Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Kolkata Meets Provence"

It's all done and on its way - this quilt I'm calling "Kolkata Meets Provence." Why the name, you ask? (And even if you aren't asking, I'm going to tell you if you read on)  It was like this ...

The quilt design evolved in the making. I described that process here. One day when the squares were being assembled on my design wall a friend came over. Her immediate comment upon seeing them was, "It looks like French Country."  I hadn't made such a connection but as soon as she said it, I pictured tablecloths I'd seen in specialty shops imported from France, linens and fabrics that evoke a particular place and design style.

I embarked on a little quilt related research project into just what we mean by French Country when we are referring to textiles? What is it about those sari fabrics that call to mind Provence?

First, color. Blues, a certain rich golden yellow, and white. Of course, there are other color combinations in fabrics from Provence, but these are very signature colors.

Second, pattern. Small florals, paisleys, stylized flowers, intricate borders.

Here are some examples from the web:



and these last four from a store right here in North Carolina that I had the pleasure of visiting in my quest to learn more about the fabrics of Provence. French Connections, in Pittsboro, is a delightful shop with a mix of French and African fabrics, African baskets, carvings, antiques, and more. I could have spent much longer there than I did. (I was on my way to Chapel Hill and didn't plan nearly enough time to spend in the shop before I was scheduled to meet Joel). It was a feast for the eyes and also a nostalgic journey, bringing to mind shopping in markets in Cameroon and Kenya. I will definitely be going back and would love to meet the shop owners and learn more about their NC/France/African connections. 
Scroll up and down and then look back at the picture of the quilt. See what I mean about the French country/Provence design colors and motifs? And how they show up in the sari fabrics I received for this year's auction quilt?
But there's more ... there's a history here that is represented by these fabrics and I've started to understand a bit of that, too.  In the pre-industrial era, India was well known for the quality and beauty of its handwoven and hand-dyed and stamped textiles. By the early 17th century, these textiles began arriving in France, via the port of Marseilles. Known as Les Indiennes, they became quite popular among both the common folks and the royal court and a copycat French fabric industry sprang up. The design motifs, Indian in origin, became the signature style of Provence.
You can read more of this history, here and here. I've also read a bit about Indian fabric production and importation into France in a book Coty received for his birthday.


In reading about Indian textile production, my mind has wandered back to the day in the summer of 2009 when we visited a small Indian handloom and hand block-printing fabric factory. If I can find those pictures, I'll post some of them.

So many connections in the making of this quilt, probably much more than you wanted to know, but I have not only enjoyed the process of making this time around, but found the making greatly enriched by the recollections, online and in person fabric design search, and history study its making has prompted.


Sean and Lisa said...

So beautiful! You are truly gifted!!

Kathie said...

I love those shade - I'm a blue girl - throw in a hint of yellow or red for accents and I'm completely happy!

Such a beautiful quilt!

Bonnie said...

Your work is exquisite! Thanks for the link to see.