Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weaving Wonders at the Burke Museum

by Monzie

On your way to or from the garden, take a swing (it's not too far a swing) through the Burke Museum's new exhibit of textile masterpieces from Japan and 12 other countries and regions on the Pacific Rim and Tibet.

Traditionally, weaving has been shared by individuals, families and communities working  patterns representing local legends and beliefs into cloth.  Now largely replaced by machines, the skill is being promoted in a growing number of craft centers worldwide, while examples of past and present works are preserved in such collections as the Burke's.

The exhibit contains approximately 10 examples of colorful textiles from each region with explanatory text - both superbly illuminated in one large room. (No sore feet when you leave.)

But:  No Photography Allowed.  Today's adaptation of A. A. Milne's fearsome "Trespassers W."

Introductory displays have examples of fibers (cotton, wool, silk), colors for dying, tools and looms used in weaving.  A show stopper factoid for me:  a cultivated silk worm's cocoon is unraveled in a single continuous filament that can reach as long a 1,600 yards. (Four cocoons are on view.) No wonder the Chinese kept the process secret for 2,500 years under punishment by death.

Lots of opportunities to try your  hand at weaving,  too.  Available references include sources of local instruction and bibliographies.

I visited at 2 pm and happened to have the room to myself, except for a student monitor who gave me the O.K. to move a small stool  to in front of the Japanese textiles so I could have a prolonged,  seated look.  Some highlights:

  • Length of green kasuri cloth (19C), a method using resist dyed threads to produce images, in this case of lobsters in white where the thread had been resist dyed.
  • Ainu robe (1937) woven of elm bark and cotton in muted shades, clearly showing its distinctive culture within Japan.
  • Woman's kimono (furisake) in silk (1931) worn on Coming of Age Day,
  • Woman's outer bridal kimono (uchikake) in silk (1975) of the type worn beginning in the 16C by ladies of warriors and noble families.
Motifs:  waterfalls, branches, flying birds, blossoms and bamboo.

Midori Thiel will be talking about textiles and bringing some from her own collection November 6 when she speaks to guides on Nature in Japan's Performing and Fine Arts.

I moved my stool to other collections.  Travelers will have recognition moments like the one I had seeing a rug from Oaxaca with woven symbols of the Zapotec language and small diamonds beautifully described as the "eyes of rain."

Because every post should have a picture, the one here is a mat I have from the Center of Traditional Textiles, a demonstration weaving center in Cuzco, Peru, another country represented in the exhibit.  The weaver, Tasiana Quispe Auccacusi, has interpreted a river in a style traditional to the Chinceros of the Quechua.  The center was established in 1998 to aid in the survival of Peruvian textiles and weaving traditions.

Don't miss this exhibit!  Check for information and the schedule of weaving demonstrations.

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