Inspiration from the Tribal & Textile Arts Show

detail of a 19th century Suzani piece
This weekend I attended the San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show. And what a fabulous show it was, bursting with inspiring patterns, colors, textures.
a large 19th century Suzani tapestry - all hand-embroidered
Dealers from around the world come to this show, offering museum-quality antique tribal art, jewelry, and textiles. 
Detail of an intense purple antique batik sarong. Note the tiny white dots that follow the form of each petal.
My friend Daniel Gundlach from The Language of Cloth was there, along with noted batik expert Rudolf Smend from Cologne, Germany. 
Nearby, a collection of Ottoman textiles caught my eye:
Ipek Ottoman wedding robe with bullion thread
detail of Ottoman wedding robe- intense ruby silk and silver bullion
What is this intense ruby color? What pigment or dye makes this color?  I have to find out.
large antique Suzani in fuchsia pink. Fabulous.
detail of a splendid pink and black Suzani
The color palettes in some of these fabrics are loaded with surprising combinations, and I found many of them remarkably modern looking.

antique Japanese lined printed in an interconnected geometric pattern

An antique printed and dyed pattern on gossamer light linen from Africa

Marvelous patterns and colors can also be found in tiles, baskets, carpets... 
antique Iznik tile 
flat woven wool carpet (kilim)
lush Moroccan berber carpets in black and white and rich colored  patterns from Gebhart Blazek, Austria
a collection of antique African baskets from a Belgian dealer
A colorful and abstract Saami quilt
I was particularly intrigued by a display of vintage Saami ralli quilts -  made from discarded fabrics, pulled apart and recycled by the nomadic Saami people around Sindh, Pakistan, hand-dyed scraps are beautifully and simply assembled and embroidered.  This work is fast becoming a lost art.
Saami ralli quilt
detail of Saami ralli quilt
On the opposite side of the spectrum, an example of superb formal  embroidery  from China:
Antique Chinese embroidery
detail of silk embroidered peony
Ikat when done well is truly mesmerizing. Ikat is a near universal weaving style common to many cultures from Argentina to Java, from Uzbekistan to Japan.  It is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration.
A rich woven silk Ikat fabric (Turkish) from the 19th century
I found a length of antique printed fabric with a lovely patina, the kind of thing that influenced the work of Fortuny. I found it rather inspiring as well.
antique printed fabric from Persia (?)
Persian printed fabric, detail

All photos in this post by Lynne Rutter,  February, 2013
- click on images to view larger.


  1. What a wonderful show. I love the Persian fabric at the end, it has an incredible design. Lucky you!

  2. This looks like a great show, and an inspiring one, too. My favorites of these are the Saami quilts. Aside from handsome, modern designs (I'm reminded of Paul Klee), there's something very endearing about the time and care to recycle something so beautifully.

  3. beautiful and inspiring! thank you for letting us see the show too.

  4. I like Suzani very much for their spirited coloring and unique patterns, natural resources and refinement of embroidery skills. I think that many of us like Suzani for this.

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