Sunday, May 24, 2015

Facebook Album from the ETN Conference 2015 and Textiel Festival X Leiden.

it is just the beginning of seeing sights and textiles in Holland. Tour 1 Tillburg Textile Museum and Lab...
Posted by fibreQUARTERLY Canada on-line Textile and Fibre Arts and Crafts magazine on Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015

May 2015 Textile Sightings on facebook

May 2 Textile Museum of Canada for the opening day curator"s talk by Dennis Nothdruft, curator of London’s Fashion and...
Posted by fibreQUARTERLY Canada on-line Textile and Fibre Arts and Crafts magazine on Saturday, May 2, 2015

Monday, November 03, 2014

On the Velvet Highway or On the Road Again; a Musical Journey

September 4 2014 Calgary I went to this Honens Piano Festival 2014 Concrete Sonata noon hour piano concert and enjoyed the performances of Georgy Tchaidze, 2009 Honens Prize Laureate

While "Gabriel’s Oboe" by Ennio Morricone, from the soundtrack of Roland Joffé 1986 film “The Missions,” may float somewhere in our collective memories as part of a larger score, it is perhaps more embedded into the zeitgeist of the era as an emerging yet mournful plea for release from Reaganomics -- rather than merely a piece music of Oboe music. If a musical composition can paint a picture, I can think of it as a cartoon for a tapestry, the instruments and voices being the different coloured yarns with which the performance / tapestry is woven. This will provide the context for me to write about music in fQaroundtown which, until now, has been a Textile blog rather then a place for reviews of other media. Do I have you attention?

On Tuesday, October 21 at 12 p.m., I attended the COC Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre and heard “two of Canada's most passionate young performers, oboist Vincent Boilard and pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard, shine the spotlight on the oboe in a selection of spirited pieces by Mozart, Poulenc and everything in between.” this concert was co-presented with Jeunesses Musicales Ontario. In recent months the urge to write about the music I have been experiencing live has been pretty persistent starting with attending Rebecca Jenkins' remarkable launch of “Live at the Cellar” in June at the Jazz Bistro, followed by attending three of the seven concerts at the inaugural Honens Piano Festival in Calgary in September and the COC Free Concert Series I have been attending since my return to Toronto. Putting Jenkins' aside for the moment, there has been a thread of “Modern” music running through these concerts “Modern” being late Victorian / Post- Romantic era (Romantic period 1800 to 1850 approx). This genre was firmly established, though often greeted with hostility, by the time Stravinsky’s “Rites of Spring” premiered in Paris in 1913. Experimenting with new ways in which to use the instruments in Orchestral, Chamber and Choral music has been ongoing since then

 Pavel Kolesnikov Honens Prize Laureate 2012A was the other pianist performing in the Concrete Sonata concert on the "Garden Piano" in downtown Calgary
In Calgary the Honen Piano Festival had a program of music that was centred around 2014 being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One and was therefore from the Modern repertoire. French pianist Alexander Tharaud played Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes Nos 1, 3, and 4 (written between 1889-1893) and Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs (1904 1905). His light touch made the Satie sound as if the notes were floating by on the breeze. In the performance of Miroirs, which consists of five sound portraits of Ravel’s friends and fellow “Apaches,” there were moments which sounded like six hands playing at the same time. It was breath taking. At the last concert, another Ravel piece was played: “Piano trio in A minor” (1914), with Pavel Kolesnikov, Honens Prize Laureate 2012 playing, followed by Elgar’s “Piano quintet in A minor Op. 84” (1918) played by Georgy Tchaidze Honens, Prize Laureate of 2009. The finale of the concert and the festival was also the debut performance by the newly formed Wild West New Music Ensemble led by Mélanie Léonard. The piece was Kammermusik Op. 24 No. 1 (1922) composed by the German composer Paul Hindemith. Samson Tsoy Santander, International Piano Competition Laureate, 2012, joined the Wild West New Music Ensemble in this chaotic, frenzied and ultimately disturbing yet enlightening vision of the WW1 battlefield ending with a siren blast which leaves you hopeful rather then mournful. It is an incredible piece of music

Alexander Tharaud taking many bows for those applauding his great performance at the Jack Singer  Hall which at times sounded like 6 hands playing. September 6 2014, Calgary, Alberta.
And now for a Musical Interlude 

With my appetite whetted by this (shall we say “post-classical”/ “early modern” sound) I returned to Toronto with a need to keep the live music coming and conveniently the “COC Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre” 2014-15 season had begun. Being informed of the date and time (October 7, 12 noon), and not being aware of what I was going to hear, I headed off to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen St and University Ave for Colin Ainsworth, Tenor, and Stephen Ralls, Piano. I was introduced to the “Art Song” of the living Canadian composer Derek Holman (*1) and his song cycles. “Lieder” or “Art Song” consists of piano accompaniment of a solo voice; the composer is creating a musical setting for existing written words -- usually poetry such as Shakespeare’s or Goethe’s. Since the late Victoria period, this genre has become a site of experimentation for modern composers. Holman was born in England in 1931, immigrated to Canada in the mid 1960s, taught in the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Music's Department of Theory and Composition, retired as a Professor in 1996 and received the Order of Canada in 2003. His output consists of mostly choral work; of Holman's sixty-plus songs, most are found in twelve song-cycles. Colin Ainsworth performed works composed in the past decade: “A Lasting Spring” (2004), “The Death of Orpheus” (2005), and “A Passion Play” (2012); these are settings for the words of numerous poets. Ainsworth, who is/was in the COC recent production of Falstaff, has a clear full tenor voice with rich bottom and crystalline top which instilled a poignant beauty to these challenging compositions which demanded the full use of his range. This was a very satisfying concert and the perfect next experience after the Honens.

