New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is 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 will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her 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 the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, 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 Museum, 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, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

All of this may sound familiar to OATG members, as Dr Armstrong gave this talk to us last August. It was extremely well-received, and if you missed it a recording is available in the members’ resources area of our website. However you may well want instead to join this online event, as the Q and A session afterwards is sure to be stimulating. The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Fragment (Tunic), 1532/1700
Inca; probably Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region, southern highlands, Peru. Bessie Bennett Endowment

On the same day, Thursday 13 January, the Art Institute of Chicago will host an online lecture by Andrew Hamilton entitled Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. This talk focuses on two fragments of an Inca tunic, explaining “the appearance and usage of the original tunic; the tunic’s elusive designs, called tocapus in Quechua; the European design influences manifested in the garment; and how an elite Indigenous man might have worn such a tunic to express his nobility under colonial rule. Most importantly, this talk will illuminate the knowledge and skills of the tunic’s weavers and show how their work upheld long-standing Inca techniques while also inventing new ones in response to their much-changed lives in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” – AIC website

The talk takes place at 17:00-17:45 CST, which is 23:00-23:45 GMT, and you can register for it here.

The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California begin their 2022 programme on Saturday 15 January with an online talk by Abel Trybiarz, author of Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs and Others, published in 2017 by HALI. The title of his talk is RUGS & ART: South Persian Tribal Rugs with Birds and Other Creatures.

“The so-called “bird rugs” of the Khamseh Confederation and the Qashqa’i are among the most charming and colorful of figurative rugs of the Southwest Persian tribes. Their rows and columns of birds, and all kinds of other animals including human figures, have been made in an infinite array of combinations and colors, with a huge variety of border motifs. Over many years, Buenos Aires collector Abel Trybiarz has quietly built a previously unknown collection of bird and animal rugs that has at its heart a superb selection of antique knotted-pile rugs, woven by the nomadic tribes of the Khamseh Confederation in southwestern Iran during the 19th century.”

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

Cover of Mea and the Palm Flowers. ©Tracing Patterns Foundation

OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation has been instrumental in producing a lovely book for children, telling the story of a little girl called Mea who dreams of wearing a new ikat cloth to the Harvest Festival on the island of Savu in Indonesia. One of the advisors for this book was Geneviève Duggan, who last year talked to our members about the textiles of Savu, in particular those woven by the women of Pedero village, the setting of this book. The book is beautifully illustrated, and half of the proceeds of sales will be going to the weavers – who you may remember suffered dreadfully after Cyclone Seroja. Click here to order this delightful book.

A young girl from Pedero we photographed during one of our many visits to Savu.

I missed Joe Coca’s talk on textile photography last month, so am glad to see that a recording of it is now available on Youtube. In it he talks about the trials and tribulations involved in taking some of the photographs of weavers and people in their traditional dress.

On Thursday 27 January we will hold our Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM via Zoom. It will begin at 18:00 GMT and will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. All members should have already received the Zoom link, which will be resent along with the agenda and committee reports well in advance of the meeting.

Selected textile exhibitions and events

Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Kikuo Morimoto at his Wisdom of the Forest project in Cambodia.

Kikuo Morimoto

“In 1975 the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and, in events often overlooked by a good portion of today’s world, proceeded to almost completely wipe out Cambodian culture, including textiles.  Twill-woven weft ikat was an important part of that culture with textiles playing a major role in both every day and ritual life.  With many of the weavers killed and the basics to create the fibers and dyes needed for weaving deliberately destroyed, there was a need for assistance to bring back the traditional means of producing ikat textiles.  Kikuo Morimoto from Japan began the arduous task of finding the few women surviving who knew how to tie the designs and dye the colors using natural dyes.” – Jenny Spancake

Mr Morimoto wrote a memoir detailing his endeavours, which was published in 2008 under the title Bayon Moon. Sadly he passed away in 2017, but his work continues through the IKTT organisation and proceeds from this second expanded e-book edition of his memoir will help continue the work he started and to which he dedicated so much of his life.

It is available through iTunes and your local Amazon website – for example here in the UK and here in the USA.

One of the rooms in Paul Hughes Fine Arts with an amazing Huari Cushma from camelid fibre dating to around 800AD at the centre

Paul Hughes Fine Arts in Somerset currently has a fascinating exhibition entitled Continuities (ending 24 October 2021). Here you can see pre-Columbian textiles on show next to contemporary works in various mediums – textiles, painting, sculpture.

