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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a pleasure to see so many members take part in our recent AGM, and even more so that several of our overseas members were able to present textiles from their collections at the Show and Tell.
February certainly looks like being a busy month with lots of online talks and exhibitions. I’m listing them here in date order, as sadly several of them take place on the same date.
On 20 February there are no less than three online talks that I am aware of! The first of these is hosted by the Textile Museum, with Lawrence Kearney looking at American Coverlets for Rug Lovers. “In this virtual talk, carpet and textile dealer Lawrence Kearney will explore the varied art form of American wool coverlets from 1780 to 1830.
Woollen coverlets from the early 19th century are one of the great American art forms. They are often beautiful, plentiful and affordable. They were made, primarily, by itinerant weavers who travelled throughout New England and the Midwest from c. 1810 through the 1840s. After introducing the four main types of coverlets — over-shot, double-weave, winter-and-summer, and Jacquard-loomed (“figured and fancy”) — Kearney will explore the pleasures these 200-year-old woollen textiles can hold for rug lovers.” Textile Museum website.
Space for this session is limited so you are encouraged to register early.
Next is a Zoom Panel presented by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). This will take place at 1300 EST, which is 1800 in the UK. The panel will consist of Gunjan Jain, who “made a conscious switch from working for fast fashion industries to slow, sustainable fashion and set up Vriksh, a design studio that collaborates with handloom weavers in Odisha and other states in India. Uddipana Goswami …. a feminist peace researcher turned peace entrepreneur who promotes eco-conscious traditional/indigenous crafts from India’s conflict-ravaged Northeast periphery, and Maren Beck, [who with] her husband Joshua founded Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 in order to document, support, and introduce to the world the incredible traditional textiles arts and cultures of Laos and Vietnam.” Maren and Joshua are the co-authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos. This talk is free, but registration is essential!
If rugs are more your thing then the talk hosted by the New England Rug Society might be for you. This also takes place at 1300 EST on 20 February, when Alberto Levi will speak on Rugs of the Golden Triangle. “While in Tibet in the early ’90s, hunting, in his words, “for the next Seljuk animal carpet,” Alberto Levi “stumbled across an entirely different kind of animal.” In time, what seemed to be a casual encounter yielded a distinct group of carpets, which Alberto labels “Tibetan Golden Triangle.” Far from being Tibetan, this elusive family of rugs, most of them fragmentary, appears to originate from a triangular region defined at its extremes by eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and Northwest Persia. How and why these rugs ended up in Tibet is yet another part of the mystery that Alberto will investigate in his talk. ” NERS Newsletter. NERS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members wishing to attend should email committee member Jean Hoffman to receive theirs.
On Monday 22 February the Fowler Museum will host one of its regular Lunch and Learn sessions. Joanna Barrkman, the Fowler’s Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, will explore embroidered Jain temple and shrine hangings that offer insights into the religious beliefs and imagery of the Jain faith. This short talk will take place at 1430 PST which is 2230 GMT. Click here to register for this free event.
Don’t forget that the following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.
A new exhibition opened this week at Kent State University Museum, which will run until 19 December 2021. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website.
The Shelburne Museum in Vermont was the first to exhibit quilts as works of art. Most of the pieces in their collection were produced in New England in the nineteenth century. They recently launched a new online exhibition entitled Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts, which features high-quality images of a selection of their quilts, along with detailed background information on each one. There is also an excellent video in which Katie Wood Kirchhoff previews the exhibition and explains more about the history of the collection and about certain specific quilts. The catalogue of quilt patterns produced by the Ladies Art Company certainly made me smile.
The Russian Museum of Ethnography has a new mini-exhibition which will run until 28 February. The subject is Glass Decor in the Traditional Costume of the Peoples of the Baltic and Barents Regions. The exhibition showcases textiles which are adorned using different types of glass decorations and were made in the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The quality of the images is very good, and there is a toggle at the top of the page to change the language to English.
The ethnographic collection of the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts is highlighted in this article in Voices on Central Asia. In it Mira Djangaraсheva, the ex-director of the museum, Aigul Mambetkazieva, the chief conservator, and Chinara Daniyarova, a conservator, tell the story of the museum and describe some of its exhibits. The collection currently consists of over 18,000 items, including embroidered wall panels, felts, a fantastic pair of embroidered leather riding trousers and much, much more. Do take a look!
OATG member Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum has informed us of the decision to extend the deadline for the IARTS Textiles of India grant until 15 May 2021. This biennial grant of $15,000 CAD “can be used anywhere in the world by anyone in the world toward a project that enhances knowledge about Indian textiles, dress, or costume”. The scope really is very broad, and can include research, fieldwork and creative work. Please click here for full details of how to apply.