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts 145 Queen St W, Toronto, ON
In early October, I was transported back to my high school music class and choir days which had been acted out under the rather hard core eye of Duncan Addison -- a church organist, choral master and music history teacher who introduced me to British composer George Butterworth’s (12 July 1885 – 5 August 1916) setting for A. E. Housman's poems from ‘A Shropshire Lad.’ All this in an attempt to take my lazy baritone up to the true tenor range he heard in my voice (I was in my church choir at six and in is high school choir until I was 18 and sang 7 days a week for 12 years or so it seemed). On October 9, Members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio: Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Tenor, Iain MacNeil, bass-baritone and Jennifer Szeto, piano, preformed two composer’s setting of Housman’s words. MacNiel sang Butterworth’s compositions, while Fortier-Lazure sand the music of another British composer, Ivor Gurney (28 August 1890 – 26 December 1937), who was previously unknown to me. The WWI theme that started with the Honens in Calgary seemed to be continuing since Temporary Lt. George Butterworth, aged 31 was wounded in the trenches near Pozières in July 1916 and died before receiving Military Cross, and Gurney, who survived the trenches but by 1922 was declared insane and institutionalized for the remainder of his life.

These performances were professional but not as confident as one might hope for the delivery of this seductive material. The pure love that Housman’s words convey and the music magnifies was a bit mechanical and technique dependent rather than emotionally charged as other presentations of Butterworth I have heard as performed on record. Hearing it live and being introduction to the work of Ivor Gurney made this concert a worthwhile investment of time and exposed me to two new singers who, having made it into the COC Ensemble obviously have the chops, but not the solo tract record which give confidence needed for these songs.

October 15th brought the 15 year old piano prodigy Anastasia Rizikov to the stage with a program of Russian Masterworks: Romance in F Minor, Op.5 Tchaikovsky (b. May 7, 1840, d. November 6, 1893), written 1868 (Post romantic pre modern period), Pictures at the Exhibition by Mussorgsky written in 1874 (not published until 1886 on the cusp of post Romantic and Modern) These she played with the mechanical precision with which they are written as well as with a slight maniacal joy that comes from “rocking it” or getting it right and having fun doing it and letting the audience feel that joy. Followed by Prelude No. 6 in E-flat Major, op. 23 (1901-1903) by Rachmaninov (April 1, 1873, Novgorod Governorate, died: March 28, 1943-- in Hollywood you can’t get more Modern then that) which was an expected part of an all Russian program. Islamey (1869) by Mily Balakirev (b. January 2, 1837 d, May 29, 1910) was new to me. Islamey (subtitled Oriental Fantasy) was written after a trip to the Caucasus and the Caucasus for me means the Silk route and rugs rather then music.

It is this Orientalism which also inspired Mozart - Piano Sonata No 11 in A major, K 331, which I heard Alexander Tharaud perform in September. In Mozart’s time, the Ottoman court was represented in most Royal courts of Europe, which means he no doubt had first hand knowledge of oriental pentatonic scale which has 5 notes per octave rather then the western’s 8 notes per octave and rhythms. By the late 1800s, at the 1862 International Exhibition in London and Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867, the 12 tone scale of Traditional Japanese court music was added to the mix. I think you can find the beginnings of what becomes post romantic / modern music in the blending of these. However that is a different story and one for ethnographic musicologist to disprove. When Anastasia Rizikov finished Islamey, I thought I would like to hear her play some Boogie Woogie -- and suddenly for her encore, she basically did: Variations (Op. 41), by Russian/Ukrainian, pianist/composer Nikolai Kapustin. He's a living composer (born in 1937) and famous for fusing the jazz and classical idioms, meticulously writing out note for note what sounds like an improvised jazz piece. (This according to a COC social networker on Facebook). It was a bluesy jazzy barrel house rolling number that was a perfect end to what might have been a dispassionate display of virtuosity.

