James Russell on the History of Toile de Jouy

By James Russell

“Saucy!” thought I, as I looked closer at the etched picture that had caught my eye whilst paging through a sample book of Toile de Jouy fabrics. At first glance it was a blue on white monochromatic Pastoral scene of “country folk” frolicking amongst ‘vignettes’ of farm buildings, sheep herding, farming, hunting and the like, but on closer inspection I noticed that one of the young farmers had his hand down the cleavage and was cupping the breast of a maiden, whilst another young lad had his arm up the voluminous skirts of a shepherdess.

Some farming imagery on this lovely ochre and indigo toile fabric.

Modern marketers will tell you that “sex sells” and I’m sure this was as true in the 1700 & 1800’s as it is today. It is also said “that the Devil is in the detail” and I suppose it is ‘the detail’ that first intrigued me about Toile de Jouy. Looking closer at some of the pictorial designs I became interested in the stories behind them. I’m by no means a history buff, but I do have a curious mind that questions.

Les Traveaux de la Manufacture which depicts the actual process of making toile fabrics.

As Europe started trading with India, cotton became a popular fibre for making cloth, so much so that the domestic wool and silk industries in both France & England started to suffer. In 1686 France placed a ban on both domestic & imported cotton fabrics, a ban that was only lifted after 70 years in 1856. After all this time, cotton must have seemed like a brand new commodity to the people of the day! Incidentally, the British also placed a ban on imported chintz (a basic cotton cloth) from 1701, and in 1720 to 1774 on all cotton fabrics, mainly due to cheaper Indian imports (so what’s new?)

On the left: Robinson Crusoe Toile and the right: Le Ballon de Gonesse

Like any entrepreneur, a young German engraver & colourist called Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf and his younger brother, saw the gap and “went for it” setting up a printing press in Jouy-en-Josas, a small village on the banks of the river Bievre, 16.4km south west of Paris. The initial designs, usually of flowers and fruits, were copied from books of engraved prints carved into small wood printing blocks. (One supposes that the laws on copyright were not as strict as they are today.) The clean waters of the (soon to be polluted) river were essential for the mordant printing methods used by the brothers. When they started the factory, the only piece of “furniture” they possessed was the printing press which they used to sleep on at night.

One of Harlequin Fabrics' bold toile ranges.

The initial printing methods used a mordant, a substance used to set dyes on fabrics. Once printed with the mordant, the fabric was then dyed using various vegetable dyes. The fabric was then soaked in an acid such as stale cow’s urine or vinegar that acted as a fixative locking the dye to the printed mordant area of the cloth. It was then washed in the river to remove the loose dye, and dried on pontoons on the river to let the sunlight work as a bleaching agent on the non-dye fixed areas. This process was repeated a number of times until the background colour returned to white or cream and the print stood out.

Contemporary toile wallpapers. The scenes speak of the traditional, the colourways shouts "contemporary".

There is a story, possibly an “urban legend” that Oberkampf sent his brother to Manchester to study (and steal) ideas from the Manchester mills. He is said to have written out his findings on pieces of cloth using a mordant solution which was invisible to the naked eye, but when dyed and treated using their printing method, revealed all. Having established that copyright was not sacrosanct, I’m not above believing in a little industrial espionage was amiss.

A contemporary toile in striking colours.

Using only the best quality cotton fabrics and with his Germanic adherence to detail, demand for the printed cloth (toile) from Jouy (de Jouy) grew rapidly and by 1774, only 14 year later, the company was employing 900 workmen. Over 30,000 wood blocks were utilized in the printing of the fabrics until in 1770 Oberkampf introduced the etched copperplate roller technique of printing fabrics. From then until the factory closed in 1843 some 700 copperplate designs were used. For nearly 80 years the designs from Jouy recorded in pictorial form a kind of journalism that depicted everything from historical happenings, travel (popularizing Indienne, Japonaise and Chinoiserie designs that proposed to picture people & everyday life in those far away lands), fashion trends that reflected the fascination with Egypt, inventions such as the flying balloon, politics, the Court & Royalty, architecture, the classics, modern literature and the arts.

Toile de Jouy Inspired Sneakers

By 1810 Oberkampf had made “toile” a household word/name not only in France, but throughout Europe and America as well. In today’s marketing terms this could possibly be seen as one of, if not the first time, that a “brand name” became synonymous with the product, much like we might say Hoover, Durex or Kleenex today. Many of the designs such as “Les Monuments d’Egypte”, “Les Traveaux de la Manufacture” (which depicts the manufacture and printing process of toile de Jouy), “Le Ballon de Gonesse” (depicting the first balloon flight from Paris to Gonesse) and the Robinson Crusoe Toile are considered classic toile de Jouy designs and were bought over by other French fabric companies when the company closed. Many of these classic designs are still in production today.

