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A Textile Travel Find: Central Asian Quilts with Ikat
Every month when we publish our monthly calendar of world textile events, textile travel lust hits me. For the past two years, we’ve highlighted exhibits or events that align with ClothRoads’s mission of supporting indigenous textiles and artisans worldwide. And while we note exhibits in far-flung places of the world fit for armchair travel, there are many within the confines of the United States. In fact, some of them may be within driving distance to your home.
Central Asian Ikats
This month was textile fortuitous for me. I had given up on flying to Houston to see the Colors of Oasis: Ikats of Central Asia at the Museum of Fine Art; it closed June 4. The accompanying book for the exhibit would have to suffice. But as I was scrolling through the ClothRoads monthly calendar, another exhibit popped out–one that was within driving distance and on my road trip path: Sacred Scraps, Quilts and Patchwork Traditions of Central Asia at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. Christine Martens curated this fine exhibit. An independent researcher of textile traditions of Central Asia, Martens has been working with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum to build their Central Asian collection. What a find.
The opening to the exhibit was as if being inside a yurt with its rich tent hanging (tush ki’z) and the piles of bedding and quilts. Detailed wall text guided me through rites of passage including birth and childhood, marriage and its accompanying dowry, amulets and talismans, clothing from child to adult.
I learned about the designs of pattern, color and fabric, plus ways this tradition continues today. The exhibit isn’t all ikat—there are fine examples of embroidered Suzani quilts and Shyrdak felt carpets constructed with a mosaic/inlay technique too.
A Textile Discovery
Proceeding through the exhibit, I came upon a patchwork and embroidered hanging (quroq ruja) from Uzbekistan. It bore a striking resemblance to an ikat patchwork quilt top that I own. I had found it buried in a trunk of textiles in Turkey, but I had no idea where it was from (aside from the fact it was Central Asian), what it’s purpose was, nor how old it was. Thanks to this exhibit, I now know. And unlike a museum, you can see the back side of mine with the telltale marks of hand and thread.
The exhibit runs until Dec 12, 2017. If you can’t make it to the exhibit, the museum’s website has an excellent viewing of the exhibit’s sections and you can order the catalogue here.
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