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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 12:29 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 09, 2005 12:22 am
Posts: 1
Location: Lawrence, KS
I am a graduating senior in textile design and art history and I am trying to put together a research trip to study traditional textile techniques and processes. I am applying for a $15,000 grant to fund my research and plan on documenting my experiences through film and written articles to share with both the art historical and design communities. My focus has been on Asian countries (especially Japan), but my interests are also broad so I am open to visiting any site that would welcome me. Any advice/suggestions would be much appreciated.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 1:55 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 394
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hello Zahra-
The first consideration you must make is language: what languages are you fluent in; what languages do you want to learn, etc. One can usually find someone to translate, but for your research money to go farther and to really get into the culture it's really best to learn the language.

Another initial consideration might be to go somewhere that hasn't been well-researched. For instance, there is not much in English about the ethnic minority textiles in China, with the exception of the Miao who have been studied very well by Gina Corrigan and her colleagues. The nearby Dong do very beautiful work and research into their textiles would be a very welcome addition to the available literature. Also, more information about the Li on Hainan Island would be really welcome, as their society and culture is changing rapidly. Burma is another place with little detailed information about textiles, except for the Fraser's definitive new book on the Chin; also (a plus!), thanks to the British, English is fairly widely spoken in Burma (the big problem there, and possible deterrent, is the government). Indonesia has had a lot of research done in some areas, whereas others have been neglected. I, for one, would also like to see more about the tribal peoples in northwestern India (here, too, English might be more prevalent).

Then, you need to consider where your grant money will be cost effective. Probably Bhutan is out unless you can pull some academic strings and not have to conform to the $300/day requirement of tourists; Japan of course is quite expensive; most of Southeast Asia is not- Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia; I'm not sure about Burma or India.

And that brings up the question of government restrictions, and of personal safety. You can check with the US State Dept. country list for up-to-date information, but also check online news for a given area or town. I don't think you'd want to go to southern Thailand right now, for instance.

As you can see, you have a lot of options- and I haven't even mentioned Pakistan, Central Asia and former Soviet republics, or Turkey, Iran, etc.- all places with rich textile traditions.

I hope this helps- please feel free to ask more questions- and 'chok dee'/good luck!

Susan Stem

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 5:10 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 2001
Location: Canterbury, UK
Another way of researching would be to visit textile collections around the world which hold collections of textiles which fit with your research theme.

When I read you post I thought, Oh, I have seen something recently about Asian textiles in Lawrence Kansas! It came to me pretty quickly that I had been reading the current October edition of the Oxford Asian Textile Group newsletter - see for a summary of contents. One of the articles was: 'Building a Collection: Asian textiles in the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas' by Mary Dusenbury, Guest Curator of Asian Art, Spencer Museum, University of Kansas (and past president of the Textile Society of America). Mary described the Asian textiles in the donation by Mrs Thayer to the museum as 'a hidden jewel'.

The same newsletter has an obituary on Dr Oliver Impey, curator of the Amolean (Oxford) Musuem's Deparment of Eastern Art for 36 years and a leading authority on the arts of Japan. In an essay presented in memory of Oliver Impey, Mary Dusenbury has a second article in the OATG newsletter. Her essay talks about the 2 Japanese needlework panels of cranes and irises in the Spencer Musuem (both shown in the OATG newsletter) because of a similar needlework hanging in the Ashmolean Museum. She quotes Dr Impey when discussing the collection of Meiji decorative arts in the Ashmolean Museum writing:
"Purely in terms of skill, the artcrafts of Meiji and Taisho Japan have rarely been equalled, even by Faberge. Nor has it been generally realised that the majority of the finest Japanese decorate art of these periods was made for export." (Oliver Impey, Reflections upon the Crafts of Meiji Period Japan with reference to the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oriental Art 42, no.3 (Autumn 1966) p11)

I was wondering whether any other material in the Spencer Museum might be linked to collections elsewhere in the world.

Whilst it may seem attractive to go to research textiles in various remote parts of the world the words of caution expressed by Susan Stem in her post as to language and also to access are very valid. I was talking to some research students at the University of Kent last week about the bureaucratic challenges in their home country - India - which can slow down or even prove impossible for foreigners to cope with when trying to obtain research access. In their case these hurdles related to wild life conservation access but the challenges are likely to be similar in respect of textiles still being made in several remote areas of the world if you are starting off without local contacts and language.

I don't think that either Susan nor I want to discourage you but I think that you must be realistic when it comes to deciding on location. Very practical considerations can make all the difference between success or failure and whether your funding is sufficient or not. I would think that any body awarding a scholarship would want to see that you had thought about this aspect very carefully.

on-line tribal textiles resource

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