A new exhibition entitled Baghs – Abstract Gardens opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London today Tuesday 13 July 2021. This exhibition showcases excellent examples of baghs and phulkaris from the Karun Thakar collection. These were domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab, which were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women. There was also an export market for them in the nineteenth century. Bookings for this free exhibition, which runs until 25 September 2021, are available through this link.
OATG members in the UK should now be receiving their hard copy of our journal Asian Textiles. It takes a little longer to reach our overseas members, but for those who can’t wait a pdf will soon be available on our website in the password-protected area.
This is a particularly eclectic edition, with articles on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif (Gaspard de Marval and Georges Breguet), Multaka-Oxford and the Jenny Balfour Paul pieces at the Pitt Rivers (Thandiwe Wilson), Textiles from the Yemen (Angela Thompson), Finnish ryijy rugs (Igor Honkanen and Gavin Strachan) and much more. We are now using a different printing company and I think the illustrations really shine through.
Another publication that you may find of interest is The Journal of Dress History, produced by The Association of Dress Historians. This Association “supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day.” Each edition of the journal contains lengthy scholarly articles, along with numerous book and exhibition reviews. They can be accessed completely free of charge here. My only criticism would be that it would be good to have an index of the articles too. EDIT – I have since been informed that three separates indices are in fact available – one covers the articles, one the book reviews and one the exhibition reviews. lick the relevant link in the blue box on the right on this page. Apologies for not spotting this earlier!
On Saturday 17 July 2021 the George Washington Textile Museum will be hosting one of its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. In Silk Stories docent Pamela Kaplan will introduce her project looking at the history of silk production in India and around the world. “The project documents the changing lives of silk farmers and textile producers through photographs, videos, interviews and more.” – Textile Museum website. This virtual event takes place at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. It is free, but registration is required.
Don’t forget the next OATG event is our talk by Walter Bruno Brix of the German Textile Museum at 18:30 BST on Thursday 22 July 2021. Walter will be talking to us about the museum’s current exhibition Dragons Woven With Golden Threads. 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. This Zoom talk is also open to non-members for a small (£3) donation. Please click here to register, but hurry as there are not many spaces remaining!
A new exhibition will open on 23 July 2021 at The Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. The exhibition is entitled In Harmony with Red: Turkmens and will run until 23 January 2022. It examines the dominance of the colour red in their textiles, carpets, horse and camel decorations, how it was used in ritual items and as part of decorative designs. Click here for more details and several more examples of the exhibits.
On Thursday 29 July 2021 the Textile Museum have another film discussion in their regular Fashion on Film series. This time the film in question is Threads – an award-winning documentary by Cathy Stevulak looking at the late Surayia Rahman and her role in transforming traditional kantha embroidery from “patchworks of old clothing to articles of fashion”. When you sign up for this event you will receive a link to watch the 32 minute documentary at your leisure, as well as instructions for joining the program for a group discussion. As the discussion is at 18:00 EDT (23:00 BST) it may be too late for our UK members, but that doesn’t preclude you from watching the documentary.
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”.
If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.
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.
As I explained in my previous blog, there are currently so many exciting textile events on the horizon that I have had to split them across two blogs.
The International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe is back!
“Since 2004, the International Folk Art Market has hosted more than 1000 master folk artists from 100 countries in the world’s largest exhibition and sale of works by master folk artists. Artist earnings have exceeded $34 million and impacted more than one million lives in the communities they represent. The Market offers folk artists a respected spot in the global marketplace to gather together and share their handmade traditions and to create economic, social, and individual empowerment.” IFAM website
There are a few changes, with the event spread over a longer period (7-18 July 2021) and attendees booking 2 hour slots – several of which have already sold out! For full details and registration please click here. That link will also take you to a listing of which artists will be participating each week. The video below shows highlights from the 2019 market just to whet your appetite.
The Association of Dress Historians will host its annual New Research in Dress History Conference online from 7-13 June 2021. This special conference will feature 120 speakers across seven days and according to their website it “will be a weeklong ‘festival’ of dress history”!
There will be several panels each day, with thirty minute slots for each speaker. They run from noon until 20:00 BST. It’s important to note that these proceedings are NOT being recorded so this is your only opportunity to hear these presentations. A huge range of topics will be covered:- Uzbek National Dress, Indigenous Vietnamese Dress, Chinese Influence in Swedish Fashion, Chinese Ceremonial Armour, Japanese Motif Dyeing and many, many more. The full list can be accessed here. One ticket entitles you to attend as many sessions as you like, leaving you free to dip in and out of this event. Click here for more information and registration.
