Female anthropologists, textiles and carpets from India, Indonesia and Persia, an exciting textile fair and curating opportunity…..

On Saturday 10 September experts from the World Textile Day team will descend on The Guild Hall in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, for a one day pop up textile bazaar. They will bring with them a range of amazing textiles for sale from around the globe. They will also be happy to look at any textiles or pieces of costume you bring in to help identify what it is and where it comes from – they may even offer to buy it!

Experts confirmed are:

  • Martin Conlan of Slow Loris Textiles – an absolute authority on the minority textiles of southwestern China with stunning indigos, embroideries and fabulous costume pieces.
  • Susan Briscoe well-known author, teacher and expert in Japanese textiles.
  • Tanya Byrne of The Running Stitches with beautiful kantha work scarves, throws and quilts from northern India.
  • John and Joan Fisher with a stunning collection of applique and quilting from Egypt.
  • Diane and Jim Gaffney of Textile Traders with their 40 years of experience in south east Asian textiles – particularly in the batik and ikat of Indonesia and the indigo and natural dyes of Northern Thailand.
  • Magie Relph and Bob Irwin of The African Fabric Shop with an amazing array of West African wax print plus textiles from the traditions of all the corners of the Continent.

Entry is free and the event runs from 10 am to 4 pm. More details here.

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On Saturday 17 September batik expert Sabine Bolk will give a talk at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on Developments in Batik history in the 19th century, imitations, and other influences from abroad. This is in conjunction with the current exhibition Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities.

Detail from a batik Belanda (Dutch batik) inspired by images seen in European fairy tales and magazines. “Slamet Pake” is urban slang of “Selamat Pakai”, meaning “enjoy wearing”. Kain panjang (detail). Central Java, Pekalongan, 1920s. Batik tulis. Cotton, synthetic dyes. ACM, T-0811.

Please note this is an in person event and is not available online.

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Also taking place on 17 September is an online talk as part of the Textile Museum’s Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. The subject this time is Carpet Masters of Persia, and the speaker is Hadi Maktabi, the author of The Persian Carpet: The Forgotten Years, 1722-1872.

He will present “a detailed overview of the urban workshop tradition in Persia from the Timurid era to the 20th-century revival. This virtual lecture will cover all major weaving centres and explore the distinct characteristics of workshop structure and organization in each”.  – TM website

Detail of a wool carpet made in Isfahan by the workshop of Agha Ahmad Ajami circa 1900, depicting an ancient Persian queen called Pourandokht.

This free talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST and you can register for it here.

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Now to a hybrid talk, which will take place in person in Oxford, as well as on Zoom. On Wednesday 21 September anthropologist and author Frances Larson will talk about her book Undreamed Shores: The Hidden Heroines of British Anthropology.

“In the opening two decades of the twentieth century, at a time when women were barely recognized at the University of Oxford, five women trained at the Pitt Rivers Museum and became Britain’s first professional female anthropologists. Between them, they did pioneering research in Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Siberia, Egypt, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the pueblos of southwest America. Through their work they challenged the myths that constrained their lives. Yet when they returned to England, they found loss, madness and regret waiting for them.” – PRM website

Maria Czaplicka, author of Aboriginal Siberia: a study in social anthropology. © Pitt Rivers

The talk begins at 18:00 BST and you can register for either the in-person event or an online ticket here.

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Also taking place on 21 September, but this time in Canberra, Australia, is a talk by Toolika Gupta, the Director of the Indian Institute of Craft and Design. Her subject is Sherwani: The influence of British rule on elite Indian menswear.

She will explore “the history of Indian menswear fashion by looking at the changing trends— clothing preferences, popular garments, and style—during the British rule. She traces Indian menswear from the 17th century to the early decades of the 21st century narrating how the flowing jamas and angrakhas of the earlier era changed to the achkan which was followed by a more tailored sherwani during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.”

Painting of last Nizam of Hyderabad accompanied by men some of whom are sporting sherwanis. Source: Wikipedia

This talk takes place by Zoom at 18:00 local time, which is 09:00 BST and 13:30 in Jaipur. More information and a link to registration can be found here.

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On Saturday 24 September the San Diego Museum of Art will host an online talk by Sylvia Houghteling, Assistant Professor of the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. Her first book, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India, was published earlier this year. The subject of this particular talk is Cultures of Cloth in Mughal South Asia.

