Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Silk Designs of the 18C

As well as experimenting with the natural waste from silk I also want to look at the design of the patterns which were popular during the time of the French silk weavers in Spitalfields. I found several books in the library about the subject but the most interesting and useful one is from the V&A and is called 'Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century'. The V&A has a huge collection of silk patterns and sample books from the early 17th Century to the collapse of the London silk market in 1830.

Silk Designed by James Leman 1708/9
In the early 1700's English design was influenced by French fashion. Chinoiserie was popular and the strong reds and yellows were due to particular types of metal thread that were widely available.

36: Silk design by James Leman 1719, 37: One of Anna Maria Gaithwaite's collection of 'Patterns not my Own' 1720

Silk Design by Anna Maria Gaithwaite 1740
As you can see the fashion for images of nature remained popular but by the 1730's designs were becoming more 3-Dimensional, this was possible due to a shading technique called 'points rentres' developed by the French in 1732.

Silk Design by Anna Maria Gaithwaite 1744
The work of Anna Maria Gaithwaite and James Leman helped to develop this distinctly English style of silk.

Samples from the order book of an unknown French Merchant from the early 1760's.
By 1760 the influence of French design returned with typical designs combining silk/lace/ribbon with floral motifs to create a stylised trompe-loeil effect.

Waistcoat woven by Maize and Steer 1789.
By the late 1700's patterns had become much more geometric and abstract, neo-classical stripes and rosettes of formal flowers were popular, colours were predominately pastels although dramatic darker shades were also popular for a few years.

I don't know yet how or if I will incoporate pattern into my own designs but it is something that interests me and I think that as I am looking at other aspects of the silk trade this is a good place to start.

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