It is amazing what you can find in central Glasgow right now. On Friday Stuart & I went to the preview of From Quilts to Couture in Kyrgyzstan at the Collins Gallery, one of our favourite exhibition venues and definitely a top venue for craft shows in Scotland. I had a particular interest in this exhibition because of the presence of woven sedge screens, called chiy, which are used for all sorts of purposes in Kyrgyz nomadic culture. Why would I be particularly interested in chiy? Well, because not long ago I spent a hectic few weeks editing an article about it for the Journal for Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.
While I mention the Journal from time to time in this blog, I don’t often go into detail about the work I do for it. I feel somewhat diffident about it, I think, because the Journal is not mine. It belongs to the AGWSD and all of us who work on it are just “passing through”, we are custodians of something which is much bigger than ourselves. If that sounds a little bit grandiose, that is not how it feels — it feels like both a tremendous privilege and a terrifying responsibility, especially the latter!
However, the fringe benefits are enormous. That is, if you are the sort of person who finds learning textile terms in Kyrgyz an enormous benefit… which I guess I am. I learned a lot from the development of this article, thanks to the patience of the excellent author Stephanie Bunn, and that preparation made the visit to Friday’s preview all the more rewarding.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise, in case you happen to be expecting a Journal which is still in the post, so I will only show a couple of pictures here. (Although there is much more in the article than just chiy!)
The first picture shows part of a chyrmagan kanat chiy, a long woven screen which is designed to encircle the outer wall of a tent. Yes, you’re right, the tents are made of felt, but the felt wall goes over the chiy which surrounds the frame (which supports the tent which… you know the story.) If the weather gets hot, you can take the felt layer off and get a lovely air conditioning effect thanks to your chiy. The stand in the front of the picture is the “loom” which chiy is made on.
The designs are made by wrapping each individual sedge stem (also called chiy) with coloured fleece. As the stems are placed into the weaving the pattern is built up. Clever, eh? I’m impressed. Especially when they do finely detailed images like the one in the second picture. If I were doing this, it would look like a game of consequences.
The other cultural coup which Glasgow has achieved is the chance to see Brad Pitt making a zombie movie. Except that, whenever they are actually filming, great big screens (not sedge, I’m afraid) go up blocking off the road. I’m not a Brad Pitt fan (if it were Johnny Depp, now, that would be something) so I am just enjoying — if that is the right word for something so monumentally inconvenient — the transformation of George Square into a pretend Philadelphia. The most transformed part of the city centre consists of the few blocks between the railway station and my office, so I do get to enjoy this experience Quite A Lot.
Here are some of the details that I have the opportunity to appreciate while zig-zagging my way through the crowds and the barriers to get to work.
Thanks to everyone for your comments about the reed. Most seem to think it is feasible, but with some words of warning — notably from Pat who has the same make of loom as I do. I have wound my warp so I’ll post about my progress shortly.