“In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a vast array of textiles circulated throughout South Asia in the lands ruled by the Mughal Empire. Made from rare fibers and crafted using virtuosic techniques, these exquisite objects animated early modern experience, from the intimate, sensory pleasure of garments to the monumentality of imperial tents. This lecture tells stories of how textiles crafted and collected across South Asia participated in political negotiations, fostered social conversations, and conveyed personal feeling across the breadth of the Mughal Empire.” – museum website

Persian courtier (detail), ca. 1615. Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper. Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1990.457.

You can find out more about this lecture, for which there is a small charge, and register for it here. It begins at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST.

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Some rug and textile groups have really come into their own during the pandemic. One of these is the New England Rug Society (NERS), who have an excellent programme of online talks, and a newsletter called View from the Fringe.

On Saturday 24 September Walter Denny, author of How to Read Islamic Carpets, will give a webinar entitled What the Hell Is That? – Encountering Unknown Carpets in Private and Museum Collections and the Marketplace.

“One of the pleasures—and frustrations—of studying and enjoying carpets is encountering the unexpected or the unknown. Yesterday’s close encounters with alien carpets have often morphed into today’s basic knowledge. In this illustrated lecture, Walter Denny will discuss his experiences with “wild cards” that have continued to appear, with disconcerting frequency, during his fifty-six years of studying, photographing, and analyzing carpets in private collections, museum collections, and the marketplace.” – NERS newsletter

Kilim fragment © Walter Denny

The webinar begins at 13:00 ET, which is 18:00 BST and you can register for it here.

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I was contacted recently by Jill Winder, Associate Curator (Decorative Arts & Artefacts) at the University of Leeds – the home of the International Textile Collection. They are looking to recruit a Project Collections Officer to catalogue a significant collection of Indonesian textiles.

Double ikat from Bali. Coleman Collection

This collection was previously loaned to them by a member of the OATG. Closing date for applications is 23 September 2022 and you can find out more about it here.

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Russian and Palestinian embroidery, Korean textiles, Central Asian patchwork, Soviet Kazakh women and World Textile Day North.

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 any videos.

The Russian History Museum recently held a free online lecture, which I found out about too late to include in my previous blog. Please note that when this happens I do provide links on our Facebook page, so I would encourage all members to check that out too.

Pictures in Thread: Late Imperial Russia and Needlework was presented by Dr Andrea Rusnock. Luckily the event was recorded so you can now watch it at your leisure.

“Needlework played a key role in nineteenth century Russian culture and art across all social classes, from the peasantry to the urban elite. Women plied their needles to create and embellish household articles, personal items, and interior décor. In addition to the actual objects themselves there was a plethora of publications relating to needlework produced at the end of the Imperial period.” – Museum website

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Also on the subject of embroidery – I posted about this on Facebook last week and it was so popular I thought I ought to share it here too. This 68 page book is available as a free download in English or Arabic from the GWU & Textile Museum website. Simply click on this link, then on the PDF.

Front cover of the book

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This Saturday, 20 August 2022, sees the opening of an exciting new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC. Korean Fashion: From Royal Court to Runway examines 125 years of Korean costume and fashion and lasts until 22 December.

“After centuries of relative isolation, Korea opened its borders to international trade and diplomacy in 1876, but for years the country remained little known outside of Asia. Korea’s participation in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 changed that. Visitors to the Korean pavilion were dazzled by the colorful displays of traditional clothing (hanbok), such as embroidered silk jackets and robes made for the Joseon royal court.” – museum website

Bridal robe, Korea, 19th century. © The Field Museum, Image No. A113982c, Cat. No. 33159. Gift of J. F. G. Umlauff, H. Higenbotham. Photo by John Weinstein.

This exhibition will include some of the actual textiles that were shown in Chicago in 1893. It also includes the work of modern designers, giving a fascinating overview of Korean culture.

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Next Wednesday, 24 August 2022, the Nebraska based International Quilt Museum will host a free Webinar, which should be of interest to our members. The museum curator, Marin Hanson, will be in discussion with Christine Martens “about her extensive travels in Central Asia and about the collecting of patchwork and quilted objects she has done on the museum’s behalf. Quilted robes, patchwork hangings, and talismanic children’s garments will all be featured in the discussion.” – museum website.

Tushtuk (decorative curtain). Probably made in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan in the mid-20th century. Acquisition made possible by the Robert & Ardis James Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, 2011.040.0008. © International Quilt Museum

I’ve known Chris for over a decade, through our shared love of the textiles of Central Asia. She is also an expert on feltmaking and leads tours to visit craftspeople so I’m sure this will be an excellent talk.

It takes place at 14:00 Eastern, which is 19:00 BST and you can register for it here.