Don’t forget the February issue of Asian Textiles will be out later this month. Our next online talk will be on 20 March when Genevieve Duggan will speak on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? This will focus on the island of Savu, where Genevieve has conducted research over several decades. More details in my next blog!
This Wednesday, 27 January, OATG member Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum will discuss the exciting revivals and innovations taking place today in India’s unique art of painting cottons using the kalam pen and natural dyes with Renuka Reddy of Bengaluru. The event, entitled Chintz Today: Breathing New Life into Traditional Textile Design, will take place at 1600 EDT which is2100 in the UK. Further details and registration can be found here.
Many of you will be familiar with the Textile Museum Journal which is published annually. It is peer-reviewed and always features a range of articles from a variety of scholars and textile experts. The most recent edition, published in autumn 2020, was guest edited by Dr Mary Dusenbury and is on the subject of colour.
A series of online interviews has been organised with some of the contributors to this edition. These interviews will take place during February and will “discuss the importance of recent advances in dye analysis, the value of collaborative, interdisciplinary research, and the multiple roles that a study of color can play in understanding a textile and shedding light on its historical and cultural context.” – Textile Museum Journal email.
There will be a total of 4 interviews, each taking place at 12pm eastern time, which is 1700 in the UK. You can register for each one individually.
The first interview will be on Wednesday 10th February and features dye specialist Dr Dominique Cardon. Dr. Cardon will discuss her research on three dyers who made significant contributions to colour and dyeing technology.
“Together with collaborators Iris Brémaud, Anita Quye and Jenny Balfour Paul, Dr. Cardon conducted a comprehensive study of notebooks compiled by three different dyers between 1722 and 1747 in London and Languedoc, France. In this interview, she will reflect on the similarity of their palettes, the virtuosity of the dyers as colorists, their shared technical language, and the scientific accuracy of the colors in their portfolios.” – Textile Museum website. For more information on the work of Dr Cardon see my earlier blog.
The second interview will take place one week later, on Wednesday 17 February. Dr Elena Phipps will discuss “the Andean predilection for textiles that reflect light” with Dr Mary Dusenbury. Dr Phipps has written prolifically on textiles of the Andes and a selection of her work can be found here.
The subject of the interview the following week (on Wednesday 24 February) is Oriental carpets found in Portuguese collections. Dr Dusenbury will be joined by Raquel Santos, Blythe McCarthy, Maria João Ferreira and Ana Claro, co-authors of three of the papers in the Journal.
Please note that the final interview is NOT the following Wednesday, but will take place on Friday 26 February. This will be with Dr Walter Denny who “will explore the controversies and difficulties surrounding any study of color in pile carpets by art historians, conservators and photographers….. and….how scholarly expectations of color in the various historical eras and geographic groups of carpets are shaped by what has survived of old traditions.”
The following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.
OATG members who were unable to attend the recent talk by Nick Fielding – or indeed those who would like to see it again – will be pleased to hear that a recording of this has now been added to our website. Simply go to Events Programme – Online Events – and then enter the password for 2020. This is shown on the inside back cover of our Asian Textiles journal, or contact any committee member for details. A digital copy of the December Lockdown Newsletter has also been added under the Journals section of the website, and again you will need the password to access this.
A reminder of two talks taking place this Saturday 9th January. The first is organised by the Textile Museum, Washington and features Sylvia Fraser-Lu on Burman Textiles. For full details see my blog of 23rd December. Click here to register.
The second event is hosted by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Craig Diamond will speak on two types of textiles from Mindanao in the Philippines. See my blog of 18th August for a video of Craig talking about these warp ikat cloths known as T’nalak and woven by the Tboli people from banana fibre. Click here to register for this free event.
On Saturday 23rd January Ann Marie Moeller will discuss Small Japanese Treasures from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection at the Textile Museum. Click here for full details and how to register for this free talk.
On Monday 25th January the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles will be hosting a short online talk by Elena Phipps on the subject of a Peruvian cloth woven with four selvedges. This is part of their Lunch & Learn series, but it will be at 8pm in the UK.
Don’t forget we have our own AGM on Saturday 30th January. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a short Show and Tell of textiles from members’ collections. This is the first time we will have held this event online, so we are seizing this opportunity to invite our overseas members to present one of their textiles. We look forward to “virtually” meeting you all.
Finally I enjoyed many of the images in this online exhibition about headwear. Curated by Stacey W. Miller, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality has wonderful examples of headwear from across the globe. This exhibition should have currently been touring several museums in the US. As that has not been possible it has instead been made available online. Several of the images are accompanied by short videos, providing more information about how and when the hats were worn.
One of the first books we ever bought on the subject of Asian textiles was Handwoven Textiles of South-East Asia by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, so I was delighted to learn that she will be giving an online talk on Burmese textiles next month.
“Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s new book, Textiles in Burman Culture, gives an overview of the history and evolution of textiles made and used by the Burman (Bama) people. This ethnic majority group comprises approximately 70 percent of the present-day population of Burma (Myanmar). The book describes and illustrates textiles made for royalty, religious leaders, and commoners—with information on fibers, dyes, and weaving techniques. Fraser-Lu also explores the importance of cloth in the life cycle, literature, and in trade relations with neighboring states.”
“Colorful photographs feature some of Burma’s most iconic textiles: wave-patterned tapestry-weave lun-taya acheik, embroidered wall hangings (kalaga), and intricately patterned Buddhist manuscript binding ribbons (sa-zi-gyo) made on a card loom. In addition to visiting the major textile centers, Fraser-Lu also ventured into the more remote areas of the Burman heartland to find new information on important lesser known textiles from Rakhine, Yaw, Shwebo, Pyay, and Shan State that have been made for sale in the Burman market.” Textile Museum website
This free online discussion is organised as part of the Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions by the Textile Museum and takes place on 9 January 2021 at 11am EST which is 1600 GMT.
Last month’s AGM heralded big changes for the OATG. Our chair Aimée Payton stood down and Helen Wolfe from the British Museum was elected to the position. Also standing down after many years of service was our webmaster Pamela Cross. Pamela developed the original OATG website from scratch and was responsible for the huge task of ensuring all of the back copies of Asian Textiles were available on it. Over the past few months she has been working with Aimée and Felicitas from our Events team to develop a new website, which was unveiled at the meeting. Please do click here to have a look at it. As you can see our Events page is starting to fill up with a great selection of exhibitions and talks. In fact our first event – a Show and Tell of Manuscript Textiles and an Introduction to the Buddhism exhibition at the British Library – is already fully booked!
Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger
Just opened at The Met Fifth Avenue is Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara which focusses on the area today encompassed by Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but there are also about 30 textiles including some very rare ancient indigo examples that were preserved in the Tellem Caves in Mali (information from Elena Phipps). Do scroll down the page to the images of the exhibition objects where you are able to click on each one to bring up the full details of the item.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
If you plan your visit judiciously you could also attend the first of a new Turkish Centennial lecture series on 7 February. The subject will be Impressions of Ottoman Visual Culture and Art in Europe, 1453-1699. The speaker is Professor Nurhan Atasoy from the Turkish Cultural Foundation. According to the Met website her talk will explore “the rich cross-cultural exchanges between the Ottomans and their European neighbours. Discover the factors that led to the flowering of vibrant and sophisticated artistic production throughout the vast Ottoman Empire in the centuries following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and learn how Europe became hungry for visual and artistic representations of their eastern neighbours.” Professor Atasoy has written and contributed to over 100 books on Ottoman and Islamic art.
7 February 2020, 17:00 – 18:00
Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
Coming soon to the Turner Contemporary in Margate is an exhibition entitled We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South. It has been curated by Hannah Collins and Paul Goodwin and “is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states.” – Turner Contemporary website.
Writing for artnet news, Caroline Elbaor elaborates further “A series of quilts sourced from the isolated Alabama enclave of Boykin will also make their UK debut, following a critically lauded presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002. Boykin, formerly known as Gee’s Bend, is largely populated by descendents (sic) of people enslaved on the Pettway plantation. The distinctive quilts, typically patched together from a variety of materials, including blue jeans or cornmeal sacks, have taken on a hallowed significance as symbols of resistance and survival.”
Mark Brown’s articlefor The Guardian on these distinctive quilts is also well worth a read.
7 February – 3 May 2020
Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG
There will also be a preview on Thursday 6 February when the exhibition will be opened by Bonnie Greer MBE
On 11 February OATG member Chris Buckley will be giving a talk to the Hajji Baba Club of New York on Tibetan Rugs: Ancient Problems, Innovative Solutions. Chris will explain how Tibetan rug making traditions evolved as well as examining some unique knotting methods. Having run a carpet weaving workshop in Lhasa for several years he is extremely knowledgeable on this subject. He will give the same talk to members of the International Hajji Baba Society in Washington on 9 February – see below.
9 February 2020
International Hajji Baba Society
Basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW
The next event in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is a talk by Markus Voigt, HALI contributing editor, on the subject of Carpets from the Tarim Basin and Tibet: and possible connections thereof. “At a casual glance Tibetan rugs might be mistaken for those from Xinjiang / Uyguristan (Eastern Turkistan). The talk will examine how two neighbouring but very disparate cultures came to have commercial crossover in rugs prior to Chinese conquest of Tibet.” – ORTS website.