“All Art was Once Contemporary – Continuities is intended to illustrate how works from different periods and cultures are visually interwoven despite their diverse chronological and geographical background, whether it is an affinity in aesthetics or intentionality imbued within the living artist’s creations.” – PHFA website

There are some fabulous textiles illustrated in the online catalogue, but they will have to wait until I win the lottery.

Lubaina Himid’s Lost Threads at the British Textile Biennial 2021 at Gawthorpe Hall, uses 1,300ft of fabric to reflect on the history of cotton
© James Speakman/Mercury Press

As part of the British Textile Biennial 2021 there is a major new installation by Turner-prize winning artist Lubaina Himid at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. The placing of this in the Great Barn is just perfect.

Detail of one of the textiles on show.

“Cascading through the structure of Gawthorpe Hall’s Great Barn, 400 metres of Dutch Wax fabric reflect the movement of oceans and rivers that have been used to transport cotton across the planet and over centuries. Waterways historically carried raw cotton, spun yarn, and woven textiles from continent to continent, as well as enslaved people from Africa to pick raw cotton in the southern states of America or workers who migrated from South Asia to operate looms here in East Lancashire.” – British Textile Biennial website.

The irrepressible John Gillow with his stand at a previous World Textile Day event

Saturday 16 October is the East of England World Textile Day in Norfolk. The venue is at Mundford near Thetford. Traders confirmed so far are Textile Traders, the African Fabric Shop, Susan Briscoe Designs and OATG member and author of several textile tomes John Gillow. The event starts at 10:00 – get there early to browse through a great range of ethnic textiles!

Cutting the binding threads on Savu. © David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

Young girl in a Dani village. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation.

Plaited orchid fibre. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Members should have already received their invitations and hopefully registered. Registration is now also open for non-members for a small (£3) donation.This should be a fascinating talk so do join us!

On Friday 22 October Silk Road a newly renovated gallery is due to open at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. It will feature a new exhibition entitled Crossroads: Exploring the Silk Road.

“Presented as a journey through Dunhuang, an ancient oasis connecting peoples and cultures, along the southern Silk Road route, this gallery engages an intergenerational audience through play and discovery. The sights and sounds of the ancient city come to life through stories and music, dress up, tactile objects, an interactive discovery map, and highlights from the museum’s collection. “ – USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Three generations of Qashqa’i women. Photo courtesy of Vedat Karadag.

On Saturday 23 October the Textile Museum will host another of its regular series of Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings. The speaker will be Vedat Karadag and the subject is Traveling the Textile Lands of Greater Anatolia, Persia, Central Asia and Beyond. For the past four decades Vedat has been involved with textiles, both as a dealer and leading cultural and textile-oriented trips. In this virtual talk Vedat will share some of the highlights of his textile travels. More information can be found here. Click on this link to register for this event which begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST.

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website.

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition is also now available (German text).

Lydie Bonfils/Arab Image Foundation

Finally, I recently enjoyed reading this article entitled Women Behind the Lens: The Middle East’s First Female Photographers by Tom Verde in AramcoWorld. It shows how women were involved in photography in the Middle East since the middle of the nineteenth century. Some worked behind the scenes, often in the family business, but others took a more prominent role, especially in the field of portraiture as women often felt more at ease sitting for another female.

Focus on Indonesia

There are so many exciting things happening in the world of Indonesian textiles at the moment that it’s clear I need to devote a whole blog to them. Several of the talks don’t take place until later next month but are filling fast!

© Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono

A fascinating new paper has recently been published by OATG members Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley. They write “We have discovered an Indian loom technology in use in Indonesia (Minangkabau region). The loom has been published before, but the Indian origins of its unusual ‘cord and pole’ warp suspension system have not been pointed out as far as we know. This is significant, since it implies that Indian craftspeople crossed the Indian ocean to Java or Sumatra at some point in the past.”

This paper is available to read and download here.

The Newsletter of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is published three times a year and always has a Focus section.

In the current issue the focus is on textiles, with twelve articles about their changing roles in society. “The articles explore ever-present processes of adoption and adaption of ‘foreign’ elements into a local cultural context.” – IIAS. The image above shows a list of the articles. Please click here to access the articles themselves.