This is the performance space of  The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Preforming Arts Centre seen from above

This brings me back to the Oboe and oboist Vincent Boilard and pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard’s performance on Tuesday, October 21. Sonata for oboe and piano, FP 185, by Francis Poulenc (b. January 7, 1899, d. January 30, 1963), was performed with all the charm it has in its notation. Written in the last year of Poulenc’s life, this piece may be rather nostalgic and old fashioned sounding compared to the then contemporary composers, such as Italy’s Luciano Berio or America’s John Cage, it has the texture/ sound of the 1920s but it also sounds fresh, newly minted each time you hear it Poulenc was part of a group dubbed “the Six” by music critic Henri Collet in an article. "Les cinq Russes, les six Français et M. Satie/ The Five Russians, the Six Frenchmen and Satie". (Comoedia, 16 January 1920) was at the heart of the modern movement, in post WW1 Paris. Mily Balakirev was one of the “Five Russians”.

Their next piece, “Romance for oboe d’amore and piano, op. 29 ” (1997) by Quebecois composer Mathieu Lussier (b.1973), was simply joyful and they played it with a pride in their fellow Quebecois clarity of composition. It is perfectly written blend of harmonics and rhythms that have the two separate instruments circling around and bouncing away from each other and intertwining in a pre-waltz dance possibly happening in the Assembly rooms of Jane Austin’s Bath rather then a dance club today throbbing but not floating like the Lussier. In a “Music Appreciation 101” moment at the beginning of the concert, Vincent Boilard played the oboe solo from Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op. 20 - Act II. Scene ; Dance of the Swans, as a way of introducing his instrument and spoke of how it is often used to give mournful or ominous impressions in film soundtracks

The repertoire for solo Oboe is not large compared to say violin and piano. Antonio Pasculli (1842-1924) was a virtuosic oboe player who took that bull by the horn and transcribed a large number of opera pieces for oboe and piano/harp. The third piece played by this duo was Concerto sopra motive dell’opera La Favorita di Donizetti by Antonio Pasculli. In introducing this piece, Boilard explained how as a player himself, Pasculli wrote extremely demanding pieces with constant use of arpeggiations, trills, and scales, that require the oboist to practice circular breathing -- and then he jumped right into it. While not a near mechanical 15 year old piano prodigy like Anastasia Rizikov, Boilard’s playing is engaging, emotional and filled with the charm of the instrument. He rose to the demands that this composition puts on breath control; at some points it seemed the audience was holding its breath, while silent, in their anticipation of his making it through these rapid fire sections where his fingers where running up and down the instrument at the speed of light, or so it seemed. There was more of the lighter then air dance between the two instruments as Olivier Hébert-Bouchard’s piano playing seem to romance the oboe, it was not in the background, subservient or an armature to these works but integral to their effect. Both of these pieces are on their debut CD Dialogue, which is worth purchasing -- as I did after the concert. They finished the program with Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone from the soundtrack of Roland Joffé 1986 film “the Missions” which seem fresh and new.

It is the fresh and new that comes to music heard live in performances that make festivals like the Honens Piano Festival in Calgary and the COC Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre essential to acquiring a liking for chamber music, Opera, Broadway musicals, jazz music beyond the canned pop/ rock hip hop house music heard on radio. Music of any ilk heard live and played well is persuasive and having spent the last 8 weeks making the effort to go out and listen has reawakened old loves. On Sunday October 26th, I went to the last concert of the Global Cabaret put on by Soul Pepper Theatre to hear jazz singer Jackie Richardson roar like a dove and coo like a lion as she has always done. She is a performer I have been seeing live since she stopped the show in a production of the Three Penney Opera by Brecht and Weill at Young People’s Theatre in 1979. She still stops the show and with that I will also stop.

Step out side your door and go hear some live music. Its good for your insides.


1*  You can hear the works of Derek Holman on line through the Canadian Music Centre website

2*  Canadian Art Song Project, Colin Ainsworth and his former U of T instructor and accompanist Stephen Ralls are part of the Canadian Art Song Project  which is looking to record, archive and preserve the works of Canadian composers including the works of Derek Holman

I have made a "Play List" on YouTube to track the music I have been hearing, most of the pieces in this article are on it, few are by the performers I have heard.

You can find it here:

 Visual interlude Weather/ Tree/ Double Landscape, 1993, acrylic on canvas board,  by  Joe Lewis 1993
Performers seen in the order they are mentioned 

Oboist Vincent Boilard

Pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard

Jazz Vocalist Rebecca Jenkins

Pianist Alexander Tharaud

Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov

Pianist Georgy Tchaidze

Ensemble Wild West New Music Ensemble

Pianist Samson Tsoy

Vocalist Colin Ainsworth, Tenor

Pianist Stephen Ralls

Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio members

Vocalist Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Tenor,
Vocalist Iain MacNeil, bass-baritone

Pianist Jennifer Szeto,

Pianist Anastasia Rizikov


Honens Piano Festival

Canadian Opera Company

Jeunesses Musicales Ontario
Composers mentioned in article (all from Wikipedai)

Igor Stravinsky (b. June 17 1882 d, April 6 1971)

Richard Wagner (b.22 May 1813 d. 13 February 1883)

Mahler, (b.7 July 1860 – d. 18 May 1911)

Erik Satie (b. 17 May 1866 – d. 1 July 1925)

Maurice Ravel (b. March 7, 1875 – d. December 28, 1937)

