It's called JadisSilkRoad.
So far, I have all my available Persian tajs listed included the Laurel Wreath one and the Baronial Coronet.
I've been getting requests for a while about setting up an Etsy store and I've finally done it.
It's called JadisSilkRoad.
So far, I have all my available Persian tajs listed included the Laurel Wreath one and the Baronial Coronet.
I'll be adding a few pieces of garb and some jewelry next.
In working on the book the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time looking at extant Ottoman caftans and I thought I'd share a few of the lesser known ones with you.
The information and images about these caftans comes from:
Tezcan, Hülya. Fashion at the Ottoman Court: The Topkapi Palace Museum Collection. Istanbul: Raffi Portakal, Portakal Art and Culture House Organisation, 2000. Print.
This source also has excellent images of extant women's hats.
One of the challenges of working with extant garments is the uneven way that historical garments have been saved, conserved, studied and displayed. Women's garments, even the garments of royal women, are less often conserved and displayed.
So here are 3 extant Ottoman caftans. All 3 caftans were made for the daughters of Ottoman sultans. These garments were created for women who lived in the royal harem at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and that is where they have been conserved. They are identified as 'inner caftans', meaning they would have been worn over the gomlek (undergown), possibly in several layers based on the weather and the formality of the event. For formal occasions, an outer caftan of more precious fabric would have been worn as the final layer. And in bad weather, a ferace was worn as an overcoat.
The first two caftans were made for Ayse Sultan, who was the daughter of Sultan Murad III; she died in 1605
In addition to details of cut and patterning, what fascinates me is that both caftans were made from the same two lengths of cloth, one with the blue fabric as the main fabric and one with salmon.
I have no idea if these caftans were worn together or if the shorter salmon one was simply made up out of the remaining cloth leftover from the more formal blue one.
Another interesting thing is that the silver dots are not applied by weaving, applique or embroidery but instead by gilding. The gilding process is the same for silk as it is for paintings on paper and we have several examples of this process on pre-1600 garments in Europe as well as Asia.
So another question is: how common was this fabric? Did Ayse have the only two pieces or was this a more common pattern available either in the palace or more widely?
The third caftan was made for Hanzade Sultan, daughter of Sultan Ahmed I. She died in 1650. This pink silk caftan was also made in the standard Ottoman style.
There are also some interesting variations in cut, tailoring and possibly fit. The first two caftans were made for the same person. We don't know if they were made at the same time, just cut differently or if the garments were made separately as her body size and shape changed.
In addition to differences in length, the blue caftan has the 'bump out' shape at the top of the gores while the salmon one appears to have gores that are a simple triangle shape.
Both of Ayse's garments have front gores that appear to start in the general vicinity of the waist. The garment made approximately 50 years later for Hanzade has a front gore that extends to the neck. It isn't clear from the way it is folded and displayed if Hanzade's had 'bump out' or traditional gores.
The differences in gore style for both the front edge and the sides changes the way the garment fits and hangs as well as changing the silhouette by emphasizing or smoothing the hips.
Another interesting thing is that if you just glance at the most famous extant Ottoman caftans, it appears that all garments had huge pattern motifs. However, this style of weaving was very complex and very expensive so it was reserved for people of very high status at very formal occasions.
However, when you look at Ottoman paintings of figures where multiple layers of garments and many people of varying rank and it becomes apparent that the huge 'classically Ottoman' motifs were actually quite rare. Small motifs in the so-called 'international style' stayed fashionable, as did plain fabric and fabric with more subtle textured, stamped or woven effects.
If that whole rabbit-hole intrigues you, start with the exhibit catalog for The Sultan's Garden: the Blossoming of Ottoman art. The entire exhibit and book are dedicated to explaining the shift from small motifs to large as a deliberate strategy to create a 'brand for' the newly emerging Ottoman empire. Absolutely fascinating and I was lucky enough to attend the symposium and exhibit tour led by Walter Denney and Nurhan Atasoy.
Yikes, I didn't realize this book had gone up in price like that. I recommend inter-library loan,but it really is amazing. It also has the only known Ottoman block printed textiles.
I feel like I don't post on here often enough and I think my problem is that I tend to write such long posts that they are easy to put off. So I want to disrupt that pattern by trying out some shorter posts where I limit myself to a single cool thing.
And I'm constantly finding new cool things as I am writing the book.
So we know that in the Ottoman empire some garments were made at home and some came from royal workshops. We also know that there were commercial tailor's shops and guilds. And we also know that humans are sometimes lazy.