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While on the subject of Central Asia, I recently read this article by Askar Alimzhanov in Voices of Central Asia. The Lives and Work of Soviet Kazakh Women in Photos contains many interesting images of Kazakh women. However I think the author in his opening paragraph fails to appreciate that having your photograph taken was treated as a serious business in many communities, and it was not uncommon to see people with solemn expressions.

Dina Nurpeisova, People’s Artist of the USSR, Almaty, 1941. Central State Archive of Film, Photo Documents, and Sound Recording of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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The World Textile Day team is in for a busy few weeks, with their first event on Saturday 27 August 2022 at Frodsham in Cheshire. Entrance to these events is free, but there is a small charge (payable on the door) for attending the talks, which this time look at the West African bead trade, Japanese sashiko and textiles across borders.

For more details please visit the World Textile Day website.

Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian textile events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video tour of the exhibition by Lee Armstrong Talbot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Textile events coming shortly….

Many OATG members will know of Karun Thakar’s amazing collection of textiles, from Asafo flags to embroidered shawls from the Punjab and much, much more. On Wednesday 20 April the Textile Museum in Washington DC will host an online conversation between Karun and curator Lee Talbot. The museum’s current exhibition, Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design, features textiles from Karun’s collection alongside some from the museum.

Courtesy of Karun Collection

“After outlining some of the challenges in planning a large-scale exhibition during the pandemic, they will take a closer look at some textiles currently on view, discussing aspects of their acquisition, research and conservation. Additional topics will include Thakar’s collecting in other areas, as well as the recently established Karun Thakar Fund at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which offers scholarships for early career researchers and practitioners in the field of Asian and African textiles.” – Museum website

Choga embroidered with figurative scenes (detail), Kashmir, c. 1830. Karun Thakar Collection, London.

This free Zoom event starts at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. You can find out more and register for it here. Discover more about the Karun Thakar Fund on the website of the V&A here.

A short video overview of the exhibition, presented by Lori Kartchner, Curator of Education at the Textile Museum is now available to view here.

Video of exhibition

A reminder that the next OATG event takes place on Thursday 21 April when we will have a presentation by Victoria Vorreiter on Hmong Threads of Life: Traditional Hmong Textiles of the Golden Triangle. Victoria is a violinist and music teacher who began documenting the ceremonies and music of indigenous people several decades ago. She moved to Thailand 17 years ago and now spends her time trekking to remote villages in Laos, Myanmar, China and Thailand. Her photographs are incredible – just take a look at her website!

Victoria’s online presentation begins at 13:00 BST. It’s an afternoon event as she is based in Chiang Mai in Thailand. It will of course be recorded and the recording will later be made available to members. Non-members are welcome to attend for a small fee. More details and registration here.

In 2016 Victoria wrote a long, beautifully illustrated article for our OATG journal Asian Textiles, which you can read here.

Members may also be interested to learn more about an exhibition currently on at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. Hidden Complexities: Unfolding Miao Women’s Textile Skills runs until January 2023.

“Since the 16th century CE, the manifold textile varieties in the South-Western Chinese mountain regions has received unwavering interest from all over China – texts, drawings and, much later, political posters and photography have all engaged with Miao clothing.

This exhibition attempts to unlock the complexity of the textile knowledge and skill of Miao women’s work through an examination of Karola Kauffmann’s collection. It highlights questions about the proximity or distance of the self-presentation and representation of ethnic diversity in the context of social change and cultural-political tensions.” – Museum website

Indigo dyed cotton jacket. The back is decorated with silk felt appliqués, themselves embroidered with coloured silk. Such jackets characterise a Miao group living in Baibei village in the southeast of Guizhou province. The style is called the “hundred-bird style”. EMZ inv. no. 33523. Photograph: Kathrin Leuenberger 2021, Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich.

I particularly enjoyed reading this insight into how the exhibition is laid out and could really imagine myself entering the ‘indigo box’.

Thomas Murray recently gave a very well-received lecture for the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. His subject was Archetypes, Aesthetics and Agency: Adat Textiles of Early Indonesian Cultures.

“Indonesian textiles are known to convey messages across time and space by means of an archetypal iconography that includes human figures, trees, boats, reptiles, birds and geometric patterns. These encoded images follow ancestral traditions and customary laws known as adat; cloth becomes sacred through a combination of fine spinning, dying, and weaving that creates a sense of aesthetic wonder……. This lecture will follow the themes presented in the newly published book, Textiles of Indonesia, and will focus on some of the finest cloths to come out of the archipelago, presenting each object with impeccable photographs.” – Thomas Murray

The TMA/SC have arranged for two Zoom presentations for those living further afield who missed out on this lecture. The first is intended for participants living in Southeast Asia and Australasia and starts at 19:00 PDT on Friday 22 April. As an example this is 09:00 on Saturday morning for those in Jakarta and Bangkok. Register here.