On 8 June 2021 Andean Textile Arts will host a talk entitled Peruvian Doubleweave: Past, Present, and Future. The speaker is Jennifer Moore who in 2013 was invited to teach doubleweave to indigenous Quechua weavers in Peru, where they are once again excelling in this technique that had been discontinued after the Spanish conquest.
“Pre-Columbian Andean weavers were as masterful as any the world has ever known, working on simple backstrap looms but using a wealth of sophisticated techniques. One of these techniques, doubleweave pick-up, was developed in the Andes about 3,000 years ago. While still being done in other parts of the world, doubleweave died out in Peru after the arrival of the Spanish in the fifteenth century.” – Andean Textile Arts website. This talk is at 19:00 EST, which sadly is midnight in the UK. Click here for full details and registration.
The Epic Iran exhibition has now opened at the V&A, London to great acclaim – this article in The Guardian, gives a flavour of it. However perhaps the best introduction comes from this Reuters article which also includes a short video of some of the exhibition highlights introduced by co-curator John Curtis.
Don’t forget that Sarah Piram, Curator of the Iranian collections at the V & A, will give an online talk to the OATG next Thursday, 10 June 2021. She will give an overview of some major works, from early silk fragments showing roundels of animals, to Safavid carpets and contemporary craft tradition. Textiles and carpets will be showcased in different parts of the exhibition, and one of the highlights will be the ‘Sanguszko’ carpet which used to belong to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry – one of the greatest seventeenth century Persian carpets in private hands. This talk will take place at 18:30 BST. OATG members should already have received their invitations, and registration is now also open non-members through this link.
On Saturday 12 June 2021 Sumru Belger-Krody will give an online talk hosted by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. The subject of this talk, entitled Earthly Beauty, Heavenly Art: Carpets for Prayer, is prayer carpets.
“Among textiles in Islamic society, prayer carpets hold a special place. They beautify spaces, while conveying metaphorical meanings for Muslim worshippers during their obligatory five-times daily prayer. Additionally, prayer carpets have been communicating the distinct aesthetic choices of the individual cultures who created and used them for centuries, while being recognizable as prayer carpets through their very specific design elements. Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator, The Textile Museum Collection at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, will discuss the prayer carpet’s universality in terms of its use and certain design aesthetics, followed by a brief description on how diverse Islamic cultures make this textile their own. She will show that certain design elements and their meanings or symbolism are universal, and point to a fluid iconography through time, place, religion, tradition, and culture.” – TMA/SC
Admission is free, but you do need to register for this event which begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST.
I had intended including the 15 June talk on cochineal by Elena Phipps here, but have now discovered that it has sold out. For those who have missed out, I’m sharing this link to Elena’s work Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color, a Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In it she “traces the spread of cochineal red from the Americas, where Mexican and Andean weavers had for centuries been using it to create ritual and ceremonial textiles in deep shades of red and pink, to Europe and then to the Middle East and Asia” – Thomas P. Campbell, Museum Director.
On Friday 18 June 2021 the Saint Louis Art Museum will host an online lecture by Lee Talbot, curator of The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. His subject will be Textiles and Women’s Culture in Joseon Dynasty Korea. “For millennia Korean women have invested a tremendous amount of time in textile production, from cultivating and spinning fibers to dyeing, weaving, and sewing. This lecture will present a dazzling selection of garments, accessories, and furnishings from Korean and American museum collections to explore the role of textiles in upper-status women’s lives during the Joseon dynasty. Examined in light of Joseon literature and other visual arts, these fabrics reveal that when women’s personal freedoms were greatly curtailed, textiles could provide a creative, expressive outlet for women’s feelings as well as a valued source of income and store of wealth.” – Museum website.
Unfortunately this event really only works for our non-UK members as it takes place at 19:00 CDT, which is 1am BST. Here is the link to register. For those who can’t attend, this very well-illustrated online exhibition on Women’s Fashion in the Joseon Dynasty should give some insights.
Don’t forget that Chintz: Cotton in Bloom is still on at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London. This exhibition, which was organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, showcases 150 examples of chintz from around the world. These range from mittens to wall hangings and from sun hats to mourning dresses. If you missed the curator talk which took place on 9 April 2021 you may be interested to know that it can now be accessed for a small fee here.
