During a recent visit to Singapore, one of the team at Hawthorne & Heaney took a sight detour off the tourist trail and visited one of the Peranakan Embroidery heritage boutiques in the suburbs. This small street houses a couple of shops in which they are keeping the more traditional embroidery techniques of the region alive. One such place is called Rumah Bebe which is lovely in itself as it is covered in patterned tiles and gilded woodwork. They house a wide range of Nyonya garments such as sarongs, embroidered jackets and beaded shoes. As is fitting to the work that has gone into them, the pieces are quite pricey, but well worth it for how lovely they are.
Kim Choo Kueh Chang is also next door where you can sample traditional Nyonya cakes from the cafe downstairs made with coconut, condensed milk and pandan leaves which gives them a bright green colour. They have a little shop of trinkets but upstairs is where you will find the best bits as they have a range of embroidered pieces which line the walls and a variety of vintage items on diplay in their exhibition. They explain a little of how the embroidery is intergral to the wedding services of the culture with the examples around for context.
A personal favourite had to be this part completed design, still on the frame which demonstrates a little of the technique that is used to create these pieces and the scale of the beads that form the designs.
To see more of what they have to offer, visit their websites above or watch the video below for a glimpse of the action.
Just as you enter the V&A from the Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road, to your left you will come to this wonderful exhibit about the life of John Lockwood Kipling, Father of the famous poet, Rudyard Kipling. It’s not all that often that you get the opportunity to see this kind of Indian heritage, but on display at this exhibition, your senses are spoilt. Historical pictures of India through the Victorian ages, fused together with Lockwood Kipling’s own illustrations, structural designs and photography of his students in Mumbai.
Exhibition entrance, courtesy of V&A
This exhibition is great for those with keen interests print, architectural design, upholstery, embroidery, textiles (etc) and are in need of inspiration from this rich culture and its prominent history, or those that just want to expand on their knowledge of art history. The exhibit is atmospheric and full of vibrant information, you can easily lose yourself in here for a few hours, it is a fascinating period of history.
Lockwood Kipling was always an active social campaigner for the preservation of Indian arts and crafts, he even brought much of that skill he learnt in India back to England where he worked as an architectural sculptor for the V&A. The terracotta panels created by Lockwood can still be seen on the exterior of the grand V&A building. The perfect place to hold an exhibition about his colourful life.
Exhibition poster in the museum tunnel and exhibition leaflet from H&H visit to V&A
His passion for the preservation of Indian culture and skill is apparent throughout the entire exhibit, and it is wonderful to see techniques that have been used in traditional Indian culture for centuries. By including the work of his students at the Mayo College, Ajmer, the exhibit shows how his passion and knowledge has been transferred onto his students.
Kipling moved to India in 1865 when the country was under British rule, and at the time the economy was quite unstable. He recognised this uncertainty in his students and encouraged them to channel these feelings into their creativity.
In 1851 he trained as a designer and modeller, which gave him the knowledge which he took to India and applied this to the traditional crafts which he learnt and was able to design beautiful Mosques, some which still stand today.
Painting: Entrance to the Mosque of Wazir Khan, by Mohammed Din, 1880, by Mohammed Din. Displayed at the exhibition
The intricate detailing on the architectural work is magnificent to see and his illustration style is timeless! He has captured a moment via drawing as if it were a photograph. A series of images seen at the exhibition depicts local craftsmen doing their everyday using the said skills making creations which later on Lockwood would go on to do himself.
Illustration: A wood carver from the North West Provinces of British India, by Lockwood Kipling, 1870.
Displayed as a series of natural drawings of craft workers.
If you are interested in how artistic crafts and merit is applied throughout different cultures, or just intrigued to see how ancient skills that are ingrained in the wonderful Indian culture have progressed and evolved over the past 200 years, then this exhibition is a must see.
It is always wonderful to see what culture and history London has to offer and at the moment, the British Museum has 2 exhibitions on that will be of interest to anyone whole appreciates textiles. Following on from the very sucessful ‘Fabrics of India’ exhibition, they have the ‘Krishna in the garden of Assam’ piece. Also showing now in the main collections are a range of Islamic Footwear some of which regulars may recognise from the ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain’ exhibition.
Krishna in the garden of Assam the cultural context of an Indian textile:
Currently on display at the British Museum is the ‘Vrindavani Vastra’ (cloth of Vrindavan), which is reported to be the largest surviving example of an Assamese devotional textile. Made from woven silk, this beautiful textile depicts the Hindu god Krishna and his life in the forest of Vrindavan. Produced circa 1680, and measuring over 9 metres, the textile features both imagery and text demonstrating the highly skilled and most unusual weaving techniques that must have existed in India at this time.
The Banyan gown pictured below is made of Chinese floral damask with a lining that is also made from pieces of similar Vrindavani textile woven sometime between 1550 and 1800. The re-use of such textiles in items of clothing has helped to ensure their survival today although sadly the weaving techniques that produced them have since been lost.
Alongside the other exhibits, including masks, garments, and manuscripts, a short introductory film and an exciting video artwork combine to build a picture of late 17th century lndian history and of Krishna worship.
The exhibition Krishna in the garden of Assam is at The British Museum 21 January – 15 August 2016. Admission is free.
Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic world
Also on display at the British Museum is the Life and sole exhibition, in which footwear reveals an intriguing insight into the historical, as well as current, social and cultural aspects of life in Islamic countries.
The display features shoes and footwear of different styles, materials, and production techniques, dating from circa 1800, and originating from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia.
From stilted bath clogs for bathing, to beautiful hand embroidered red leather wedding slippers, the display tells a story of people and their lifestyles and demonstrates the influence of politics and international trade on the fashion of footwear.
The exhibition runs from 14 November 2015-15 May 2016. Admission is free.
British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom