman

Next Saturday, 20 March (a very busy day for events as regular readers will know) the Bowers Museum in California will host an online talk by Victoria Lautman on the subject of stepwells. These are magnificent subterranean water-harvesting structures found in India for many centuries. “Victoria Lautman has spent years documenting hundreds of the little-known underground edifices and her landmark book, The Vanishing Stepwells of India, was first published in 2017 (Merrell Publishers, London). Newly released in paperback, the book and Victoria’s lavishly illustrated talk trace the fascinating history, variety, and current state of India’s least-known marvels.” – Bowers website. The talk takes place at 13:30 PDT, which is 16:30 in the UK. Click here for more details and talk registration.

Riga (gown), ca. 1870, Hausa, Nigeria.
Cotton and silk plain weave (strip woven) with cotton embroidery. ©Rhode Island School of Design Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum currently has an interesting exhibition called It Comes in Many Forms: Islamic Art from the Collection. This “presents textiles, decorative arts, and works on paper that attest to the pluralism of Islam and its expressions. From an Egyptian textile fragment dating to the 1100s to a contemporary woman’s top by the Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa, 30 objects offer explorations into migration, diasporas, and exchange and suggest the difficulty of defining arts from a transnational religious viewpoint.” – RISD website. This exhibition runs until 14 August 2021.

A reminder of the other talks taking place next weekend:

Ms Boua at her loom, weaving naga head cloth. © Carol Cassidy

On Saturday 20 March at 10:00 PDT, which is 17:00 in the UK, the Textile Arts Council will host Carol Cassidy who will talk on the subject of Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Indigo in a locally produced pot in a village on Savu. ©David Richardson

Also on 20 March the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”. The talk will begin at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

Finally, copies of the next edition of Asian Textiles should be arriving with members any day now – ours arrived yesterday. It’s always a treat to make a cuppa and see what delights are inside its covers. If you have any ideas for future editions of the journal or the Lockdown Newsletter please contact our editor Gavin Strachan.

Azerbaijan culture, talks on Savu, Lao textiles, kantha and much more…..

Although here in the UK the museums are still closed, in other parts of the world new exhibitions are opening. Weaving the Thread of Fate into the Carpet – Decorative and Applied Art of Azerbaijan opened last week at the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. This exhibition is a collaboration between the REM and the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It will run until 18 May 2021. On show are more than forty carpets, as well as embroidery, printed textiles, leatherwork and jewellery.

Gadirga. Shirvan, Azerbaijan. Late nineteenth century. The warp and weft are wool. Collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

The majority of the carpets date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but the exhibition also features a Surakhani carpet from Baku which dates to the late eighteenth century. A short article about the exhibition has been published in Jozan magazine and can be accessed here. The website of the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum is well worth visiting. It gives an overview of their collection, and you can also take a virtual tour of the museum.

Pages from a dye book in the Crutchley Archive (SLHLA 2011/5-13). Photo by Dominique Cardon.

Turning now to talks taking place in March. The first of these is on Wednesday 10 March when Dr Anita Quye will be interviewed by Dr Mary Dusenbury, guest editor of the recent edition of The Textile Museum Journal, about  three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology. “Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Dominique Cardon and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Quye conducted comparative research on 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. This event will take place at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Ersari chuval, private collection

On Saturday 13 March Dr Richard Isaacson will give an online presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Woven Gems along the Silk Road: Small Pile Weavings of the Turkic Nomads of Central Asia. This will take place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT. The red carpets and rugs of the Türkmen have long been appreciated in the West. However it wasn’t until much later that textile lovers began to become familiar with the weavings of other related ethnic Turkic groups such as the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Qaraqalpaqs. Dr. Isaacson’s talk will begin with a review of the principal small weavings of the various Türkmen tribes. In the second part of the programme, he will show examples from the other related Turkic tribal groups in Central Asia, and compare them to their Türkmen counterparts. Richard has studied these weavings for many years and in 2007 he curated an exhibition on the Tent Bands of Central Asia for the Textile Museum in Washington. This event is free, but again registration is essential so please do click here if you wish to attend.

