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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 156 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image BAUMGARTEN TAPESTRY. MODERN CARTOON Such then is the simple process of the looms, far simpler seen than described and yet depending absolutely for its beauty on the talent and patience of gifted workers. It is as simple as the alphabet, yet as complicated as the dictionary. Patient years of apprenticeship must a man spend before he can become a good weaver, and then must he give the best years of his life to becoming perfect in the craft. But if the work is exacting, at least it is agreeable, almost lovable, and in delightful contrast to the labour of those who but tend machines driven by power. And if the art of tapestry weaving is almost a lost one to-day, at least the weavers can find in history much matter for pride. It is no mean ambition to follow the profession of conscientious Nicolas Bataille, of the able Pannemaker, of La Planche and Comans, of Tessier, Cozette, and a hundred others of family and fame. Much preparation is necessary before the loom can be set going. First is the design, the cartoon. There we are in the department of the artist, and must talk in whispers. Raphael belongs there, and Leonardo; and Rubens, Teniers, Lebrun, Boucher and David, train us through the past centuries into our own. But the cartoon of to-day is not so sacred a matter, and we may speak of it frankly —regretfully, too. Cartoons hang all over the walls of the tapestry factory, so much property for the setting of future scenes, and besides, they make a decoration which alone would lift the tapestry factory into the regions of art and class it among ateliers, instead of factories. The cartoons are painted, however, where the artist will, in his own studio or in one provided for the purpose by the director, as in the case of the Baumgarten works. They have the look of special designs. They are not done in the manner of a painting to be hung on a wall. Their brushwork is smooth and broad, dividing lines well distinguished by marked contrasts in colour to make possible their translation into the language of silk and wool. After the cartoon is ready, comes the warp. That is set with the closeness agreed upon. Naturally, the smaller the thread of the warp, the closer is it set, the more threads to the inch, and thus comes fine fabric. Coarser warp means fewer threads to the inch, quicker work for the weaver and less value to the tapestry. From ten to twenty threads to the inch carries the limits of coarseness and fineness. In fine weaving, a weaver will accomplish but a square foot a week. Think of that, you who wonder at the price of tapestries ordered for the new drawing-room.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 157 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 The warp comes to the factory all in big hanks of even thread. Nowadays it is usually of cotton, although they contend at the Gobelins that wool warp is preferable, for it gives the finished fabric a lightness and flexibility that the heavier, stiffer cotton destroys. Setting the warp is a matter of patience and precision, and we will leave the workman with it, to make it the whole length of the tapestry to be woven, and to fasten the loops of thread around each chaîne and to fasten those in turn, alternating, to the bar by means of which they may be shifted to make the in-and-out of the weaving. Then after choosing the colours, the weaving begins. It is like nothing so much as a piece of fancy-work. If it were not for the cumbersome loom, I am sure ladies would emulate the king who wove for amusement, and would make chair-pieces on the summer veranda. But before the silks and wools go to the weaving they are treated to a beauty-bath in the dye-room. Hanks of wool and skeins of silk are but neutral matters, coming to the factory devoid of individuality, mere pale, soft bulk. A room apart, somewhere away from the studio of design and the rooms where the looms stand stolid, is a laboratory of dyes, a place which looks like a farmhouse kitchen on preserving day. You sniff the air as you go in, the air that is swaying long bunches of pendulous colour, and it smells warm and moist and full of the suggestions of magic. Over a big cauldron two men are bending, stirring a witches’ broth to charm man’s eye. One of the wooden paddles brings up a mass from the heavy liquid. It is silk, glistening rich, of the colour of melted rubies. Upstairs the looms are making it into a damask background onto which are thrown the garlands Boucher drew and Tessier loved to work. Dainties fished up from another cauldron are strung along a line to dry, soft wool and shining silk, all in shades of grapes, of asters, of heliotropes, telling their manifest destiny. And beyond, are great bunches of colour, red which mounts a quivering scale to salmon pink, blue which sails into tempered gray, greens dancing to the note of the forest. It is a nature’s workshop, a laboratory where the rainbow serves, apprenticed. Jars, stone jars, little kegs, all ugly enough, are standing against the wall. But uncover one, touch the thick dark stuff within, and feast your eye on the colour left on a curious finger-tip. You are close to the cochineal, to indigo, and all the wonderful alchemy of colour. Aniline? Not a bit of the treacherous stuff. It takes the eye, but it is a fickle friend. They say a mordant has been found to stay the flight of its lovely colours. Perhaps; it may be. But what weaver of tapestry would be willing to confide his labour to the care of a dye that has not known the test of ages? Aniline dye, says the director of a tapestry factory, may last twenty years—but twenty years is nothing in the life of a tapestry. Over in Paris, at the Gobelins, a master rules as chemist of the dyes, with the dignity of a special laboratory for making them. In America, with no government assuming the expense, the dyes are bought in such form that only expert dyers can use them in the few factories which exist. But no new hazards are taken. The matter is too serious. Economy in dyes brings too great disaster to contemplate. It is only too true that a man, several men, may labour a year to produce a perfect work, and that all the labour may be ruined by an ephemeral dye, by the escape of tones skilfully laid. Let commerce cheat in some other way, if it must, but not in this. Let the dye be honest, as enduring as the colours imprisoned in gems.

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