Thursday, 19 November 2015

Indian fabric - craftsmanship and splendour

The Fabric of India was an exhibition I visited on the same day as I visited Shoes: Pleasure and Pain (see last week's blog) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Of the two I have to say I enjoyed this one the most - although both were worth a visit.

The Fabric of India looked at Indian textiles from a wide range of viewpoints - craftsmanship, historical, contemporary, status, political and social issues.  It was also the exhibition where I learnt that for the ancient Greeks and Babylonians, the word 'cotton' was synonymous with India.

The entrance includes a huge seventeenth century "summer carpet" flanked with two mannequins dressed in very contemporary versions of Indian fashion.  It was a good introduction to an exhibition that looked at such a historically diverse subject.

In the next section, which was large and spacious, the exhibition concentrated on the craftsmanship behind textile production - growing, weaving, dyeing, printing, embroidery.  I liked the fact that they showed family businesses still producing cloth or textile products - highlighting the craftsmen (and women) as well as the techniques and products themselves.  

There were sections that showed courtly splendour, textiles with sacred attributes, global trade, and contemporary designs.  It was also good to see that they included a section about how Britain exploited the trade, to the point that the Indian textile tradition was severely damaged - a side of textile history that in the past might have been ignored.  

There were some very beautiful pieces and fascinating items on display.  A favourite of mine was the embroidered map shawl, dating from the 19th century.  Even the exhibition graphics, which included stitched words, were worth admiring.

After a visit to the shoe exhibition in the morning this was a big exhibition to take on.  If I get the chance I would love to go back.  Next time I would take my notebook.  

Again no photographs so the images for the blog are from the V&A's permanent collection of South Asian textiles.  The exhibition continues until 10 January 2016.


  1. A great overview of this lovely and inspiring exhibition. I think it definitely merits a return visit, as there was so much to read and absorb.

    1. I was very tempted to purchase the book but it was so heavy, I don't think I could have carried it home.