Well if you have read my previous posts, you may have gotten some idea of the kind of lifestyle these textiles were created for. When designers try to recreate these textiles and ask for my advice, they are simply lost ..its not just a matter of imagery and motifs used. Its more than that- you need to understand the art component as well as loom setups and weave structures and how they all relate to each other and impact the final product. I’m still figuring the technical bits of loom setups and weave structure myself but i can clearly look at something which perhaps “is meant to look grand” and tell right away that it isn’t the real deal.
First of all, i must say that hand drawing skills should not be undermined. Its extremely important to be a gifted artist if you want to create patterned silk textiles. Yes, illustrator and Photoshop help create patterns but the end pattern ends up looking very plastic ish , it just lacks the natural movement of the art work- perhaps sometimes being too precise may be a problem and in this case, i think that it is. In the near future, i hope to work with some artists to test this more but recently, i met a pattern draftsman who converted the art work onto the graph paper by hand and then wove it on a drawloom. The results were fantastic but it was immensely time consuming and the the draftsman was very skilled.
Also, the quality of yarns is very important. If you’re using silver/gold, then you need to make sure it doesn’t look like a cheaply manufactured yarn meant for a high school prom costume making project. Ultimately, your textile is a function of the quality of materials used and your human skills that go into making your work of art. And if its going to be used at a palace or a lavish hotel, it shouldn’t look like a Disney project- you get what I’m saying! For all those who say drawing isn’t required, YES IT IS ! Maybe not for modern industrial textiles, you can create some random lines and circles and something funky on the computer, but for princely textiles, you need to make sure the art work is as grand as the textile itself. Which means having very gifted draftsmanship and artists. Otherwise, not enough thought and labor means it is NOT grand! minus points!
Thirdly, if you’re a gifted artist (unlike me) and are interested in textile design, then i suggest you really look into doing courses in repeat pattern making. You can learn the computer stuff (it doesn’t hurt, actually helps) but understand the limitations of it , in terms of beauty. Also, look at old textiles at museums and see how the pattern repeats worked. Understand the principles behind it- its interesting! You may get hints for yourself. And spend time at it as you would on a puzzle. I know some artists want to be textile designers and create woven fabrics but do not want to execute the production- don’t want to get into loom setups and weave structures. That is completely acceptable but then you need to work with the very few people in the world who have the knowledge of setups and structure.
If on the other hand, you’re like me- someone very into loom setups and structure, then you really need to concentrate of weaving yourself and understanding structures. And by default, you need to work with an expert artist to create your art work.
REMEMBER that princely textiles are about extravagance – work with the best artist & weave technician- dont save yourself “the hassle”. The hassle will create something great ! Not necessarily but its a good principle to stick to for starters at least. Dont get too lazy with art & execution. Obsess about the yarns, the art work & THE WEAVE STRUCTURE.
My advice for those entirely new is to this is to first realize what you’re most suited for- the art element, the production element or the museum element. The following will help you decide.
Museum curator/assistant curator: Needs a VERY good understanding of the types of textile classifications using the CIETA methodology. CIETA is an institution in Lyon, France that has come up with definitions of certain fabric types. You have to adhere to it just as accountants adhere to their accounting boards rules. You also need to have a degree in art history- most likely masters or Phd. Check on this please. I didnt pursue this route but i know curators who have. But good curators are at a huge bonus if they can get into detailed fabric analysis and understanding fabric structures. That way you do research and publish your findings! If this is your route, i plan to introduce a course (in english) teaching the CIETA methodology. You could goto Lyon to CIETA but its all in french. Or you could go to the Lisio Foundation in Florence, Italy. I will organize a course in Italy for those who are interested in fabric analsyis. I have taken these courses and think that theyre VERY useful.
** SOMETHING IMPORTANT I MUST SAY HERE: The CIETA terminology is really meant to standardize explanation but i use it with a pinch of it. Irene Emery, an author who had written a book on terminology too, has her own set of standardized definitions. I DONT REALLY CARE FOR ANY OF THESE- curators are always fighting about whats supplementary and whats complementary and whats brocaded and whats not but it doesnt really matter as long as you VIEW THE TEXTILE UNDER A MAGNIFIER and CAN UNDERSTAND how the yarns interlace. Personally, from the standpoint of someone on the “producing front” i find it quite absurd to waste much time on terminology – but i still did courses to understand CIETA terminology because i knew it would NEVER be my golden book of advice. And thankfully so!
Manufacturer/ Technician: Not only should you know fabric analysis but then also go further into weaving on jacquard looms and draw looms. This is all about structure in detail. Weaving lampas, compound weft faced fabrics, velvets, etc… The more you learn, the better because you have to get to a point of being able to combine structures or play around with them. This is my path. Understanding history also helps because then you can supervise the artists too. Im going to put up a course offering very soon for those interested in this path.
Artist: Repeat pattern making and a lot of hand drawing skills. Read my post from the start – i talk all about art work earlier. This is not my forte and im not going to offer courses in this- But you should know periods in art history and use those as a guidance for whats to come …. id recommend reading Owen Jones’ book – i think its called the grammar of ornament … he does a great job talking about how artists should approach art.
Sorry these thoughts might be a bit disorganized but i had to say all of this!
Hand made pattern on graph paper prior to organizing the drawloom
Listen to this interview of the owner of Prelle, a company that creates luxury textiles in Lyon, France-This company is centuries old and has continued to survive because the French Government patronizes its heritage and upkeep of palaces such as Versailles and Fontainebleau to name a few. And the textiles in such stately properties need continuous restoration or reproduction. The french govt. too makes revenue through tourists visiting these properties- Whatever we say about the French Govt, they do take their heritage seriously !
And here’s Tassinari & Chatel, another co. that creates luxury textile