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Red velvet bag from nineteenth century Iran (TRC 2002.0115).Red velvet bag from nineteenth century Iran (TRC 2002.0115).The last week or so have been very busy at the TRC. We have been sorting out the little depot, removing stands, adding racks, and putting items on the table to be photographed, catalogued and boxed. The lace collection, for example, is being moved from one storage system to another, with a much more suitable drawer system. In the process the lace will be further sorted and the descriptions refined. Thanks to the Pepin Donation, there is also a large number of machine made lace samples to be added to the lace collection. The TRC collection now includes a wide range of hand and machine made forms for people to study and be inspired by.

Speaking of inspiration: We currently have two students (Kate and Kazna) from the Manchester School of Art who are helping, among other things, to photograph and catalogue a collection of 1930’s textiles, accessories and fastenings that came from the aunt of a family now living in Wassenaar. The aunt was a textile buyer for a Dutch fashion house during the 1930’s and many of her items were stored in a flat that had to be emptied. She was also involved in the decoration of hats and had a supply of felt hat bases, satin and velvet hat bands, as well as items to decorate hats including hat pins, hat jewellery, feathers, beaded appliqués and buckles. Do you know the difference between a buckle and a clasp? And what exactly is a frame buckle and do you know that they can be divided into practical and decorative forms? There is always new to learn at the TRC.

The paintings of hanging curtains, Statenzaal, Drents Muzseum, Assen, The Netherlands (photograph Willem Vogelsang)The paintings of hanging curtains, Statenzaal, Drents Muzseum, Assen, The Netherlands (photograph Willem Vogelsang)Late December 2015, I wrote a blog about the paintings of curtains in various ancient monuments in Rome, including the Temple of Romulus at the Forum Romanum, in the Sistine Chapel and in the Santa Maria Maggiore (click here). In the summer of 2016 I saw similarly curtains being painted on a wall in the Chapel of St Gabriel, in Canterbury Cathedral. Last Sunday I saw painted curtains again, but this time at a very unexpected place, namely the beautiful Drents Museum in Assen, capital of the Dutch province of Drenthe.

Painting of curtain, Drents Museum, Assen.Painting of curtain, Drents Museum, Assen.On 25th March, the Museum opened a photo exhibition of Dutch military in Kabul, and I had been asked to give a talk about Afghanistan. The Museum is housed in the former Provinciehuis ('Provincial House'). When I was shown the room for the lecture, I was absolutely amazed. It was the so-called Statenzaal, the room where in the past the Staten ('Estates') of Drenthe would meet. This council constitutes the legislative body for the administration of the province.

The room dates to the late nineteenth century and is lavishly decorated, among others with paintings by the Austrian painter Georg Strum. They show the history of the province, from prehistory to the nineteenth century. The building, and its Statenzaal, were designed by Jacobus van Lokhorst, and the actual building was started in 1882. The decorations of the Statenzaal date to this period.

But what attracted my attention in particular were the paintings of curtains, so reminiscent of what I had seen in Rome two years ago. I attach a photograph of the room and one of its walls, decorated with the panels with the painted curtains.

Willem Vogelsang, Saturday 31th March 2018

Bani Tamin woman's dress from Saudi Arabia (TRC 2005.0065).Bani Tamin woman's dress from Saudi Arabia (TRC 2005.0065).The Gorcums Museum in Gorcum, Gelderland, has organised a special exhibition on embroidery, with the title ‘Voor de draad ermee’. The exhibition can be seen from 7th April until 9th September this year. The TRC is very pleased to contribute to this event with the loan of 34 beautiful and spectacular pieces of embroidery from the TRC Collection. The embroideries are worked on dresses, headwear, footwear and panels that originate from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Vietnam and Yemen.

Highlights from the TRC loan are the minuscule lotus shoes from China, a large dress from Saudi Arabia, and the Tunisian Raf-Raf wedding outfit. The exhibition has been curated by Linda Hanssen. For the exhibition website, click here.