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet, OM, GCVO (b. 2 June 1857 – d. 23 February 1934)

Paul Hindemith (b. 16 November 1895 – d. 28 December 1963)

Derek Holman (b. 16 May 1931)

George Butterworth (12 July 18855 August 1916)

Ivor Gurney (28 August 189026 December 1937)

Tchaikovsky (b. May 7, 1840,  d. November 6, 1893)

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky 21 March 1839 – 28 March 1881)

Sergei Rachmaninov (b. April 1, 1873 – d. March 28, 1943)

Mily Balakirev (b. January 2, 1837 d, May 29, 1910)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  (b.27 January 1756 – d. 5 December 1791)

Nikolai Kapustin (b. November 22, 1937)

Francis Poulenc (b. January 7, 1899, d. January 30, 1963)

Mathieu Lussier (b.1973)
Luciano Berio (b. October 24, 1925 – d. May 27, 2003)

John Cage (b. September 5, 1912 – d. August 12, 1992)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Re-Dressing a Wall.

Close up detail, photo by Joe Lewis
September 18-October 5 2014
Craft Ontario
990 Queen Street West
Toronto Ontario 
Opening reception: Thursday September 18 2014 6-9pm.

With a plethora of shapes and a multiplicity of colour and textures, Fate, Destiny and Self Determination spreads itself across the wall of Craft Ontario’s gallery space in a riotous constellation. Aesthetically exciting and intellectually inviting, this project is a celebration of tapestry weaving and its history, interpreted through the hands of many, using many techniques. Felted, knitted, crocheted, woven and mixed-media pieces from fibre enthusiasts from more the 22 countries are featured in this community creation, conceived of and executed by Canadian tapestry artist, weaver and educator Line Dufour.  

Although Fate, Destiny And Self Determination as a title speaks to many things in life, in this case, the focus is on tapestry as medium of expression, and its history and development as a decorative technique.  Despite the philosophical interpretation of the title, pessimism or optimism, the individual’s ability to exist with in a master plan, that regardless of individual self has already accommodated your difference, not unlike a “factory” produced tapestry built on an artist cartoon, there is an over all cohesion of structure provided by the technique itself. The technique of tapestry is to use the weft threads (compacted to hide the warp threads) to create an image on the surface/ front of a piece of cloth. You are born, you breathe, time passes and you die, what philosophy you chose the end result is the same. Some may find that a pessimistic outlook that disallows the individual’s choice to have any influence on the outcome, the “deity” / designer / structure holding the whole in place unalterable, others may have an optimistic security in knowing/ believing there is a structure that will bare the weight of their existence. Either way there is a beginning (anchor 1), a middle and an end (anchor 2) and in the case of the “Fate, Destiny And Self Determination: Tapestry Project, I can quote Gertrude Stein and say “but not necessarily in that order.”      

Line Dufour, from her base of operations the Toronto Weavers School, brought this project about through what I see as five separate components: the cartoon, the segmenting and distribution of those segments, the bringing together of these dispersed elements, and the mounting / design of the exhibition itself. The fifth component, or possibly the first, is the entire process being documented in a journal of sorts, which exists online in numerous postings on Tapestry Blog. You can see the individual shapes along with the creation of the two anchors.

The creation of these anchors speaks of a period of European tapestry production dating back to the Middle Ages, when tapestry manufacturing produced large scale pictorial wall hangings rather than small decorative works, rugs, or elements on garments. With many individuals working side by side across the warp, making a single Tapestry hanging, the uniformity of the whole piece was the goal along with a low price point in a growing and competitive market place. Individual skill and creative imagination were not the point, speed and accuracy were.  These types of “wall hangings” inform our collective knowledge of what a tapestry is, but have shifted from the position of dominance they held over painting as an art form, which prior to and  through the renaissance was a decorative face to a wall or furnishing, not a portable flat canvas or board that we associate with painting. While a portable painting from this period may be thought of as a finished product today, then it was only the sketch from which a scaled up cartoon was made in order to create the tapestry which was the end result of choice, since   hanging a textile based upon a painted image had been a less expensive way to decorate if you could not afford a fresco. Frescoes came along, (replacing hung textiles which provided a form of much needed insulation as well as décor), as a marker of permanence and power, but lost ground to tapestry as a marker of wealth along with power. The imagery was predominately narrative, whether mythical, religious or depicting actual events such as specific battles, and spoke to the shoppers/ clients/ patron’s ego, not the makers, and as in earlier frescos and latter painting, the client’s likeness was often incorporated into a dominant figure in the tapestry. This type of many-handed “manufacturing” had been ongoing since the renaissance, with the same “commemorative” function, however, by the mid-Victorian era, the gain of a secondary market of collectors, along with commissioning patrons, allowed for the shift of tapestry into the merely “decorative” market rather than its previous dominance of the pre-fine art European marketplace.