Finally, next month sees the publication by Prestel of a book every collector of Indonesian textiles is sure to want on their bookshelves. “Gathered over the course of four decades, the Thomas Murray collection of Indonesian textiles is one of the most important in the world……. Geographically arranged, this volume pays particular attention to textiles from the Batak and the Lampung region of Sumatra, the Dayak of Borneo, and the Toraja of Sulawesi, as well as rare textiles from Sumba, Timor and other islands. Readers will learn about the intricate traditions of dyeing, weaving, and beading techniques that have been practiced for centuries.” – Prestel.

There are contributions from many leading scholars, including no less than three OATG members. UK members even get the chance to buy this book first, as due to the weight it has to be shipped by sea to the US. Published on 19 October 2021 and available to pre-order now.

Detail from the cover of his book. © Mark A Johnson

On Saturday 2 October 2021 The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California will host an in-person talk by Mark A Johnson on the subject of The Unique Art Forms of the Kayanic People of Borneo. This event will also be available for online attendance. It will take place at 13:30-14:30 PDT, which is 21:30-22:30 BST. Registration is essential.

This talk will be based on Mark’s recently published book The Kayanic Tradition. Kayanic Dayak Art from Borneo. Volume 1: Guardian Sculptures. A preview of a few pages of the book is available here to whet your appetite.

Cutting the ikat bindings on Savu.© David Richardson

On Saturday 16 October Geneviève Duggan will give a Zoom lecture about the ikat textiles of Savu in Eastern Indonesia for the Textile Arts Council in San Francisco. Geneviève gave a presentation to OATG members in March of this year, which was a great success.  Sadly not long after that Savu was hit by cyclone Seroja and is still recovering from its effects.

Geneviève has been studying the textiles and material culture of this island for decades, spending long periods living with the weavers in their villages. I’ve met her there several times and her love for the place and its people is clear.

This talk will take place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. Click here to register.

© Tracing Patterns Foundation

The OATG event for October will be an online talk by members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation. The subject will be Fiber Arts from Papua.

“The Dani people of the Baliem Valley in Papua possess no looms, but fiber forms an essential part of their lives, so much so that the explorer Karl Heider called theirs a ‘culture of string’. “ – Tracing Patterns Foundation

Tracing Patterns Foundation is currently cataloguing and conserving a huge number of Dani items, collected by the late Dr O W Hampton in the 1980s. Chris and Sandra will discuss how techniques such as plaiting and knotless netting were used to produce a wide variety of objects. “Large head-nets were important items of dress for women, as well as practical carrying containers. Some of the most interesting and unusual artifacts are stone tools and sacred objects, bound with fibres, feathers from birds of paradise, and other materials. “

This talk will take place at 18:30 BST on Thursday 21 October 2021. Invitations will be sent out to members in a couple of weeks time, and registration will open to non-members a week later. This should be a fascinating talk so do mark it in your diaries!

The most recent edition of our Asian Textiles journal contained an article by Georges Breguet and Gaspard de Marval on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif. This provided an excellent overview of the work of Steinmann, as well as a review of the current exhibition on the subject at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich.

On Sunday 24 October the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society will host a programme on Steinmann’s research into the use of the ship motif in Indonesia.

“For many centuries, the people of southern Sumatra saw themselves as living on a ship floating between the sea and the heavens. This idea was woven into fascinating textiles featuring elaborate depictions of ships carrying humans and animal-like beings. These ship cloths were used in ceremonial and ritual contexts. 

Alfred Steinmann, one of the former directors of the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, was one of the first scientists to study these textiles in depth and to try to interpret them. In several writings that appeared from 1937 to the 1960s, he examined the ship’s motif from a cultural and historical perspective, from the Bronze Age to the present day. He interpreted the elaborately patterned ship cloths as depictions of the passage of dead souls into a land of ancestors. Although later researchers added other layers of interpretation to Steinmann’s, to this day his contribution remains essential for understanding these textiles. “ – IHBS website

This programme will involve not only a PowerPoint presentation by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa and Andreas Isler, but also a virtual guided tour of the Zurich exhibition – a real treat! Please note that spaces for this virtual event are limited and are filling fast so register now.

Tracing Patterns update and new textile journal

OATG members Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono are well known to many for their work in the field of textiles. Indeed Chris has given presentations to us in Oxford, and always brings great textiles to our Show and Tell sessions. OATG also sponsored one of their recent videos. In this guest blog they describe the work they are currently undertaking.

Tracing Patterns Foundation (TPF) is a small, non-profit foundation based in Berkeley, California. Our focus is on recording textile traditions (past and present) and making this information available to as many people as possible. We live in an era in which things are changing rapidly and much information is being lost.

