Skip to main content
Read page text

3

Contents

Well being

FEDOR VAN DER VALK CELEBRATES

inform

INDULGE textiles to buy, collect or simply admire.

13 Breathe deep Zen and the art of shopping. 82 Selvedge object... Texiles that will give you a warm glow in dark winter months.

17 indulge

THE BEAUTY OF WINTER BEACHES

On Tabanan beach on the island of Bali the sand is black, a strong current and high waves make it dangerous to swim. Yet the most beautiful and inspiring things can be found on this beach. Some are remains from objects, ritually offered to the sea by the local villagers. It is all taken by the sea, torn apart and thrown back. Precious findings are arranged on the beach like trophies. Small pieces of jewellery are made by combining and binding items with cords and strings of different colours. Larger pieces of bamboo are used to make simple constructions, covered with antique cloth bought in Ubud, cultural capital of the island of Bali.

INDUSTRY from craft to commerce.

15 Miscellany An age old story. 16 Wellbeing The quiet beauty of a winter beach. 26 Turning tail Traditional horsehair weaving. 46 Full recovery Marie O’Mahoney uncovers innovations in medical textiles.

selvedge.org

22

concept

Arabian knights

THE SEVEN POETS COATS

ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives.

25 Staying the course The lasting appeal of all things equestrian. 32 Horses for courses Wigs, brushes and violin bows.

...and drawing behind us, over our footmarks, The skirts of an embroidered woolen garment, to erase the footprints. IMRU’U-L-QAYS

‘Sihr halal’ is the lawful magic evoked by the words of pre-islamic Bedouin poets. Poets commanded great power and prestige in tribal society. A repository of the culture’s oral history, he was a living link to the past – and future – as he could immortalise a tribe or individual in verse. In the sixth century seven poets, the Mu'allaqat or 'hanging ones', were raised above all others and accorded the honour of being transcribed. As a result the poetry of Imru'u 'I-Qays, Tarafa, Zuhayr, Labid, Antara, Amr Ibn Kulthum and Harith survives, handed down through generations with immense pride and respect. Sally Hampson discovered their work after being invited to Egypt by the British Council to work with a group of Bedouin women weavers in

El Arish, North Sinia: “I had no idea what I was about to embark on,” explains Sally. Working with the women took her to remote, desert places where she experienced the day to day routine of Bedouin life. “Over cups of sweet tea and the odd hand-rolled cigarette, we discussed not only the spinning but also what was going on with the family, the neighbours,” recalls Sally. She also met archaeologists, egyptologists and scholars who one evening lead her to the Dutch Institute in Cairo, where Gert Borg was lecturing on Bedouin women's poetry. “It was so passionate and alive. My curiosity grew and lead me to the Mu'allaqat.” The reputations of these venerated poets hover on the edge of myth. Each has a title that encapsulates the legend of their life. Sally decided she wanted to capture these elusive individuals in tangible form. Their poetry tells stories of love, longing, bravery and journeys on horseback through the desert. Together, The Seven Poets Coats represent the nomadic lifestyle: they are garments that could have been taken by any Bedouin on their perpetual journeys but each is tailored to an individual. Antara, “The Black Knight”, is said to have been a warrior poet. His coat of padded and patched cotton is darkly stained with indigo and lined in a passionate shade of vermillion. Leather straps and tin decorate the coat which looks like it has been worn through an epic battle. In contrast, Tarafa, “the one the gods loved” was put to death in his twenties for writing satires on tribal leaders. His coat made from thin, pale silk has an angelic quality befitting his brief life. Despite its immense age the poetry of the Mu'allaqat lives on. Sally has met many people who can recite and quote the poems at length. In Marakesh she had no trouble finding men willing to wear the coats and exclaim the poetry in a performance. In fact the familiarity caused Sally to hesitate: “I was slightly nervous showing the coats to an audience who grew up with these wonderful poems, but hoped the coats would add another layer to the mythology.” The response has been all Sally hoped for. Further collaborations grew when the coats were shown at the 1st Cultural Festival in Dohar Qatar, including a piece filmed in the desert with Tunisian film maker, Taibe Lucciani. It seems amid the thud of the hooves and the spray of sand, the journey goes on. •••

CONCEPT textiles in fine art.

22 Arabian knights The seven poets coats. 28 Down to the line The substance of Marian Bijlenga’s ethereal artworks 58 Reeling in the years Film Video Textiles Time.

selvedge.org

indulge

40

Sally Hampson

ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends.

