Saturday, April 8, 2017

Paisley Patterns - Part I
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Introduction [1]
The origin of the "Paisley Motif" can be found in the ancient civilisation of Babylon under the rule of kings such as Nebuchadnezzar. There, one of the dominant resource plant was the date palm, which not only provided food and building materials such as wood, string and thatch, it also provided a motif that became known as the Paisley motif. The motif follows the tightly curled palm frond just as it begins to grow.

The Date Palm was considered the 'Tree of Life' and the tightly curled palm frond was a symbol of fertility and much prized by the Babylonians. It was thought to have generated the Paisley pattern.

The above is a printed shawl design with unusual 'toothy' edged Paisley motif, which comes from a volume of "Sketches for Print Shawls", English and French, ca. 1850 [1].

From Babylon this motif was to spread all over the world. In India, particularly Kashmir, an early example of a shawl with this pattern dates back to the 1600s.

Buta on Shoulder Mantle. Kashmir Paisley Shawl. Afghan Period. Kashmir ca. 1815 (The Kashmir Company Collectors Edition Collection).

Kashmiri shawls were incredibly complex to make and it could take up to a year and a half to make one shawl! The finest of these shawls were made from the down of a particular type of wild goat that lived in the Himalayas. In Spring, the goats would shed their hair on the rocks and bushes and this would be hand gathered and made into shawls. Pashmina shawls, shawls 'made from wool', were highly prized in Kashmir and were the gifts of princes.

Marie-Therese Wisniowski's Pashmina Scarf 1.
Techniques: Multi-dyed, block printed and stenciled employing dyes and pigment on viscose blend.
Size: 74 cm (width) x 195 cm (length).
Its available for you to purchase.

The demand for Kashmir shawls increased when employees of the British East India Company brought them back as gifts for their families. However, there was a need to make them cheaper as one shawl alone could cost between £200 and £300. Obviously only the social √©lite could afford to own a Kashmir shawl. Hence due to demand British manufacturers began to investigate ways to produce imitation shawls.

The first center to produce these imitation shawls was Edinburgh in 1777, which was followed by Norwich in 1784. The town of Paisley began manufacturing Kashmir shawls in around 1805. An Edinburgh shawl manufacturer by the name of Paterson had taken on too many orders for shawls. The French blockade of British ports meant that silk was impossible to import and so the highly skilled weavers in Paisley found themselves out of work. Paterson knew this and so he sent them some of his orders to fill. The Paisley workers soon realized that good profits could be made from shawl weaving and so several set themselves up as shawl manufacturers.

The Cross, with the Paisley Town Hall in the background.

One reason why Paisely's shawl industry outstripped its competitors was its efficient use of labor. Some eleven different specialists had a hand in the manufacture of each Paisley shawl. Yarns obtained from West Riding (Yorkshire) were prepared by highly skilled dyers; a beamer would measure out the warp threads and a warper would take over the task of entering them into the loom. The weaver's wife would put the weft threads onto the pins or bobbins ready to fit into the shuttles. After the weaver had finished, the shawls were taken to the manufacturer's warehouse for finishing. Firstly, the shawl would be passed beneath the rolling blades of the cropping machine. This removed, from the reverse side, all the surplus floating weft threads created by the weaving process. Next the shawls would be washed, and then stretched over large frames to dry evenly. Teams of girls were employed either to sew on pre-manufactured fringes, or to twist the warp thread-ends to form the fringing. Finally the shawls were calendared, or steam-pressed, to give a wonderful sheen to the surface of the fabric.

By far the longest and most painstaking process of a Paisley shawl, was the design stage, which may have taken up to four-fifths of the total production time. The manufacturers obtained their designs from various sources and by 1842, the patenting of designs allowed protection from other manufacturers between three and twelve months. Records of these patterns were lodged in the record office at Kew and one or two of the pattern books at Paisley contain both the patent certificates and samples of the patterns they refer to.

Paisley Patterns - Part I

Comment[1]: An unusual design strongly featuring stylized floral motifs, which come from the volume of sketches entitled: "Early Harness Sketches, 1823 - 1843.

Comment[1]: This design for a printed shawl, complete with "twill" lines, is one of repeating design associated with roller printing.

Comment[1]: This pattern clearly shows why, in some parts of Europe, the Paisley motif was referred to as the "tadpole". It is also a good example of diagonal lines incorporated in order to give the effect of the woven fabric.

Comment[1]: Design, ca. 1830, for a medallion center shawl. It could be used as drawn for the corners of the shawl, or multiplied fourfold for the central pattern.

Comment[1]: Designed for a very geometrical medallion corner, which also shows the borders and part of the center pattern. It probably dates to ca. 1830.

Comment[1]: This corner motif of the 1840s comes from a volume of print designs enigmatically entitled: No 2. An inscription reads '2 blotches £9-8'. Presumably this was the cost of having the blocks cut.

Comment[1]: From a selection of "Early Prints 1840-1845" comes this pull from a block. It exhibits the tendency for early print designs to recall the woven shawl designs of some thirty years before.

Comment[1]: 1820s design featuring stylized floral motifs.

Comment[1]: An odd, simplistic Paisley design, perhaps intended for roller printing. It is shown in two color combinations.

[1] V. Reilly, Paisley Patterns, Portland House, New York (1989).

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