William Morris (1834 - 1896) was not only a designer, but also a writer and scholar. He created many of the most recognizable fabric and wallpaper designs of the Arts & Crafts movement. Under his direction, Morris & Co. was a hugely successful company that still produces many of the original designs today. In my years working with vintage and antique fabrics we only came across one original set of curtain panels that had the hand sewn "Morris & Co." labels on them. Most of the draperies which were of a linen and cotton mix, were incorporated into pillows, however I managed to save for myself and my meager collection of "special" pieces two long strips (badly faded, shown below) of "Garden Tulip," which was originally designed by William Morris in 1885. Please read more about Mr. Morris and see more designs here. It seems as though the reproduction of "Garden Tulip" now sells for roughly $152.00/yard. Also below is a photo from the company site showing "Garden Tulip" in use as upholstery and drapes.
Yes, the timing's a bit off, a Valentine in June? Perusing my small collection of vintage postcards and French chromos which I'll cover in a future post, I happened upon one of the few Valentines that I kept for myself all these years. It's a heart-shaped card, probably from the late 1930s, that's a bit tattered yet has retained its appeal to me. I scanned it and touched it up on the computer, and printed some out on photo paper. I ended up over the course of yesterday made a first edition series of 15 of these, adding red grosgrain ribbon, sequins & superfine glitter to blank cards made primarily from recycled cardstock. I was going to lay down a ground of thinner solid fabric but I'll surely be making more cards incorporating vintage textiles. Keep in mind that the wording which says "I'll tell the world you're my Valentine" is much clearer in person; each card is blank inside and will come with an envelope and in its own cello sleeve.
Wow, I don't know if I would call it "closure" but it just feels like the things I have made with Fortuny fabric have all that more meaning, now that I am able to clearly identify each pattern I worked with. I have seen on several different sites and read in various articles that Fortuny now runs approximately $500 per yard, although I have not yet determined if this is the standard price range, or on the higher end of the pricing. I would imagine that there are patterns that are more common, or designs printed on cotton as opposed to silk would obviously be less expensive. I will look further into this and get back to you!
Above are pillows I made with a deep burgundy & silver fragment that I have not identified yet. I have a few fragments remaining that are very fragile, and it measures approximately 24" from selvage to selvage, with no visible Fortuny stamp. Below is one of several lampshades I recovered using fragments of what I can now identify as the Farnese Frieze design in Majolica Green & Silvery Gold, as listed by the Olde World Pillows site. This design seems to still be in production, although the pieces we acquired seemed to have some age to them, they were originally cushion covers.
Below are two pillows in yellow and white of the Delfino pattern. The Fortuny pattern book lists this particular pattern as having design elements from the 17th century, from the time of King Louis XIII.
Anyone with some knowledge of antique fabrics would agree that coming across vintage Fortuny fabric of any kind is an exciting event. Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) was a Spanish artist that truly embodied the idea of "Renaissance" artist, which culminated in the design and production of some of the most gorgeous fabrics. Fortuny etched, painted, sculpted, photographed and designed.
We knew from photos basically what various Fortuny patterns looked like, but none of them were ever marked with a name so we were never sure. One year, however, we purchased a set of six very large drapery panels from a reputable dealer who confirmed that they were indeed Fortuny. At the time it was an incredible find, and we had every intention to resell the panels as a full set, since it seemed to us to be a crime to break them up. As it turned out, the client that purchased the set actually brought them back a month later and asked us to use the fabric to RECOVER an overstuffed set of furniture including a sofa, armchair & ottoman. The thought of cutting into the fabric pained me, but this is what the client was paying us to do (and as it turned out I still have lots of smaller pieces and scraps!). Below is a pic of the armchair "in progress," unfortunately I have not found the photos of the sofa yet. As shown in the photo above, I made piping from the same fabric as well for all the pieces, which along with the constant pinning unpinning and repinning made for a length project, one which also resulted in a gorgeous custom upholstered set of furniture.
Recently I came across a site that sold pillows made with very expensive antique fabrics and trims, and to my surprise I noticed that they catalogued and had photos of all the Fortuny fabric patterns. I was thrilled to see the design of the panels that we sold several years back, and discovered that this particular pattern is called Pergolesi, and that the colorway of the panels we sold has been out of production since the 1940s.
Souvenirs de Mer were very popular travel mementos in the early 1900s, especially in France. When visiting a coastal town one would be able to purchase these small handmade items which would have the name of the town inscribed somewhere on it. These could be purchased reasonably and took the shape of inkwells, salt and pepper holders, napkin rings and small jewelry boxes.
It seems to me in the sense of travelling souvenirs somewhat of a continuation of the Victorian Sailor Valentine (pictured below) that were purchased on long sea trips and brought back to their loved ones. The octagonal shape is representational of the Valentines of the time, this one is from Barbados ca. 1865 which would have been made by a local artist. These of course were much more intricate, but would have certainly brought something "exotic" back from abroad.
I know that my deep connection with shells started when I was very young. Growing up in Hawaii my sister and I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents on Maui. Their house a stone's throw away from the ocean, and my grandfather being a fisherman, I developed an almost focused obsession with combing the beaches for shells, broken glass and driftwood. My grandfather collected shells as well as glass balls in rope nets used as fishing flotation by the Japanese boats. My grandmother also picked shells with my sister and I, and my mom's younger brother had an affinity for driftwood and unusually shaped rocks. As you can imagine this created quite the collection of objects at their house! My collection is still there and probably needs a bit of sorting through after years of storage.
I am currently very busy working on shell projects so I am still amongst them, and I have my own collection of shell mirrors and boxes too. I also have a very charming example of Souvenir de Mer: a wonderful pair of small handpainted conch shell lamps from the Italian Coastal town of Rivazzurra, ca. 1940...love them!
Pictured above and below are just some of the 24 drapery panels I made for two very good friends of mine in Rancho Palos Verdes Estates, California. As you can see, they have an incredible view, especially with the cliffs situated right across the street from them! This was an enormous undertaking, from the planning and measuring and waiting for fabrics and trims to arrive. I basically hauled my sewing gear and stayed with them for several days at a time until the project was finished. With my own guest room, a huge kitchen, a pool & a hot tub, it was rough.
Each panel included an inside stripe in poly that faced out to the sun, a white cotton liner, and a front facing stripe in silk. I then had to sew a 2" flange in solid faille on the inside of each panel, followed by a wood tassel trim down the inside and a fringe along the bottom of each panel. I then pleated each and every panel, and fitted each pleat with a drapery hook to hang from the rods.
I often look back at some of my larger projects and shake my head in disbelief at the amount of time and energy I've spent and was still able to complete/survive each one. Looking at these photos takes me right back to the literally hundreds of yards of fabrics and trims that I had to measure, cut & sew. Like my big shell project, all I find myself saying to myself is " yikes!" and "wow!"