Sunday, August 11, 2013

Paris Journal: Flax in the city

The summer in Paris often brings interesting displays in different squares, places and open spaces around the city. As we ride our bus 67, which originates just a block from our doorstep in Pigalle, we pass through some of the popular parts of Paris. One day, I saw some people setting up a huge tent-like structure in the little place in front of the northern border of the Louvre. This temporary installation turned out to be a fantastic promotional display about the "Incredible Harvest" of the flax plant or lin for the French linen industry, complete with a field of flax! 

According to the literature, "seventy percent of the world's linen crop is produced in Europe with 10,000 companies from 14 European Union countries participating in all stages of the fiber's production and transformation." 

Behind (or on the south side of) this building are the famous Pyramides of the Louvre museum.
And we walk in fields of flax.

The presentation was impeccable and informative. There was a timeline and description of all of the stages of the the flax plant from sowing through harvest, retting, scutching and weaving plus new and innovative uses for this versatile material in surfboards, planters and vehicles...

and these very unique scarecrows, dressed in all-linen garb with flax coming out of their necklines (sort of drives the point home, does it not?)!

The tent featured more of the industrial process of turning the flax into linen fabric with photos of the spinning and weaving industry and videos of the fashionable uses for flax.

Hanging from the ceiling as you entered the tent were swatches of colorful linen fabrics. 

They handed out a clever little "Be Linen" map which traces the linen industry and production in the European Union. Did you know that one hectare of European linen can equal 1,500 kg of fiber, 900 kg of thread, 1,375 pieces of composite furniture, 431 household textiles, 4,000 pieces of clothing or 3,750 square meters of fabric?  There were also complimentary postcards with photos of the stages of flax harvest and its production process to take to spread the word about linen. The campaign was financed with the participation of the European Union and France. You can find out more about it at Masters of Linen.

I really liked that the installation asked the question: What form of linen will you wear or use today? The fiber is everywhere!

From a fiber-lovers point of view, this installation was a true gem to be found in the bustling summer of Paris.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paris Journal: More Gobelins par Nature

The gallery at the Gobelins is in the front of the campus of the Gobelins tapestry studios. The tapestries which bear the name Gobelins woven for the government of France are woven on site. There is a studio tour offered which is wonderful. I believe the tour is still given only in French, but it is well worth it to see the working areas of the Gobelins manufactory. 

Gobelins tapestry is typically defined as high-warp or haute-lisse tapestry woven on a vertical loom, but the campus also has a studio which weaves low-warp or basse-lisse tapestry and another which weaves pile carpets or savonnerie.

View of the Gobelins campus from the rear windows of the second floor of the gallery.

As you enter the Gobelins campus. (I want to say that this is a statue of Colbert, but don't hold me to it).

Christophe Cuzin, Le jardin des Gobelins, Gobelins tapestry, 2012, wool, H: 2.48 m x L 1.75 m. 

When I went on the Gobelins tour in the spring of 2007, a version of this Christophe Cuzin design of a pixelated view of the garden at Gobelins was in the process of being woven. Since then, we were told that many versions have been woven, all with slightly different views into the garden. The one in the exhibit was completed in 2012, has a sett of 5 ends per centimeter and uses 35 colors.

Le jardin des Gobelins, detail.
A hem visible on the back of the Le jardin des Gobelins tapestry, you can sort of see the logo with the bobbin.

This lovely Milva Maglione-designed tapestry, Vent de printemps dan l'apres midi (Spring wind in the afternoon), was in the dark stairwell before the entrance of the second floor gallery. What a shame since it was so poorly lit and couldn't be admired properly. I took photos anyway and have adjusted the brightness once I got the images home. Particularly striking and effective is the thin line running diagonally through the field in the tapestry. The line is woven in a shinier yarn, as is the "G" in the logo. The sett is 3.2 ends per centimeter and uses 6 colors.

 Vent de printemps dans l'apres midi, Milva Maglione, Gobelins tapestry, 1985, wool,  H: 1.95 m x L: 2.56 m.

Vent de printemps dans l'apres midi, detail.

Vent de printemps dans l'apres midi, detail of signature/logo.

Vent de printemps dans l'apres midi, detail.

This 1989 Beauvais tapestry from Mario Prassinos really must be admired from a distance to see the trees that the splotches of color represent. It is a masterful monochromatic piece that uses 11 colors of wool. The tapestry is listed as an "essai" or study. That's some study! The sett is 3.8 ends per centimeter. There are two Prassinos the exhibit, his Parc ou Verdure Contemporaine is the other tapestry, so large that my photo just didn't come out. His designs are like Rorschach tests of tapestry.

Les trois arbres, Mario Prassinos, Beauvais tapestry, wool, H: 3.01 m x L: 1.56 m.

Les trois arbres, detail.

Les trois arbres, detail.

Verdure, Samuel Buri, Beauvais tapestry, wool, 1992.