The second is timed for those in Europe and the Middle East. It will take place on Saturday 23 April at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. You can register for it here.

Please ensure you register for the programme that best suits your time zone. Thomas Murray will be live at both Zoom presentations for the Q&A sessions.

Next an event that those in the UK won’t want to miss! It’s the Textile Society’s annual Antique and Vintage Textile Fair in Manchester next Sunday 24 April. This is always such an eclectic mix, with textiles from around the world and across several centuries. It’s always very busy and the car park fills fast so get there early!

Full details and ticket booking via this link.

On Wednesday 27 April the Textile Museum in DC will host a virtual programme linked to their current exhibition Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design. Textile specialist Rosemary Crill (ex V&A) will discuss Abstract Patterns in Indian Textiles.

Sari (detail), Patan, Gujarat, 19th century. The Textile Museum Collection 6.63. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1931.

“The abstract and geometric patterns of Indian textiles are as varied as the innumerable techniques used to produce them, encompassing woven, surface and embellished cloths of all kinds. Geometric structures form the basis of all cloth with intersecting warps and wefts, and as such stripes and checks are found in the oldest textiles known from South Asia.” 

This event takes place at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST . You can find out more and register for it here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you are aware of textile-related events that could be shared!

Molas, Uyghur felt, Suzani and fish skin robes

There are lots of exciting events coming up this month and I’m highlighting a few of them below.

I mentioned in my most recent blog that the OATG have arranged a small group visit to the exhibition Peru: a journey in time at the British Museum on Friday 11 February at 14:00 GMT. Cecilia Pardo, lead curator for the exhibition, will give a short talk in the Great court first. Then our Chair, Helen Wolfe, who has recently retired from her role as Textile Collection Manager at the British Museum will take the group through to the exhibition and be available to answer questions. Our tickets are available at a reduced price of £10, payable on the day to Helen. There are still two places available for this very special visit. To reserve one please email our Secretary Cecilia Lloyd.

A mola in the collection of the British Museum featuring nine squirrels or ‘ukswinni’. These are one of the Kuna’s favourite subjects for molas. © The Trustees of the British Museum
 

On Saturday 12 February Tom Hannaher will give an online presentation on Painting With Scissors: Mola Art of the Kuna (Guna) Indians. This programme is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California and the New England Rug Society. The focus of the presentation will be early and middle-period molas (1910-1970) and will include many rare pieces.

“Molas are panels used in blouses worn by women of the Kuna (Guna) culture of Panama and Colombia. Using a combination of applique, reverse applique, and embroidery, Kuna women create dazzling imagery based on Kuna mythology, customs, and daily life. They also seek graphic inspiration from non-Kuna references ranging from political posters to cartoons to advertising campaigns. This presentation by Tom Hannaher will focus on pre-1970 examples and will include a number of unpublished masterpieces, some from the early part of the twentieth century. Many of the pieces are from the collections of Kit Kapp and Ann Parker Neal, two authors of early books on mola art.” – TMA/SC

The talk begins at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT.

Slightly earlier that same day the Textile Museum will hold its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning by Zoom. The speaker will be Christine Martens and her subject is Distinguishing Uyghur Feltmaking.

“Feltmaking has existed for millennia in the cities and villages of what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China — homeland of the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. Archeological discoveries give a sense of this ancient art, which continued to flourish in the oases that dot the southern rim of the Taklamakan desert.

In this virtual talk researcher Christine Martens examines the felt processes and compares Uyghur felt with the traditions of the Turkmen, Kyrgyz and Turks, including gender roles in felt making.

Martens also examines how Uyghur cultural history and the “everyday” exist within the spiritual landscape of southern Xinjiang. She explores the participation in shrine visitation and the use of the “risala,” a treatise or guidebook governing the moral, spiritual and ethical behavior of artisans, to shed light on little-known aspects of Uyghur sacred history and accompanying rituals.” – TM website

Chris has conducted fieldwork and led tours in Central Asia for many years and I’m sure this will be a fascinating programme. It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

On Thursday 17 February the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be hosting London-based specialist and dealer Ali Istalifi. His online talk is entitled Central Asian Suzani: Understanding the Tradition and Attribution of Silk Dowry Embroideries.

“Over the past half a century, Suzani embroideries of Central Asia have captured the imagination of textile collectors and aficionados around the world. Examples from the late 18th Century up to the early 1900s are now considered as some of the most coveted of all textile arts and most tend to demand high prices at major auctions, antique fairs and galleries.

