Saturday, May 31, 2014

Persian Rugs[1-2]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience, I have listed posts below that also focus on rugs.
Navajo Rugs
Caucasian Rugs
Turkish Rugs

The Achaemenid Empire (Persian: امپراتوری هخامنشی) (ca. 550 – 330 BC) - also known as the Persian Empire - was the successor state of the Median Empire, ruling over significant portions of what would become Greater Iran. The Persian and the Median Empire taken together were also known as the Medo-Persian Empire, which encompassed the combined territories of several earlier empires.

The Persian Empire was the largest empire by geographical extent in ancient times; at the height of its power, the empire encompassed approximately 8 million km2. The empire was forged by Cyrus the Great, and spanned three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. However, for the sake of today’s post we shall constrain it to its heartland – that of Iran.

The heartland of the Persian Empire – Iran.

There is an excellent book written on the needlework of miniature Persian rugs[1] and another on oriental carpets in general[2]. Some of the former have been donated to the Toy & Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Missouri (USA). There are no better books for you to purchase in these areas.

The post today will deal with the design of Persian rugs. The images of most designs are those reproduced by Frank M. Cooper using his needlepoint techniques[1].

Some Facts about Iran
The heartland of the old Persian Empire is Iran. In Persian, the word “Iran” means - “Land of the Aryans” - since the Medes were of Aryan origin and the first people to unify Iran by the 6th Century BC.

Modern Iranian fashion on the catwalk.

One of the tribes, the Magi, were powerful Zoroastrian priests. The most famous Magi are the “Three Wise Men” of the Christian Nativity story who brought gifts to the newborn Christ. The 13th Century Italian explorer Marco Polo claimed to have visited the graves of the “Three Wise Men” in what is now Iran’s capital Tehran.

Zoroastrian priests from Yazd, Iran (1800s).

The official name of Iran is the Islamic Republic of Iran. It became an Islamic Republic in 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown and religious clerics assumed political power under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. In the modern era, nearly half of Iran has an arid desert climate. It receives less than 4 inches of precipitation each year. Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, with settlements dating back to 4000 BC. Most homes in Iran do not have tables and chairs. Instead, people sit on cushions on the floor to eat their meals. Hence rugs are an important commodity in Iran even to this day. After oil, Iran’s second largest export commodity is carpets. In 2007, Iran produced the world’s largest handmade carpet for a mosque in the United Arab Emirates. It was the size of a soccer field.

With a surface of 60,546 square feet (5,625 square meters), the carpet is the size of a soccer field and was woven by 1,200 weavers in three villages over 18 months. The giant carpet was ordered for a monumental new mosque in the United Arab Emirates.

Iranians have woven beautiful rugs for over 2,500 years. When creating rugs, Iranian weavers often make a mistake intentionally. They want to show their belief that “...only God is perfect.”

The Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran. The traditional Shia mosque was built from 1876 to 1888 and thrives as an active place of worship as well as a protected historical site to this day.

The Iranian population in 2012 was 78,868,711, making it the 18th most populated country in the world. Persians make up the most of Iran (61%), followed by Azeri (16%), Kurd (10%), Lur (6%), Baloch (2%), Arab (2%), Turkmen and Turkic tribes (2%), and other (1%). Islam is the dominant religion in Iran at 98%: Shia 89% and Sunni 9%. Other religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and the Baha’i faith make up the remaining 2%.

Carpets made by Azeris.

Persian Carpets
It is claimed that Baluchi rugs are woven in Baluchistan, which is partly in Iran and partly in Pakistan, thereby woven by the Baluci tribes, 100 miles south of Meshed. These tribes were brought from Baluchistan by Nadir Shah in the eighteenth century and today make up the core of the Baluchi population of the province.

The rug pattern of these tribes has remained relatively unique, for these tribes live in a very desolate area that is cut off from neighbors by deserts and mountain ridges.

Baluchi I. Subdued colors are very characteristic of the Baluchi rugs and they can be found in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Kansas City, Missouri (USA).
Courtesy of reference[1].

On either side of the mihrah (see below) – that portion of the design that is pointed toward Mecca during prayers, are the representation of hands. Here the faithful place their hands as they kneel in prayer and touch their foreheads to a small tablet placed at the apex of the mirah. This tablet is sometimes made of earth from Mecca. The devoted say prayers five times a day – at sunrise, midday, four hours after midday, sunset and one hour after sunset.