TPF consists of the wife-and-husband team of curator and conservator Sandra Sardjono and researcher Chris Buckley. We organise seminars and create video material that is shared online via our Youtube page.

Part of the Hampton Archive of artifacts and documentation from the Highland of Papua. © Tracing Patterns Foundation

Recently we have been joined by conservator Katarina Kaspari, who is doing conservation work on an important collection of ethnographic material from Papua. We will be giving an online talk to OATG members on this topic in October, but you can get a flavour of it by watching this short video. [Editor – registration for this talk will open one month in advance and will be listed on the OATG website and included in a blog].

We have now embarked on a new project, launching a journal called Fiber, Loom and Technique (FLT). As its name suggests, it’s for publications on topics related to the making of textiles and fibers … not just the woven variety, we are also interested in papers on non-woven textiles such as bark-cloth, and non-loom techniques.

Why a new journal? We think that the textile field is well-served with book-length publications, such as books on collections or conference proceedings, but there are limited opportunities to publish journal articles, particularly in a timely manner. Textile scholars will be familiar with the responses ‘it doesn’t fit with our upcoming theme issues’, ‘we might be able to publish it the year after next’ and ‘this is too long/short for our journal’. FLT will provide a new way to publish material more rapidly, and there are no limits on length or the number of illustrations.

It’s an online-only journal, and papers will be added as soon as they are ready for publication. It’s Open-Access, which means you can download material freely. There are no publication fees. Each issue corresponds to one calendar year. The journal submission process is completely online, and would-be authors are welcome to write to us with proposals if you’d like feedback on whether your paper is likely to be a good fit with the journal. We welcome submissions from established scholars, young scholars and independent people who have knowledge to share. Degrees and letters after your name are not necessary, and we welcome contributions from all parts of the globe. Perfect English is not essential, our editors can tidy things up provided the meaning is clear to us. We already have an illustrious international team of editors:

As mentioned, technique … meaning how things are made … is the core of what the journal is about, but we hope our authors will explain the context and background too. Our first two papers link historical, archaeological and ethnographic information together, and we hope that this intersection will be a continuing theme in FLT.

Songket weaver from Palembang © Bo Long and Feng Zhao.

The first paper is by Bo Long and Feng Zhao of the China National Silk Museum, and it compares the loom models from the celebrated Laoguanshan tomb, which dates from the Han dynasty (around 2000 years ago) with ethnographic looms in China and Southeast Asia. The Laoguanshan loom had multiple heddles with which patterns were woven in early silk textiles, a method which is still widely used today by rural weavers and small-scale commercial workshops, such as weavers in Palembang, Indonesia who make songket cloths. This is not a true drawloom, but it is an important step in loom evolution.

Early silk taqueté fragment, carbon 14 dated to 5th or 6th century. Chris Hall Collection. © Eric Boudot

The second paper, by Eric Boudot, describes the structure of a remarkable early textile fragment in Chris Hall’s collection. This has an early form of the simurgh, a mythical creature which later became common on Sasanian weavings, particularly those with the famous ‘pearl roundel’ designs. These are the creatures that look like lean, rangy dogs at the top of the textile. Eric shows that the loom used had a mechanism for making a repeating design in the weft direction, and speculates that the loom used was related to the upright zilu loom that is still used in Iran today. As will be clear to readers looking at his structure diagrams, he has done an amazing amount of detailed work with a microscope.

These first two papers are long and somewhat technical. We hope to publish shorter papers as well, which we call ‘Field Notes’ and which will consist of observations ‘in the field’ of weaving and fiber related techniques. In the interests of faster turnaround we will try to use our editorial judgment to match the review process to the material. Longer, technical articles need more peer review (which will be done ‘blind’), but short, factual descriptions do not. In some cases we will publish pieces with just a brief editorial review, if we think it’s appropriate.

If you’d like to contribute, or if you’d like to volunteer your help as a reviewer or editor please get in touch with us.

You can look at the papers online and download them without ‘signing up’ to the journal, but if you’d like to be notified when new papers are added then do please ‘sign up’ on the website.

Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley

A Helping Hand For Savu Weavers


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.

In her recent OATG talk Geneviève Duggan spoke of the need for a Weavers’ House for the community she works with on the island of Savu. Here is the background to this story, and a link to how you can help.

An indigo dyers hands

In 2006 several women on the small and isolated island of Savu got together to form a weaving group called Tewuni rai (placenta of the earth). The forty current members still produce their fabulous textiles on back tension looms, and use only vegetable dyes.

