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The Art of the Silken Thread Exhibition

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by Annie Evett (subscribe)
is a scribbler of short stories and herds cats and recalcitrant words, generally sharing them on
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Exquisite Exclusive Antique Chinese Embroidery
Be amongst the first in Australia to view a selection of traditional handcrafted items from the Ethnic Minorities of China which have been allowed to be displayed out of their region. The exhibition, "The Art of the Silken Thread" showcases rare antique and vintage textiles have collectors scrambling and will only be on display at the Everglades Gallery in Leura, high in the Blue Mountains until 17th of February 2013.

embroidery, Everglades, Chinese, The Ethnic Minority
Gorgeous and Intricate example of Antique Ethnic Minority Textiles


The textiles on display showcase the Ethnic Minorities ability to artistically express their mythology, technical skill, and cultural identity. Not only do they represent distinct cultures and beliefs, they give and insight into the simple purity of the people who wore them. Carefully woven and stitched into most pieces are erotic and symbolic shapes as constant prayers for abundance and longevity of life. Very few pieces of such high quality and style from the Ethnic Minorities have survived. These spectacular pieces are a rare collectors dream.

Just under sixty separate traditional groups make up what is termed The Minority Cultures within China. Their diverse population draws on thousands of years of beliefs which is represented artistically within their textiles. The Ethnic Minorities live amongst the subtropical areas of the mountainous South China and include the Miao, Don, Yi, Yao, Shui, Li and Bai. Because of the remote nature of their physical environment, their traditional methods of manufacture and decoration have remained relatively uninfluenced by modern China.

For thousands of years, villages in the remote areas have selectively migrated, shared and developed a rich, diverse cultural tradition represented through their silverwork and textiles. Until only recently, these regions remained isolated but have been penetrated by the strong economic, educational and social changes China has instigated. Although this focus has eroded the purity and use of traditional costumes and household textiles worn by the ethnic groups, exhibitions such as this one highlights the diverse nature of these people, bringing them to a world stage where they may be preserved.

Hand embroidered and woven household items such as aprons, baby carriers and shawls display both cultural and religious symbols bringing wealth, health and security to the owners. Pieces are a feast of the eye with their rich colour palette, superb skill and imaginative interpretation of ancient motifs, meant to convey religious, magical tribal and personal meanings. Symbols are abstract in some places, precise in others but always strikingly elegant. Even for those not interested in textiles or embroidery, cannot but marvel at the intricacy of the delicate stitching and beading each piece has. Techniques include cross stitch, half cross, statin, French knot and appliqué.

Many of the pieces had both a practical and cultural use. Baby Carriers within the region are highly decorated, boasting not only the skill of the woman who handcrafted it, but was an immediately recognisable social status. An enchanting example included a 1900 piece depicting a traditional pattern of birds eyes. The base cloth was handwoven calico dyed red for its protective quality. The two symbolic motifs, the birds eyes and pomegranate represents reproduction and desire for future generations as the embodiment of the spiritual life. In spite of its age, the silken thread is still bright and fresh. These items, some dating from 1880 have been handed down through the families as treasures.

Hanrad, the company who have brought the exhibition to Australia, has been collecting and curating these stunning pieces for several years. Each has been thoroughly researched, with extensive notes available for the viewing public to read. The curator is both knowledgeable and charming, full of information and passion for each piece.

The Art of the Silken Thread" is currently being exhibited at the Everglades Gallery, 37 Everglades Avenue, Leura. Entry: Adult $10, Concession $8, Child $4. National Trust Members are free. The Exhibition runs between Wednesday to Sundays only from 11am – 3pm. Enquiries on 02 4784 1938 or by email radford@hanrad.com.
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Why? Spectacular Chinese embroidery
When: Till 17th Feb
Phone: 02 4784 1938
Where: The Everglades Gallery, Leura
Cost: $4-$10
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