Another Beauvais tapestry, Verdure designed by Samuel Buri, was so large I could hardly get a photo of the entire piece. A riot of 64 colors, the wool tapestry is sett at 5 ends per centimeter and is 3 meters square.

Verdure, Samuel Buri, detail.

Verdure, Samuel Buri, detail.

A real discovery was Paul-Armand Gette's L'embellie. a wool and silk Gobelins tapestry. Such beautiful use of color and framing. It is woven with 25 colors at a sett of 4.8 ends per centimeter.

L'embellie, Paul-Armand Gette, Gobelins tapestry, wool and silk, H: 2.07 m x L: 2.66 m.

The nuance of color is so striking. L'embellie means a clear spell or beauty revealed following rain. These details show how the little things really add up to a sense of atmosphere.

L'embellie, detail.

L'embellie, detail.

L'embellie, detail.

L'embellie, detail.

Ah, Jacques Monory, and his seductive blues. The exhibition ended with this version of Alice in Wonderland by Monory. 45 colors in wool and silk were used in the tapestry at a sett of 5 ends per centimeter. The wool and silk combine to create the sumptuous world of Alice. 

Velvet jungle no. 1,  Jacques Monory, Gobelins tapestry, wool and silk, H: 2.25 m x L: 1.85 m, 2012. 

Velvet jungle no. 1, detail.

Velvet jungle no. 1, detail.

I have many, many more photos but they simply don't do the exquisite works justice. It is such a fantastic exhibit and there are more amazing tapestries in it than I've been able to show here.

The Mobilier National website is a great resource on the show. Please try to go see it in person!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Paris Journal: Gobelins par Nature, Eloge de la Verdure - Lurcat and friends

It is now August and Paris shuts down for summer vacation. Since the amazing exhibit at the Gobelins gallery is shuttered this month for the "vacance", I am posting a few photos here to whet appetites to see the show when it reopens September 2. 

The show runs until January 19, 2014, so there is still plenty of time to catch a flight to Paris before it closes. This is truly one of the most extensive and impressive exhibits of tapestries in the Mobilier National (French national collection). I was so fortunate to have happened upon it on our trip to Paris in May/June. The gallery is free on the last Sunday of every month.

The show includes works evoking the theme of "verdure", a word which originates from Old French and is defined as "greenness". The exhibit is broken up into six "variations" on this theme: "Feuillage de verdure", "Fleurs", "Saisons", "Constance", "Mille Flore" and "Jardins".

Apologies in advance for the photo quality. The gallery allowed photos, but without flash and the lighting in some areas of the large space was iffy. But photos are photos, so enjoy!

It's hard to get more green than the tapestries designed by Jean Lurcat. His spring, summer and winter seasons tapestries woven between 1941 and 1946 are featured in the show. Lurcat and his contemporaries Jean Picart-Le Doux and Pierre Pothier designed specifically for tapestry, limiting their color palettes and forgoing perspective. Sometimes considered quite mannered, these works stand alone in their vivid and fantastical imagery.

The gallery was staged like a park with vine and flower garlands and park chairs.

Tenture des Saisons: L'Ete, Jean Lurcat, Aubusson tapestry, 1941, wool, H: 3.35 m x  L: 4.85 m.

Tenture des Saisons: L'Ete, detail.

Tenture des Saisons: L'Ete, detail.

Tenture des Saisons: L'hiver, Jean Lurcat, Aubusson tapestry, 1941, wool, H: 3.25 m x  L: 4.85 m.

Tenture des Saisons: L'hiver, detail.

Tenture des Saisons: Le Printemps, Jean Lurcat, Aubusson tapestry, 1941, wool, H: 3.52 m x  L: 4.78 m.

Second floor gallery with Jean Picart Le Doux's Nature morte a la fontaine, wool,  H: 2.54 m x  L: 3.90 m, background and Les Saisons au Jardin, a wool Savonnerie carpet by Jacques Despierre , 4.05 m x 6.05 m foreground.

Nature morte a la fontaine, detail.

Nature morte a la fontaine, detail.

Nature morte a la fontaine, detail.

The large gallery space showed the vast size of the tapestries to their advantage. Some tapestries were hung between columns and used as room dividers. This gave the opportunity to see the backside of the tapestries. A treat (or horror "oh, those floats!") for many weavers.

Nature morte a la fontaine, back of tapestry detail.

La grande veneuse,  Pierre Pothier, Gobelins tapestry, wool, H: 2.58 m x L: 2.98 m

La grande veneuse, detail.

Rabbit border, La grande veneuse, detail.

More rabbit border from La grande veneuse.

Nice background with lettering from La grande veneuse.

Every inch of this tapestry  is filled with something...lettering, millefleurs, fantastic characters,
La grande veneuse has it all in a unique and striking grayed colorway with the deepest burgundy and ecru.

Garlanded, gilt ram banister leading up to the second floor gallery.