Image © Cathy Stevulak

The following day, Sunday 14 March, the Textile Arts Council will host a viewing of the award-winning documentary Threads, which shows how the late Surayia Rahman transformed “kantha, the traditional Bengali technique of repurposing old sarees into patchwork embroidered fabrics, into an internationally recognized art form. Today in Bangladesh kantha continues to support women’s economic opportunities and sustains artisan enterprise and the evolution of indigenous design.” – Textile Arts Council. The screening will be followed by a conversation between the documentary-maker, Cathy Stevulak, and Dr. Sanchita Saxena, during which they will discuss the future of this art form, women artisans in Bangladesh and how indigenous arts can be preserved, while at the same time creating a sustainable future for their makers. Non-members are welcome to attend this screening for a small fee. It will take place at 13:00 PST, which is 20:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

OATG member David Richardson discussing textiles with Geneviève Duggan on Savu

The following weekend is a rather busy one, with no less than three talks (that I am aware of) taking place. Firstly the OATG is delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Geneviève Duggan to give another talk – although sadly this one will be online only. Dr. Duggan is an anthropologist who has researched the culture, history and weaving traditions of the remote Indonesian island of Savu for three decades. I have to declare a special interest in this as I too first visited Savu thirty years ago – coincidentally on the same boat as Geneviève, but at a different time. The intriguing title of the talk is People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? Dr. Duggan will discuss several important life cycle ceremonies, which are the responsibility of women “whose intangible power resides in handwoven cloths produced for the occasion”.

Collecting salt which has been produced by evaporating seawater in lontar palm baskets

The talk will take place on Saturday 20 March at 11:00 am GMT. Unfortunately this timing doesn’t work well for our members on the West coast of the USA, but as Geneviève is based in Singapore we were restricted in our choice. The recording of the programme will later be archived in the members-only section of our website. This event is of course free for OATG members. Non-members are welcome for a small fee, but do need to register by clicking here – don’t forget places are limited! Having visited the weavers on Savu many times, including several times with Geneviève, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.

At-home shoes, England, c. 1880. Rasht-work embroidery. The Bata Shoe Museum.

The next talk on the same day – Saturday 20 March – will be hosted by the Textile Museum as part of its Rug and Textile Appreciation series. The subject will be Embroidered Shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum, 1700-1950. Edward Maeder, who has been a museum curator and director since 1977, ” will explore examples from the world of European high fashion, including remarkable shoes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Maeder will also discuss shoes made with ethnographically specific decorative textile techniques, such as Persian ‘rasht-work’. This type of inlayed wool-work is extensively finished with silk chain-stitch embroidery. Other complex embroidery methods incorporate glass beads, moose-hair and fine gold and silver embroidery on leather, silk and even wool.” – Textile Museum. This free talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 15:00 GMT. Click here to register. Do also take a look at the website of the Bata Shoe Museum as it has lots of interesting posts, particularly on the conservation of different shoes.

The scarf and shawls I collected in 1997 and 2000

The final talk is again on the same day and hosted by the Textile Arts Council. The speaker is Carol Cassidy and the subject is Weaving, Tradition, Art and Community. Carol founded Lao Textiles in Vientiane in 1990. It was the first American business in the country and was based on the traditional skills of the weavers. Some of the challenges Carol and her husband faced are brought to life in this article in the Wall Street Journal. An experienced weaver herself, Carol made some design alterations to the looms. I’ve been fortunate to visit her twice, in 1997 and again in 2000 and the quality of the textiles is superb. I enjoyed reading this article by someone else who also visited in the 1990s and then much more recently in 2020. She pointed out that “Artisans can only replicate what they have been taught. To bridge the gap between the simplicity of an artisan’s lifestyle and our western sophisticated retail market, Carol and the like are the necessary link to success.” – Valerie Gregori McKenzie. The talk takes place at 10:00 PST which is 17:00 GMT. There is a small fee for non-members and you can register here.

Rampant Lions Mola panel, c. 1950–70.   The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971.197

I’ve been working for some time on a list of museums with textile collections and came across a small private museum in Germany dedicated to the molas of Panama. The Forum Mola-Kunst is in the city of Bremen and has a small permanent exhibition of these panels which in the past were only used in women’s blouses, but now are increasingly used on bags etc. Today I discovered that an exhibition of entitled Fashioning Identity: Mola Textiles of Panamá is currently on at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum website has an excellent gallery guide, which gives an overview of the history and culture of the people who produce these vibrant textiles.

Exhibition: Embroidered Bodies – Garments, Stitches and Stories from the Ashmolean Museum

Exhibition dates: 5 May – 10 September 2017

Clothing tells a multitude of human stories, with each embroidered stitch contributing to the tale. This exhibition introduces the Ashmolean’s diverse textile collections through a selection of exquisite, crafted garments, expressing themes of personal identity, local tradition and international trade.

The exhibition, curated by the OATG’s own chairperson, Aimée Payton, includes a selection of garments drawn from the Eastern and Western textile collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Objects on view include a diverse range of garments from hats to shoes, stomachers to collars, dating from as far back as the 1400s right up to the twentieth century.