On the left a contemporary toile with an urban street scene as subject matter. Right, you have this funky scatter cushion from designlemonade.com - a traditional toile with a contemporary print.

Although there were a number of other companies producing printed cotton fabrics in France, England and later America, none were as popular as Oberkampf’s company. The Napoleonic Wars and the self sufficiency of the American fabric industry contributed to its demise, yet still today companies producing “toile de Jouy” style fabrics continue the tradition of naming each “toile” such as “Glasgow Toile” by Timorous Beasties or the modern version of the “Ballon de Gonesse”. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the balloon flight, the children of Gonesse high school painted a mural of the famous toile as a mural on their school wall. Patrick Frey, then head of Pierre Frey fabrics was so taken with the mural that he bought the rights to the wall and had it converted into a toile.

Here is an awesome local toile design by talented Capetownian, Wendren Setzer (aka The WREN Design). The design is called Darling Toile du Jouy! Love it!

Originally designed as dress fabrics and later used for interior décor, toiles have become perennial, and are now used on anything from wallpapers, ceramics and gum boots to beanbags, directors chairs, lampshades and ‘takkies’. So next time you see a toile being used and are tempted to dismiss it, to take it for granted, to overlook the detail by consigning it to the category of “pretty picture fabric”, look a little closer for the Devil is in the detail along with sex, drugs and rock & roll too!

  

  

Image sources:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Décor Dictionary: Houndstooth

Large scale Houndstooth patterns are seriously trendy. I just love the big, beautiful, inky blue Houndstooth fabric from Tessa Proudfoot (the pic on the left)

Houndstooth:   is a duotone textile pattern characterized by broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes that originated in the Scottish Lowlands. Historically Houndstooth was woven in wool, with a rather small pattern scale, in the traditional black-and-white colourway. Today, it is woven or printed in a wide variety of fabric, scale and colour. A large pattern scale Houndstooth is considered more contemporary.

Images via: Tessa Proudfoot (left) and Annilygreen (right)

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Décor Dictionary: Ikat

Various Ikat Fabrics
Examples of some beautiful Ikat fabric designs

In our Trends 2011 posts we have thrown around a lot of décor terms that  really should be entered into our Dictionary – so we start with an easy one, here is our first Décor Dictionary definition of 2012…

Ikat:  is essentially a dyeing technique, similar to the tie-dying process, known for its use of bright, bold colours. It was originally produced in several pre-Columbian Central and South American cultures, however the technique has been adopted by many eastern countries. Ikat weaving styles and pattern vary widely and many design motifs may have ethnic or symbolic meaning.

Lovely Ikat image via: HousetoHome

2011 Trend Watching – Part Three

By Marica

Throughout this week we have been chatting about the various trends we have observed in 2011. We kicked off Part One with our favourite Décor Style Trends and discussed our most-loved Colour Trends in Part Two. Today, in Part 3, we continue our Trends 2011 discussion with a look at our favourite Pattern trends of the past year…

Pattern Trends:

Pattern, textile and other surface designs play a larger role in the establishment of interior design & decor trends than we think. It is also no secret that current Fashion Trends have some influence on future Décor Trends. Since Pattern makes bold visual and stylistic statements, it is one of the first elements decor gleams from fashion (after style, of course). Where in the minimalist contemporary trend of the previous 5 years pattern was rarely used, interiors are now filled with gorgeous pattern.

Geometrics:

For the past year everywhere we looked we saw geometric patterns – fabrics, rugs, decor pieces, even in elements of furniture design. This funky change in pattern was a breath of fresh air to the tired trends of yesteryear that contained mostly organic shapes (that is if it contained pattern at all).

The beauty of these trending geometric patterns is that they can take up an array of shapes, forms, scales and cultural influences. For instance – we saw a lot of chinois-inspired lattice, links and brickwork geos; some beautiful and bold nautical stripes; Greek Keys; Moroccan Quatrefoils; Tribal African Geos; and even beautiful rustic Navajo geometrics.

The most popular geos of the 2011 were a lot less complicated – bold chevron and thick herringbone patterns and solid triangles – most of course, in bright daring colours or contrasting black on white.

And while most bold patterns have a definite contemporary vibe, they also signify a return to tradition as most of the geos are historical significant. You know what they say – trends are cyclic and bound to repeat (hopefully with a contemporary twist).