Ice Tede Dara, Secretary of the Tawuni rai weaving group and Desi Lodo, a young weaver from the village
A selection of textiles in the weaving village. © Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

In the past few years they have been hit hard, not only by Covid – which has meant no visitors coming to the island to buy their textiles – but also by African swine flu and a prolonged drought. These challenges have only increased their determination to plan for a better future.

Their aim is to build a Weavers’ House, in the shape of a traditional Savunese house with an extended roof ridge. Having such a building would give them somewhere to weave together, exchanging their knowledge of traditional patterns and techniques, and passing this on to the next generation. It would also provide them with a comfortable place to demonstrate their skills to visitors, instead of sitting out in the burning sun.

Plan of the proposed Weavers’ House
A traditional community building on Savu

The community already has a track record of working together on large projects such as this. From 2016-2018 they worked with Geneviève and André Graff to install a phyto-sanitation system, bringing clean water to their village, and so making a massive difference to their lives. They now have showers, toilets, a laundry area and another area for dyeing the threads for their textiles.

Water flows from the tap at the new block

 A plot of land close to this block has been donated for the Weavers’ House. The project will be overseen by Geneviève, in conjunction with Ice Tede Dara (Secretary of Tewuni rai), and the head of the village. The anticipated cost is $10,000, and every donation – no matter how small – will be appreciated.

If you would like to help make their dream a reality please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website here . Under ‘designation’ please tick Meet the Makers – Tewuni rai. Those donating $250 or more will receive a naturally dyed ikat or striped shawl as an expression of the weavers’ appreciation.

Example of shawls

Conference videos, new online talks, and a new exhibition

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.

Last month I blogged about the major online conference organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference was Textiles on the Move, and it took place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

The good news for those who were unable to participate is that recordings of this conference have now been made available and you can watch them online until 15 November.

The first video begins with a welcome by Willem Vogelsang of the International Institute for Asian Studies. He is followed by Sumru Belger Krody of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum whose subject is Beauty & Purpose, Prayer Carpets and their Design Impact.

Next is Ariane Fennetaux of the Université de Paris, speaking on Interwoven Gowns: Japanese Inspired Night Gowns Ready Made on the
Coromandel c. 1700. Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum then talks about Wiener Werktätte Textiles from the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection.

Finally OATG member Chris Buckley and his partner Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation show a modified version of the presentation on Minankabau Textiles and Looms, which was previously exclusive to OATG members for a while.

The above is just the first of 4 videos. Click here for more information and to access all of the videos – but remember they are only available until 15 November 2020.

Print of the icon at Kalighat temple, eastern India, 1880-1890

Two new exhibitions have recently opened at the British Museum. I’ve mentioned the Arctic one several times already. The other exhibition is on Tantra : enlightenment to revolution.

“A philosophy originating in medieval India, Tantra has been linked to successive waves of revolutionary thought, from its sixth-century transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture……

Elements of Tantric philosophy can be found across Asia’s diverse cultures, but it remains largely unknown – or misrepresented – in the West. The exhibition showcases extraordinary objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, Japan and the UK, from the seventh century AD to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.” British Museum website.

Tibetan thangka depicting the Mahasiddha Saraha, after conservation.

One of the objects which features in this exhibition is this beautiful thangka from Tibet. It was initially in a sorry state and in desperate need of conservation. I really enjoyed reading this blog by Alice Derham and Teresa Heady about just what this entailed.

Scholar’s Equipment (detail), folding screen, painting on silk, Joseon Dynasty, 19th century, photo: National Museum of Korea.

Seattle Art Museum are running a series of lectures under the heading Virtual Saturday University. The topic which caught my eye is Korean Culture in Five Colors. This takes place at 10am on Saturday 7 November (1800 in the UK). Sunglim Kim of Dartmouth College will “Explore the traditional five-color system of East Asia in its Korean expressions, which identified the elemental colors as white, black, blue/green, red, and yellow. Kim’s talk investigates the pigments used, color associations, and their use in various art media including painting, ceramics, textiles, architecture, and even food.” SAM website.

News of another interesting lecture reached me via OATG member Judy Cottrell. Serena Lee will be giving a presentation on The Yi Tribes: Extraordinary Ethnic Dress in Southwest China to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California on Saturday 31 October, but non-members are also welcome to attend this online lecture. It takes place at 0930, which is 1630 in the UK. Registration is essential.