The individual submitted shapes mark the post world war two Studio Craft movement which for tapestry weavers began earlier in the 20th century when a combination of trends in modern architecture, construction materials and the newly invented job of interior designer made renaissance tapestry blasé (not to mention  too large for smaller domestic space the rich came to inhabit).  While the tapestry factories, which had become fewer, continued to shut down, the encouragement for individual experimentation and weavers to work independently with their own designs came to dominance in design schools in Europe, most notably, the Bauhaus. At this time, architects of featureless cement and steel buildings (the form over function world) called for tapestry to add warmth/ colour and deaden sound in their creations, whether large scale corporate lobbies or stark individual homes or apartments.  Tapestry weavers moved out of the factory and into their own studios, and after WW2 entered the Art versus Craft world, which was a location they had not previously inhabited, being that Tapestry had been located in its own territory for nearly five centuries as handmade decorative objects and as status symbols. Tapestries were one of the few fibre based products that had not been changed or mechanized by the industrial revolution, yet they proved to be inspiration for the assembly line.

In Fate, Destiny and Self Determination, the right and left sides of the cartoon, which are the full height of the cartoon, were worked on as complete pieces, by many individuals who were students of the Toronto Weavers School, along with invited guests and people who just dropped in.  I, myself, dropped in twice: once by myself, and once to bring California based fibre artist Valentyna Royenko Simpson, whom I had met at the European Textile Network’s 2011 symposium in Kaunas Lithuania during the Kaunas Textile Biennial, who was visiting Toronto and I was showing her around.  The rest of the “shapes” were sent to individual textile artist, weavers, knitters, felt makers etc. from across the planet, which were invited or responded to a call to participate.

While choosing to remain independent of the industrial world, the current users of this technique dedicate their individual imagination and creative energy to making unique and individual objects.  The restriction of shape (but not size) for this project has produced results ranging from definitive expression of their practice and/or bold leaps in experimentation from the tapestry weaving to very interesting creations in other fibre based manipulations.

With the installation of this concept and its components across the gallery wall Line Dufour present a first sighting of a work in progress. Seeing this seductive community tapestry live has been a breath taking experience. Craft Ontario needs to be thanked for choosing to allow this project to come to life on their wall, To Line Dufour for proceeding from concept onward and to all those who participated to make this object into the event it became.

The installation of this concept and its components streak across the gallery wall creating a universe of colour and texture it succeeds

Links related to this story

Line Dufour: Tapestry Line Unlimited
Tapestry Line Blog
 Toronto Weaving School at

Craft Ontario

Canadian Tapestry Network
American Tapestry Alliance

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Everything old is new: Textiles on the Cutting Edge of Time

Ying Gao, Science is Fiction, 2013, silver- coated medical cotton. Photo: Dominique Lafond Image provided by Textile Museum of Canada  (TMC) used with permission

Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao
May 7, 2014 - September 1, 2014
The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation
June 11, 2014 - September 21, 2014
Curators: Shauna McCabe, Executive Director Natalia Nekrassova,Curator, Collections and Research, Roxane Shaughnessy, Curator, Collections and Access and Sarah Quinton, Curatorial Director
Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Avenue, Toronto Ontario
Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles
June 21, 2014 to January 25, 2015
Curators: Anu Liivandi, Assistant Curator (Textiles & Fashions), Karin Ruehrdanz, Senior Curator (Islamic Decorative Arts), Lisa Golombek,Curator Emeritus (Islamic Art) Retired
Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, Level 4
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario
Reiko Sudo + NUNO, Textiles from Japan
July 11 to November 22, 2014
Curator: Alan Elder of the Canadian Museum of History
Norah Rosamond Hughes Gallery
Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
3, Rosamond St. E. Almonte, Ontario

Mantel panel fragment with figures wearing hats and tunics, Peru, 1350 to 1540 CE, cotton and camelid hair, T2005.17.7. Gift of Pascal Muzard and Nieves Carrasco, Image provided by TMC used with permission

Eternity Code: The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, an exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, beings with a time line. The following findings date to the pre-Christian era of archaeological time:

-30,000 BCE Oldest evidence of textile fibres, discovered in Dzudzuana Cave, Georgia. (*a)

-27,000 BCE, Earliest evidence of woven textiles, found on clay figurines at Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic.

-8,600-800 BCE Plant fibre basketry in practice, discovered in Guitarrero Cave in the Andes.

-3000 BCE Date of earliest complete garment found anywhere in the world, an Egyptian Linen Shirt.

-3000 BCE Evidence of domestication of fleece-bearing camelids (Llamas and alpacas) in highland Peru.

-1500 BCE earliest evidence of wool in Europe, recovered from Danish bog burial.

 - 400 BCE Every weaving technique is present in pre-Hispanic Peru.

 Eventually it brings us up to modern day with:
-2013 CE Discovery of the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari civilization that build South America’s earliest empire.

During the summer of 2014 in Ontario. there is an opportunity to see some of the oldest textiles in Museum collections in Canada and some of the most cutting edge industrially manufactured textiles. Along with The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation at the Textile Museum, there is: Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles at The Royal Ontario Museum. You can see the innovative cutting edge fashion textiles in Reiko Sudo + NUNO, Textiles from Japan at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte Ontario, and medical textiles in Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao at the Textile Museum of Canada.