Gillian Vogelsang, 29th March 2018

Kate and Kazna at the TRC, March 2018Kate and Kazna at the TRC, March 2018It’s always fun to volunteer at the TRC, but today was particularly so. That’s because I got to meet two new women who are also passionate about textiles: Kazna Asker and Kate Askham. Both are 21 years old and both are second year fashion students at the Manchester School of Art (part of the Manchester Metropolitan University) in the UK. They will be at the TRC for two months in order to learn the ins and outs of managing a textile and dress collection, and especially to help photograph and catalogue the TRC’s growing collection.

“People are the most important thing to me. That’s what textiles should be about,” says Kate. She sees working at the TRC as a way to gain inspiration for modern design and information on the historical roles textiles have played in the past. “I like the stories that come with textiles and how much that tells you about people and how societies were at specific times.” Next year she will have to design six different outfits for her courses, so she is looking forward to bettering “my knowledge of historical pieces, of shapes and patterns”.

Over the last few years Willem and I have been in contact with May and Ronaldo Schinasi, in France. They lived in Afghanistan from the 1950’s to the late 1970’s and were close to both the commercial world and the then royal court. May was fascinated by the range of jewellery that was then available, especially the Turkmen jewellery. The last emir of Bukhara in the 19….….. sent his household (people and objects) to Afghanistan, including boxes of Turkmen jewellery. May was able to purchase a number of very beautiful items, including a range of rings, which she enjoyed wearing. A total of 27 items of jewellery, ranging from rings with attached thimbles to large bridal headwear, were on display in the TRC’s recent exhibition about dress and accessories in Central Asia (the exhibition was called ‘Dressing the `Stans’ and was staged in 2017). We have just heard that the Schinasi’s have very kindly agreed to donate all these items to the TRC! All of the pieces will shortly be online so that you can enjoy seeing them. With many thanks to May and Ronaldo Schinasi

Last summer (2017) Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC Leiden, spent ten days in Los Angeles working at the Fowler Museum, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. In particular she was working on a collection of early 20th century Syrian garments, including abayas, head coverings and çarsafs. Some of the garments are the most beautiful examples of silk tapestry weaving.

The TRC has just been informed that it has been officially asked by the Fowler Museum to curate an exhibition about the Syrian garments and to write a catalogue to both the collection and the exhibition. All being well the exhibition will open in Los Angeles in February 2019. More details will be published in due course.

Italian, 18th century embroidered waistcoat, from the Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice.Italian, 18th century embroidered waistcoat, from the Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice.Venice has been a centre for making and trading textiles for centuries. There are two definite places to see for textiles lovers. Palazzo Mocenigo, housed in a 17th century palace, is home to the Centre for Textile and Costume Studies. Most of the displays involve the restored palace itself and its rich furnishings, but there are many beautiful textiles in nearly every room. These include numerous 18th century Venetian velvets and brocades, and some rarer 13th and 14th century fabrics.

The palazzo also has many examples of textiles that can sometimes be overlooked: male clothing. You can see the 18th century black wool or red damask robes of public officials, and a whole room devoted to waistcoats. Fifty-six waistcoats, mostly from the late 18th century, are on display.

Today’s waistcoat evolved from a knee length, completely buttoned from the front, jacket that was worn underneath a coat for extra warmth. The front was usually of some costly material, such as silk, while the back was made from less expensive cotton or linen. In the 18th century this jacket grew shorter, until it reached just below the waist. By the end of the century it had lost its sleeves. Most of the waistcoats on display are silk, often beautifully embroidered, sometimes with gold or silver thread.

In 2014 the Centre joined Google’s #WeWearCulture project. This project showcases the museum’s work and can be seen at https://artsandculture.google.com/project/fashion 

Reaching the next textile highlight involves a ferry ride to Burano, an island in Venice’s lagoon. Burano has a long history of lace making. During the winter of 1871-72, the island’s economic mainstay of fishing was destroyed when the lagoon froze. Women returned to lacemaking to generate income, and a lacemaking school was set up. The old school grounds today house the Lace Museum, with its incredible collection of both needle lace and bobbin lace. There is lace beginning from the 16th century to today. The permanent exhibition begins with several short videos, in different languages, on how lace is made. There is also an excellent display which shows lace making all across Europe.