“On the panel were Gieneke Arnolli, former curator of Fashion and textiles, Fries Museum Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. As curator of Chintz: Cotton in Bloom Gieneke discussed the collection and conception of this beautiful exhibition and shared some of the history surrounding chintz. Also joining the panel was internationally respected textile expert and author Mary Schoeser, curator of the display Victorian Chintz and its Legacy. Mary offered her illuminating perspective on English Chintz, its development and place in textile history today. ” – FIT
Dallas Museum of Art currently has an interesting exhibition entitled Moth to Cloth: Silk in Africa. “Throughout the world, silk is used to make cloth and associated with wealth and status, but this rare, natural fiber is also indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. Silk was traded between African peoples across the continent and was also imported from Europe, India, China, and the Middle East. This installation of cloths drawn from the DMA permanent collection explores the production of silk and silk textiles in Ghana, Nigeria, and Madagascar.” – museum website
This interview with Dr Roslyn A. Walker, curator of this exhibition, was fascinating and I learned a lot about the various types of silk moths as well as how although “imported silk thread has been replaced by rayon or cotton for over fifty years now, genuine silk remains the material of choice for making prestigious garments that symbolize elevated social/political status, success, and wealth.”
Last year I shared this presentation on the silks of Madagascar, but think it useful to share it again here.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.
I’ve had lots of positive feedback for these blogs, but can only include events that I am aware of. If you do hear of anything relevant please do contact me. I would also like to strongly recommend two other sources of textile events, both compiled by friends of mine. The first of these is the monthly list produced by Cheri Hunter of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. To receive this please send an email. The second is compiled by Marilyn Murphy of ClothRoads, and again is produced monthly. Click here to subscribe.
In 2014 the Galloway Hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist. One of the highlights of this hoard was this vessel, which had been wrapped in textiles. Many of the items inside it had also been wrapped in protective textiles, including silk samite, which may have come from a weaving workshop in Byzantium, North Africa or Southern Spain.
Scientists have now been given a grant of £1 million to enable them to further examine the history of this hoard of Viking wealth. National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, which is entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow.
Dr Susanna Harris, Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow (who has also worked on the textiles from Must Farm), and co-investigator on the project said:-
“The Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects surviving from Viking-age Britain and Ireland. Beyond the silver, familiar from most Viking-age hoards, and the much rarer gold, is an unprecedented array of other materials such as bronze, glass, and rock crystal, entangled with the outstandingly rare preservation of organic materials (wood, leather, wool, linen, and silk).
Many objects are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland’s earliest examples of silk, which could have travelled thousands of miles to reach Scotland. These types of wrappings rarely ever survive and are archaeological treasures in their own right. The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that usually aren’t possible for the precious metals that tend to dominate treasure hoards.
Once we have identified and recorded the textiles wrapping objects, they can be chemically tested for dye to help us reconstruct lost colours which have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to help us reconstruct the long lives of these objects before they were buried. Certain types of scientific analysis are better suited to particular materials, but with this exceptional range of material we can apply various techniques and learn more about the whole Hoard. Unwrapping the Hoard, literally and figuratively, is a unique and wonderful opportunity.” University of Glasgow website.
An excellent overview of the hoard can be found on the website of National Museums Scotland. This includes several videos of the objects – highly recommended for jewellery lovers!
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.
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.
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 is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event.
Bernhard and Erika Bart from Switzerland have a personal project to revitalise the art of silk brocade ‘Songket’ weaving. They will talk about their work, research and the culture in which they live. Photos of the Barts have been on the front page of the Jakarta Post with the headline ‘Bernhard Bart and Erika Dubler: Unconditional Love for Songket’. They are bringing textiles to show us.
The talk will be held at St James Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL.
The Conference Room entrance is in the Church Place passageway, which runs between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. There is a wrought iron gate signed ‘Church Hall Conference Room’ leading downstairs. Drinks and snacks will be served.
Piccadilly Circus tube is 5 minutes’ walk, and Green Park Tube is 10 minutes’ walk. There is free parking in St James Square after 6.30pm.
Please note this is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event, but non-members are welcome to attend: £7 single lecture, £5 students, or choose £20 for one year’s membership (11 events).
