Monday, November 28, 2011

Remnants: sacred belt

Madonna of the sacred belt
Museum of Prato
According to tradition, the Virgin Mary gave her belt to Saint Thomas at the moment of her 
assumption to heaven. The belt is kept in the Sacro Cingolo chapel in the Basilica of Prato.

photo: voix de la russie
As reported in Bigbrowser Blog at Le Monde last week: more than 200 000 Russian pilgrims gathered before an Orthodox relic said to stimulate fertility and protect expectant mothers. 52 people were hospitilized after extensive waiting in weather well below freezing, said Russian authorities. The relic, the belt of the Blessed Virgin, is normally found in the Vatopedi monastary of Mont Athos, Greece where no women are allowed. The venerated textile is on a one month tour of 12 Russian cities. 

photo: topic-topos

This relic of  the Blessed Virgin's belt was presented to Geofroy I Boterel by the Patriarch of Jerusalem on his return from the Seventh Crusade in 1252. A mere 8 cm fragment of linen is today kept in the church of Ancenis of Quintin. It was once carried from house to house for the benefit of pregnant women -who often kept a snippet- until Louis XIII put an end to this practice in the 17th century.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Biehn in Morocco: Bain Textile

The African
all photos: Paul Biehn and Hans Sylvester

To think that Michel Biehn fans were sorry to see him give up his beautiful museum quality shop in
L'Isle -sur-la-Sorgue... 

The Caliph
yet his new incarnation as hotelier in Fez shows that he knows how to make the right moves.
The decorator/antique dealer specialized in textiles has combined his talents in a spectacular and very personal way at Le jardin des Biehn.

Persian room

The renovated palace includes a beautiful Andalusian garden, hammam, spa, restaurant as well as exhibits, concerts, sophrology relaxation sessions, cooking and yoga classes....

The Favorite

Michel Biehn used his tremendous collection of textiles and costumes to inspire the interior decoration throughout the hotel. Color palettes and exotic atmospheres are derived from mostly Islamic textiles. 

The Chinese

The Pasha

salon de repos

Circassian room

The atmosphere amounts to an artful and joyous textile bath.

Important note, Biehn's collection largely surpasses the needs of fitting out the hotel. There are changing exhibits in the gallery and - 
there's a boutique.

see also: NYTimes article

photos: Paul Biehn and Hans Sylvester Le jardin des Biehn

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gothic Lite

Photo: L'Exception

Ghost Letter print at Devastée Autome/Hiver 2012
by Ophelie Klere and Francois Alary

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nuts and bolts of wax resist


A comment from Renée reminded me that I had not explained the wax technique in my post, Wonderful Wax.

Wax fabrics are industrial products that were originally inspired by Javanese batik. The method of making them falls under the heading of resist dyeing techniques. As in printing, an engraved roller is used to apply pattern to the fabric, but in this case, it is melted wax that is rolled on to the surface. (Traditional batik calls for  a tjanting tool - a sort of pen filled with hot wax for drawing directly on the fabric.)
The fabric is then dyed and because the dye cannot be absorbed by the areas covered with wax, a negative pattern is created. The process of applying patterns of wax and dyeing can be repeated to make a design of several colors.

The Vlisco site explains :

The core element in Wax Print is of course the wax. Using two deep engraved copper rollers, with the mirror image of the design, the two sides of the cotton fabric are printed with a pattern of melted wax, hence the name Wax Print. The fact that the cloth is printed on both sides enables you to wear the product either side. This is the true sign of a quality wax print. Following this, the cloth is immersed in a bath of dye, often Indigo, that penetrates into the areas that are not covered with wax. After the wax as been washed off in varying stages, a negative image of the printed pattern remains on the cloth. This intricate wax printing process results in unique effects that makes the product so outstanding. In fact, not one single centimetre of fabric is identical to the other!


 I usually buy my "Wax Hollandais" at Toto where these fabrics are sold by weight, 


but much greater possibilities are offered on-line.


This post isn't an advertisement for Vlisco, but it's hard to resist the occassion to show more of their designs!
All these Op Art style patterns are from the new collection, Delicate Shades.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pretty but prickly

 photo St Tyl
Appearing at the end of the 17th century, growing and trading of the chardon cardère or fuller's teasel counted as one of the essential activities of south Vaucluse and the northwest of the Bouches-du-Rhone until just after World War II. The Provencial teasel had a world wide reputation for quality and was exported all over - to the USA, Russia, and Japan.

photo St Tyl

Despite its French name, which translated literaly means 'carding thistle,'  the teasel never really was used to card wool but to modify the fabric's surface.  The purpose of carding is to untangle wool fibers before spinning; the 'carding thistle' was used to brush or nap a fabric after weaving, raising part of the weft fibers to make the cloth's surface soft and warm.

photo St Tyl

Weavers used the heads of teasels for centuries to make combs, then to cover the drums of brushing machines used for this important finishing operation.

photo St Tyl

After a long and lingering decline, teasel crops and trade in the region came to an end as recently as 1989.
Now mostly off duty - this pretty but prickly plant with a history can be seen growing wild throughout the countryside.

source: exhibit at the Musée Estrine, St Rémy-en-Provence

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall color

photo St Tyl

photo St Tyl

 photo St Tyl

A mature beauty clings to its branch in the autumn of its life.