Length of Italian needle lace, late 16th century. Lace Museum, Burano, Venice.Length of Italian needle lace, late 16th century. Lace Museum, Burano, Venice.There are lots of tourist shops which sell machine lace on this small island. If you are looking for handmade bobbin lace, one of the best places to go is Atelier Martine Vidal, which also has a beautiful collection of antique lace on display. Venetians proudly claim that needle lace was invented in the 1500s in Venice itself. A visit to the Lace Museum may not confirm this claim, but it certainly shows you why Venetians are proud of their lacemaking tradition.

Shelley Anderson, Friday 23rd March 2018.

Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition '1920s Jazz Age - Fashion & Photographs'.Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition '1920s Jazz Age - Fashion & Photographs'.Yesterday, Gillian and I travelled to Tilburg, in the south of the Netherlands. Gillian had been asked by the British journal Selvedge to write a brief review of a new exhibition mounted at the Textiel Museum. I happily plodded along. I had never been to this museum before, and was very curious. I love visiting museums and exhibitions, but to be honest, I find some of them more interesting for their exit than their entrance. What was the Textiel Museum going to be like?

Tilburg is a former centre of the Dutch textile, and in particular wool industry. I had read before that the museum was housed in the premises of the former textile firm of Mommers. I was therefore wondering whether the Textiel Museum would be yet another place that was trying to keep alive, in a somewhat nostalgic manner, the former glories of an industry that had long disappeared. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find a very lively and active textile centre with some excellent exhibitions, with working machinery, and with craftsmen/women and artists actively doing their work. Perhaps the word ‘Museum’ for this place is a bit of a misnomer. It is far more than a series of rooms and corridors with objects being displayed. It is fascinating to see how wool was carded, reeled, and in the end worked into cloth on looms, many of which are shown in the museum and many of which are actually in active service. There was also a display of all the machinery used to make damask linen cloth; absolutely fascinating.

Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition 'Colour & Abstraction - Generations in Dialogue'.Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition 'Colour & Abstraction - Generations in Dialogue'.But it was not only the machinery that intrigued me. Also many of the objects on display as well were well worth seeing. One of the temporary exhibitions was about the so-called ‘flappers’, the young girls of the Charleston age in their relatively short dresses. It showed the mainly American fashion of the 1920s. I know, the clothes on display were for the well-to-do, but it does produce a happy smile.

Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition 'Colour & Abstraction - Generations in Dialogue'.Textiel Museum Tilburg. Exhibition 'Colour & Abstraction - Generations in Dialogue'.But what we really came for was a new, temporary exhibition called ‘Colour and Abstraction. Generations in Dialogue,’ which can be seen until 3rd March 2019. We were shown around by one of the museum’s curators, Suzan Russeler, who guided us with great enthusiasm along the objects. Since the exhibition only opened yesterday afternoon, I think we were the first visitors. But it was certainly busy when we left.

The exhibition includes art works made during the last sixty years by a number of design artists, and using textile as their main medium. The exhibition includes works by Rafaël Rozendaal, who uses images from the internet and social media to create a mesmerizing array of geometric shapes and colours. There is also a beautiful wall hanging designed by Peter Struycken, with a mishmash of subtle colour combinations. There are also art works that are three-dimensional and thus make ample use of the flexible nature of the medium by providing spectacular changes with the use of light and movement.

Some of the objects on display were actually designed and made at the Textiel Museum itself, in its so-called TextielLab, which is a space that provides the facilities for artists to experiment with designs, colours, techniques, but also with types of yarns, dyes, etc. And what is great, is that visitors to the museum can have a good glimpse of what is being done in the Lab. It was bitterly cold, but the museum cafe served excellent coffee, and while drinking that, you can admire the textile decor. No regrets. Well worth a visit. The website of the Textiel Museum is https://www.textielmuseum.nl/en. The photographs were made by Gillian.

Willem Vogelsang, Sunday 18th March 2018

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