This talk will explore the aesthetic and artistic merits of these traditional dowry embroideries in order to help understand and appreciate their appeal. By analyzing and categorizing the specific characteristics of design, color, type of stitches and material used to make them, dating and attribution will become easier for both those who are familiar and unfamiliar to this textile art.” – Hajji Baba Club website

The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT . More details and registration available here.

Woman’s festive robe, Nanai people, REM

I recently shared a post from the Russian Museum of Ethnography about clothing from fish skins. The robe (pictured above) was stunning and I wanted to learn more about this type of clothing. It appears that the skins used were mainly those of large salmon, and the clothes produced were lightweight and waterproof. Decorations were added in various forms – appliqué, embroidery, and drawing directly on the garment either freehand or using a stencil. It clearly took months to make a robe such as this.

Tanned fish skin leather  and products made from it. © Kathleen Hinkel

I was delighted to then be directed to this article on The Art of Turning Fish into Leather by Chloe Williams in Hakai magazine. In it she examines how various artists are rediscovering this ancient craft, and explains some of the different methods they have tried – some more successful than others. Coffee, black tea, eggs, alder bark and even urine have all played a part.

The article is also available in audio format here.

Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. Coll.no. RV-434-1

That led me to another Hakai article, this time by Jude Isabella, called The Secret Language of Salmon Skin Coats. She describes how a Nivkhi woman from the Amur River area would have prepared around 100 salmon skins to make one robe. “She would have scraped away the flesh before washing the skins in salt water (women keeping the craft alive today use soap), then drying and beating the skins before piecing together the coat with thread fashioned from fish skin or sinew.” I was amazed to read how the thread expands when it gets wet, meaning that the holes made by the sewing needle are then filled and the garment becomes watertight – ingenious!

Nanai stencil

Tom Murray (he of the Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection fame) then directed me to this website on the Costume of the Peoples of the Lower Amur, which again has lots of useful and fascinating information and images, including a diagram of the coat construction. The author notes how in some instances the fish skin leather has been dropped in favour of woven cloth, but the motifs have remained in the form of appliqué. He also includes many excellent black and white images. Tom has also informed me that the long-awaited Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibit based on his book will open in June and will feature not one but two salmon skin robes!

More textile events in January

Our friends at the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS) begin their 2022 programme at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday 19 January with a lecture by Dr Steven Cohen. The subject of his talk is Indian carpets of the Deccan and the South.

“The problem with Deccani carpets is that their characteristic features rarely conform to a single set of clear, unwavering guide-lines. Visually and structurally, some Deccani carpets more closely resemble their Persian counterparts. Others are woven with materials and structures consistent with those of standard North Indian carpets. This extremely confusing situation is only now becoming slightly less opaque by the recognition, during the last few years, of small but significant Deccani stylistic, structural, and aesthetic characteristics (admittedly only minor features) which are beginning to allow us to tentatively assign a “Deccani” provenance to carpets whose origins would otherwise remain unresolved.” – ORTS website

This lecture will take place in person at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair and is free for ORTS members and £7 for non-members. The talk will take place simultaneously by Zoom. If you wish to attend online please contact the Membership Secretary Dimity Spiller.

On Thursday 20 January 2022 the Folk Arts Center of New England will host an online talk by Dr Ron Wixman on the subject of Balkan Costumes.

“In Balkan Romania and in Macedonia women considered their handwork and the making of their festive clothing to be marks of their personal value; by far the most heavily embroidered women’s costumes in Europe are found in these two regions. Girls and women grew or raised the materials necessary to make clothing – flax for linen, cotton, wool for fibers and embroidery thread – while men raised the sheep for sheepskin jackets and bodices.

In this presentation, Ron will explain the role of women and clothing-making in the Balkans and why and how they have developed these elaborately decorated and embroidered festive and bridal costumes, and will discuss how the fibers (linen, cotton, wool, silk) were made, spun, woven/felted, and then decorated with embroidery.” – FAC website.

The talk will take place at 19:00 EST, which unfortunately is midnight GMT. More information and a link to register can be found here.

Woman’s shirt or tunic, Swat Valley, Pakistan, late 19th/early 20th century, Karun Thakar Collection, London

I’m sure lots of our members in the US are eagerly awaiting the opening on Saturday 22 January of the new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC featuring textiles from the Karun Thakar collection. Entitled Indian Textiles – 1000 years of art and design this exhibition will showcase some stunning pieces, including an eighteenth century palampore from the Coromandel coast and a fifteenth century narrative cloth from Gujarat.