Original Empire period stencilled taffeta curtains at the Trianon, Versailles

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wonderful Wax


The wax paradox: what could be more typically African than wax print fabrics made and designed for over 150 years in Holland or England?  How is it possible that Africa,  a country so rich in diverse textile traditions, has so strongly identified itself and been identified by other nations with these imported textiles? The wax prints we know today started out as mass-produced imitations of Javanese batiks in the beginning of the 19th century which ended up with West Africa as its strongest market.


Anne Grosfilley is an anthropologist whose thoughtful and informative book, Afrique des Textiles offers many insights on the subject as well as covering the whys and hows of locally made African textiles today.  She explains, "An understanding of wax fabrics leads to the discovery of how a fabric from abroad, from Europe in this case, became an essential element in the west African textile landscape. It also means recognizing how the history of relations between Europe and Africa has been recorded through fabric since the colonial period. Long before wax prints became identified with Africa, they were cloths of otherness, a white person's view of black populations, a Westerner's projection on the African world." 


 Once distributed in West Africa today, these prints fall into the hands of the  mostly female wholesalers who give each fabric a name to truly adapt it to local clientele. The right name can multiply the article's price up to 5 times, if the demand is strong enough. Anne Grosfilley says that relating a fabric to a political or television celebrity is a means of identification and cites a design with small ovals which was given the name "Z'ongles de Madame Thérèse" ( Mme Therese's nails), named for the then Ivorian president Boigny's wife.   A rumor at the time had spread that the president had a mistress and that Mme Boigny would surely claw her face if she caught her. Wearing this fabric became a way of showing oneself to be a strong woman who was not submissive to her husband.  The economic re-appropriation of these goods is no longer just a means to enriching certain women, but has become a social phenomena.

This recent design is named Michele's handbag.

Burberry Prorsum resort 2012
via IBTimes
These past few years, European high fashion has also adopted these prints with all their colorful creativity. I  recently spotted Franck Sorbier buying a roll of geometric wax prints, 


so  presumably we will see more of this trend on the horizon.


The manufacturer of  the most appreciated by the African diaspora today is the prestigious Vlisco whose site is always a joy to visit. The numerous designs take you into a world of unbridled fantasy that tend to make everything else feel humdrum. If you are not familiar with them, take a look at the great variety of designs and  remember that their scale...

is often much larger than you may realize. 



For an interesting article on wax prints, click here

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fruman collection: embroidered treasure

© Alain Rousseau

Above: Head covering with vase of flowers, France 17th century
Flowers, foliage, and gems are embroidered in satin stitch, in silk polychrome and accents of silver threads

After over 30 years of collecting embroidered liturgical ornaments, Josiane Cougard-Fruman and Daniel Fruman were able to bring together over 200 examples of these magnificent but largely over-looked embroidered textiles dating from the 15th to the 20th century. The collection is comprised of pieces specifically created for Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican devotional rites, unlike many other liturgical ornaments which were often re-created or 
re-cycled from precious silks formerly worn by their donners. The Fruman couple, with the contribution of the Zaleski Foundation, has recently made a donation of this unique collection to the Museum of the Treasure at the Cathedral of Puy-en-Velay, a UNESCO heritage site, were the setting is every bit as exquisite as these new and rare masterpieces. 

© Alain Rousseau

Choir hanging, Italy 18th century  
 Beating its breast with its beak, the pelican, symbol of Christ, feeds its young with its blood

The collection is on permanent display in the cloisters of the cathedral on a rotating basis in order to preserve these fragile materials. And if a trip to Puy-en-Velay can't be undertaken regularly, the Frumans have just published a beautifully illustrated book at Albin Michel with exceptionally detailed, close-up photographs by Alain Rousseau. 

© Alain Rousseau

© Alain Rousseau

Antependium or cloth serving to decorate the front of the altar, 
from the carmel de Chârtres, France 17th century
 The rose without thorns is a symbol of the Virgin containing all the beauty of the flower 
and the total absence of  its sting.

© Alain Rousseau

Chasuble Salvator Mundi, St Blaise and St Pierre, Spain and Italy 15th century 
detail: Figure of Saint Pierre

 © Alain Rousseau

The Pentecost (detail), France 17th century  
inspired by a painting of  Le Brun

© Alain Rousseau

St. Mary Magdalene penitent, France 17th century 
 corded 3 dimensional embroidery

© Alain Rousseau
Miter with the good shepherd,  France 17th century

© Alain Rousseau

The textures and colors of these sacred canvases are sheer sensual secular pleasure. 

Tout cet appareil montre le soin qu'il faut prendre de ne point paroître devant le Seigneur, qu'après s'être paré intérieurement par toutes sortes de vertus: 
car les ornemens extérieurs ne doivent être qu'un signe sensible des vertus dont l'âme doit être 
intérieurement ornée.

All this raiment shows the care that must be taken to appear before the Lord only after having donned many virtues within: for these exterior ornaments must be only the visible sign of virtues with which the soul is internally decorated.

Père Pierre Le Brun 1716

More photos and information: La Vie