Baluchi II.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The city of Hamadan is approximately 150 miles southwest of Tehran, on the site of the ancient biblical city of Ecbatana, where the tomb of Esther and Mordecai is located. Other than their characteristic coloring there are several other characteristics of a Hamadan rug that aids in their identification. For example, the design is usually simpler than that of other Persian rugs. Also, generally the homespun yarn is heavier than that from other villages, and the pile is cut high.

Hamadan Rug.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The Persian Kurds occupy an area in NorthWestern Iran, extending from Hamadan to the borders of Turkey and Iraq. This area is very mountainous and inaccessible, and except for the tribes living in the less rugged Eastern region, the inhabitants are nomadic or semi-nomadic.

In Kurdistan there are three types of rug weaves, which differ greatly from each other: the weave of the nomadic or settled tribes; the weave of the city of Bijar and its forty or more surrounding villages; and the Senneh weave found in the city of the same name.

The nomadic rugs are more rustic and unsophisticated than those made in either of the two cities. Those from the Bijar area are more densely tied with heavier material so that the finished rug has to be rolled instead of folded to prevent it from cracking. The Senneh rugs have more numerous and soft warp threads; both the warp and weft are cotton instead of wool. Because there are twice as many warp threads as usual, the weft must be thinner and the yarn spun finer. The knots are clipped more closely so that the design shows up more clearly. The end product is a thin, soft, flexible rug with a beautiful and exquisite sophisticated design.

Kurdistan rug. The rug that inspired this design [1] is in the McMullan Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
Courtesy of reference[1].

In NorthWestern Iran, just West of Hamadan and East of Kermanshah and close to the lofty mountain Alvand, is where the Seraband rugs are woven. There are several hundred villages in this area, all producing rugs of essentially the same design.

A Seraband rug has a red, blue or white field, which is filled with rows of boteh (“pine” or “leaf”) facing left and right in alternate rows. If the field is red, the boteh will be blue; if the field is blue, the boteh will be red; if the field is white, both colors will be used for the boteh. Often the designs of these rugs have been reflected in the Paisley shawl designs, where it was copied from the shawls of the Kashmiri, who in turn had taken it from the rugs of Persia.

Serabnd rug. The main border is about the same width as the combined width of two adjacent borders, which are filled with undulating vines and rosettes. The outer border has the omnipresent trefoil motif, balanced by a saw tooth border that encloses the field.
Courtesy of reference[1].

A kilim is a flat rug with no pile woven on a loom, with vertical warp threads and horizontal weft threads. To create the design in the rug, the weft threads do not extend from selvedge to selvedge, but rather they are woven back and forth around selected warp threads to form blocks of color. As a result, there is a slit in the fabric where the two colors meet. For this reason a straight perpendicular line cannot be more than a few weft threads deep or the strength of the rug would be diminished by the long slit. If long vertical lines are a part of a design they must be slightly irregular.

A kilim is not as sturdy as a pile rug, because it does not have the hand-tied knots that reinforce the warp and the weft. If a kilim is used as a rug, however, the custom of removing shoes when entering a domicile will ensure its relatively long life.

Kilims are produced in almost all the same areas where knotted rugs are made. They are made with little or no pattern when they need to be especially strong.

Shiraz rug.
Courtesy of reference[1].

[1] F. M. Cooper, Oriental Carpets in Miniature, Interweave Press, Colorado (1994).
[2] Ulrich Schurmann, Oriental Carpets, Hamlyn Publishing, London (1966).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Batiks from Kintore[1-2]
Aboriginal ArtCloth

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The batiks of Kintore were generated by a small group of Pintupi women, who created them after doing workshops on the batik process. The ArtCloths were discarded, but fortunately for us, were found by Marina Strocchi (art coordinator) in a dusty corner in the Ngintaka Women’s Center. Most of the modern Pintupi artists migrated from cloth to canvas, with many of the artists gaining national and international recognition. This blog will concentrate on the batik ArtCloth from Kintore[1]. To see more of their current art, visit:

Kintore Art.

Lutheran Church At Kintore.

Kintore (Walungurru) is a small community located 530 kilometers west of Alice Springs (Northern Territory, Australia). The community sits at the foot of culturally important hills named Pulikatjara (which translates as “two hills”). The population varies according to cultural activities and so fluctuates from 250 to 500 people. The community was established in 1981 when the Pintubi people moved back to their traditional country from Papunya.