Scant excuse

WHERE BRITISH WOMEN DRAW THE BOTTOM LINE

It is proclaimed by those in the know that as a nation we in the UK are experiencing greater wealth than ever. It seems that we have evolved from being a nation of shopkeepers into one of active Olympian shoppers equipped with sharpened credit cards and a growing taste for luxury goods. This apparently unslakeable thirst for spending has found its way to the burgeoning market for what is coyly known in the trade as "intimate apparel’ or undies to the rest of us. Whilst our Gallic sisters across the Channel hold the reputation for world-class foundation dressing, British women appear to be making a sterling effort to improve the appearance and quality of their underthings. Long derided as wearers of saggy and discoloured rib height applecatchers, we are at last becoming a little more sophisticated and discerning in our choice of lingerie. According to experts, French women are still ahead of the game when it comes to lace and frillies. Unlike Les Anglaises, they are unembarrassed by signalling and

celebrating their sexuality with delicate and alluring scraps of chantilly. By comparison British women are relatively sober and will generally prioritise comfort and modesty over what they might regard as frivolity or raciness. The reasons for this are unclear but perhaps taste is influenced by our Puritan past, historically rigid class systems and the spectre of Victorian prudery? The term "loose woman" came from the Victorian notion that a woman who wore a loosely laced corset or no corset at all was ready for action and therefore the possessor of less than pristine morals. Of course it may have been the case that some Victorian ladies just couldn’t bear the thought of having their vital organs squeezed together like pressed ham and rebelled by throwing their corsets and caution to the air, which they were then free to breathe in with fully capacitated lungs. For the rest of the constrained Victoriennes rescue was at hand in the form of Vicountess Haberton and Mrs E M King, who in 1881 formed the Rational Dress Society. The Society decreed that no woman should be expected to wear more than 7lbs. of underwear, an extraordinary proposal for 21st century women who would probably refuse 7oz.; but this was half the weight worn by most women in the 1850s. The Society was not keen on the disabling and sometimes deforming whalebone corset, but enthusiastically embraced the "Sanitary Woollen System". This rather unattractive range of woollen undergarments was developed from somewhat spurious ‘scientific theories’ put forward by one Dr Gustave Jaeger. Jaeger decreed that undyed, natural wool worn next to the skin, and also used for bed sheets, would prevent "noxious exhalations of the body", absorb perspiration and allow the skin to breathe – unlike silk or cotton! Jaeger’s eccentric ideas and underwear were championed by the likes of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw who both wore full wrist to ankle wool jersey "Union Suits" beneath their clothing everyday, even in summer. For women the good Doctor produced a wool jersey ‘corset’ in which cording was used to replace stiff boning. This relaxed garment was front-buttoning with adjustable shoulder straps and pleated pouches for the breasts, an altogether different beast from the conventional corset. Although modern skins might find these thick, woolly and probably quite itchy garments extremely uncomfortable and a pain to keep freshly laundered, Jaeger’s emphasis at the time was on comfort and hygiene. The popular properties of Dr Jaeger’s wool tricot caught the eye of iconoclastic designer Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, and in the 1910s she began producing rather natty separates from it for her clientelle of urbane, globetrotting sophisticates. Needless to say this caused something of a stir: although Europe was living in decadent times it was still something of a shock to see ladies of quality displaying themselves for all to see in what was known and recognised as knicker fabric. The onset of World War 1 saw traditional corsetry eclipsed by less restrictive and more elastic undergarments which were imperative for an increasingly active female

34 Cobbled together When Norway and Japan unite the result is peculiarly pretty. 40 Scant excuse Where British women draw the bottom line. 66 Slippery slope The taste travesties and technical triumphs of skiwear.

selvedge.org

COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed.

64 Museum piece Mark Pollack finds his place in history.

68 Snug as a bug Sasha Gibbs’ ban on souless interiors.

69 cohabit

inform inspire insight

68

Snug as a bug

SASHA GIBB’S BLANKET BAN ON SOULESS INTERIORS

Sasha Gibb would like to build the world a

home, and furnish it with love. She didn't actually mention apple trees, honeybees or snow-white turtle doves but you sense they are there, adding to the overall atmosphere. The blankets Sasha makes are the stuff of drowsy afternoons spent curled up on the sofa, indolent as a cat, gazing through the window at the pouring rain. Under these soft blankets napping is not that headlong fall into unconsciousness that leaves you disorientated, dehydrated and headachy for the entire afternoon, but a mythical burst of sleep from which you awake flushed yet refreshed, ready to jump up and bake cookies before the children get home. It's all about comfort and few can resist. Sasha tells of the architects and staunch minimalists who commission her blankets for their well ordered, uncluttered homes. Perhaps they are a guilty secret – hidden behind flush wall panels and only pulled out when it all gets a bit too much? Are troubled architects across the world curled up on their Eames chaise longues, hiding under vintage blankets? No one would blame them and Sasha herself is delighted. She aims to beautify and spread warmth to the chilliest interiors. She sets about her task without recourse to the fussier elements of design prefering materials that she describes as “honest and plain”. There is a strong market for simplicity: most pieces are commissioned but London stores such as Mint and Saltwater also stock her work. Supply ebbs and flows depending on how much Sasha can produce. She creates everything herself and finds it difficult to imagine

GLOBAL travel destinations and ethnographic textiles.

