Pitt Rivers Museum - Textiles Exhibition

Treasured Textiles - cloth and clothing around the world

12.00 - 20 May 2006 - 8 June 2008
Textiles exhibition

This exhibition explores the vibrant patterning of textiles and costume that is possible using weaving, printing, dyeing and stitching. Examples on display range from 19th century embroidered satin robes from China to contemporary painted cloths with lively animal motifs made in West Africa.

One of the highlights of the show is the Indian women’s clothing made in Mexico and Guatemala in the 1930s. Gloriously decorative in colour and design, the patterning on these garments has been developed through brocaded hand weaving on a backstrap loom combined with additional ornament in appliqué and embroidery.

The textiles for the exhibition have been selected from the Pitt Rivers Museum’s reserve collections to focus on the way that textile techniques contribute to design, decoration and adornment. One section explores the way in which patterning is created by resist techniques. Resist-dyed batiks from Indonesia are shown alongside a range of other resist-patterned cloths, including ikat textiles from India, Borneo and Japan as well as a striking silk ikat robe from Afghanistan in yellow, purple, pink, crimson and green.  Indigo dyed adire cloths from Nigeria are similarly made using resist techniques with patterning formed in different hues of blue.

Some of the most eye-catching pieces are the blouse panels (mola) made in the San Blas Islands off Panama.  Many visitors have remarked that the boldness of these mola designs is reminiscent of the work of painters such as Matisse. Yet mola textiles are not painted or printed but formed of interlocking pieces of cut fabric which are layered to give the blouse panels a three-dimensional appearance.

Embroidered textiles are also well represented in the exhibition - as in the baby carrier made in a Miao village, Guizhou Province,China in the mid 20th century. This finely-worked piece combines embroidered jewel-like flowers which  alternate with an endearing motif of a fish built up in appliqué.