Thursday, October 30, 2014

Early 18th-century pattern books—a wealth of inspiration

When I was did the Christie's Decorative Arts program at the University of Glasgow, the course was divided in to five categories. First we studied the history of interiors, then it broke down into media: ceramics, glass, textiles and silver. As the course went along, we were encouraged to focus our studies and were allowed to drop one of the four media. I dropped textiles... which I've regretted ever since, especially when I stumble upon treasure troves of historic patterns, like these by James Leman at the V&A. Leman was born in Spitalfields, London, in 1688 to a Huguenot family of weavers, and became a successful designer, providing hundreds of patterns for woven silks produced by some of the most fashionable factories. Most of the patterns posted here date between 1706 and 1716, making them some of the earliest silk patterns known to exist. I love the old color combinations, the stylized fruits and flowers, and the exotic bits of architecture. A single page could inspire a dozen new designs. I've always said I'll be a landscape designer in my next life. Perhaps I'll be a textile designer in the one after that. So much beauty, such endless possibilities!