Tomorrow we finally officially open our doors. The process of developing and installing The Fabric of India has been challenging: a true feat of research, conservation, and logistical engineering. But it has also been inspiring. Beyond the magic of the objects themselves, the dedication of all the staff involved in putting up this show has been truly phenomenal to behold. Every single person on the team – whether officially assigned their role or working as a very welcome volunteer – devoted time, energy, and enthusiasm far beyond the call of duty. From the curators and myself, very grateful thanks.
The curators, as it happens, have exempted themselves from choosing a favourite thing – a controversial decision, but understandable given that all the objects in the show are favourites of theirs in some way (otherwise they wouldn’t have made the cut!). Though Rosemary and Divia escaped the challenge, the rest of us heartily struggled to make our choices, and we hope you have enjoyed reading about them. We believe after visiting the exhibition, you will have equal trouble making a selection.
So here are our final objects. There are many, many more staff members and volunteers that we have missed including, but they are no less deserving of recognition. For now, we will show our gratitude by saving them the difficulty of making a choice. For now…
Charlene Betteridge, Volunteer
Favourite Object: Emperor’s New Machine by Lavanya Mani
“Last year I learnt how to sew my own clothes and I have a really old, vintage Singer sewing machine. It reminds me of this picture here and I think it kind of puts into perspective how we’re all related in terms of sewing and making. Plus, the object’s label says ‘…unlike other forms of industry which Gandhi regarded as a threat, the sewing machine was viewed as a simple piece of machinery that supported honest labour’, and I thought that quote was really nice.”
Brandon Caldwell, Exhibition Security Supervisor
Favourite object: Jiyo! Abstract Ikat Sari
“It’s the more feminine side of Indian fabric – I like the way the lines are falling and it would look fantastic with someone inside it. I really like the way the diagonal lines crisscross the body in the ikat sari.”
Albertina Cogram, Senior Textile Conservator
New Favourite Object: Pashmina gloves (in an unprecedented move, Tina has changed her favourite object from the Shrine Flag she initially picked in yesterday’s post)
“These gloves intrigued me when I was conserving them for display, and as a knitter I really appreciate the fineness of the yarn and the gauge of the stitches. Then, on closer inspection, I realised that they are not knitted at all but crocheted. Wow, what skill, what patience – they are just wonderful”
Keira Miller, Senior Costume Display Specialist
Favourite object: Bollywood costume (Keira is shown here in the process of padding up the costume’s mannequin to take the weight of the object. The mannequin is seated on a stool and attached to a carrying board. It took 4 people to move her!) [the mannequin, not Keira!]
“Such a lot of bling! And a really great mannequin too… I’m so pleased with how good she looks on display, and how well the figure supports the weight of the garment”
Lilia Tisdall, Costume Mounting Specialist
Favourte object: Beaded hat
“I like the jaunty angle of the tassel and it was very satisfying to handle and mount”
Lucien Smith, PA to Head of Exhibitions & Loans
Favourite object: Japanese-Style Hanging
“This was the last object to be installed late at night on the final day of installation. The large team assembled stood back as it was unfurled, and watched reverently as an unexpected, distinctly Japanese-looking textile was revealed. It sat so beautifully in its case, subtly lit, that no adjustments were required.”
Robyn Earl, Exhibitions Manager
Favourite object: Muslin dress
“I love the Georgians and this piece was made for export to the UK to be worn by Georgian women: it’s elegant and beautiful.”
Avalon Fotheringham, Exhibition Research Assistant
Favourite object: Checked sari
“This was a hugely difficult choice – I have so many favourites that I very nearly exempted myself as well. A spool of gold wire, a brick of lac dye, and some tasar cocoons all came dangerously close. But I have loved this sari for over two years. The first time I saw it in person I was researching it for a paper, and even after writing nearly 10,000 words about it I still find it fascinating. Every time it made it through another round of object cuts, I was full of joy. And not only has it made it into the final show, it’s now our banner image. It’s a simple, lovely thing, but has many grand and complex stories to tell.”
We’ve enjoyed sharing our favourite things with you, and now warmly invite (challenge?) you to come pick your own! We can’t wait to see what you all choose.
I went to The Fabric Of India exhibition today and I just wanted to say it was fantastic! Exceptionally well thought out exhibition space, my favourite area was the room where the tent of Tipu Sultan is kept. Exquisite fabrics and the ambience of the rooms with the music went together well. Also rather than it being just a visual exhibition, learning about the history behind how the fabrics were made was insightful.
Well done to the staff who put this together, I wouldn’t mind going again!
We’re so pleased you enjoyed it Hena, thank you for your comment!
I’m flying from New Zealand to London on 1st December just for the Fabric of India exhibition. I have chintz and ikat dreams.
You are clearly a textile-lover after our own hearts Shuchi – we can’t wait for you to see the show!
Thinking about the show which I saw last night, and will visit again, I realise that I have learnt quite a lot without trying. So interesting, love the films about the makers and the interesting part about Ghandi. Completely divine fabrics which is what took me there.
Soooo hard to pick one favourite from this exquisite (and large) collection / exhibition / educational experience.
But the moment my mouth fell open was when I laid eyes on the map of Srinagar shawl ! The colours, the story, the humour, the naiveté – pure delight.
Visited the Fabric of India yesterday and loved it all – just the right mix of information, technique, history and art. The painstaking detail and workmanship of the objects was reflected in the presentation – thank you.
I work in clay and think that some of the fabric-printing techniques are transferable into other media – have purchased a printing block to try out some ideas. I was particularly interested in the hand-painted Gujarati wall hanging representing a prince flanked by female dancers: it was displayed as the lower of three hangings. I started to sketch it but the crowds and time were pressing so I left it and have looked for an image online – in vain! Can anyone help at all?
Thank you again for an inspiring exhibition.
So glad you enjoyed the exhibition! If I am right in thinking the textile you are talking about was the lowest of the South-East Asian banners in the Global Trade section, then that piece was loaned to us by the Tapi Collection in India (its object ID is 01.51). Images of this object are not ours to share online, as the copyright belongs to the Tapi Collection. However, there are full and detail shots of the piece in The Fabric of India publication as well as in another book called ‘Trade, Temple & Court: Indian textiles from the Tapi Collection’. Hopefully this helps!