A dancing girl of Bali, resting. Photographed by Thilly Weissenborn c.1925

I also recently came across a wonderful collection of photographs, taken in Indonesia. They are from an exhibition entitled Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s – 1940s, which was held in 2014 by the National Gallery of Australia. The accompanying video shows a great variety of these images, many of which show people in traditional dress.

Textiles from Japan, Africa, the Pacific, Asia…….

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

Tomorrow, 15 October 2020, the Japan House, London will host a panel discussion on the making of the film Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan by director Mizoguchi Naomi.

“Filmed in Biratori, Hokkaido, this documentary follows the everyday life of four elder members of the Ainu community, focussing on their experiences and efforts in the preservation of history and culture through Ainu language classes and participation in several daily activities.” – Japan Society website.

After the panel discussion, registered participants will be able to watch a full screening of the film via a video link. For more information and a link to how to book click here.

******************************

In a previous blog (2 October) I mentioned another Japan Foundation event – an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST. 

OATG member Felicity Wood has kindly informed me of another kimono-related talk – The Unbounded Potential of Kimono, Kyoto to Catwalk – this time organised by the Embassy of Japan. This online talk takes place on Tuesday 20 October at 1300 BST.

Kimono, designed by Jotaro Saito for the Fog Empire Collection Show

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing exhibition at the V&A, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, its curator and Keeper of Asian department, Anna Jackson, will be in conversation with Kimono designer Jotaro Saito, who will join from Japan. The two will talk about the exhibition, how they met, and about Jotaro’s convicition that the kimono is an everyday object of fashion that fits into modern life. In following the notion of a total look, in which the designer creates the garment, obi, and all the accessories, the session will explore what this philosophy means in practice for Jotaro Saito’s designs.”

Click here to register for this event.

******************************

A new exhibition entitled Fibres Africaines opened at the Musée de la Toile de Jouy near Paris on 1 October, and this will run until 28 March 2021.

This exhibition will celebrate “the creativity and diversity of African textiles. While some fabrics are made with precious materials such as silk or glass pearls, others have the audacity to be real luxury pieces, yet designed from humble materials. Raffia fabrics, tree bark, cottons colored with natural dyes such as indigo can be regarded as real works of art for the virtuosity of their manufacturing techniques.” – museum website. 

******************************

I found this blog by Sarah Foskett of the University of Glasgow Textile Conservation team really interesting. In it she gives some background to a five year project looking at Pacific barkcloth.

The Hunterian GLAHM E.537. A small section of the outer border of a late 19th century Fijian masi kesa fabric, stencilled in black, red and brown. (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow)

Last month they held several online workshops and a website has now been launched. This is still being developed, with new information constantly being added.

There are also a series of videos showing some aspects of barkcloth production. The one above focusses on some of the dyes used.

******************************

On Saturday 7 November the Textile Museum, Washington will host another Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning. The presenter will be Alberto Levi, and the subject is Italian Peasant Rugs. “In this illustrated lecture, independent researcher Alberto Boralevi will explore how textiles produced in the Italian folk tradition blend designs and techniques from the East and West……. The term “peasant rugs” generally refers to textiles produced by Italian folk tradition, primarily from the peninsula’s central-southern zones, as well as Sicily and Sardinia. The techniques and patterns of these Italian rural weavings share a striking affinity with the tribal weavings of Anatolia, Persia, and the Caucasus.” – Museum website.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

******************************

On Wednesday 21 October and Thursday 22 October the Textile Museum will host a two-day roundtable to celebrate the creation of the new Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center.

Patchwork trade cloth robe (detail), Indonesia, 18th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-2852. Bruce M. White Photography.

“Beginning with an introduction to Lloyd Cotsen’s collecting and an overview of the collection and study center, the roundtable will feature five one-hour panels highlighting textiles from five continents, including an Indian robe for Indonesia, a Kuba hat, and Captain Cook’s sample book of tapa cloth.” – museum website.

The subjects of the five panels are : Asia, Europe-Central Asia, Africa, Americas and Oceania. Our founder, Ruth Barnes, will look at a patchwork coat (pictured above), created from over 100 small pieces of Indian block-printed textiles. and intended for Indonesia.

In her presentation Hélène Dubied will look at a Central Asian silk weft-faced compound twill, which dates to the seventh to tenth century. This is part of the permanent exhibition of the Abegg Stiftung. The presenter will give details of how this delicate textile was conserved.