The OATG is organising two events in connection with this exhibition: one on Tuesday 13 June 2.45 pm at the Ashmolean Museum, and another on Saturday 15 July at 2.30 pm at the Broadway Museum (see the OATG events programme here).

For more information, visit the website of the Broadway Museum, Broadway, near Evesham, UK.

Event: OATG Visit to ‘Life and Sole – Footwear from the Islamic World’ at the British Museum

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World (talks)

Event date: 27 April 2016, 1:30–2:30pm

Last chance to reserve a place! There are still 10 spaces left for this OATG event next week.

Join the OATG for a privileged tour of this wonderful exhibition of around 25 pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs and boots from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia, shown together for the first time, with curator Fahmida Suleman and conservator Barbara Wills.

Meet at the British Museum at 1.20pm inside the entrance of the John Addis Gallery of the Islamic World (Room 34). Tour to begin at 1.30pm.

OATG members free, non-members £3. Coat check available at the museum for £1.50 per item. The exhibition is free and continues until 15 May 2016.

Please RVSP to the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com) so that they have an idea of numbers attending in advance.

Event: Visit to ‘Life and Sole – Footwear from the Islamic World’ at the British Museum, with Curator Fahmida Suleman and Conservator Barbara Wills

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World

Men’s leather shoes embroidered with gold thread. Pakistan, 1900–1930s. As1987,06.2.a-b. Copyright British Museum.

Event date: Wednesday 27 April 2016, 1.30–2.30pm

Join us for a privileged tour of this wonderful exhibition of around 25 pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs and boots from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia, that are being shown together for the first time.

Fahmida Suleman is Phyllis Bishop curator for the Modern Middle East and is responsible for the museum’s outstanding collection of ethnographic objects and textiles from the Middle East and Central Asia. She also has historic links with Oxford having obtained her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the University of Oxford.

Barbara Wills is Conservator of Organic Artefacts and worked on items displayed in this exhibition. Barbara works on a wide range of organic materials and specialises in the conservation of leather, basketry materials and Ancient Egyptian objects.

Meet at 1.20pm inside the entrance of the John Addis Gallery of the Islamic World (Room 34), British Museum. Tour to begin at 1.30pm. There will be time to visit other exhibits and the café afterwards.

OATG members free, non-members £3. Coat check available at the museum for £1.50 per item. The exhibition is free and continues until 15 May 2016.

Please RVSP to oatg.events@gmail.com so we have an idea of numbers attending in advance.

Events: Two Talks about BM Exhibition ‘Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic World’

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World (talks)

Event dates: ‘Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic World’, Thursday 3 March 2016, 13:15pm

‘A Long Journey: My Footwear Collection from the Islamic World’, Monday 14 March 2016, 13:30pm

Both talks will be given by Fahmida Suleman, curator of the British Museum’s current exhibition ‘Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic World’.

In the second talk, Suleman will be in conversation with William (Boy) Habraken, curator at the Shoes or No Shoes (SONS) Museum, Belgium, and Guinness World Record holder of the world’s largest collection of tribal and ethnic footwear (3,357 pairs and counting!).

Both talks are free, but the second one requires that you reserve a place in advance.

For more information, visit the website of the British Museum, London.

Exhibition: Life and Sole – Footwear from the Islamic World

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World

Exhibition dates: 14 November 2015 – 15 May 2016

Some twenty-five pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs and boots from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia are being shown together for the first time. Dating from 1800 onwards, they demonstrate the important role footwear has always played in the social and cultural life of people living in these regions. The display presents a variety of regional styles, materials, embellishments and shoe manufacturing traditions. It examines shoes as status symbols, class indicators and diplomatic gifts.

The display includes shoes for bathing rituals, children, specific vocations, extreme environments and ceremonial occasions. A pair of richly embroidered red leather slippers (tarkasin), made in Ghadamis, Libya, would have formed an important part of a bride’s wedding trousseau. Luxuriant stilted bath clogs (qabqab) from nineteenth-century Ottoman Turkey, over ten inches high, would have been worn by an urban, upper-class woman. A pair of qabqab made in 2014 by Palestinian fashion designer Omar Joseph Nasser-Khoury uses the form of these iconic sandals to comment on contemporary Middle Eastern politics. Delicately patterned men’s leather loafers from early twentieth-century Pakistan (pictured above) combine Western footwear styles with South Asian opulence.

Together, these shoes express identities, beliefs, traditions and lifestyles of people from across the Islamic world. They represent the significance of footwear in Islamic social and cultural life and the impact of international trade and politics on footwear fashions.

For more information, visit the website of the British Museum, London.