“The Indian subcontinent is home to some of the world’s most ancient and illustrious textile traditions. Over the centuries, Indian textile artists have developed an enduring design vocabulary – from simply woven stripes to floral motifs to complex narrative scenes. Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design presents a stunning array of fabrics patterned with India’s most distinctive designs: abstract, floral and figurative.” – TM website 

This exhibition runs from 22 January to 6 June 2022.

Although our UK members won’t be able to go to the exhibition they can do the next best thing and buy the book! The exhibition catalogue is published by Hali Publications and includes essays by several authors including Rosemary Crill and Steven Cohen. The focus on textile ornament rather than date, region, usage, or technique provides new perspective and scholarship on this ancient artistic tradition. The book also highlights the tradition’s remarkable diversity, with objects ranging from folk embroideries to Mughal courtly weavings, and from early textiles traded to Egypt and Southeast Asia to eighteenth century chintzes exported to Europe.

Can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

As one great exhibition opens, another one closes. The Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge ends on 30 January, so if you want to see it do hurry!

The next Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation morning takes place online on Saturday 29 January and the subject for this session is Restoring Rugs and Carpets.

“Rug restoration employs a range of sewing and weaving techniques that can be used to stabilize and conserve damaged structure or, if necessary, completely re-weave and replace missing fabric. The best repairs match materials, weave structure and color undetectably, restoring both value and function to a rug.” – Textile Museum. The speaker, Robert Mann, has been restoring rugs since 1978 and will discuss the various techniques used.

Click here for more details and to register for this programme. It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT.

Double-soled engagement footwear from Japan. The two soles were bound together as a symbol of matrimonial harmony. Late nineteenth century. BSM collection.

Finally, I found this online exhibition about the history of wedding shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum fascinating. It discusses popular customs around marriage footwear, including hiding

Yet more textile talks!

First a quick reminder of a couple of events taking place this week.

The next online meeting of the Hajji Baba Club of New York will be this Wednesday 8 December. Dr Mariachiara Gasparini will talk on the subject From Wool to Silk and Back: Development and Evolution of the Eurasian Roundel Motif.

“In the 6th century, roundel motifs began to appear on wool and silk textiles in Chinese and Iranian territories. Through the spreading of Buddhism and Islam in the 8th century, textiles with beaded, lobed, and flowery roundels spread across Eurasia; they have been found in Christian Cathedral treasuries, Egyptian and Japanese repositories, and various archaeological sites. Often used as money by the Chinese, these textiles mainly crossed the borders of empires and kingdoms as diplomatic gifts.”

The talk begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and is free, but you do need to register for it.

This Thursday 9 December the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, will host another online talk, this time with Victoria Finlay, the author of Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World. Victoria looks at how stories of our “relationship with cloth are woven in with questions of how and why people through the ages have made it, worn it, invented it, made symbols out of it, and sometimes why they have fought for it.”

Beating tree bark in Papua and attempting to spin cotton in Guatemala are just two of the textile-related experiences Victoria has had, so this should be an enjoyable talk.

Click here to find out more and to book for this talk which begins at 18:00 GMT.

Textile fragment with embroidered hummingbirds, early Nasca, Peru 100 BC-AD 200 ©British Museum

I mentioned in a previous blog that I had really enjoyed an online talk by Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, the curators of the current British Museum exhibition Peru: a journey in time. This free talk is being repeated on Thursday 9 December 2021 at 18:15 GMT. Click here for more details.

©Minjee Kim

In early November I blogged about a talk organised by the Korean Cultural Society of Boston.  The speaker was Dr Minjee Kim and the subject was Han-bok: Dress of Korean Identity. The KCSB website explained that this talk “will shed light on the inception of the term “hanbok” and the composition of the ensembles for men and women, and its constant transformation in the context of modern Korean fashion history. Then it will overview contemporary hanbok ensembles for new-born babies, children, young and middle age adults, as well as weddings, burials, and funerals.”

Unfortunately the talk began at 23:30 GMT so wasn’t ideal for our UK members. However the recording of this talk is now available here.

