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Published: 15 April 2023

By Andy Ross

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Conversation and Cloth

On Tuesday this week I held the first Conversation and Cloth event in Mawhera Greymouth's Regent Theatre cafe. 

Ten enthusiastic people turned up to have a chat about some pieces from the textile collection. A New Zealand dress from the 1970s started the conversation. With its gold lurex yarn knitted together with black, it is a striking piece of history. The dress has a fringe along the neckline and hem, and the patterning could have come straight out of the Egyptomania style of the 1920s.  In the textile collection is a small length of narrow printed silk from the period with Egyptian vultures and stylised papyrus motifs; perfect for linking the New Zealand dress with the 1920s, the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb and the worldwide craze for Ancient Egypt that followed. There are also a large number of hangings and panels, appliqued and embroidered, from the 1920s, much like this one, to support that lineage.

Going further back in time, the collection holds a number of 19th Century black and white printed cotton panels, similar to these,  from the Working Men's Educational Union in London with depictions of Ancient Egyptian life and heiroglyphs, and event further back, to the 4th Century, a small piece of Coptic linen that would have decorated the edge of a tunic. 

It was a fascinating discussion, this first event, and I am looking forward to the next one at a date to be decided in May. We will be looking at blankets, an apt topic for the winter months. Thank you to everyone who came along.