Textile talks and articles from around the world!

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I recently blogged about a lovely book for children, Mea and the Palm Flowers, produced by OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation, with the help of Geneviève Duggan and Ice Tede Dara.

Young girl photographed in Pedero, the setting of the book. © David Richardson

Half of all sale proceeds will be donated to the weavers of the Tewuni Rai group, many of whom lost their homes during the devastating Cyclone Seroja last year. If you are a keen weaver, dyer or collector this would make a great gift for the children in your life.

I loved the enthusiasm of this young boy in his short video review of the book, which can be ordered here!

Video of book review

Sonja Mohr of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Köln has just informed me of this very interesting article on Philippine piña textiles.

Scarf length, Philippines, mid 1800s, Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

Interrogating Translucence: Biological and Cultural Definitions of Piña is by Abi Lua, whose current thesis project explores Philippine piña textile connoisseurship and mentality. Here she discusses some of the difficulties in identifying piña, from both a biological and cultural point of view.

Sea snail and threads dyed with its ink. ©Selvedge

This article by Keith Recker for Selvedge also caught my attention. In it Keith looks at the colour purple and how it is produced by milking sea snails. The illustrations are excellent, and it was interesting to learn how the “community’s way of life was shaped around the making of purple, and the journey to the coast to dye yarns was a major event. A group of dyers would walk eight days to the coast. It was a real journey……. ‘involving several river crossings. The men would carry their own food, and when their tortillas, beans and coffee ran out, they would work in local farms to be reprovisioned. Once they reached their campsite on the coast, they’d stay for about three months before heading back to Pinotepa”. – Selvedge

Obtaining ink from the sac of the sea snail on Ternate. ©David and Sue Richardson
Sage green from the innards is used to dye these threads. © David and Sue Richardson

This reminded me of the marine dyes, which I have seen produced on the small island of Ternate in the Alor archipelago of Eastern Indonesia. There, two different colours – purple and green – are produced from the same creature. The purple comes from the ink sac and the green from the innards, with what remains going into the pot for supper.

A quick reminder that this is your last chance to sign up for a couple of talks taking place online tomorrow, Saturday 12 February. The first is on molas by Tom Hannaher, whose online presentation is entitled Painting With Scissors: Mola Art of the Kuna (Guna) Indians and takes place at 13:00 EST, which is 18:00 GMT. he second is on Uyghur feltmaking with Christine Martens.  It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

A weaver at work. ©Andean Textile Arts

The first of the 2022 series of Textile Talks, hosted by Andean Textile Arts, takes place next Tuesday 15 February, when the subject will be Textile Traditions of the Peruvian Highlands. Participants will learn “how Andean weavers use corn husks in their weaving, which natural dye was part of the Incan taxation system, why Andean brides often receive handwoven jakimas as wedding gifts, and so much more.” – ATA website

The talk also features a video, narrated by one of the presenters Jennifer Moore. The other presenter is Ercil Howard-Wroth. Click here for more information and to register. Please note this talk begins at 19:00 EST, which is midnight in the UK.

An akotifahana from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.

On Wednesday 16 February ORTS will host a Zoom presentation by Dr Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum entitled Born of the Indian Ocean:The Textile Arts of Madagascar. The ROM hold 54 Madagascan textiles in their collection, some of which date to the nineteenth century. It was interesting to read about the connection with Omani traders and Indian trade cloths, almost reminiscent of the Silk Road connections. 

There is a lot of excellent information, with very good images and some videos on the ROM website, which I strongly recommend to those interested in Malagasy textiles and culture.

The talk takes place at 18:00 GMT. Non-members wishing to attend should contact Dimity Spiller.

Chief or nobleman’s headdress (detail), Congo, 20th century. The Textile Museum Collection 1962.1.15. Textile Museum acquisition.

Sarah is going to be very busy as she also features in the next in the series of talks from the Textile Museum, centred on the latest edition of the Textile Journal, which she guest-edited.

Cécile Fromont of Yale University will be in discussion with Sarah about Kongo textiles, “which are celebrated as masterpieces of exquisite workmanship but garner limited attention in scholarship.”

This talk takes place on Wednesday 16 February at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Hanbok, © Minjee Kim

On Thursday 17 February the Korea Society will host a live webcast by Dr Minjee Kim entitled Hanbok: A new lexicon of women’s fashion.

“In 2021, hanbok – the generic term referring to traditional style Korean clothing – was registered in the Oxford English Dictionary. In this comprehensive series of lectures, Dr. Minjee Kim, the preeminent scholar of Korean textile and fashion in the U.S., illustrates and elucidates hanbok in sartorial, socio-cultural, and historical contexts.