Hat from the collection of Roger Pratt

Saturday 11 December is a busy one for textile lovers, with at least three talks that I know of. The first is by Roger Pratt as part of the Textile Museum’s regular Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings. His subject is Hats of the Silk Road. “In this virtual trek along the Silk Road, collector Roger Pratt will show images and discuss examples of a variety of hats from his personal holdings. These include Turkmen hats, Turkmen Tekke hats, Central Asian non-Turkmen hats, Persian conical Dervish hats, Central Asian longtail hats, inscribed religious hats and Ottoman Syrian Aleppo hats. The hats were first displayed in 2018 at the International Conference on Oriental Carpets XIV in Washington, D.C.” – Textile Museum website

The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Later the same day is the second in a two-part webinar hosted by the New England Rug Society. Unfortunately I forgot to enter the first part, which was on 4 December, in my blog diary – sorry about that. Jim Burns is the author of several books including The Caucasus: Tradition in Weaving and Antique Rugs of Kurdistan. His talk is entitled Caucasian Rugs: Six Decades of Perspective on Design and Taste. He will discuss examples of weavings from the Caucasus from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The talk begins at 13:00 Eastern Time, which is 18:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Also on Saturday 11 December the China Society of Southern California will host a talk by Dr David Hugus on the subject of Chinese Rank Badges. This will be the first in a series of three talks on this subject by David, the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years. This first talk will focus on identifying the birds and animals that represent the nine civilian and military ranks of the Qing Dynasty. The talk is at 18:00 PST, which is great for our US members, but not for our UK ones as that is 02:00 GMT. Click here to register.

Harriet Powers pictorial quilt 1895-98

On Wednesday 15 December Jennifer Swope, co-curator of the current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will give a talk about Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories. “Spanning more than 300 years, the 50 plus quilts featured in this groundbreaking exhibition express the personal narratives of their makers and owners and connect to broader stories of global trade, immigration, industry, marginalization, and territorial and cultural expansion. Hear from the curator as she discusses the diverse stories of the American experience told by these artists and makers, from Harriet Powers to Bisa Butler.”

Click here to register for this free webinar, which begins at 14:00 Eastern Time – 19:00 GMT.

Finally OATG members will be delighted to hear that our Website Manager Aimée Payton, has completed her overhaul of the membership section. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m sure you will agree it was worth it. Simply go to our website and click on Membership and then Members’ Resources. You will then be asked to enter the current password and will find everything you need in one place – recordings of past talks, recent copies of Asian Textiles etc., plus a new section of Members Profiles – more on that later…..

Coming soon…. exhibitions and talks on Ainu, Peruvian, Indonesian, Tudor and Arabian textiles.

An exhibition co-curated by OATG member Walter Bruno Brix has just opened at one of my favourite museums – the Rauchenstrauch-Joest museum in Köln, Germany.

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, RJM 10699; Japan; Ostasien; Mantel attus; 1801/1900; rba_c023086

A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from Northern Japan can be seen from November 5, 2021 to February 20, 2022. It presents the cultures of the Ainu groups who “Only after the middle of the 20th century did a strong return to its traditions and a revitalization movement emerge, which led to its recognition as an indigenous group in 2008 and its legal implementation by the Japanese government in 2019. The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. From the middle of the 19th century they were colonized, relocated and exploited by Japan.” – RJM website.

This exhibition was hailed as a ‘must see’ by Thomas Murray, whose book Textiles of Japan has a major section on the Ainu.

Closer to home the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford also has a display focusing on the Ainu. A short film by Eiko Soga entitled Autumn Salmon is playing daily on the first floor balcony until the end of November. “In 2016, Eiko lived with an Ainu woman called Ms. Katsue Kaizawa and studied the making of Ainu kimono, embroidery and salmon-skin shoes. In Ainu culture, salmon traditionally served key economic, religious and spiritual roles. Today, it still plays an important role within Ainu communities but primarily to sustain their traditional values.” – PRM website.

A pair of salmon-skin shoes which date to around 1900 can be seen in a case next to the film installation. These waterproof boots were known as chepkeri and were made from up to six dried and stretched salmon skins stitched together.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On Thursday 11 November a major new exhibition, Peru a journey in time, opens at the British Museum and will run until 20 February 2022.  This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

An online introduction to this new exhibition, featuring curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, will take place this Thursday at 17:30 GMT. This is a free event, but to do need to book to secure your place. I’m not sure how many textiles are featured in the exhibition, but will hopefully get a better idea then.

Saturday 13 November sees the next of the Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings hosted by the Textile Museum. Dr Lauren Mackay will talk about Woven Treasures From the East in the Royal Tudor Court.

“For the Tudors, the Islamic world of the 16th century was an endless source of fascination and delight, swathed in fine silks, bursting with spices and draped in luxurious and vibrant tapestries and carpets. Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, began the Tudor love affair with Orientalism, and soon English society coveted Ottoman and Persian culture: Its art, dress, textiles and carpets became highly sought–after symbols of wealth and power.” – Textile Museum.

This virtual programme, which is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. There is no charge, but you do need to register for it.