I have a particular fascination with Captain James Cook, so will be most interested in Adrienne Kaeppler’s talk on the Alexander Shaw Barkcloth Books. These books are made up of pieces of barkcloth from Cook’s actual voyages!

These are just a few of the highlights of this event – the pdf with the full programme can be accessed here. Please note registration is essential.

******************************

I’ve mentioned the superb videos produced by the Tracing Patterns Foundation in previous blogs. Their latest release is called Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public . This was co-produced with Kantha Productions LLC.

The presenter this time is Cathy Stevulak, who explains the importance of kantha as a women’s artform in Bengal. I was intrigued to learn of references in the 6th century BCE to kantha being worn by ascetics.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

More exciting online lectures and videos ….

PLEASE NOTE The video referred to in the title is no longer available. I will add it to a future blog when it is.

OATG member Dr Sarah Fee will be giving our first Zoom lecture later this month. Dr Fee is Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles (Asia and Africa) at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

For the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz is being presented to the public in a new original exhibition. Lead curator Dr. Sarah Fee will share highlights from the exhibition and discuss its wider narrative arc that traces 750 years of global trade in, and desire for, this most-influential of India’s trade textiles, from medieval times to the present. She will also share the challenges of bringing the exhibit to fruition during this time of global pandemic.

This online talk will take place on Wednesday 21 October at 1830 BST. This event is free for OATG members and just £3 (payable by Paypal) for non-members. Please note that registration is essential.

We have another excellent talk lined up for December, and the next edition of Asian Textiles is out later this month so why not consider joining us? Click here for more details.

The Seattle Art Museum will host an online lecture TOMORROW with the intriguing title of Dragon’s Blood and the Blood of Dragons. This is part of their Saturday University Lecture Series: Color in Asian Art – Material and Meaning. The presenter is Jennifer Stager, Associate Professor of Art History, Johns Hopkins University.

As an entry point into attitudes toward color, this talk considers the red pigment identified as cinnabar or dragon’s blood in the ancient Mediterranean. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder attributes this pigment (derived from Socotra tree resin) to the blood of actual dragons living on the Indian subcontinent. His critique of painters for their indulgence and excess in using it—and the persistent idea that colors contaminate—stands against an idealized whiteness constructed in opposition to the materials and geopolitics of other cultures. Prof. Stager examines the afterlives of Pliny’s fantastical slander. Seattle Art Museum website.

This talk will take place on Saturday 3 October at 1000 Seattle time, which is 1800 in the UK. You need to register in advance.

Mrs. George nee Elizabeth Blakeway by Frederic William Burton, private collection

The Japan Foundation are hosting an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST.  Renowned fashion historian and curator, Fukai Akiko, will discuss how the kimono was depicted in the latter half of 19th century and the intriguing relationship between the kimono and artists.

For progressive artists such as Manet and Whistler, as well as innovative fashion designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, the kimono was not merely a beautiful garment invoking exoticism, but an inspirational source for their creativity and, as a result, we are able to perceive its significant influence in their pieces. – Japan Foundation.

The talk will be preceded by an introduction  by Anna Jackson, the Curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, and a brief conversation with Fukai Akiko will follow her lecture. Register for the talk here.

Finally Marilyn Murphy and her team at ClothRoads have put together another great list of textile-related events. Their list is definitely worth subscribing too as they often feature events that I don’t come across elsewhere.

*********************************************

New textile books, an important online conference and links to some excellent blogs

 

 

In my last blog I mentioned a new book, Workbook: Antoine Janot’s Colours, by Dominique Cardon. Catharine Ellis has taken a much more detailed look at this book, specifically from the point of view of a dyer, in her blog which can be read here.

 

 

The Fabric of Civilization won’t be published until November, but is currently available for pre-order. The author, Virginia Postrel, will be taking part in an online book launch as part of the Textile Arts Los Angeles Textile Month.

“In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.” TALA website.

The launch takes place on 30 September at 12:30 LA time, which is 04:30 am in the UK, so probably only works for our international members.

 

 

The third new book celebrates the Indian textile collection of the authors Helmut and Heidi Neumann and has a foreword by Rosemary Crill. Published by Prestel it certainly seems to be lavishly illustrated and will be added to my wish list.

