Thursday, 18 August 2016

Textile Adventures in Russia.

As we read and heard, social connections seemed to have been paramount in Russian and Soviet society. Not 'what-you-know' but 'who-you-know'.

Anna's friend has the title, "Keeper of the Russian Textile Collection" at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.    

As a textile tourist in Russia one couldn't do much better than that.

The line-up to buy tickets stretched for blocks. We walked past all those sweating Russian tourists and serfs up to a very noble high iron and wood door with a cool breeze off the Neva and waited while Anna called her friend to let us in the back door.

 In the meanwhile a black immaculate Audi W12 pulled up and a few immaculately dressed men slipped out of the back seats and slipped seamlessly though the immaculately timed open door. It closed with a faint whiff of oak.

Tatiana appeared as the door opened again for us moments later. (It creaked a little...perhaps we weren't  cologned and Brioni Vanquished well enough for the oak breeze treatment.)

Hidden corridors occasionally interrupted by gilded doors. We had to pass through the the palace rooms that were tres public.

I started to get the idea of why the Bolshevik revolution started here in St Petersburg. What are the words..... terrifying .......opulence? 500 palaces side by side lining the canals and streets of St Petersburg. And this winter palace of the Tsar now the Hermintage Museum.....Brain Cracking.

We got the inside tour for a few hours. Visiting a Haute Couture exhibition being set up and not yet open to the public. The work of Vyacheslav Zaitsev, the Soviet Yves Saint Laurent. Hermitage link to the exhibition.

The impressive Issey Miyake exhibition recently seen and worshipped in Tokyo seemed a bit like a deflated balloon in a public park compared to this one. (Just kidding....The Issey Miyake exhibition was impossible to forget.)

Tatiana had worked on restoring and remaking the textiles in one of the Tzar's throne rooms. The one he used to commemorate Peter the Great, founder of St.Petersburg.

The massive room had been damaged during the war and the Soviet government was not priorotizing the refurbishing of the Tzar's throne room.

When removing the embroideried insignia from the walls and throne of the room for restoration Tatiana realized that the room was originally not royal cherry red but actually a deeper darker red.  The naturally dyed madder red had faded with time or with something in the cleaning water or actual air itself. 

The decorating had been well documented in the early 1800's. With the Nazi blockade and the Bolshevik Revolution and then the Soviet Era it is hard to imagine these documents survived.

They did.

 Tatiana was able to locate the French company that had produced the silk velvet and brocade for the wall panels, curtains, and the throne itself. They were still in business. They still had the sample books and the thread counts and brocade patterns in their old library. The materials were reproduced and the room re-reddened and ready for the millions of tourists who diminutively and awestruck slide through the palace rooms in plastic bagged protective shoes.

I need some more time in St Petersburg. Tatiana has invited me back in the off-season to spend more time in the back rooms. I received a formal invitation to a conference of textile restorers in December 2017. I can't wait.

Thank you Tatiana and Anna....I could never have imagined what an amazing day it was going to be.


  1. what an amazing tour you're experiencing, and the opulence is stunning. and congratulations on an amazing invite--now that will be a rich experience.

  2. Hi Velma, Actually I am back in Japan....I hand wrote out a few posts and it seems a waste not to post them! It was an amazing trip. I'll keep going back. Hope all is good with you. Bryan

    1. terrific. happy homecoming. retirement is amazing. i'm doing the work i want to!

  3. What an unbelievable experience!

  4. What an incredible opportunity to see such sublime textiles in those surroundings. Lovely Anna , too!

  5. oh bryan thanks for this post. one of my favorite museums of all time along w. the ruski.what is mind boggling to me is the proximity of history. they lived there, that was their home until the revolution. we're not talking middle ages or renaissance as in europe.

    1. I know...mind cracking...all those palaces were in full use until 100 years ago.