This Sunday, 14 November, the Zay Initiative will hold an online symposium on the subject of Arab Costume Collections: Sustaining Legacies. This 2-hour event will be hosted by Ben Evans of Hali and there will be two panels; the first looking at The importance of Arab Dress and Culture and the second examining The role and relevance of heritage for contemporary brands. Speakers include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Richard Wilding, Shahira Mehrez and Marriam Mossalli.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 GMT and registration is essential.

On Tuesday 16 November OATG member Lesley Pullen will give a hybrid lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society. The subject of her talk is Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th -15th century.

This free lecture begins at 18:30 GMT and the venue is 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. If you wish to attend, either in person or via Zoom, please register by emailing Matty Bradley.

Lesley’s book on this subject was published earlier this year. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader. Some of these illustrations, with detailed notes, can be seen on the excellent Art of the Ancestors website here.

Persian/Indian carpets, Chintz, Anatolian rugs, Textile Fair and Kutchi tie-dye

First a reminder that this Thursday, 26 August 2021, the OATG will host a talk by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the new May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in Sheffield, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Foundation, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets. Dr Armstrong will talk about some of the difficulties faced in answering the questions posed in the slide below, and the particular line that May Beattie took regarding John Paul Getty’s carpet.

Slide from her presentation © Dr Dorothy Armstrong

This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, and just £3 for non-members. Click here to register for the few remaining place.

On Thursday 2 September 2021 the Fashion and Textile Museum will have another online event related to their current Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition. Their Collections Officer, Gill Cochrane, will “share the secrets hidden within these garments and explore how chintz was used – and re-used – in garment construction in 18th and early 19th centuries. This is a unique opportunity to learn what happens ‘behind the seams’ of a costume exhibition and discover some of the most beautiful fabrics and well-constructed garments of the period.” – FTM.

The talk starts at 18:00 BST and costs just £5. Please click here for more details and to register.

On Saturday 4 September 2021 at 16:00 BST there will be a live online talk by Michael Franses, on carpets from the Orient Stars Collection. This talk is hosted by the Textile Museum, in association with the New England Rug Society and the New York-based Hajji Baba Club. You are strongly advised to watch this very professionally produced one hour video, introducing some of these pieces set out as a virtual exhibition, before attending the online talk. There will be a Q andA session after the talk. For further details and registration please click here.

Also taking place on 4 September 2021 is World Textile Day Wales, which I highlighted in my previous blog. Here is the list of traders:-

Magie and Bob of The African Fabric Shop with fabrics, baskets and beads from all over Africa. Diane and Jim of Textile Traders with batik, ikat, indigo and hemp fabrics, silver hilltribe jewellery and clothes. Susan and Glyn from Susan Briscoe Designs with a huge selection of sashiko, boro and kimono fabrics from Japan. Bronwen of Fabazaar with textiles and clothes from India and Nepal. Tanya of The Running Stitches with kantha work blankets, throws, scarves and jackets from Northern India. Finally, internationally famous but local to Llani – hand knitter Sasha Kagan will be there with her knitting designs and finished pieces.

On 11 September 2021 the World Textile Day team move up to the Bridge of Allan in Scotland for their next event. This will run from 10:00 until 16:00 – but be sure to get there early to get the best selection!

The Zay Initiative aims to “promote an understanding of regional culture, and preserve, collect, document, and conserve Arab historic dress and adornment”. One of the ways they are doing this is through a series of talks called Dialogue on the Art of Arab Fashion. The next in this series takes place on Tuesday 7 September 2021 at 17:00 BST. The Founder of the Zay Initiative, Dr Reem El Mutwali will be in conversation with Shila Desai of EYHO Tours, looking at the tie-dyed head coverings worn by women in Kutch, India. “In the traditional societies of Kutch, tie-dyed head coverings play an important role in every aspect of a woman’s life. They provide protection from the elements, create identity, signify status, express joy or sorrow, and denote inter-religious relations. Over many generations, Kutchi Muslim and Hindu communities have shared a common culture in this harsh desert land and regularly interact with each other. By looking at the ubiquitous odhani, or head covering, this conversation will shed new light on both the intra- and inter-social relationships in these distinct communities. ” – Zay Initiative.

You can register for this event here. Registration will also give you access to a recorded version of this event, so you can watch it at your leisure.

Selected textile events in July

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.

Part of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery

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!

Detail, Yūzen Pattern Dyeing on Silk, a Textile Design and Color Sample for Girls’
Kimono, Early Showa period, circa 1926–1945, © The Private Collection of Keiko
Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan

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.

© Pamela Kaplan

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.

Fragment of a Yomud yurt band, nineteenth century. © REM

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”.

© Cathy Stevulak

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.