19 February 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8
Mantle border, Peru, Nazca culture, early Intermediate Period (2nd–8th century). Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-0093. Photo by Bruce M. White.
This month sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC called Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen. Over 4000 pieces from the Cotsen Collection were donated to the Textile Museum in 2018 and this new exhibition brings together some of the global treasures he collected over a lifetime. You can read more about Lloyd Cotsen and his collecting in this blog from last year.
22 February – 5 July 2020
The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052
Over in San Francisco Itie van Hout will be giving a talk on the Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum. Itie was the former Curator of Textiles at the Tropenmuseum, which houses nearly 12,000 textiles from across Indonesia, collected over a period of 160 years. The majority of these were taken to the Netherlands when Indonesia was a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies. She has written extensively on Indonesian textiles. For further details visit the website of the Textile Arts Council.
22 February 2020, 10:00am
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118
Indonesian textiles are also the subject of another exhibition which has recently undergone a complete change in Bangkok. A Royal Treasure: The Javanese Batik Collection of King Chulalongkorn of Siam opened in November 2018. However this month all of the textiles are being replaced with different examples from the substantial Royal collection. This will also happen again in September, giving visitors the opportunity to see a far greater selection of these batik textiles. “Among the highlights of the latest acquisitions are a few pieces that have never been displayed before, namely, the Mikado pattern from Yogyakarta which reflects the Japanese influence in the various Japanese fans portrayed through the batik printing technique, as well as the blangkon headdress painted with gold known as batik prada, assumed to come from Cirebon, West Java. It was used only on special occasions by male members of the royal family. Only one piece has been found in the entire royal collection.” Sawasdee magazine. For more images and information please click here.
1 November 2018 – 31 May 2021
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Ratsadakhorn-bhibhathana Building, The Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200 Thailand
The National Museum has recently opened a small textile gallery and is jJust a short distance away from the Grand Palace so you could easily combine a visit to the two collections. Michael Backman has written a short blog about this gallery with some close-ups of a few of the textiles. He says that “Included are pha lai yang textiles – printed cotton fabrics that show thep phanom deity figures, worn as a lower garment by members of the royal family. There is a shawl known as a pha sphak that is of silk woven with gold thread and embellished with fluorescent beetle wings.”
The National Museum Bangkok, Na Phrthat Rd., Phra Borommaharachawang subdistrict, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok
Back in the UK a temporary textile exhibition has been curated at the Milton Keynes Museum. Called A Sense of Place and Time, this is an exhibition of textile art set within the history of textiles. Ethnic textiles are on show alongside contemporary examples by Art2Stitch. There will be a changing section on communication through textiles featuring examples from other cultures.
23 November 2019 – 26 April 2020
The New Gallery, Milton Keynes Museum, McConnell Drive, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5EL
Please note this museum is staffed by volunteers and has limited opening times.
Many members have been looking forward to the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk which finally opens in London on 29 February. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book (see my December blog). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she says her aim in this exhibition is to “overturn the idea of the kimono as static, atrophied object and show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion”. She also discusses the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the exhibition.
In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna Jackson talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly.
The exhibition will be in three sections. “It begins by unpicking the social significance and heritage of the kimono in 17th century Japan, moving to consider the kimono and its position across a more international agenda, finishing with the progressive transformation of its comtemporary (sic) identity.” Scarlett Baker, LOVE magazine.
29 February – 21 June 2020
Gallery 39 and North Court, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
The OATG have planned a visit to this exhibition, which will include a talk by Anna Jackson, for 26 May. Booking for the limited number of places available will open for members in mid-April via Eventbrite.
While at the V&A you should also take a look at the posters in this small exhibition entitled Manners and Modernity: Ukiyo-e and etiquette on the Seibu Railway. These posters convey how to be a well-behaved commuter through humorous messages.
They will be on display in Room 45 of the Toshiba Gallery until 22 March 2020.
Conserving Pumpie the elephant
Those who cannot get to the V&A will be interested to know that a new 6 part documentary filmed behind the scenes begins next week on BBC 2. The series is called Secrets of the Museum and looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a stuffed toy elephant! Henry Wong has written a fascinating piece about this series for design week, including an interview with Alastair Pegg (the director of programmes at Blast! Films) who concludes that “It reveals what’s behind the closed doors — there’s an industriousness that visitors don’t see. That’s the pleasure of this series.”
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Finally, I was fascinated to read of this work by a team from Leeds Museums and Galleries and researchers from various disciplines to recreate the voice of an Egyptian priest called Nesyamun who lived around 1100 BC. The mummified remains of Nesyamun were scanned at the Leeds General Infirmary and a 3D model of his throat was reproduced using a 3D printer. A full and very interesting account of the project is given here in layman’s terms, but if you want to read the scientific paper then click here.