Location of Kintore.

The Kintore batiks were the result of a project overseen by Jill Squires and Therese Honan, who were employed by the Ngintaka Women Center from 1994-1995 by the Aboriginal Education Unit of the Department of Education[2]. The motivation for the Spires was for the Pintupi women to produce doona covers, thereby providing them with an income stream. Peta Smith, a local Alice Springs artist, had done batik workshops in Kintore in the 1980s, thereby providing the foundation for he Squires batik project in 1994[2].

AGM at Kintore.

The Kintore batiks typically incorporate desert symbols, such as “U” shapes, sequential dots, circles and windbreaks. These symbols surface in their rock art, sand drawings, and sacred objects[2]. They speak of spirituality that intersects with their geographical locality, and so is embedded within their ancient law that structures their lives.

Bush Tucker (native food).

Batik ArtCloth from the Kintore Women
Below is some of the batik ArtCloth from Kintore Women’s batik workshop.

Alice Nampitjinpa – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 111.8 cm x 215 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Alice Nampitjinpa – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 112.3 cm x 195 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Collaborative Work – Untitled (1994).
Alice Nampitjinpa, Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa, Tjunkiya Napaltjarri, Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Irene Nangala, Katarra Nampitjinpa.
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 111.8 cm x 196 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Alice Nampitjinpa – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 113.2 cm x 219 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Katarra Nampitjinpa – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 113.3 cm x 156.6 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Tjinkiya Napaltjarri – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 112.3 cm x 195 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Wintjiya Napaltjarri – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 112.4 cm x 173.5 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Wintjiya Napaltjarri – Untitled (1994).
Technique: Batik on cotton.
Size: 112.7 cm x 152.7 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

[1] J. Ryan et al., Across The Desert – Aboriginal Batik from Central Australia, Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2008).
[2] M. Strocchi in, J. Ryan et al., Across The Desert – Aboriginal Batik from Central Australia, Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2008).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Kimono and Japanese Textile Designs[1-2]
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience I have listed other posts on Japanese clothing on this blogspot:
The Basic Kimono Pattern
History of the Kimono
A Textile Tour of Japan - Part I
A Textile Tour of Japan - Part II
The History of the Obi

Kimonos are classified according to whether the dyeing process is done before or after the weaving process (saki-zome or atozome).

Pre-dyed kimonos (saki-zome) are referred to as woven kimonos. The designs are symmetrical or geometric, such as stripes, checks or the splash pattern called kasuri. These are customarily broken down into the following types:
(a) Silk: reeled silk, heavy crepe, spun silk, silk gauze and leno weave gauze.
(b) Cotton: splash pattern, stripe pattern, and check pattern.

Woven kimonos are also made of wool or synthetic fabrics[1].

Komon (small designs) repeat a diamond shape. The spun silk obi has an abstract design derived from the Chinese phoenix.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Oshima tsumugi is the floss from the leftover cocoons that farmers spun (tsumugu) by hand into thread in order to weave their own kimonos. Oshima was one of the areas where this was done – hence its name[1].

A favorite Kimono fabric is the very comfortable and well sought after Oshima tsumugi.
Courtesy reference[1].

Kimonos dyed after weaving the cloth (ato-zome) are referred to as dyed kimonos. These free-style designs and motifs first became popular during the Edo period, as innovative developments occurred in dyeing and decorative techniques. There are many variations, which are classified by the design process. For example,
(a) Designs dyed on white fabric.
(b) Hand painted designs such as batik and other techniques.
(c) Stencil designs: hand-drawn starch resist dyeing techniques (Yuzen), small stencil designs, small monochrome patterns, polychrome dyeing over stencil resist, and medium size stencils.
(d) Tie dyeing.
(e) Pattern-less monochrome dyeing.

These children have been dressed up for the celebration of Shichigosan. The girls are wearing Yuzen kimono and sandals of gold brocade. The boy’s crested coat (haori) perfectly matches his kimono, which is a woven patterned pleated skirt (hakama).
Note: (i) Shichi-Go-San (literally means "Seven-Five-Three") is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15th to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend; (ii) Yuzen dyeing was invented in the middle of Edo era (around 1700) by Miyazaki Yuzen-sai, and has been the ultimate art of kimono dyeing ever since.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Tsukesage refers to the way in which the patterns are dyed. They are dyed from the hemline at the front and back and then upward to meet at the top of the shoulders. The sleeves are dyed from the top to the bottom of the sleeves. Depending on the elaborateness of the gown, this kimono may be worn at either formal or informal gatherings.

