Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guardian of Rare Textiles

The Wall Street Journal featured a great article on Julia Brennan, “A Guardian of Rare, Exotic Fabrics.”
Julia is one of our countries top conservationists restoring everything from Abraham Lincoln’s coat to very rare Asian textiles in public and private collections. She recently spent 140 hours restoring a 19th century Thai robe given by the King of Siam to a Danish naval officer. I began collecting antique textiles when I first started at Wesco Fabrics and display them at work and home.

Julia works on rare fabrics at the request of the Queen of Bhutan.

The King of Bhutan wears the “Raven Crown.” A similar royal crown in Bhutan’s national museum was repaired by Ms. Brennan.

One of my textiles could use some expert repair work. This is a silk damask weave woven in Italy in the 17th century.

We display antique fabrics in our conference room. I love the color of this late 18th century silk moire from France.

I found this beautiful fragment of a “Noh” costume (Karaori) from the mid 17th century in Kyoto. It is brocaded silk. The karaori was possibly from a kimono worn by a man when playing female roles.

An early collecting passion for Marla and I were Japanese antiques. For many years we sold them to the trade in our Denver Wesco Fabrics showroom. We display this large late 19th century Meiji period futon cover over a tansu chest at home. The unique printing technique is call “tsutsugaki” which uses rice paste as a resist when dyed with indigo. The pine motif symbolizes long life and virtue.

The dyed cloth is called a “Furoshiki” or “carrying cloth.” This piece was used for wrapping gifts and packages. The Edo period specimen (1603-1868) was “tsutsugaki” dyed and features a crane symbolizing happiness and eternal youth.

The long white tail on the printed tortoise symbolizes longevity & wisdom. Japanese folklore attributes mystical qualities to it. The futon was most likely used as a wedding present. Late Meiji period tsutsugaki technique on hand woven cotton.

Marla and I would always visit temple sales on buying trips to Japan. We purchased this 19th century silk obi and use it as a runner on a tansu chest.

Antique textiles require special care when displayed. It is most important to keep them away from sunlight. I love the intricacy of the embroidery on this 18th century waist coat exhibited at the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris.

While on a trip to France with Wesco Fabrics’ customers we were invited to visit a wonderful private 12th century chateau in the Vendee region, south of the Loire. The owner’s collection of 15th century tapestry was amazing!

***For more information on Julia Brennan…

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