TMC: Fashioning the Intangible: the conceptual clothing of Ying Gao, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener Image provided by TMC used with permission
While few of older textile fragments are ever shown en mass because of conservation necessities, they are a valuable research asset to the institutions that house them. Exhibiting older textiles along with contemporary fibre art and design is often used to add context or show inspiration/ influences on the contemporary work. In this case these four exhibitions in the three different institutions are independent of each other and have four different curatorial frameworks. For me to write about them for a reader who may not have the opportunity to see the exhibitions, I need to find a connection beyond the obvious one of textiles. The connection in this case is the use of metallic - not because they are omnipresent throughout - but they provide a route into the relationships and approaches to industrial R&D, technical production and the science of fibre behaviour. I have seen three of the four exhibitions. I have not seen the Reiko Sudo exhibition in Almonte yet; however, I have seen an exhibition of this work at the Kuneo Textile Biennial in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 2011, and I have just received the exhibition catalogue the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum produced to accompany the exhibition and it is work of NUNO studio that made metallics the starting point for this essay.

Naomi Polllock, an American architect, lives in Tokyo where she writes about design. In her essay, “A Short History of NUNO,” about the early training of NUNO founder Junichi Arai, she comments:

“The scion of a long line of textile producers, Arai hails from Kiryu, a historic textile manufacturing town northwest of Tokyo, where his family has lived and worked for generations. Although Aria toyed with a career in theatre, he remained home and entered the family mill. There he learned the nuts and bolts side of the industry and oversaw the production of cloth for both Western- and Japanese-style garments. This included a local version of Lame made by wrapping silk yarn with gold or silver threads- the birth of Aria's fascination with metallized fabrics”

Spatter Gloss, 1990, Designed by Reiko Sudo, Alloy spattering; 100% polyester. Image provided by MVTM used with permission 
She then writes “One of (Reiko) Sudo’s first independent endeavours borrowed a plating technique from the automotive industry. Called “Spattering” the process is often used to coat door handles and frames with a plastic substance resembling steel “I really wanted to make shiny, metallic textiles, so I began experimenting with this technique.” says Sudo. Working closely with technicians at the textile plant, she experimented with ways to apply this plating method to various types of polyester. Aptly named 'Spattering Gloss,” Sudo's astonishing finished product has a sheen of polished steel but the fluidity of fabric” [1]

a Qasab fragment (Gauzy linen tabby with silk and gold tapestry, Egypt, Mid-11th century, 980.78.111.A Wilkinson Collection, Gift of Albert and Federico Friedberg Image provided by the ROM used with permission 
These two methods of creating a metallic surface; weaving metallic wrapped yarns and the seemingly modern method of adhering/ applying the metal foil/leaf directly to an already constructed surface can be seen on textiles from the range of time represented in all of these exhibitions. At the ROM, in Cairo Unwrapped, there is a Qasab fragment consisting of a Gauzy linen tabby with silk and gold tapestry (Egypt, Mid-11th century [980.78.111.A]), and a Tiraz fragment from 10th century Iran of Glazed mulham, (warp of fine raw silk floss with weft of heavier Z spun cotton in a tabby weave [2], ink, gold leaf (963.95.3). At the Textile Museum of Canada, Ying Gao's piece Science is Fiction, 2013, is made of silver-coated medical cotton, silver having anti-bacterial properties (b). This textile, like Sudo’s “Splatter Gloss" which consist of three powered metals, chrome, nickle, and iron the compotes of stainless steal, are produced in industrial situations with patented processes that aren’t readily available to textile/ fibre artists. There are, however, a large number of makers using metallic on the surface of their work using products available in the market place. Sparkly things that attracted the eye and reflect light have been in use for millennia. When it comes to contemporary products, the actual amount of the metal in the product ranges greatly. One can estimate the amount of metallic content of the metallic threads and foils and leafs you can buy at art, craft and sewing supply outlets from the price. The life span of these products will also be a guide to their content. The gold on the Islamic fragments on display at the ROM speak to the longevity of the real thing.

Tiraz Fragment, Glazed mulham, ink, gold leaf, Iran, 10th century, 963.95.3. Image provided by the ROM used with permission 
The journey the 80 textile fragments on display at the ROM have taken to get to this destination is quite varied. The early Islamic textiles, dating from the 7th to 14th centuries (including rare examples of clothing) have been gifted from individual private collections. Some of the earliest pieces were collected by Charles Trick Currelly (January 11, 1876 – April 10, 1957) (* c), the founding director of the Royal Ontario Museum. A small selection of fragments came from a 1980 archaeological dig at Fustat where approximately 300 Fatimid textiles were excavated by the American Research Center in Egypt under the direction of George Scanlon, with ROM participation. These pieces have yet to be conserved, and their being shown in this exhibition gives the public the opportunity to see the starting point of the process of conservation. A major theme of The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation at the Textile Museum of Canada, is conservation – a topic that is much on the minds of museum curators today. Indeed, at the press preview for Cairo Under wraps show at the ROM, I had a very interesting conversation with Jenny Poulin of the Canadian Conservation Institute who is analyzing dyes, glazing material and the materials/techniques used to produce the gold decoration on the Tiraz pieces. A paper on this will be published on the ROM website when it is ready.
TMC Flat Storage: The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener image provided by TMC used with permission [see below for more information]
The overview of the exhibit at the Textile Museum discusses both preservation of old textiles and their survival into the present, as well as conservation:
“How have textiles – among the most fragile and vulnerable artifacts – survived over centuries? Learn about the materials and techniques found in archaeological textiles and the conditions that have allowed for their survival through this exhibition of Peruvian and Coptic textiles from the Textile Museum of Canada collection… By their very nature, archaeological fibres are among the most fragile, extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. In 2013, the Textile Museum of Canada began research and development of new approaches to the conservation and storage of archaeological textiles to ensure enduring access to valuable artifacts of global heritage for future generations. Innovations introduced into the exhibition demonstrate the science of conservation as well as state-of-the-art advances in archaeological textile storage developed by the Textile Museum of Canada to provide the essential care and security of some of the most valuable and cryptic of human evidence”. (TMC exhibition overview)

Returning to the time line of events within the Christian era:
-1200 CE Irrigation canals transform Peruvian coastal desert allowing cultivation of cotton

-1476 CE Inca Empire established

-1534 CE Spanish conquer the Inca Empire in Peru

-1798 CE Napoleon Bonaparte and the French army invade Egypt

-1822 CE Jean-Francois Champolion deciphers the Rosetta Stone

-1911 CE Hiram Bingham rediscovers Machu Piccu, Peru

-1922 CE King Tutankhamen’s tomb discovered by Howard Carter
TMC Border fragment, Peru, 100 to 300 CE, camelid hair, T97X0010b, Image provide by TMC
used with permission

One of the oldest pieces on display in Eternity Code is a Border fragment, (TMC T97X0010b) from Peru (Nazca, 100 to 300 CE), made of Camelid hair. Its method of construction is described as cross-knit Looping. This particular technique was first diagrammed in Raoul D'Harcourt book Textiles of Ancient Peru and Their Techniques (1934) (in French) and is featured on the TMC, and Gardiner Museum’s 2010 co-presented web project “Cloth and Clay Communicating Culture” on the Government of Canada’s Virtual Museum website.This piece has been researched by independent scholars such as Rebecca Nelson Jacobs in her Archaeological Experiment: Re-creation of a Nasca Textile, Presidential Scholars Project” (*4) in 2004, under Dr. Bethany Usher from the Potsdam Anthropology Department. Jacobs attempted to create an archaeological replica of the border piece. Other pieces in the show have also been the subject of research projects instigated by the museum. For example, an Incan bag from Peru (1476 to 1534 CE) was also made of Camelid fibre using warp-faced, complementary warp, cross-knit looping was part of a materials study done in 2005. It is from the Opekar / Webster Collection (TMC T94.0999).

In 2005, curator Roxane Shaughnessay in partnership with researchers Dr. Christine White, Dr Andrew Nelson and Dr, Fred Longstaffe of the University of Western Ontario conducted isotopic analyses on camelid fibres from this Inca bag preserved on the coast of Peru, and other selected ancient Peruvian textiles in the TMC collection. Among the lines of inquiry that have been used to identify and contextualize pre-Hispanic textiles is isotopic analysis of camelid fibre (llama, alpaca) to determine diet, which can give us information on habitat of the animals whose fibres were used to create the textiles in the TMC collections. In turn, such information allows us to understand more about the habitat that the makers and/or users of the bag knew, as well as something about exchange networks in the Andes.

“The study attempted to shed some light on the question of whether the camelid fibre was brought to the coast pre-spun and pre-dyed from the highlands for use in weaving coastal textiles or whether llamas (and perhaps even alpacas) were imported to the coast from the highlands and raised there for periods of time. The tests analyzed fibres to determine if the animals ate a highland diet of plants and grasses, or a coastal diet of maize resources. The test showed that the samples from the bag showed highland dietary influences, which demonstrates a highland source of fibre, probably alpaca. The bag could have been brought from the highlands to the coast, or woven as an Inca tax obligation on the coast with wool imported from the highlands.” (TMC didactic)

TMC ‘Rolled Storage” The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation, installation shot, 2014. Photo: Jill Kitchener image provided by TMC used with permission [see below for more information]

The main impetus behind Eternity Code was the re-housing of the TMC’s oldest textiles. In 2011, the TMC requested a facilities assessment by the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa that looked at every aspect of the Museum from lighting to security to temperature control and included the storage area. The TMC is a small museum with limited resources and at this point in time had done the best with the resources they had to secure the collection and in finding the smartest ways to best improve the pieces. The result of this assessment provided the museum with a list of suggestions for the improvement of the storage of the collection. This became a blue print to follow. With the assessment, the museum was able to apply for funding for improving in the ways their oldest textiles were being stored. An existing digital photographic data base gave them a head start on this project in that a good record of past conditions of individual pieces was available to compare with the current condition of the artifacts. The earlier photographing of the collection had occurred in the mid-2000s using the then state of the art technologies. Even today, this is one of the best museum digital archives around. As this was done, many pieces that had never been shown or removed from the packaging they came to the museum in were returned to the same packaging – which seemed the best thing to do in the absence of a standardized system. As the project got underway in 2013 it became obvious that an exhibition could be built to showcase this work and the textiles that they would be re housing also provided the broader theme of symbolic meaning and cultural use, as well as the importance of conservation.