In the first lecture of the series, Dr. Kim discusses some distinctive qualities of women’s hanbok in comparison with other dress traditions; terminologies of the components and their structural parts; colors, materials, and embellishments; and symbols and ideas behind design principles and ways of dress.” – Korea Society

The webcast begins at 18:00 EST, which is 23:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Working at the loom. ©Susan Schaefer Davis

On Saturday 19 February the Textile Museum associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) will host a presentation by Susan Schaefer Davis. Her subject will be Women Artisans of Morocco: Their Textiles, Their Stories, Their Lives.

Most textile talks focus, naturally, on the textiles themselves, looking at which materials and techniques were used to create them, in which area they were made etc.

“In this talk, anthropologist, and author of Women Artisans of Morocco, Dr. Susan Schaefer Davis, whose work focuses on Moroccan women, their textiles, changing gender roles, and adolescence, will include all of those aspects of textiles, but will also introduce you to the actual Moroccan women who make them. You will meet several of these women virtually, and to see and learn about the unique textiles they produce, the lives in which they produce them, and their thoughts about their work and goals.”

The talk begins at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

Textile with embroidered hummingbirds, early Nasca, Peru 100BC – AD 200 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Our next OATG online event will take place on Thursday 24 February at 18:30 GMT, and the subject will be Peru: A Journey in Time, based on the exhibition at the British Museum. Cecilia Pardo’s talk will introduce you to some of the extraordinary artefacts produced with incredible skill by the different peoples of the Andes displayed in the exhibition. She will focus on the magnificent textiles drawn from both the British Museum, and collections in Peru and beyond. 

​Helen Wolfe will end with a brief overview of the British Museum collection of Early Andean textiles, numbering over 1,000 pieces. This event is free for OATG members and a very reasonable £3 for non-members, payable via our PayPal account. For more details and registration please click here.

Don’t forget to let me know of any textile-related events or articles you think I should include here!

Pitt Rivers inspiration, Samoan barkcloth, sealskin, Indonesian ikat and more.

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In my most recent blog I shared a lot of information about the textiles of peoples of the Amur area and fish skin clothing in particular. That prompted OATG member Pamela Cross to contact me about a work by leading art quiltmaker Pauline Burbidge.

It was inspired by a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum, where she saw this Siberian seal skin pictogram.

Sealskin accession number 1966.19.1. © Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

It was collected in the 1860s or 1870s, probably by the captain of an Arctic whaler. It was made by a member of the Chukot/Chukchi culture, and has been described by some authors as a map, and by others as depicting the events of a specific year. Much more information about it can be found on the Pitt Rivers website.

Her second source of inspiration was a display of barkcloths from Samoa. The example below was collected there in 1874 by the Reverend Joseph King.

Barkcloth accession number 1891.61.24. © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pauline’s response to seeing these items was to produce a large quiltscape, incorporating some of these ideas and motifs. She has made a short video, detailing her creative process and I loved seeing the drawings she had made in her notebook, and how they eventually appeared in the finished piece.

Go to her website to see more of her work.

On Saturday 12 February Yorkshire auctioneers Tennant’s will hold a sale of Costume, Accessories and Textiles. While the majority of the lots are Victorian (including some super sewing accessories), there are also several from China, Japan and Eastern Europe. Click here for more details.

A selection of the lots for sale at the auction

A quick reminder that there are also two talks taking place on that day. The first is by Tom Hannaher on the Mola Art of the Kuna Indians, and the second is by Chris Martens on Distinguishing Uyghur Feltmaking.

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti about to show us some of the textiles in her basket. © David Richardson

I have been travelling to Indonesia regularly for many years now, and one of my favourite destinations is the island of Sumba. We always enjoy going to Rindi, which has a great tradition of producing fine textiles and baskets.

A few years ago Threads of Life, a Bali-based organisation that works with weavers throughout the archipelago, produced a video there with Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti, documenting all of the different stages of the weaving and dyeing process. The video was in Sumbanese, however they have also produced this very useful and informative infographic in English, based on the information gained from the original video.

So much care and attention needs to go into each step, but the results are certainly worth it!

Tamu Rambu Hamu Eti showed us a selection of her textiles. They are all naturally dyed, and the one at the front is woven from handspun cotton. © David Richardson.

While on the subject of Indonesia I would also like to recommend this video, An Indian Loom in Indonesia, produced by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley, in which they share some of the findings from their paper of the same name which appeared in Fiber, Loom and Technique.

“A loom in use in Balai Cacang village in the Minangkabau region of Sumatra has an unusual warp suspension system, in which the warp is attached to a cord and tensioned around a pole. We show that this system is similar to that used on traditional Indian pit looms, and that it probably crossed the Indian Ocean to Indonesia. Indian influence on Indonesian textile forms is well-documented, but this is the first identification of an Indian loom technology in Indonesia. It implies the presence of Indian craftspeople in Indonesia in the past.” – Fiber, Loom and Technique.

A pdf of the full article can be downloaded here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of events, exhibitions, articles, or anything else you think I should include here!

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!