Monday, June 14, 2010

Knitted trees and other interesting things

Over the weekend I went to the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand's annual symposium. I also popped into Craft 2.0 at lunchtime on Saturday to drop off some Wellington World Wide Knit in Public Day fliers to Tash and to buy some birthday presents (not for me, even though it is my birthday tomorrow). And of course, I got to see the 'It's a Tree!' trees outside the TheNewDowse which were very cool and Tash said she has heaps more leaves and flowers to attach so the trees will only get cooler over the next week or so.

I'm so glad I went to the symposium. While I'm not a specialist in costume or textiles, I still found all of the talks really interesting and I think anyone who has an interest in history would have as well. Here are links related to some of the talks I enjoyed the most (that had relevant websites associated with them).

Cambodian woman at the loom (image sourced from Mekong Blue website)

Weaving New Destinies: Cambodian Women Change Lives at the Loom by Katalin Medvedev was about the background and work of Mekong Blue, an NGO that not only makes beautiful silk scarves and accessories, but is teaching Cambodian women the skills to become self-sufficient and educated.

(image sourced from Australian Dress Register website)

The Australian Dress Register by Lindie Ward explained the idea behind the Australian Dress Register website and showed us what an amazing resource it is going to become when the collection goes live in September. There are a huge amount of resources on the website already and it is a fabulous project. Apparently a similar New Zealand site is being created, called the New Zealand Fashion Museum.

Dorothy Broad's woollen soldier doll (image sourced from Te Papa collection online)

The WWI Textiles of Dorothy Broad and Wyville Rutherford by Kirstie Ross of Te Papa told the heart breaking story of Dorothy Broad and her fiancee Wyville Rutherford - who went to serve in WWI. Dorothy made a little woollen doll of her soldier fiancee as a keepsake to remember him by while he was away and then made and sold these wishbone soldier dolls (made from actual chicken wishbones) to raise funds for the war effort. Tragically, Wyville was killed while overseas and the woollen doll was one of the only things Dorothy had to remember Wyville by; along with some of his uniform buttons and badges which she turned into hat pins and pieces of fabric with his military stripes on them. Dorothy remained unmarried for the rest of her life.

The Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine (image sourced from the Victoria Mansion website)

A Historic Design Archive Saved and a Carpet Design Re-Created by Jacqueline Field documented Jacqueline's involvement in the search for the original carpet patterns for carpets in the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine. Jacqueline ended up going to Glasgow in Scotland and searching through the huge archives of James Templeton & Co, carpet makers, to try to find the original carpet design from the 1860s for the carpet in one of the Victoria Mansion's rooms. She didn't find it, but the archive was a mass of designs, paintings, and drawings for the company's carpets, just kept in metal drawers and boxes on shelves. Jacqueline was then involved in trying to create a design that replicated the original carpet in the entrance hallway of the Mansion that there remained only a faded black and white photo of, as the original carpet had been replaced many years before the Mansion became a museum. The story of the creation of the carpet design (as informed by the old photo and her research) and a photo of the finished work, is here, down the bottom of the page. Oh carpet, you are surprisingly interesting.

Christina Brown c. 1860 (image sourced from The Elms website)

The Elms Textile Collection by Jo-Anne Knowles demonstrated Jo-Anne's passion for the collection of clothing left by the inhabitants of The Elms mission house in Tauranga from the early 1800s through to the early 1900s, which is currently stored by The Elms Trust and not exhibited at all. Her presentation showed the wealth of clothing held by the Trust and how much could be learned if research on the clothing was invested in and an exhibition space created for the items.

Costume for 'The Blue God' by Leon Bakst c. 1912 (image sourced from The National Gallery of Australia website)

From Dance to Display by Jane Wild, Hannah Barret and a woman whose name isn't in the programme, showed the process of conservation undertaken by the textile conservators at The National Gallery of Australia in preparation for the exhibition later this year 'Ballet Russes: The Art of Costume'. It is absolutely crazy what the conservators can do to worn, torn, decayed fabric to bring the costumes back to life and to resemble what they would have looked like when worn on stage by the Ballet Russes dancers. The costumes suffered from a lot of wear and tear and bad storage facilities so some of them were more like powdery rags than dresses before the conservators got to work on them. The conservators often choose to retain some of the crude darning and mending done on the costumes (as long as it isn't further damaging the fabric) during the time of their use as that too is fascinating and tells a great story of the costumes as worn.

Woman working on a tapestry (image sourced from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop)

Finally, Antonia Syme spoke about the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, which turns paintings and other designs into amazingly detailed tapestries full of depth and often on a massive scale.

Such an interesting weekend! It made me want to go and do a Masters in Museum and Heritage Studies and become a museum curator. It would be so cool researching items and then writing about them and deciding how to display them. But apparently finding employment as a curator isn't the easiest of tasks. Such is life it seems.


  1. Wow. That is an awesome post. I think I would have really enjoyed that symposium. It's a shame that often the most interesting jobs are the ones that are difficult to come by.
    Happy birthday, for today (the 15th), by the way!
    Steph :o)

  2. great post! It was wonderful to catch up - i'm the same, want to do post-grad in museum studies or art history or conservation...but the job opportunities? Hmm not so much :(

  3. Very interesting. I worked at a local doll museum for a while loved the yarn soldier doll and his story! The ballet costume exhibit info reminded me that while living in London in the early 80s, I went to an exhibit on Anna Pavlova and saw her swan costume. Interestingly, I later met an old man who had been Pavlova's errand boy on her estate. Memories.