“Dating back to the fifth millennium BCE, India’s rich and vibrant textile tradition boasts an enormous range of techniques and extraordinary level of artistry. Drawn from one of the world’s finest collections of Indian textiles, this book presents a fascinating overview of centuries of artistic production from every corner of India. Each section examines a different region to reveal its distinct textile traditions, patterns, and processes: Patola silks from Gujarat, brocade lampas preserved in Tibetan temples, mordant resist dyed cottons from Indonesia, embroideries from rural Bengal, and silk saris from Murshidabad. The book also delves into the roles that textiles have played in daily life over the centuries, from household and dowry textiles to devotional pieces and exquisite materials crafted for rich patrons. Each object is photographed from multiple angles and reproduced in meticulous detail. Many of the antique pieces featured here are exceedingly rare, which makes this book an invaluable resource.” Prestel.

 

 

The Yale University Art Gallery has now reopened. One of its current exhibitions is called Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art.

The exhibition “showcases basketry, beadwork, drawings, photography, pottery, textiles, and wood ….. …Guided by the four themes in its title, the exhibition investigates the connections that Indigenous peoples have to their lands; the power of objects as expressions of sovereignty; the passing on of artistic practices and traditions; and the relationships that artists and nations have to animals, plants, and cosmological beings.” Yale University Art Gallery website.

 

Moroccan woman’s kaftan made from Japanese kimono fabric. © Textile Research Centre, Leiden

I’ve already blogged about the virtual symposium organised by the Textile Society of America entitled Hidden Stories Human Lives. This takes place from 15-17 October and you can still register for the sessions.

However before then there will be another major online textile conference, this time organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference is Textiles on the Move, and it will take place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .

The programme is very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here. Registration is also necessary for this free event – just click here.

 

 

Finally, I would like to recommend a series of blogs written by a variety of authors between 2017 and 2019 to celebrate New York Textile Month. These blogs have been hosted by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and cover a wide variety of topics – Chris Martens on Central Asian felt, Thomas Murray on an Indonesian palepai, Precious Lovell on Ghanaian adinkra, Wendy Weiss on a Gujarati patola – to name but a few.

 

Bhutanese coat, known as a gho. © Cooper Hewitt.

This is a link to just one of these blogs, this time by Susan Bean, looking at a Bhutanese coat which is known as a gho. I strongly recommend signing up to receive the Object of the Week emails from Cooper Hewitt.

 

***************************

 


 

Event: International Convention of Asia Scholars (and more) in Leiden

This July a series of textile-related events will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars runs from 16-19 July 2019. Participants from over 60 countries, covering a multitude of disciplines, are expected to attend. Registration details for ICAS can be found here. Please note there is a significant discount for early registration and this ends on 15 March 2019.

As part of this Convention the Tracing Patterns Foundation are organising several Textile Panels around the subject Fibre, Loom and technique. Fifteen researchers will present their findings on a variety of subjects. These include our founder Ruth Barnes on Early Weft Ikats found in Sumatran Textiles and OATG member Chris Buckley on The Origin of Chinese Drawlooms. Itie van Hout, whose book on Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum was recently reviewed in Asian Textiles will speak about Twill Weaving in Kalimantan and Sandra Niessen will give a presentation on the Bulang of the Batak people – which Pamela Cross spoke of with such passion at our recent Show and Tell.

Although several of the talks are on Indonesian textiles, other areas covered include the Philippines, Egypt, Laos, China, India and Africa.

From 13-19 July the Textile Research Centre (also in Leiden) is organising a special Asia Week on the theme of East-West connections. This will include an exhibition, workshops and lectures. The exhibition, entitled Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles, aims to show “how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles” and will present a range of textiles, from Indian block-printed textiles from the thirteenth century to regional Dutch textiles from the early twentieth century.

Back of a woman’s blouse from the Dutch island of Marken, with a panel with a chintz-style decoration with peacocks and buteh, 1937. © Textile Research Centre

The workshops will include Indigo Printing and Dyeing with Georg Stark (read my earlier blog on him here), Analysing Ancient Textile Fragments with Affordable Equipment, and Embroidery from Afghanistan.

Full details of the talks and workshops, along with registration details, can be found here – please note spaces are limited.

Obviously a visit to Leiden would not be complete without spending time in the Museum Volkenkunde, where you are greeted by a huge totem pole as you enter the museum. Its collection is vast and it seeks to convey through universal themes that “despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same”.

Part of the Indonesia Gallery display at the Museum Volkenkunde

A short train ride (around 40 minutes) will take you to Amsterdam where you can visit the Tropenmuseum.

It’s easy to travel to Leiden from many parts of the UK – just fly to Amsterdam (Schipol) and get the train from there (15 minutes), or take the Eurostar to Amsterdam. See you in Leiden!

 

************************************