The tsukesage pattern of this kimono appears to rise from the hemline. Bustle sash and obi cord harmonize with the gold patterned obi.
Note: The embroidered crest indicates it is a formal kimono.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Kata-zome are patterns that are printed from woodblocks or dyed using stencils, which long ago were also made from wood. When thick paper replaced wood, stencils became simpler, making possible large-scale production of stencil-styled kimonos. Another advantage is that paper stencils enabled the creation of small delicate designs known as komon. Another is Yuzen komon, which has colorful pictorial designs that are very popular among young women[1].

The brightly colored chuburisode is formal attire for young women. Chuburisode is a furisode with medium length sleeves (e.g. 90 cm).
Courtesy of reference[1].

This tsumugi is a yellow (ki) cloth first made on Hachijo Island near Tokyo. (Note: tsumugi Tsumugi's name means "cotton or silk string/cloth"). The bright yellow color is produced from a dye extracted from the kariyasu grass found in abundance on the island. Other Hachijo kimonos are dyed in brown or in black. Tobi (brown) Hachijo dye comes from the madami plant. Kuo (black) Hachijo dye comes from the bark of the chinquapin.
Note: The name "Kihachijo" literally means yellow fabric produced in the Hachijo Island but the name also covers those in other colors.

In this ceremonial uchikake kimono, lines are woven in the background with gold thread. The embroidered design is of flowered decorative paper balls[1].
Note: The word uchikake means "long overgarment"

Kasuri is a tie-dye technique that originated in India, spread to the islands of the South Pacific and was brought to Okinawa in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. After reaching Japan, it evolved into freer and more complex designs.

The basic kasuri patterns are cross and parallel cross designs. More complex are the pictorial kasuri, where pines, bamboo, plum blossoms, cranes, tortoises and so on are woven into the design [1].

This visiting kimono (homongi) for married women has a bamboo grove pattern.
Courtesy of referece[1].

Yuzen is a starch resist dyeing technique that was invented by Miyazaki Yuzen, a famous Kyoto fan-painter during the Genroku era (1688-1704) of the Edo period. Up until then the powerfully expressive geometric designs created by direct dyeing and tie-dyeing methods lacked freedom and subtlety in composition and color. Miyazaki Yuzen technique, using glutinous rice as the resist, started a revolution in the dyeing of free-style designs and led to delicately subtle depiction of small flowers, birds, maple leaves, spring and autumn grasses etc.[1]

The kuro (black)tomesode with five crests is the most formal for married women. The purse has been chosen to match the double-fold obi with its gold and silver fan design.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Bridal Party. The groom is dressed in the most formal attire for men; white under kimono, black kimono, five crested haori with white haori cords, hakama of Sendai hira silk, white tabi, and zori with white straps. The bride wears the uchikake robe over the kakeshita kimono. The uchikake pattern of cranes, waves and pines is for felicitous occasions[1].

Japanese Textile Designs[2]
Japanese textile design has a long traditional history. The master designs the motifs on the textiles; the apprentice - under the direction of the master - reproduces these motifs on textiles.

In all mastery activities, within the Japanese culture (e.g. Tea Ceremony, Judo, Archery etc.) the highest achievement always centers on the process of formal thought. What does this mean? Piaget's stages of intellectual development are as follows: (i) reflexive stage – aping what others do; (ii) the concrete stage - needing concrete examples in order to understand a concept; (iii) the concrete operational stage – using concrete examples to create new concepts; (iv) the formal stage – being able to understand abstract concepts without any assistance.

The textile designs below have this formal aspect to their creation. They come from a book of Japanese textile designs[2]. Volume four in a series contains two hundred Japanese textile designs. This volume introduces various textile designs created at a time when traditional style costumes were flourishing from 1850 to 1920.

 They have been used in the creation of kimonos.

The collection reveals the characteristics and development of Japanese textile designs. 

The series is an invaluable source for ideas and inspirations for designers in many fields including fashion, interior design, graphic design, and illustration etc.

[1] N. Yamanaka, The Book Of Kimono, Kodansha International, Tokyo (1982).
[2] K. Shoin, The Best In International Textile Design: Japanese Style, Textile Dyeing Patterns 4, Mamoru Fujioka, Kyoto (1989).