REVIEW: John Gillow on the Silk Route

by - Tuesday, October 09, 2018

On September 25th textile specialist, collector, trader, author, and adventurer John Gillow took the audience down the silk route. John was equally at ease talking about the influence of the Great Game (the nineteenth century rivalry between Great Britain and Russia) on shawl motifs, as he was relating how he found a certain textile trader in Afghanistan and then, remarkably found the same trader twenty or thirty years later. It was a visually rich evening of stitch motifs, weaving technique, textile history, trade politics, intrigue, and stories.

The evening was introduced by Liberty Erikson:

Good evening Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 3rdlecture in the Maiwa School of Textiles Lectures series.

Tonight it is my great privilege to be able to introduce John Gillow. He visits us from the UK.  He has shared his knowledge and stories at many Maiwa symposiums. He is the author of numerous books including; African TextilesIndian Textiles, World Textiles … and many more. 

John is a living conduit.  His knowledge connects history to place and cloth.

To me John is like the eccentric uncle I always wished I had. The one that would travel the world and come back full of treasures and stories. It certainly feels that way whenever John comes for a talk … for weeks before his arrival box after box after mysterious box arrives to Maiwa. What has he collected?  What secrets will he reveal?

Tonight we will travel back in time to the days of the silk route. How did these pieces get here? What communities were they made for? What dangers did they encounter on the road? Were they bought, traded, stolen, smuggled? All of that I will leave for John to unpack. 

The life of a textile seems to span almost beyond space and time. Sometimes ceremonial textiles are made for significant reasons. Sometimes textiles are humble and useful — like bed linen. I believe that textiles take on a life and a history all their own, and some can have many chapters in their long lives. 

This evening is another chapter in the journey of these cloths. These stories are the threads that connect us all. But the stories don’t exist without the storyteller … 

So lets gather around the primal fires and travel with John down the old silk routes…

Ladies and gentlemen, John Gillow

See all REVIEWS on the Maiwa Blog.

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