Burke Museum textile exhibition weaves a tale of many cultures
A Burke Museum textile exhibition includes a Hopi kilt with images of clouds and rain, a Navajo chief blanket, Tibetan offering-scarves in silk, Filipino pineapple-fiber blouses, Indonesian batik prints, a Mexican quechquemitl or poncho, a Chinese emperor's silk robe, a Micronesian wraparound skirt and a Japanese silk wedding kimono.
Seattle Times staff reporter
On the Internet
Installing the exhibit: www.youtube.com, search "Burke Museum"
'Weaving Heritage: Textile Masterpieces from the Burke Collection'10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through Feb. 27, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, 17th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street, Seattle; $6-$9.50 (206-543-7907 or www.washington.edu/burkemuseum).
The Burke Museum is showcasing its collection of fine textiles in celebration of its 125th anniversary.
More than 100 brightly colored textiles line the walls of the exhibit, "titled "Weaving Heritage," made from banana and pineapple fiber, hemp, yak and sheep wool, and silk. The pieces represent hundreds of years of work from 13 regions across the world, from Asia to South America.
"There's something inherently delicious about being around quality textiles," said exhibit designer Andrew Whiteman. "They have a personality, a richness to them. ... There's just an immediate emotional human connection to them."
Whiteman modeled the exhibit on a computer, then installed the pieces 16 feet up onto the wall. The exhibit showcases textiles like a Hopi kilt with images of clouds and rain, a Navajo chief blanket, Tibetan offering-scarves in silk, Filipino pineapple-fiber blouses, Indonesian batik prints, a Mexican quechquemitl or poncho, a Chinese emperor's silk robe, a Micronesian wraparound skirt and a Japanese silk wedding kimono.
"When people wear these pieces, it means a lot to them," said exhibit curator James D. Nason. "It's part of who they are and how they fit in the world."
Nason, along with a committee of weavers, selected textiles for the exhibit from community donations and the museum's 2,000-piece collection — some of which have not been exhibited before. They based their picks on three factors — artistry, cultural significance and endangerment. Endangered textiles included those from Guatemala and Southeast Asia, areas where weavers have been threatened by military conflict and war. Nason says weaving by hand is at risk, with the introduction of cheap machine-made textiles, availability of traditional materials, plus economic and political strife.
"Weaving has been around for the past 20,000 years," said Nason. "It's an extremely ancient technology."
Along with the exhibit, the museum is holding weekend weaving demonstrations. Sunday, Spokane weaver Maria Cuc Jiatz will be teaching the art of backstrap loom weaving, where the loom is tied to the back and secured to the ground with a stake.
"Mayan women have been using the backstrap loom for centuries," said Cuc Jiatz. "We pass it down from generation to generation. ... It's something the women in the family just have to learn."
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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