Selected textile events – please note registration for one of them ends today.

Apologies for the short notice for some of these events. I’m heading off to Indonesia soon and rushing to complete everything before I leave!

The Fashion and Textiles Gallery at the ACM (Asian Civilisations Museum) in Singapore has now reopened. Textiles Masters to the World: The Global Desire for Indian Cloth features a display of stunning textiles and garments that were produced in India and traded to regions in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. Find out more about this exhibition here.


The Textile Society (UK) is offering awards of up to £5,000 for a textile related project within the museum, archive and conservation sector.

“The Museum, Archive and Conservation Award is designed to support textile related projects within a museum, archive, or conservation studio for an exhibition, publication or conservation project that will help achieve greater awareness and access for the public.

The Textile Society invites applications from all museums, archives and conservation studios with accredited or provisionally accredited status.

Priority will be given to applications from small to medium sized institutions with an annual turnover of less than £750,000 per year.” Please note that the closing date for applications is 1 May 2023. More information of how to apply, and details of the projects undertaken by past winners can be found here.


I haven’t come across the tradition of barkcloth in Uganda previously, so was interested to hear of this online talk hosted by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). It takes place online this Saturday 15 April at 1100 ET, which is 1600 BST.

“For more than 700 years, the legacy cloth, lubugo (barkcloth), made from the mutuba tree (ficus natalensis) has been used to clothe Ugandans, bury the dead and mark sacred ceremonies in Uganda. In 2005, it was designated as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO to be preserved and protected. Today, it is inspiring contemporary artists, designers, scientists, scholars and researchers locally, regionally, continentally and globally. It has an exciting future but faces several challenges, such as deforestation and the passing away of the elderly skilled masters without their children continuing the tradition. The Bukomansimbi Organic Tree Farmers Association (BOFTA) and a global group of collaborators are working together to strengthen Uganda’s barkcloth industry and preserve this tradition for future generations.” – WARP

Click here for more details and to register for this free talk.


Another event taking place the same day, but this time in-person, is the latest programme from the TMA/SC (Textile Museum Associates of Southern California). Janet Seward will talk on the subject of Guatamala Dress: Diversity and Evolution, followed by a Show and Tell of textiles from her collection.

“Isolated villages in the rugged mountains of Guatemala have each developed their own wildly different, yet still traditional clothing. Woven on backstrap looms for over 2,500 years, the costume of each town continues to evolve, and at one time instantly signaled a person’s origin, and their economic and marital status. There are preferred colors in each village and sometimes a complete change of design between an everyday huipil (blouse) or a ceremonial one from the same place. The huipil, the most recognized piece outside of Guatemala, is a tribute to womankind’s capacity for innovation, her joy in individual creativity, her pride in her traditions and her display of admired skills as well as her wealth.”

This event begins at 1000 PT, but registration closes at 1700 PT TODAY, so don’t delay!

All images © Janet Seward


Next Wednesday 19 April ORTS (Oriental Rug and Textile Society) will hold an in-person event in London. Dr Benjamin Hinson of the V&A will talk on Collecting Late Antique textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum: Greville Chester, Gayet, Thomas and friends.

“The Victoria and Albert Museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of Late Antique and early Islamic textiles from Egypt. Parts of the collection’s history, and the figures responsible for helping to form it, are well known – others much less so. This talk will outline some of the key individuals, but also several of the lesser-known, who donated or sold Egyptian textiles to the V&A in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

This talk is free for members, with a charge of £7 for non-members, and takes place at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair. Click here for more details.


Sunday 23 April is the date for the annual Textile Society’s Antique and Vintage Textile Fair in Manchester – not to be missed!

“The Textile Society celebrates Manchester’s heritage as the powerhouse of British textile design and manufacture. The Manchester Antique & Vintage Textile Fair is the hub for all passionate collectors of textiles. It was the first antique fair to specialise entirely in historic textiles, and it has remained a key event in the textiles calendar since 1992. From world textiles to mid-century modern, from Art Deco to vintage fashion, the fair is an exciting and abundant source for objects and ideas, wall art or wearables, the beautiful or the kitsch.”

I’ve found some wonderful things there in the past and highly recommend it. Full details can be found here.


Also taking place on Sunday 23 April is an online presentation hosted by the International Hajji Baba Society. The speaker is Austin Doyle and his subject is Shahsevan Pile Rugs and Bags.

