Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canadian Museum of Civilization

[Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization] 
[Photo: Salish blanket at SFU Museum
of Archaeology & Ethnology
Last week I was lucky enough to meet with one of the Curators of Ethnology at the Canadian Museum of Ethnology who gave me a tour of the back rooms where the Coast Salish Textiles are stored.
[Photo: Coast Salish blanket at SFU
 Museum of Archaeology
 & Ethnology]

It was amazing to see so many in one place. I was allowed to photograph them but copyright of the objects only allows me to use the photos for educational/research use not for posting on my blog, hence I found a few others which I can post. The one on the top right shows the more Interior Salish style blanket, very close woven, with many colours. To me, this style rivals the famous Navajo blanket. These should be just as highly valued as the Navajo blanket is. I suspect the only reasons these blankets are not, is because they are not as well known.
The one below it shows the Coast Salish style - mostly white, often with a red stripe woven into it. In this case the red strip is actually a strip of commercially woven fabric.
[Photo: Chief George and his daughter 1902
wearing Salish woven coats
The Coast Salish blanket is typically woven in a twill pattern and sometimes, the added stripes or plaids are done in a plain weave. The Interior Salish usually use a twined weave where the weft yarn completely covers the warp yarn.  I am using the terms Coast Salish and Interior Salish very loosely.  Where does one group end and one begin? Even within one group, there are different First Nations.  They may share a similar language but they each may have their own unique culture, history and protocols. With weaving, the techniques will cross these artificial boundaries, so it is difficult to say that a particular style blanket would only be made by one group.  Chief Joe Capilano's blanket (click this link to view it) is interesting because it contains both techniques, the bulky Coast Salish twill style, bordered by the finely twined Interior Salish style.
[Photo: The Perth Blanket] 
The blanket next on my list to see is one of the oldest and rarest it is known as the Perth blanket, as it is in the Perth Museum in Scotland.  More on this one in July when I plan on seeing this blanket in person. 

Questions I have about these blankets and spinning - 
  • what techniques are used to spin the yarn?  The yarn in the Coast Salish style is quite different than that of the Interior Salish style.  
  • Did they use different methods?  Thigh, spindle, toss or roll?
  • Different fibres? 
  • Different size whorls? 
  • S or Z twist?
By the way, the Canadian Museum of Civilization is a work of art in itself. The building was designed by architect Douglas Cardinal, a Canadian. Check out his website for some inspiring photographs of his work: http://www.djcarchitect.com/

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