Truly my favourite trend of the past year and happily still going strong – we are going to see a lot more geos in 2012. It’s definitely hip to be square…and triangular…and rectangular…

Toile:

 

Toile has been around for centuries (from the 18th century to be exact) and this highly detailed pattern has always been a favoured addition to traditional and classic interiors. Usually consisting of a white or off-white background on which a fairly intricate scene is printed in a single colour. Toile patterns generally tell a story in pastoral themes such as a couple having a picnic by a lake, fisherman in their boats, or farmers working the fields.

Toile has however received a contemporary revamp in the past couple of years that has boosted it to trend. Now, not only limited to fabrics anymore – we see beautiful toiles on wallpaper in surprising and bold colours. Gone are the boring black/brown on white prints – think pink, shocking pink! With this trendy adaption Toile can now look stunning in even a funky cotemporary interior.

Florals:

The floral trend is back in full force – and it’s probably got the nostalgic trend to thank for it! Entering mainstream trends a year or two ago (although florals has always been on the backburners), the runways are now an explosion of florals in all shapes and sizes.

Bright 80s prints, dainty romantic florals in pastels, big florals in watery brushstrokes, and beautiful vintage prints all provide just the right amount of whimsy. I’ve even seen some interiors that took a rather “Victorian” approach in their use of florals – that is to say florals EVERYWHERE…and bizarrely enough I quite liked it.

Ikat:

Ikat patterns were hot, hot, hot last year.  Essentially a dyeing technique, and similar to the tie-dying process, it is originally produced in several pre-Columbian Central and South American cultures. The technique has however been adopted by many eastern countries. Ikat weaving styles vary widely and many design motifs may have ethnic or symbolic meaning.

One of the main reasons why Ikat enjoyed so much popularity in the past year (other than the fact that it’s deliciously ethnic) is once again bold use of colour. Exotic tie-dye patterns in hot pink, deep blue and bright orange – beautiful! I however think that Ikat has a “shelf-life”, we best enjoy it while we can.

Oh, there are still a good handful of trends we really enjoyed this past year, but since we don’t want to bore you with a long spiel, here in closing are a few images of some other favourites…

Other Favourites…

Use of Typography
Illustration and sketching
Chinoiserie
Animal prints - especially birds and rabbits
Geo 1, 2
Toile 1, 2
Floral
Ikat
Typography
Illustration and Sketching
Animal Prints
Chinoiserie

Design Indaba 2011: Design Kist

By Marica

I think it is fair that I inform you from the get go that I am totally in love…

…with Design Kist.

http://www.designkist.com

How did this love affair start you may ask? Well, dearest Internet, I was one of the unlucky few who could regrettably not attend Design Indaba this year (shock and horror, I know) but fortunately Rose did. To my greatest joy she brought back with her a GIANT stack of business cards, brochures and pamphlets over which I faffed for a whole afternoon.  Now I’ve heard of Design Kist before, but I must not have been paying attention because when I took a quick squiz through their online gallery yesterday I fell head of heels and I’ve been drooling over their designs ever since… it’s a compulsion really.

http://www.designkist.com

For those of you still in the dark – Design Kist is an online surface design studio and the brainchild of South African textile designer, Kristen Morkel. She noticed how local retailers and manufacturers often sourced digital surface designs from European design studios to print onto fabric and manufacture into products. There were no South African counterpart to these studios and a gap existed between retailers and talented surface designers in South Africa.

http://www.designkist.com

Launched in 2010, Design Kist features a collection of freelancing South African surface designers who submit their work to be sold online. They sell fabric designs for bedding and clothing, and prints for gift wrap and stationery, but the patterns can also be used on homeware, accessories, packaging, upholstery and wallpaper.

http://www.designkist.com

As designers submit designs, they’re added to an online gallery, ready to be purchased, downloaded and printed. Clients need to register and obtain a password before they’re given access to the gallery, which protects the exclusivity of their designs. The cool thing is – once you paid for and downloaded your high res Design Kist image, you attain full and exclusive copyright on that specific design / pattern.

http://www.designkist.com

When clients are looking to develop something specific; Design Kist creates customised designs & collections. They also tweak colours and sizes of existing designs to give clients exactly what they’re looking for.

Design Kist also just launched a funky (growing) wallpaper range that can be purchased online for home delivery. Wouldn’t you just love to have their pattern-y beauteousness all over your walls? I would!

Local is most certainly lekker! I’ll leave you now to continue my drooling… I suggest you do the same.

{  So what exactly is Surface Design? Well, it encompasses a wide range of surface applications that gives structure, pattern, or colour to fibre & fabric such as gift-wrap, wallpaper, fashion textiles, home textiles, carpet design as well as surface design on ceramics, glass, wood, plastics, steel and automotive fabrics.  }