Collections for Collaboration

 

Since closing my design inspiration studio a few years ago, I am parcelling out my collections to people who have a fresh  vision of how the textiles and their vitality can stimulate us now. The first is a project developed with my son, Caleb Sayan, who transformed the 40,000 items from the Design Archive into Textile Hive. see Projects in Progress.

Presented below are three rich groups which are available for development. I will offer more as time allows.

If a project suggests itself, please contact me!

The Peru Material

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Backstory

On my first visit to Peru spent time surveying and collecting in the Cuzco/Puno region, long since the most well-known “indigenous” area. I followed with short residencies in the North (the mountains of Cajamarca and it’s coastal neighbor, Lambayeque) and the high historic zone of Ayacucho.

 But it was the Sierra Central, just past the high mining zone east of Lima, which won my heart and we settled there for several yearsAt its heart is a commercial city surrounded by a rich agricultural valley where Spanish is widely spoken and the culture clearly mestizo. The perimeters elevate to zones well above the treelike and were populated by Quechua-speaking families of high altitude herdsmen and miners. It is also the only part of the country where weaving is still produced on tapestry as well as backstrap looms. Additional techniques are used to make a glorious variety of garments and accessories for both everyday use and costumes for the dances during holidays.

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Interested in the Peru material collection?

Download Andrea’s presentation.

andrea aranow textiles Peru central presentation

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Collection

The Cuzco section of the the woven material is limited to some 50 twentieth-century items. The yarns are hand spun & plied sheep’s wool or alpaca  and the weave technique is often backstrap. The group illustrates the variety of designs still existing in neighboring villages. Ponchos, belts, inner caps, coca bags and wraps for larger loads use patterns and colors (mainly aniline) traditional to their respective villages.

The Northern zone of Peru, here represented by textile from Lambayeque on the coast and the mountains of Cajamarca, were early and easily penetrated by the Spanish. Two imported forms, saddlebags and shawls, dominated the handwoven sector in the 1970s. have long since adopted motifs from European sources. Coastal bags range from those used by pack animals to smaller ones carried as  personal accessories, with designs copied from commercial cross-stitch books and further adorned with woven dates and owner’s names. The indigo and white cotton ikat shawls with elaborate macrame  are the outstanding triumphs of Cajamarca. Also included is a group of fishermen’s sheets in natural brown shades of cotton, grown locally in the coastal desert.

The textiles and toys from the Sierra Central comprise the largest section. Numbering over 600 pieces, there are four groups described and pictured in a presentation document available here. Another notable component not yet written up is the collection of accessories from Huancavelica, including braided slingshots from sheep’s wool or alpaca, men’s knitted socks, sleeves and inner hats; crocheted hip wraps  and woven garters, belts,  baby-wraps.

Several hundred similar pieces were purchased by The British Museum in 1981 and those  photographed thus far are shown on their website though few of these objects have been exhibited or published.

The Li Collection
Hainan, China

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Backstory

I arrived at Hainan Island for the first time late 1983, having already spent several months in China visiting hamlets of different minority groups in the South and Northwest. I had no inkling of the massive change which would occur once the island was designated a special economic zone., but the variety of techniques and complexity of motifs were unlike any I had seen. Collecting was slow and I suffered between the tropical humidity of the lowlands and the thorny paths leading up to the backcountry hill communities. But with four further trips over the following years, I eventually covered all of the Li territory on the island.

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LI Collection

Scholars name the Li as the original inhabitants of Hainan Dao, preceding the ethnic Han people who had come to dominate much of the coastal zone after centuries of trading along the spice routes. Though separated into several linguistic subgroups, all practice a reverence for ancestors which includes keeping clothing in beautifully fabricated tight basketry containers stored under the eaves. The fibers used include wild silk, kapok and cotton, hemp from the highlands where currency was scarce, and industrial yarns purchased in more commercial areas. Styles vary by region with ankle-length sarongs worn in some places and just a narrow hip wrap in others. The decorative aspects of the women’s shirts are more conspicuous than the style of fabrication. Warp ikat, often in indigo, distinguishes the sarongs from the western area. Strips of mica glint between the colored brocades of some small skirts which showcase multiple bands of symbols and anthropomorphic beings. Embroidery is used to both outline woven elements and on its own.

This rich sampling begs for comparison with textiles from other island cultures.

The Kimono Textile Zuan
Japan

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Backstory

In 1983 I arrived for a three year stay in Japan, curious to learn more about modern kimono design. There was little published material at the time, so the bulk of my research was done in a most basic way: collecting material and showing it to informants asking about fiber, date and technique. But this period coincided with the closing of many small Kyoto kimono companies as the market for such traditional wear lost currency; I was thus able to acquire a significant and wide collection of the original, hand painted life-sized designs, which I have kept intact.

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Collection

There are about 2,000 paintings, ranging in date from the late Meiji period to postwar. Some 650 of them have now been photographed and wrapped in archival material to preserve them. I’ve spent time in recent years showing these to a number of experts in Japan and find the story fascinating. The early  twentieth century was an exciting time in Japan as the national government tried hard to “catch-up” with the technology of the West. Modern influences flew fast in both directions. Alternating with nationalistic incantations of historic times were innovations in materials (from washi and sumi ink to gouache and commercial papers) and the stimuli of new marketing tactics as well as the introduction of two important new techniques: meisen, in which stencils were used to space-dye the threads  to imitate kasuri and widespread practice of kata-yuzen, which enabled designs with vertical repeats to be produced in quantity and much more cheaply. Finding no collections of comparable material available, researching and dating these anonymous works has been a creative challenge.