“The Shahsevan are well recognized for the brilliant colors and fine weaving of their sumak production, but their pile weaving has been difficult to identify, much less to attribute to particular Shahsevan tribes. The Shahsevan originally had a nomadic life-style and it was surmised that they had little need or ability to weave heavier pile carpets. The pile weavings attributed to them were often small and crudely designed pieces.

The Shahsevan were not a monolithic tribal grouping and included members of Afshar and Turkicized Kurdish groups, both known to be prolific pile weavers. It also appears that some Shahsevan groups were only semi-nomadic through much of the 18th and early 19th century, and interacted closely with village groups in the Caucasus, Karadagh, and other parts of northwest Persia. Austin Doyle will review the structural characteristics, colors, and design features that may indicate Shahsevan production or influence, and will discuss pieces which might tentatively be assigned to particular areas or subgroups of the Shahsevan.”

This free online programme begins at 1300 ET, which is 1800 BST. More details and registration can be found here.


Finally the next OATG event takes place on Thursday 27 April 2023. This will be an online presentation by independent scholar Thweep Rittinaphakorn, better known to his friends as Ake. His subject will be Frontiersmen of the Crossroad: The Fusion Style of Shan Chinese Dressing.

“Chinese Shan costumes, particularly those of females, are a crossbred fusion between the tradition of Tai apparel and Chinese style adornment and adaptation. The most outstanding items among the repertoire are the female festive skirts. They provide a stunning sight to those who have seen them. They have profuse, eclectic, and gaudy decoration, incorporating different material and embellishment techniques, unlike any other kind.

Relying on photographic evidence taken at the turn of the century, old books & early traveling memoirs, plus current dressing practice and physical material evidence drawn from private collections, this talk will first provide an initial backdrop of Chinese Shan culture, then dive deep to discuss their dressing style, accoutrements, plus embellishing technique and the materials used.”

Ake is an independent scholar whose work focuses mainly on textiles and arts history of mainland Southeast Asia. He curates The Siam Society’s textile collection and is a regular speaker to the Siam Society, Thai Textiles Society, and The Bangkok National Museum Volunteer group.

Examples of festive tube skirts used by Chinese Shan ladies from Dehong area, Yunnan with sumptuous decorations of silk satin panels, miniature applique trimming, and embroidery panels.

Please note that this programme begins at the earlier than usual time of 1630 BST, as our speaker is in a different time zone. Full details and registration for this event can be found here. It is of course free for OATG members, but there is a small charge for non-members.

Ake is also the author of Unseen Burma: Early Photography 1862-1962, published by River Books. This is a record of photographs from his amazing personal collection.

“When the British colonised Burma, they brought with them the latest technology in cameras and photographic reproduction, and since these were introduced to Burma as early as the middle of the 19th century, the country is richly catalogued and photographed. The new technology was first popularised by western practitioners (Germans, Italians, and, of course, the British) and upper-class patrons, but then spread to the mass market. “

It is already available in Thailand, and you can see some of the pages here. It will be available internationally in late May/early June.


A plethora of new talks and exhibitions!

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.

A woman in Houaphan Province, Laos, models the hand-reeled silk, naturally dyed shaman cloth she wove on her handbuilt loom. ©Above The Fray.

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.

Temple hanging, artist unknown, Gujarat 20th century

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.

In addition to all of the above there is also the series of four talks hosted by the Textile Museum Journal that I covered in my previous blog. These are:- Elena Phipps on Brilliance, Colour and the Manipulation of Light in Andean textile Traditions (17th) , Raquel Santos and colleagues on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Asian Textiles in Portuguese Collections (24th) and Walter Denny on Colour, Expectations and Authenticity in Oriental Carpets (26th). The talk by Dominique Cardon on Dyers’ Notebooks in Eighteenth Century England and France, which was scheduled for 10 February has been cancelled. However the good news is that one of Dr Cardon’s co-researchers, Dr Anita Quye, will now take her place for this talk on 10 March instead.

Buddhist robe (kesa), flowers in baskets. Japan, Edo period (1615-1868). Silk and gold brocade. ©Alan Kennedy

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.

Ensemble from Southern Moravia in Slovakia (KSUM 1995.17.574 a-e)

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.

Quilt depicting scenes of domestic life and biblical scenes. Created by Minnie Melissa Burdick in 1876. ©Shelburne Museum

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.

Women’s festive headdress called a shamshur. End of the 19th century Sami, Arkhangel. ©REM

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.

Early 20th century. Leather, satin, silk, wool and metal thread embroidery, weaving tassels. Artisan Saadagul Mademinova, Southern Kyrgyzstan

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.

Removing the bindings from the warp threads on Savu. ©David Richardson

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!