So a ferace is essentially an Ottoman overcoat. It was lined, sometimes with fabric and sometimes with fur and it featured facings on the edges of the garment at the neck, sleeves, center front and hem.
Caftans were frequently bordered this way as well. (And I have some new information about how the borders were sewn. More on that in the book, or in another post.)
In Fashion at the Ottoman Court, Taksin references municipal laws "in Istanbul, Bursa and Edirne dated 1502 but relying on laws from 1477, require that the fringe that crossed the front opening and the perimeter of a ferace's skirt could not be pasted with glue but had to be attached through sewing, as had been customary in earlier times."
I love finding random stuff like this. It gives me a different perspective and that is a good thing. One of the main challenges with early Ottoman clothing research is that while we have a lot of extant garments, they are mostly ones that were made for high-ranking members of the court. And the ones that are chosen for display in museums and reproduced in books are the fancy, splashy, unusual complicated ones that were worn for very formal occasions.
It's like if the only sources our descendants had for early 21st century clothing were things that were worn on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.
Interesting, but hugely, massively skewed.
So the glue laws makes me ask myself a bunch of questions.
1. How common was this practice, really? (The fact that legislation persisted in time and location tells me it wasn't just a law aimed at that jerk who has a shop near Galata Bridge)
2. Was it something that bothered people or did they just know that if you bought a garment at a particular price point that you needed to take the time to hand-sew the facings on yourself?
3. Could someone look at a garment being worn and be able to tell that it had cheap glued borders?
4. Did the glue saturate the fabric and soak through?
5. Did the glued border change the way the garment hung?
6. What kind of glue?
7. What price range are we talking about?
Any thoughts, my darlings?
(So this is what a 'short post' looks like, apparently.)
Hey everyone, I am on my way to Pennsic. Really looking forward to all the dancing, teaching and awesomeness.
I thought I would post my class schedule and merchanting info here for reference.
I am camping at Orluk Oasis, down by the lake. It's section W10 on the map. All of my classes will be held there in a really lovely courtyard of period pavilions. Please come visit. Definitely bring a chair if you need one, we have a limited supply.
Merchanting: Morwenna from Mid-East Magic has accepted my hats, jewelry, some shalwar kameez and a few garments I've made on consignment. She also has really cool stuff. The booth is across from Midrealm Royal between the barn and the Middle Eastern class tent. (If you want something specific, send me a message.)
Ladies Persian Taj headdress (Persian diadem)
2hours- taught twice
Wed Aug 1 2-4pm and Wed Aug 8 2-4pm
Hats and headresess are a crucial element of Persian medieval dress and they are comfortable, beautiful and appropriate to a wide variety of climates. This class includes a brief overview of Persian hats, veils and headdresses for ladies and a hands-on workshop. This workshop includes a newly developed technique to streamline the sewing process.
If you have a basic sewing kit, please bring it. Hand-sewing skills are useful, but not necessary.
Each participant will make a Taj headdress from a kit provided. Each participant will receive a kit that includes base, padding, cover material and ornament to create a unique headdress. The handout includes patterns so you can make more on your own. Class fee for kit and handout is $15. Limit 18 kits. If you want to add your own ornament, a kit for a plain taj is $10. Observers are welcome as space allows. You may purchase more than one kit, I made lots. Any kits leftover after the second class can be found at Mid-East Magic (across from Midrealm Royal). I will also have some kits available there before class so if you want to pick one out early, you can.
So is this Persian, or is it Turkish? Complicated answers to the one Eastern garb question that everyone asks.
Sun Aug 5 12-2pm
Usually this question comes up about clothing, but it comes up a lot. And most people mean 'Is this 16th c Ottoman Turkish or is this 16th c Safavid Persian?' because that is the period when the differences seem most distinct. This class is a basic overview of the complex history of Turkic and Persian peoples of Central Asia and the art and clothing they produced and what that says about who they were and how they saw themselves. We'll look at lots of images of period art to help train your eye.
I'm especially excited to show photos of some garments I've been able to examine firsthand in museums over the last two years. That includes the 3 Safavid caftans I examined at the Textile Museum in DC last month. They are amazing and show some really surprising survivals of Mongolian design and sewing techniques, reinterpreted through a Safavid lense.
Researching the East: the Middle East, North Africa and Central and West Asia
Thur Aug 9 12-2pm
How to ask the right questions, find and evaluate sources and have a great time doing it. Includes tracking down academic journals, conducting research online and in museums and what to do when you get stuck. Includes several case studies from a forthcoming book on the patterning and tailoring of caftans along the Silk Road.
Handouts $3, limit 25
This next class isn't one of mine but I am so excited about this. Carla is doing the most amazing things with print-on-demand fabric. She is a textiles expert, particularly all things Ottoman.