53 Did you clothe me? Textiles charities working for change. 72 Spirit of snows The Tibetan nomads.

The blankets are the stuff of afternoons spent curled up on the sofa, indolent as a cat, gazing through the window at the pouring rain.

selvedge.org

INFORM the latest news, reviews and exhibition listings.

04 bias / contributors 07 news Trends and essential ideas 84 read In Her Hands LaThai Textiles Textiles from India Reading List 88 international listings Exhibitions, fairs and events 90 view Caroline Broadhead Zane Berzina Skin stories Fold 93 coming next The Archive issue: Bringing textile treasures into the light 87 Book extract Fashioning Fabrics 95 stockists 80 subscription offers January Sale on subscriptions and back issues – plus a pretty Merlin Tregwynt coin purse for every new subscriber and renewal! A subscription to Selvedge makes the perfect Valentine’s gift. Keep your lover in the loop...

selvedge.org

global

72

Spirit of snows

THE TIBETAN NOMADS

thermals and herds of yaks and sheep graze the low hills that cradle their encampments. The Nyima tribe lies on the plain, its twenty black yak-hair tents arranged in the shape of a turtle, the symbol of protective water and earthly spirits. All the tents face due south and, as the sun moves from east to west in the sky, the beam of sunlight that penetrates the slit in the tent roof moves from west to east inside, telling the family what time it is. Every tent interior is similar. At its heart is the clay fire, with women to the left of it and men to the right. Most have an altar in the top corner. A small cupboard contains pictures of Tibetan lamas, small brass cups for filling with water as an offering and butter lamps burning fragrantly. An enormous vat of yoghurt, cooking pots, wooden pails, water barrels and the milk churner occupy the women’s side. Then there is a mountain of dried dung, its size a direct reflection of the women’s industriousness. To the rear, under a sheet of plastic, are skin-clad boxes of butter, sacks of barley, rice, flour, cheese, clothes and rush baskets of tea – everything has its place. In the evening after the yaks have been tied up, woven rugs are laid out and everyone sits around the fire, talking, laughing and eating supper, usually tuckpa (a soup of meat and rice noodles) and tsampa (roasted barley dough), or momos (the traditional dish, of steamed parcels of meat, resembling tortellini). Shadows dance over the yak-wool roof and a silk prayer wheel squeaks rhythmically as it turns in the updraft. The smell of juniper and dung-smoke fills the air. The children collapse after a day at play and there is a consciencious search for nits in their clothes. Then they are put to bed in a row in a sheepskin, their heads poking out of the top. They lie listening to the soporific lull of family chatter in the firelight, the distant howl of a lone wolf, the dogs barking, their father sucking on his pipe. The Amdo nomads on the far eastern side of the Tibetan Plateau have lived this way for centuries and many aspects of their tribal culture remain unchanged. They still embrace many of the original shamanistic and Bon disciplines of Tibet, despite their acceptance of Buddhism, which was introduced in the seventh century. The hostility of their natural environment has fostered the nomads’ religious preoccupation with taming the land. They place great importance on optimising good luck and minimising bad luck by propitiating the gods that determine their fate, and their ritual worship extends to all deities, residing in the three realms of existence: the sky, the earth and the subterranean. The most powerful gods are those that live on the mountain peaks. These warrior-like gods, nyen, are violent territorial lords, who require propitiation with complex ritual and offering. The mountain, Amnye Kula, which stands omnipresent behind the Nyima tribe, takes the form of a man carrying a spear and riding a white horse. On auspicious days, the men of the tribe appease the mountain god with hdir, or treas-

selvedge.org

The first glimpse of fluttering fabric as you

round the ridge of the Wild Yak Range is the prayer flags. They fly from wooden stakes standing sentry on the peaks of each holy mountain, pegging the earth and heralding the mountain god, their block-printed, rainwashed script flailing in the wind. Dotting the panorama of snow-mountains and rolling emerald valleys, it is only these tiny sacred totems that point to the presence of men as you first enter this vast, mysterious wilderness. At 11,000ft, winding down through the valleys to the wide Machu grasslands at the first bend of the Yellow River, black nomad tents hug the earth. Hawks spiral on the warm

Serge Kozak/Alamy; View Stock/Alamy

selvedge.org

My Bookmarks


Skip to main content