Monday, 22 September 2008

Textile Travels Part 2: Mulhouse textiles

While I was in France, I went to the Museum of Fabric at Mulhouse. I have wanted to go there for a long time, since my friend Gerard sent me posters of their exhibitions, which have decorated my workroom. It's quite a small museum, but very detailed. Mulhouse, in Alsace, became a textile printing area when Louis XVI banned the importation of the fashionable Indian chintzes into France, after a cholera outbreak in Marseilles. At this time, Mulhouse was ain independent principality, and the town fathers saw an opportunity. Many Europeans had travelled to India to try to discover the secrets of Indian printing and part of the exhibition at Mulhouse mentions these people and their contibution to European fabric printing. Once the secrets were discovered, chintz printing became the major industry in this area. The exhibition (all in French) describes the technical processes, including the original design books of some fabric designers and three full-sized looms from different periods, and provides lots of examples of fabrics printed in Mulhouse. There are also some examples of garments made from chintz, and several "boutis", French wholecloth quilts, made from Mulhouse chintz fabrics.

When I was there, there was also a special exhibition called Black and White, of fabrics designed and printed in Mulhouse. Fabrics are still printed there today, but mostly as special runs for couture designers, and for IKEA. There were examples of couture outfits made from Mulhouse fabrics, plus IKEA fabrics and other design works. I'll add photos and more information once I'm home again.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Textile travels Part 1: Tapestries and Sewing Machines

The blog has been quieter that usual because I'm not at home, creating things, but off travelling. I've managed to include quite a number of textile-related things in our travels, which my husband seems to find quite surprising, though I can't think why, since I arranged our itinerary!

First was a flying visit to the Louvre in Paris, as soon as we got off the plane. This visit, I went to see the tapestry collection, and very impressive it is. These were just the first of many tapestries I've seen in France, but I love them and can't get enough! I don't have clear photos of them, as they are kept in low light conditions, but they are wonderful pieces of work.

The Louvre is an amazing museum and I really enjoy going back, because I see new things every time. It's an incredible resource for the textile artist - since it contains so many different examples of material culture, from just about every corner of the earth. I find myself photographing and sketching things I never knew I was interested in, because the shape or line or pattern captures my attenti0n. See this ancient potsherd. Doesn't it have a fantastic design?

And this mosaic.... made up of incredible details like this...

The next stage of my textile travels took me to the Peugeot Museum, in Haute Saone. Yes, strange that you should ask, the man I love *is* interested in cars, but I found to my surprise that the Peugeot company began life as a tool-making concern, and their tools included sewing machines, which they continued to make until the 1930's. Of course their museum wasn't very interested in providing the large amount of detail I wanted about their machines, but it was fascinating to see these old European machines, dating from only shortly after the more familiar US machines. Here is an 1867 hand crank machine:
And a pedal machine with an alternating foot action:
This one is one of their last machines, in 1936-37.

I love the way that utilitarian items were made to look so beautiful.

Next, textiles in Mulhouse....