Digitally Reconstructed Textiles in the SCA, a Discussion
Tues August 7, 1-3pm
Let's talk about digitally reconstructed textiles. A gathering for the Spoonflower Curious. We will be meeting in a digitally reconstructed Ottoman Sultan's pavillion, surrounded by many examples of photoshop produced textiles that will help show the potential of the medium and spark our discussion of theory. No photoshop experience necessary to fully participate and benefit from this talk. Hosted by Carla Monnich (the genius who is recreating some of the fabrics for my caftan book!)
Here is a veil band she reconstructed from a period example. Yes, that is a printed textile based on an embroidered original!
Hi everybody! Time for an update.
The research in Europe last spring went really well and I've been spending a lot of time on data analysis and the actual writing process. However, I am behind. Actually, I'm swimming in data and think I have enough for another book, maybe two.
So my revised schedule is to release the book in early 2019 instead of early 2018. I'm grateful for everybody's encouragement and patience.
My current plan is to turn the finished text and images over to my editing and design team in the early fall and while they are doing their thing I will continue work on everybody's Kickstarter rewards.
This project has been so amazing and so many of you have been so helpful in sharing resources and bouncing ideas around. It really does feel like I have about 3 books swimming around in my head.
I'll do my best to post more regularly and I cannot wait for you all to see the crazy stuff I found in England.
Also, I'll be up at the Textile Museum in Washington DC soon for an appointment to get my hands on what appear to be 3 Safavid men's coats. And boy, are they different from 16th century Ottoman. I have ideas about that, lots of them.
I've also had some requests to start doing pre-sales. I'm not against that, but any pre-orders would be sent AFTER every Kickstarter supporter has theirs.
So essentially it would be Kickstarter supporters, pre-orders and then the book would be formally published and offered for sale on this website and Amazon etc.
I'm still thinking about it, so if you have an opinion, I'd like to hear it.
It's beautiful, right? So what is it?
I'm just going to quote Schuyler Camman, who was a Professor of Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania before his death in 1991. He was an anthropologist and art historian and he did some ground-breaking work on Chinese symbolism including magic squares and the meaning of cloud collars. I'm planning to tell you more about the symbolism of cloud collars in his amazing article in another post.
Anyway, Camman says,
So I have been around old stuff all my life. Not just museums, but I come from a family of antique dealers and was in the business for myself for a while. And one thing you always dread seeing is a terrible restoration. And there are a lot of them around. In the antiques world, it's rare 18th c. furniture that somebody decided to 'chabby chic' with a can of white spray paint, or an original oil painting cut down to fit a (usually cheap and gaudy) frame etc. In the museum world, it's more frequently the case that the 'restoration' was done by someone who was supposed to know what they were doing. And did not.
At one of the museums I did some research at, the curator brought the fabric fragments I had requested out in a big stack of cardstock. She was apologizing as she put them down...."I know, I know, the preservation is awful and if we try to reverse it they will be ruined."
I took a closer look. Is that glue? No. Is that...deep breath...velcro?
Yup. Somebody many years ago got the bright idea to mount the rough side of velcro to a piece of cardstock and just stick the very old and fragile textiles onto it. Meaning that all the little 'hooks' in the velcro are now embedded in the textile. I'm not actually going to say which museum, because they are pretty embarrassed about it.
When I visited Istanbul and went to the room of Muslim relics, each 'sword of some companion of the Prophet' was an old sword blade fitted with a fancy scabbard and a fancy new handle with an jewels the size of an egg. There may have been some genuine relics, but they are all so covered in gilt, velvet and pearls that you can't tell. Lord deliver me from Turkish Rococo. I hate it so much.
When you can see past the chandelier, take a look at the bannisters. They are made of Baccarat crystal. Turkish Rococo is what happens when 18th c Late Baroque French meets 18th c Late Ottoman Empire. I hate it so much.
There is a similar problem with one of the cloud collars at the Hermitage, but I'll show you that in the next post.
The reason I'm writing about ill-conceived conservation and restoration methods is that I've been editing the massive number of photos I took in Europe and I found one I had forgotten about.
I really love museums that put the objects in their collections into context for their patrons. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. So when I finished with my appointments in the textile study room at the Ashmolean at Oxford, I took some time to see the rest of their really wonderful collection. They had a display about conservation issues and how best practices change over time and are mostly carried out by people who love the objects and are trying to do the right thing. And they used items in their collection that had been improperly conserved.