"In 2013, the Textile Museum of Canada began research and development of new approaches to the conservation and storage of archaeological textiles to ensure enduring access to valuable artifacts of global heritage for future generations. Innovations introduced into the exhibition demonstrate the science of conservation as well as state-of-the-art advances in archaeological textile storage developed by the Textile Museum of Canada to provide the essential care and security of some of the most valuable and cryptic of human evidence. Curated by Shauna McCabe, Natalia Nekrassova, Roxane Shaughnessy and Sarah Quinton and organized by the Textile Museum of Canada. Archaeological storage upgrades undertaken with the support of the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage". (TMC website exhibition overview).
Tunic fragment, Egypt, 6th to 7th century, wool, T90.0236a-d. Gift of Lloyd Solish Image provided by TMC used with permission

These four exhibitions offer a series of windows into an important human innovation that has been in use at least 30,000 years of human time, and probably more. Textiles are a locus on which humans apply imagination, skill and beauty. If you need one reason to go and see any or all of these exhibitions it is simply because textiles are beautiful to see. This is the first response one has to each of these artifacts. The information on technique, material, age, symbolic meanings are all secondary to that first response. The value of that information and the ways and means they are assessed and understood adds to our ongoing knowledge base -- but they don’t alter what you first see -- and what you see will engage you in as many ways as you allow it to do.
Praying Saint, Linen and wool tapestry, Egypt, 7th -8th century 980.78.37 Wilkinson Collection, gift of Albert and Federico Friedberg Image provided by the ROM used with permission



[1] REIKO SUDO + NUNO Textiles from Japan, Catalogue ISBN 978-0-9938427-0-2 (pbk)

Details for images of TMC storage displays

Follow the links to see images of the artifacts being stored from the TMC digital archive 

Display of Flat Storage Top right to left

Tunic Border, Peru, Central Coast, Chancay, 1200 to 1550 CE, cotton, camelid hair: slit tapestry woven, Gift of Thomas Kalman, TMC T82.0107

Band, Peru, Chimu, 1000 to 1476 CE, Cotton, camelid hair: tapestry woven, gift of Thomas Kalman TMC T82.0108

Bottom: right to left

Tunic decoration, Egypt, Coptic 7th century, wool, linen; Tapestry- woven, sewn, Gift of Andrew Vodstrcil, TMC T87.0407

Tunic Decoration Egypt, Coptic, 7th to 9th century, Linen, wool; plain-woven, tapestry-woven, gift of Andrew Vodstrcil TMC T87.0401

Tunic band Egyt, Coptic 6th to 7th century, linen wool; tapestry-woven, plain-woven, braided, sewn, gift of Mrs. Herta Vodstrcil, TMC T86.0137

Rolled Storage Box:

Left side of box
Belt, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE cotton camelid hair: warp-faced, complementary warp, gift of Pascal Muzard and Nieves Carrasco, TMC T2005.17.24

Fragment, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE cotton camelid hair: warp-faced, complementary warp from the Opekar / Webster Collection. TMC T94.1010

Right side of box

Belt Peru c.1000 CE Camelid hair: plain-woven, warp-faced, gift of Thomas Kalman. TMC T83.0241 (no image available) Belt Peru c.1000 CE Camelid hair: woven, TMC T97X0013 (no image available)

Belt, Peru 1000 to 1476 CE camelid hair: Plain-woven, supplementary warp, from the Opekar / Webster Collection TMC T94.1008

Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
Royal Ontario Museum
Textile Museum of Canada

Web project
Cloth and Clay Communicating Culture

Interesting Reads

(*a)  Dzudzuana: an Upper Palaeolithic cave site in the Caucasus foothills (Georgia) by Paul Goldberg published in Antiquity Volume: 85 Number: 328 Page: 331–349

(*b) “Antibacterial Activity Of SilverPhotodeposited Nepheline Thin Film Coatings” by Talieh Rajabloo;  Ceramics International Volume 38 Issue 7 2012 a journal published by Elsevier

(*c)  Researches in the Sinai. by Petrie, Flinders ( with chapters by Currelly, Charles Trick) New York: E.P. Dutton, 1906

(*d) Rebecca Nelson Jacobs ‘ “Archaeological Experiment: Re-creation of a Nasca Textile, Presidential Scholars Project”