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Aug 24, 2011

Module 3; Assignment 3; Colour in the world

This assignments included the selection of a field of research into an ethnic textile tradition -production and use of textiles. The assignment included a short report for reasons of selection as well as making some colour notes of details or parts of a textile.

I have spent some time researching different ethnic textiles and I was tempted to go further with the African textiles as they somehow appeal to my “bold” feelings. The more elaborate and in some way fine Chinese patterns are beautiful – really beautiful and there are a few things in common with the Indian patterns. Native Indians in the South America make some beautiful designs – and with patterns somewhat naivistic in their character, such as Peruvian textiles there are further incentives to research these.
Being Scandinavian one might be tempted to research at least the Swedish ethnic patterns, such as the Lapps’ ethnic clothing with their “ribbons” of zig-zag-patterns in primary blue, red and yellow – in combination sometimes with green, or the “ornamental kurbits”-patterns of the county Dalarna in Sweden. I do/did have a wall hanging weave from Turkey, I did have a wall painting with kurbits patterns, I do have some Indian ornamental sari fabric and I did have a selection of Provencal fabrics. I picked the Provencal patterns, designs and colours as my inspiration for this assignment.

Having lived during holidays in Provence for many years I have been fascinated by the interior decoration’s adherence to the Provencal fabrics at least for many years. It had struck me that for some reason these textiles were beautiful in their own environment but they were not possible to work in a Scandinavian environment – not even in a garden and garden furniture environment.

If asked what is typical in these fabrics, I believe that anyone with interest in the subject would say – the small “ornaments” of different colours and with different details within themselves distributed usually evenly on either white background or on a frequently fairly strongly coloured background. They can be incorporated into borders or bands across the fabric with other sometimes elaborate designs. Of course this is just a component – but quite a characteristical one.

The history of these patterns and designs stem from India and used to be very complex with great symbolics attached to the designs. The most well-known Indian design which has affected European design is the “Paisley-design”, most probably also the origin of the “Provencal medaillion and one of the oldest of the companies producing Provencal designs is the company “Souleiado” which is still active. This company, situated in Tarascon, north of Arles also has a museum, which is very interesting and very worth a visit if on a journey in Provence.

The history in France of these fabrics, named the “Indiennes” go back as far as the 17th century when the company "Compagnie des Indes Orientales" was founded by Colbert, minister of Louis the X1V,  in 1664. The Indian artisans had the knowledge of printing fabrics in rich colours, dominated by a red as well as indigo blue using dying techniques that fixed the colour to the cotton, which was the fabric of choice. They were using metal salts to fix the colours, and this know-how was passed down, generation by generation.
Initially it was the Portugese who brought the Indian fabrics to Europe, and the first printed fabrics that entered Europe, came from India in the end of the 16th century.
However, the European companies who imported the fabrics, travelled to India and had quite an impact on the designs, to satisfy their market back home. Gradually the Europeans learnt to print fabric and made bad copies of “the Indiennes”. Not only the French did this but also the English and Dutch. The first products were of very poor quality and could be marketed mainly to the poor, but when the techniques were brought back from India, the production started in ernest. The wool producers and also other textile merchants felt threatened and in 1686 the French Government imposed a prohibition to “produce, import and to use printed fabrics”. This ban was not lifted until 1759, and the fashion “Indienne” was still popular.
As a consequence, five major regions of production of the “Indiennes” were established, in Nantes, Paris, Lyon, Mulhouse and Marseille.
The industry developed and engaged artists for the new design of the printed fabrics, and new designs appeared that were quite different from the Indian character.
The Indian fabrics had been printed by block printing by carved wooden blocks, but now a new technique was developed, that of an engraved copper plate.

I will not go into further detail of the French development as the focus, the Provencal designs nowadays have become more of a touristic and less exclusive style of designs. One does not really fins today the typical designs in exclusive interior decoration projects. A few years ago you could find the Souleiado designs in interior magazines, but now this is not really the case, at least not at the same scale as for some fifteen years ago.


As outlined above, the original colours were frequently rich reds and indigo blues. The classical Provencal colours can be described as “burnt” colours, such as terracotta, yellow with a brownish-redish tint, blue as well as lavender, strong warm reds and greens and modern designs have included the natural colors such as off-white, beige, grey-beige and similar colours. In the museum of Souleiado, there are also grey and “faded” black backgrounds of the materials.

As far as I know there are no beliefs or superstitions attached to the Provencal fabric designs. There were probably such symbolism originally attached to the Indian designs, but gradually the designs were commercially developed as described above.

Use of Provencal fabrics
The fabrics are mainly cottons, and are used for interior decoration nowadays. However, the folklore dresses are made from fabric designed with the classic Provencal patterns.