And when I saw this next item, I kinda lost it. Just stood there and giggled for...awhile. I blame the six hours or so I had just spent counting threads and measuring stitch length in some truly fabulous garments.
So I saw it. And I did a double take. And then I read the placard and that's what set me off.
Such typically British understatement.
"Syrian ceramic jar 1200 to 1250"...okaaaay....
"poorly restored in the 1970s"
Anyway, finding the photo got me thinking about other ways that objects have ended their lifespan in forms that the makers clearly never intended. Which brings me to the cloud collar. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.
So, more good stuff from Valerie Hansen's The Silk Road: a new history.
So I mentioned how incredibly dry the Taklamakan region is, right? The average precipitation in one of the oasises is less than one inch per year. Less than an inch. In the oasis.
This incredible aridity means that lots of things enter the archaeological record here that wouldn't anywhere else.
One of the finds that makes me particularly giddy is the food offerings from a tomb that have dried naturally and been preserved for 1500 years. Four wontons and a dumpling, you guys. Chinese dumplings that look like what you can order in restaurants all over the world. The archaeologists at the site noted that one of the wontons was broken open and they are pretty sure it was stuffed with pork and scallion. (The way I imagine this conversation playing out at the dig site is kinda hilarious.)
And in the same grave? Naan. Seriously, Indian naan flatbread. How cool is that?
Where did the naan come from? It came with immigrants from the Gandhara region in India (including the modern cities of Bamiyan, Gilgit, Peshawar, Taxila, and Kabul in modern Pakistan and Afghanistan). Take a glance at a map, that's a pretty long and terrifying journey. From the city of Kashmir to the Kroraina kingdom in the Taklamakan Desert is almost a thousand miles and includes some of the highest mountain passes on the planet. Hansen calls this series of mountain ranges, known to geologists as the Pamir Knot, "a spiral galaxy of massive peaks radiating clockwise into the Karakorum, Hindu Kush, Pamir, Kunlun, and Himalayan mountain ranges."
Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-British explorer and archaeologist, retraced this journey in the late 19th c. He was using the same technology and transportation used by the Ghandaran immigrants almost 2000 years earlier.
Hansen says, "Stein used a new route through the town of Gilgit that the British had opened only ten years earlier. He timed his crossing of the Tragbal Pass (11,950 feet, or 3,642 m) and Burzil Pass (13,650 feet, or 4,161 m) to occur in the summer after the snow had melted... He used human porters, as no pack animal could negotiate these tortuous trails. After crossing into China at the Mintaka Pass (15,187 feet, or 4,629 m), they proceeded north to Kashgar and from there to Khotan and then Niya. On some sections of the Gilgit Road, one can still see drawings and inscriptions left behind by ancient travelers on the rock walls. Travelers often had to halt for several months before they could proceed; like Stein, they had to wait for the snow to melt in the summer and could take desert routes only in cooler winter weather. During these lulls, they used sharp tools or stones to rub off metallic accretions and etch extremely short messages or simple sketches directly on the surface of the rock."
She also mentions that for some sections of passes the people walked along the sheer side of mountains using wooden pegs hammered into the stone cliffs as steps. Carrying full packs. Over sheer drops. I am the tiniest bit terrified of heights (I'm better now, ask me about circus school sometime...) and I cannot imagine trying to do that. Well, actually I can and I don't like it.
I love digging up the details for the different legs of the trip, it makes it feel real. There's a lot more awesome stuff in this book. Here's the link if you want your own copy.
One of the other things that caught my attention was descriptions of Kongque River, that is, the Peacock River. It's a river with naturally occurring metal deposits dissolved in the water, turning it into shades of brilliant peacock blue and green.
Here are some pictures of the river as it looks today.
Can you imagine coming down out of those impossibly high mountains, or from the dunes of the Taklamakan and seeing this?
For those of you who've known me for more than 5 minutes, the following will not come as a surprise:
I am a museum junkie.
The trouble with loving museums as much as I do is that whenever I travel, there is always some special exhibit that is over before I can get there or arrives after I leave.
So this made me a little whimpery:
The two short videos on the webpage are definitely worth watching. Quite a few of the objects in the second video are things I'm familiar with from books, including the gorgeous felted wool swan.
(This exhibit looks pretty interesting too: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/living_with_gods.aspx)
I was in London in April, so I didn't get to see this and I am a tiny bit obsessed with Scythians and I'll be talking about them in the book.
Also, I want to hug the curator and feed him cookies.
Hello, my darlings,
It's been a busy few months. I'll start with a research update and then give you the big picture.
From mid-April to mid-May was spent on a research trip to Europe. It was amazing and wonderful and really useful with some very nice surprises.