TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Visiting some museums in Jerusalem

On Tuesday, 30th July 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Last Sunday we visited the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem), a moving experience because it was so personal. It was about a generation and more of people who vanished. Many of the chronological themes were explained via objects such as photographs, travel documents, letters, a battered watch or a broken toothbrush. Other stories were told via garments, such as a blouse taken from a mound that was recognised as having belonged to a friend and neighbour, a pit full of shoes, yellow Stars of David, and most telling, the blue and white striped garments worn in the camps. This museum really shows how clothing can be used to tell hard stories and pass on messages and emotions.

Read more: Visiting some museums in Jerusalem

   

Thoughts in Jerusalem

Street scene in the Jerusalem bazaar, 29 July 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

Street scene in the Jerusalem bazaar, 29 July 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

On Monday, 29th July, Gillian Vogelsang wrote from Jerusalem:

The last two weeks have been quite a time, both at the TRC Leiden itself and for myself. It has included the Out of Asia programme in Leiden, between 14 and 19 July. A few days later I took part in a symposium at Leicester University about science and archaeological/historical textiles, and now with Willem we have a few days in the old city of Jerusalem (a holiday, of sorts).

A theme of all these events, which became clear to me the last few days, has been the passing down of knowledge and community identity through crafts, rather than solely by the written word (a skill that was long in the hands of a few, elite men).

It has left me a little sad, as it is clear that conflicts, changes in communication (spending time on telephones and watching tv), technology (computer driven machines) and that dreaded word globalization have broken the lineage of generations of craft knowledge, which will never come back.

Read more: Thoughts in Jerusalem

   

Out of Asia

Opening of the Out of Asia exhibition, TRC, 14th July 2019. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang.

Opening of the Out of Asia exhibition, TRC, 14th July 2019. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang.

On Sunday, 21st July, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Last week Sunday (14th July 2019) saw the opening of the TRC exhibition: Out of Asia: 2000 Years of  Textiles a pop-up exhibition that was set up to coincide with  the massive International Convention of Asia Scholars in Leiden (co-organised by the International Institute for Asian Studies) and which had as its theme: Asia and Europe, Asia in Europe.

Over fifty people came to the opening of the TRC exhibition. I gave a lecture about ancient and modern textile contacts between Asia and Europe, and about the so-called Silk Roads that led from China, through Central Asia to the Middle East and on to Europe. And of course, in some cases in the opposite direction. But not only items were transported along the Silk Roads, but they also moved from India in all directions of the compass and were often transported along many maritime trade routes. Think of chintz and Kashmir shawls, and of course, the Paisley motif (buteh) that originated in India.

Words of welcome were also given by Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation, Willem Vogelsang of IIAS, Leiden and the director of IIAS, Philippe Peycam.

Several people donated items to the TRC Collection, including a uniform dress worn by a nurse during the Second World War (1939-1945) and a child’s costume of a maid that was worn to a fancy dress party celebrating the liberation of The Netherlands from the Germans in 1945. These will be used in the TRC’s exhibition about textiles and dress during the Second World War, which will be held in the summer of 2020. Furthermore, John Ang presented two Malay batiks – one with turtles that represent long life – a good omen for the TRC!

Equally important, we had the chance to talk with many people about the work of the TRC, how we are expanding, needs for the short term and the long term. In other words, lots to think about.

Apart from the exhibition, the TRC also organised a week of special events. It was intense, but great fun! Over the week we had well over 200 visitors to the TRC, who attended a regular series of workshops in the morning and lectures in the afternoons. The visitors an workshop/lecture participants came, literally, from all over the world. The subjects ranged from Japanese and Western textiles and fashions over a 200 year period by Francesco Montuori, Malay batiks by John Ang, and three different forms of technical weave analysis, presented by Eric Boudot and Sandra Sardjono. Linda McIntosh discussed Lao textiles, and Chris Buckley gave a workshop on Asian looms and their lineage. The loom workshop on Friday 19th was followed by a talk on medieval Indian textiles excavated in Egypt (by the writer of this blog). The main practical workshops were given by representatives of Zhuo Ye Cottage, who came especially from Taiwan. They gave two workshops – basically an introduction to indigo dyeing. Fascinating. Many thanks to all our speakers.

On the same day as the indigo workshops (Thursday 18th July) there was a series of textile lectures at the National Museum of Ethnology, as part of the ICAS Conference. This part of the conference was organised by Sandra Sardjono and Chris Buckley.

A big word of thanks needs to go to all the TRC volunteers who have been helping prepare the exhibition and looking after participants of the workshops and lectures. Without their help it would not have been possible.

We are now seriously thinking about having one and two-day events on various textile themes to coincide with conferences in Leiden, as well as a TRC series of one-day events. So if you are coming to Leiden and are willing to give a paper, let us know! Who knows we may be able to organise a themed day of talks.

   

TRC intern presenting her work in Beijing

In 2018 we had the pleasure of welcoming Kazna Asker (Manchester) at the TRC for a two-month work placement - she worked with the TRC Yemen collection, learning about textiles in general, while having time to think hard about fashion, textiles and how she wanted to approach fashion designing.

Read more: TRC intern presenting her work in Beijing

   

Embroideries from Exeter, UK

Exeter cathedral, the western facade, June 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

Exeter cathedral, the western facade, June 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

On Sunday, 30th June, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Willem and I have spent the last few days in the southern English town of Exeter. He was at a Central Asian conference at the University, while I was working, following up on an earlier visit in February this year, on various textiles housed in Exeter Cathedral. The origins of this magnificent building date back for some one thousand years and it is well worth a visit in itself.

In fact, I wanted to go back to Exeter because of my work on Volume Three of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series, about Scandinavian and Western European forms. I am studying and gathering ideas for various entries, namely one on the use of hand embroidery for military and civilian uniforms and related items, on the use of embroidery within an ecclesiastical setting and finally an entry on medieval embroidery forms. In particular, I was at Exeter to see some examples of Opus Anglicanum (OA), which is a medieval form of English embroidery that was famous throughout Europe in the 12th-15th centuries.

The first two entries being researched will include items from within the Cathedral itself, such as the flags from various regiments that have been laid up there.They include various types of metal thread embroidery and applique techniques.

I was also looking at various medieval effigies of bishops to make notes about the embroidery depicted on their vestments, episcopal slippers, and associated cushions.

Regimental flags laid up in Exeter Cathedral, June 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

Regimental flags laid up in Exeter Cathedral, June 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.

But most importantly, there are various examples of OA in Exeter, notably the St. Petrock Pall (in the Cathedral) and the pall from St. Mary's Arches Church, now on display in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. In both cases the cloths are correctly called palls, but in the sense of an altar covering (altar pall), rather than a cloth covering a coffin (funeral pall).

Having the chance to see OA in detail was a treat and my appreciation for the skill of these unknown embroiderers so many centuries ago has increased considerably. The visit also left me with many more questions (as normal). Such as where did the St. Petrock Pall's silk come from, who made the background cloth, did the embroiderers use more than one type of couching, which is regarded as particular to OA, namely underside couching, and how was the final object used.

The indignation of what had happened to the Cathedral’s treasures (including its vestments) during the Reformation in the 16th century is still very much alive among the people working there!

I would like to thank all at the Exeter Cathedral Archives for their kindness, help and interest during my all to brief visit. We hope to come back soon!

   

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Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

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TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
 
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