Sunday, October 5, 2014

Textile and printing history in Rhode Island—
Part II

William Morris textile print
Another place we visited on our September Rhode Island excursion was the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), in Providence, RI. The RISD campus includes 5 buildings that comprise the RISD Museum (a must-see if you're in the area).

We started the museum tour in the Costume and Textiles exhibit that features its collections of historical textiles, clothing and accessories from around the world and fashions from renown European, American and Asian designers of the 19th and 20th centuries.

One of my favorite designers is the multi-talented William Morris (1834 - 1896). My first encounter with the Morris' work was through my studies in printing technology and typography. Morris designed typefaces [Golden, Troy, Chaucer], made his own paper and founded the Kelmscott Press where he designed and printed exquisite, illuminated works written both by himself and other influential authors—the most famous and most ambitious work being the Kelmscott Chaucer.

Golden, Troy and Chaucer typefaces designed by William Morris.
Morris' textile designs and prints are just as glorious. Focusing on botanicals and complex, repeating patterns, he also employed neglected print processes such as block printing, hand dying and plant dying techniques in this work. The textile print above "illustrates Morris's conviction that good design depicts perpetual motion… and shows the lasting influence of exotic florals [that were] introduced by Charles Darwin's writings about evolution and the growth of plants."
Woman's jacket from Persia, 1850 - 1900.
Block printed with mordants and resist dyeing techniques.
More contemporary textiles and fashion in the exhibit were these timeless beauties.
Left: Cristobal Balenciaga (designer). Weft-striped cotton of tailoring mastery. Mid 1950s.
Right: Emanuel Ungaro (designer). Printed wool, late 1960s.
Left: Muriel King (designer), Marshall Field & Co. (retailer). Screen printed plain weave silk, ca. 1933.
Right: Bergdorf Goodman (retailer). Printed silk crepe dress, 1964.
There was also an exhibit of student work in one of the galleries.
Student exhibit at RISD Museum.
From a textile printing perspective, Cranston Print Works in Cranston, RI was another stop on our trip.
Cranston Print Works administrative offices.
Although print production has ceased in this facility, one can follow the history of cotton mills and textile printing in New England during the American Industrial Revolution though the story of this textile print mill. Read up on Samuel Slater who smuggled textile manufacturing technology from England and helped birth this manufacturing industry in America. One of Slater's early cotton mills became part of the Cranston Print Works Company in 1936.
Ivy-covered walls of the old Cranston Print Works building.
Oh, if these walls could talk! As a fabric rep for several fabric companies, as well as a long time print production professional, I would relish a conversation with the ghosts of the textile print production workers that once labored in these historic buildings.
Cranston Print Works, Cranston, RI.
For now, I will have to do my own printing and fabric surface design with my purchases at RISD. The zippered pouch, hand crafted by "Jan Baker Text Tiles," is from the RISD Museum gift shop—very calligraphic as well as functional.
Art supplies from RISD stores and two visitor passes from the RISD Museum tour. 
The assortment of Pigma Micron fabric markers and Sharpie Paint markers were purchased at the Fab-U-lous RISD campus store. OMGosh… a full-blown, art supply store with a humongous selection of anything a fabric/quilting/surface design enthusiast could possibly want. Unfortunately, we were flying back, so suitcase space was limited. Otherwise, the enticing art papers, sketchbooks, drawing and painting supplies would have been in the shopping basket, too.

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