Diligence and Elegance: The Nature of Japanese Textiles presents over 50 textiles and garments from the Textile Museum of Canada’s collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artifacts made in Japan for both everyday and occasional use. Luxurious silk and gold fabrics produced in Kyoto’s professional weaving workshops are juxtaposed with domestic indigo-dyed cotton, plant-fibre cloth, and silk kimonos crafted in an astonishing spectrum of time-honoured techniques – weaving, dyeing, hand painting, gold foil application and embroidery – that exemplify venerable social and cultural values. The exhibition focuses on the highly refined skills and materials by which textiles have been constructed and decorated over centuries, and on how diligence and ingenuity have shaped their timeless beauty. The persistence of traditions seen in such rigorously executed textiles has come to embody the heart of Japanese aesthetics. Every material, colour and technique has a story to tell.
Diligence and Elegance features the contemporary work of Hiroko Karuno and Keiko Shintani, two Japanese-Canadians whose consummate craftsmanship and philosophies are profoundly connected to the evolution of Japanese textile traditions of spinning, dyeing and weaving. Their internationally renowned artistic achievements are testimony to the ethics of labour associated with a lifelong investment of time, practice and precision; they position living traditions as opportunities for personal reflection and the acknowledgement of the significance of collective human accomplishments.
For my latest Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about the production of kimonos in present-day Japan.
This programme visits the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk, which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.
To watch this programme online, visit the BBC iPlayer website (unfortunately for international readers, this video is only viewable in the UK).
This talk will discuss the ingenious patterning systems that Tai weavers use, and will show how their influence has been felt from imperial Chinese silk workshops in the east to the development of computing in the west. It will be illustrated with outstanding Tai textiles from China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Chris Buckley was educated at Balliol and Wolfson Colleges in Oxford. He has spent the last two decades living in Asia, and now lives in Oxfordshire. He is the co-author of The Roots of Asian Weaving (Oxbow Books, 2015) with Eric Boudot.
Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.
Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members.
For more information, and to register for your place, visit the Eventbrite page.
Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 19 March 2017
Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal, Canada, is currently showing the world premiere of From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition features some 400 pieces selected from among the finest objects in a collection of 5,000 works of Asian art amassed over fifty years by an American couple living in Paris. This collection – one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Chinese jade and Asian objects – includes stones, icons, textiles, ceramics, ivories, porcelains and clothing.
Sam and Myrna Myers acquired their first pieces in Switzerland in 1966 – objects mainly from the classical age (Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Orient). At the time, the couple was being advised by erudite and intellectual gallery owner Dr Rosembaum, who rubbed shoulders with such renowned writers as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann, and pioneers of surrealism like Hans Arp and Max Ernst.
Having taken this first step, the Myers then sought to enrich their collection. Everywhere they went, they frequented antique dealers, visited museums and went to auctions. From that point on, the collectors concentrated on East Asian pieces, creating unique and coherent ensembles, particularly in jade, silk, porcelain and other refined materials – some of which are described as having magical properties.
Among other elements of the exhibition, visitors are wrapped up in the world of textiles. Costumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the Myers Collection prove to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge about the customs and know-how of many societies.
In China, silk fabrics reflected the wearers’ wealth and social status. At court, for example, the colour and decorations of dress changed from dynasty to dynasty. In this colourful, silk-filled space, we are introduced to key characters, including the scholar, whom we learn about through a robe – a rare complete example of a garment of this type – and through accessories such as inkstones, which these experts in writing would retain for their entire lives. From Japan, we discover the kimono, considered by some to be the most elegant garment in the world. We also cross paths with the samurai and their clothing, adapted for wearing armour. Also in Japan, we learn about the Noh theatre, with its actors dressed in sumptuous silk costumes. And we imagine the lives of Uzbek merchants and riders crisscrossing the steppes, clad in flamboyantly colourful garments that take our breath away. A brilliant finale to this journey to East Asia through the works of the Sam and Myrna Myers Collection.
Kum Kapi carpets owe their name to a district of Istanbul where, in the nineteenth century, various Armenian master carpet makers settled to create their rich knotted carpets of silk, with metal threads, inspired by the classic Persian carpets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Hagop Kapoudjian (c. 1870–1946) was one of the most famous Kum Kapi master carpet makers, and created three of the carpets included in this exhibition, taking place at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, which are placed in dialogue with works by the contemporary artist, also of Armenian origin, Mekhitar Garabedian (b. 1977, Aleppo). Two artists from different times and places who share a common past that, in a way, is connected to the life story of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian himself.
The exhibition establishes a dialogue between tradition and contemporaneity, continuity and reinvention, showing in surprising ways the relationship between the carpet and the journey that is, here, more than ever, linked to the Armenian diaspora.
There is also a free lecture taking place at the Gulbenkian Museum in connection with this exhibition, on Wednesday, 29 June, on Armenians and rug weaving.