Modern designs
Designs based on the old patterns are frequently mixed with eg olives and olive branches, with or without fruits, there are often lemons in some designs, but still arranged in bands or intermixed with designs with the small medaillons.
A popular creation is images and designs of the cigales, which in reality looks like an awfully ugly very large brownish fly, and does not at all look like a grasshopper, something that made me very disappointed when I saw my “first cigale”.
Further natural subjects are lavender and mimosa as well as sunflowers. Another subject is wheat. All represent fruits and plants of Provence and the basis for prosperity.


Some photos of fabrics in my cupboards having been used mainly for cushion covers, curtains and table cloths. These particular fabrics are somewhat more discrete than many in the market, and below there are examples of fabrics decorated in richer designs as well as a greater mix of colours:

A few examples from my cupboard


Illustrated notes 
We were supposed to illustrate details from some fabrics of our selection.
I have picked some photos of fabrics displayed on internet in order to expand the range of examples exposed in this report:

These small colour sketches show some typical colours for the Provencal fabrics. The first, blue, yellow and with some green and dark blue/black. Motif, olives.

The second includes olives in a band adjacent to a line of more complicated, repeated medaillons, and with red included as well.
The third, shows a typical ornament, medaillon that is seen in a large number of colours and combinations, this in a fresh blue. Finally the last is a lavender design  in the most classical Provencal colours, blue and yellow.

Colour copies of images and artefacts 

This painting shows sunflowers mixed with lavender –in the classical colours and motifs of modern times, yellow and blue with some little 
green mixed into the picture. 

This next fabric is in a red which is rich, somewhat subdued and “faded”, mixed with one of the typical ornaments in different varieties.

This fabric reminds of the older Indian designs, and has a rich pattern with several different types of ornaments as well as the mixture of several different colours, yellow, red, and green.
This fabric reminds of the older Indian designs, and has a rich pattern with several different types of ornaments as well as the mixture of several different colours, yellow, red, and green.

This is a copy of one of my own fabrics, and forms the base for my further developments. It is in a “burnt yellow colour with a darker blue than in the picture, and a still darker blue surrounding the “white hole”. 


Careful textile copy of one piece

I chose the last depicted  fabric and made a textile copy of one section:
I first made an appliqué of a blue as well as yellow onto a white background. The “background” is a cotton/linen IKEA furniture fabric. I then cut holes in the background fabric and then joined them.
The appliqué on the white fabric I stitched carefully in two different coloured threads in addition to the black and I feel I got fairly close to the painting. I added a lighter blue stitch to the dark blue to mimic the lighter blue in the original painting. However – I know that the original fabric is rather darker blue than in the painting.

Interpretation using waste material 
We were supposed to make an interpretation made from waste material -
I had some long thought about this one as I did not feel I had waste material that really inspired me. However – I found a pile of crisp bags with both yellow and blue in them. They were shiny as well as crinkled but I thought that could do. I decided that the form of the ornament, the “key” form to my assignment could be seen as birds. Considering the blue/yellow theme – I made a collage using waste material to make a collage:

A simple interpretation in a three dimensional form 

I decided to develop the form- the basic form of the ornament I had in my Provencal fabric. I used – waste material ie pieces of used toilet rolls which I wrapped with blue woolen yarn. I made several pieces of different heights and became very inspired. It could be used for building a “pyramid”, and it could be used for many different purposes:

Interpretation at a different scale 
I chose to make an interpretation at a large scale and started to experiment with Microsoft paint. I enlarged details and decided to make colour copies to transfer to fabric via gesso that we had learnt in the black and white module – and see what happened. It did happen – effects – that made me very disappointed and a bit desperate! 

Four paper printed colour copies:

Result after transfer via gesso – colour a bit too turqoise - would be the understatement of this year:

I then myself had to “better” it while trying to keep the interesting bit. I painted onto the gesso image with gouache colours with the following result:

My next move will be to cut out these four pictures and arrange them less orderly and actually make a wall picture from this experiment. I have not yet had time to do this!
Page of design ideas

  Our next task was to use details or material applied in this module for making ideas of design for "something that could be useful".

I decided to use the “form” of the ornament as my basis for the design proposals. I have already before (this was one reason for me choosing the Provencal theme) thought for a long time that it must be possible to develop the Provencal designs and to modernize them – both in terms of form design and in terms of colour. Hence – I have made one page of suggestions for interior design items, and one page with how to use the wrapped ornament in jewellery and similar items.'

A collection of potential modern Provencaal designs, to the left - curtain design, upper right - cushion cover and lower right - a small carpet
Curtain design - the proposed elements of the design are large, 40-60cm "high"

Cushion cover
Small rug - printed or appliqué
 Further design ideas, based on "my ornamental element of form". THis time the elements have a three dimensional character:

Bracelet, decorations on a scarf, and a necklace as well as a depiction of the basic ornamental item!

Bracelet, decorations on a scarf, and a necklace as well as a depiction of the basic ornamental item!

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