Talks with David Roche 2018

Keeping Up Appearances: Traded cottons (sarasa) and Edo knock-offs | A talk by David Button | Thursday 11 October 6PM

Indian cotton textiles, block printed, resist dyed and painted were traded around the world for hundreds of years. Known as sarasa (calicos & chintz), fragments have been unearthed in Fostat, Egypt, dating from the 14th century. The Arabs bought Indian sarasa textiles to Indonesia in exchange for spices. The finer cloths became markers of high status.

Later, when European traders came to Southeast Asia, aggressive competition centred on textiles and the spice trade. Here the story turns to Japan. The Dutch traded saris textiles in to Japan during the early Edo Period of the 17th century. They were immediately absorbed into Japanese culture and due to their great expense were made into fashionable wrappings, pouches and purses, and covers for tea utensils. A Japanese sarasa inspired textile printing industry began in the 18th century and local production led to the manufacture of clothing as well. The development of this important and unique industry is the focus of David Button’s talk and will illuminate a little recognised element of Edo style.


David Button’s initial training in the arts industry was in conservation. He later specialised in Japanese print conservation with the Halls collection in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During this period David also researched and catalogued prints for major print exhibitions in Australia and Hong Kong. For many years David has been a regular visitor to Japan, collecting Japanese prints and paintings. More recently, his interest has expanded to textiles and the flow of patterns and trade inside and outside Japan. He began to collect printed cotton sarasa when he realised how important they are to the history of Japanese design.

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