Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Guest Speaker, Jane Davies

We have a wonderful variety of guest speakers at our Branch meetings, this month our speaker was Jane Davies. When Jane mention in her introduction that most of her talk would be about textiles from around the World, I knew that I would be in for a treat, this is one of my favourite subjects. I am fascinated to learn how different cultures and societies have developed their own distinctive styles. Fundamentally, there are only a few basic hand stitches, but the number of variations and adaptations employed around the world is staggering.

Jane spoke knowledgeably on the subject and had a good collection of slides showing textiles from countries including Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Africa. The collection showed the traditional clothing worn by various peoples of Thailand. One member asked if such clothing was still widely worn. Jane told us that like everywhere else, traditional clothing is gradually being replaced by mass-produced clothing such as jeans and tee shirts. It is not surprising that hard working mothers prefer to dress their children in cheap, easily laundered clothes, rather than spent many hours elaborately embroidering garments. Nor is it surprising that desperately poor families are willing to sell garments passed down through generations to wealthy tourists or collectors but it is a tragedy that these skills and traditions are gradually dieing out around the world. Thankfully, some of those collectors are collecting so that these some of these wonderful textiles can be recorded and preserved for the future. And hopefully, sometime in the future, members of these communities will decide they want to learn and pass on the skills of their forbearers as is already happening in some communities.

Wherever I travel I try to seek out local embroidery and textiles. In India it was as much as I could do not to lift up the hem of a ladies sari to examine the embroidered hemline! Among her slides Jane had one of an Indian textile, a crazy patchwork of fragments of embellished garments. In our hotel in Agra had a magnificent example in the reception, possibly six feet square made from some very fine garments. We saw many of these for sale in the tourist areas and I purchased one while in Ranthambor. During her talk, Jane said that sometimes after piecing the cloth would be dyed to unify the colours. Looking at the reverse, I can see that is the case with mine, so it was probably made for the tourist market but that is not surprising. While tourism may in part be responsible for the demise of local skills, as the local people realise want to purchase souvenirs of the travels, it is helping to rejuvenate them. Perhaps there is hope that these wonderful skills will survive and continue to be practiced for many more generations.

The Oxford Branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild meets on the second Wednesday of every month except August in Iffley Village Hall at 7.00pm. If you are local to Oxford do join us, we are a friend group and we have a guest speaker 8 or 9 times a year. If you are ever visiting Oxford and would like to come along as a guest, please let me know, you will be very welcome.

Happy Stitching

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

beautiful photos of the embroideries. I know what ou mean about wanting to lift hems etc to see the embroidery - Ive felt the same!