Friday, January 15, 2010

Toile de l'Iowa

I had taken a break from entering textile designs in Spoonflower's weekly Fabric of the Week contest, but I had my eye on them and kept voting for my favorites.  So far, none of my favorites have won.  Not to say the winners aren't worthy, it just makes me realize (again) the differences in people's design/style preferences.  One of the PhD candidates while I was at school wrote her dissertation on "aesthetic taste" - that might be an interesting read, as I seem to have odd taste.

However a couple weeks ago when Spoonflower announced upcoming contest themes, my interest was piqued when "toile de jouy" was one of them.  With my background, I sort of knew what that meant in terms of textile design, but to confirm my mental image, I took their suggestion and googled it.  I mean I google pretty much everything.  I am a staunch member of the Church of Google.  

One of the first sites that came up was a nicely informative article at QuiltersMuse.com.  Plus, as typical, there is also something about it on Wikipedia.  I'm kind of a wikipedia junkie too, although I did have one friend remind me that it is made up of user generated content, so should be taken with a grain of salt.  Ok, fine, be that way.

To briefly summarize what I gleaned from those sites, I'll first share the pronunciation: twal duh zhwee.  Say it with your best french accent!  Yes, toile de jouy is French, and I actually had my grammar mixed up when I named the file I submitted... I used du instead of de and it should have been de l' since Iowa starts with a vowel.  Correct me if I'm still wrong, last time I took French was in high school.  Oh wait, I flunked it my sophomore year of college.  Oops.  

Anyway, "toile de jouy" translates to "cloth of Jouy-en-Josas," Jouy-en-Josas being a village in France that manufactured the first prints of this style in the late 1700s.  During that time, printed fabric was produced by carving designs into a block of wood and basically repeatedly stamping the design in dye across the width of the fabric.  Fine details were added to the carved designs by using strips of copper, bent into shape and driven into the surface of the wood.  Can you imagine?  I've tried carving a simple design in a 1" x 1" piece of rubber stamp material, and that was challenging enough!  


Later, the engraved copper-plate rolled print process was developed, which allowed for finer details, larger repeats (sometimes two feet in width), and faster printing.  However, in both cases, due to time/expense involved with the engraving process, typically only one color of dye was used throughout the design, thus the monochromatic scheme of traditional toile fabric.

Toile de Jouy designs of the 18th century started out as florals (probably easier to carve into wood block) but likely due to the copper-plate technology, the design eventually evolved into highly detailed idyllic scenes.  The French were possibly influenced by the "exotic" Far East, where Chinoiserie fabrics were already printed with landscapes and "day in the life of" images of  Oriental people. Traditional French toile designs (see right) began to feature people in "pastoral" settings, such as leisurely countryside activities, and sometimes they told a story of "daily life."
Upon seeing the term pastoral, I immediately thought of my home state of Iowa, and the first leisurely activity / landscape images that came to mind were of boys flying kites in barnyards, silos, windmills and clouds.  Before getting started, I did some more looking around via a google image search to confirm details inherent to the style, such as: the monochromatic color scheme; the landscape/pastoral/leisurely scenes; the spacing of the layouts (usually you can see some of the base fabric or ground between "scenes") and the size/scale of the repeats (which were fairly large compared to other print styles).  Toile is generally used in decor rather than apparel; for upholstery, linens and even wallpaper, but in more modern times has been used in non-traditional ways, such as on boots, umbrellas or tailored suits.  


Quiltersmuse.com suggests that while toile design is timeless, its popularity does come and go.  Wikipedia speculates that its trendiness had a surge in the early 2000s.


Coincidently I found several "modern" toile designs from that period. "Harlem Toile" was designed by Shelia Bridges, who was inspired by the 18th century heritage of toile designs, but wanted to satirically lampoon African American stereotypes in the toile pattern she design for her own home.


Urban Outfitters apparently sold a sheet set in 2006, featuring a "Suburban Toile" by Dirty Linens / Groovy Q.  I love the powerlines and shopping carts!  (see below)  That 2006 Dirty Linens collection also featured a "naughty" toile design licensed from artist Tom of Finland, featuring homoerotic/fetish scenes.



 Another fun modern take on toile design is used by a lodging in Finland.   Room nr 1 had a custom toile-style wallpaper designed which uses quirky  modern park scenes, like a dude sitting  one a bench drinking under a neon Sauna sign (see right).




From those examples I drew my inspiration, and started looking through my Iowa photographs for appropriate subjects.  Eventually I had gathered 25 photos and started working with them in Photoshop, testing out how I could achieve an engraved look.  After trying out a few different filter effects, I chose the Photocopy filter.  The Photocopy filter sketches an image using your selected foreground color, so I picked a dark green color from Spoonflower's color chart.  Below is an example of one of the photos, and what it looked like with the Photocopy filter applied to it.
 


Next I used the Lasso selection tools to extract pieces from the filtered image that I wanted to use.  Manipulating "selections" is one of my favorite techniques in Photoshop, but it is also a painstaking process.  It probably took me a good four middle-of-the-night hours to filter all my images and extract the elements with the lasso tools.  Then, in a new file I worked on arranging the elements into "scenes."  Based on the historical prints and their typical use in home decor, I chose a fairly large scale for the scenes and wider repeat than normal. I arranged my scenes in a 16" x 13" space and used the Offset filter to make sure the pieces tiled seamlessly when repeated across a larger width of fabric.  Finally I saved it as a TIFF image and uploaded it to the site.


I've already ordered it printed on a fat quarter (27" x 18") of the Linen-Cotton canvas, and may try to make a throw pillow with it.  While I wait for the printed fabric to ship, I'll keep an eye this week's contest, and I'll vote for my favorite (wink wink).  Again, I expect I'll be surprised by the winning design, but that's okay.  There are a lot (68!) of nice entries and I'm happy with how mine turned out, regardless.     

Toile de l'Iowa by Sandra Stewart

A couple other toile write-ups:


10 comments:

  1. There's an Edinburgh Toile which was commissioned by the Edinburgh festival. It shows contempoary scnenes, buses, towerblock etc including some guys pissing in a fountain. It was quite controversial at the time! It's by the design company Timorous Beasties. You should check it out!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Too cool! Do you think I could order it in coral instead of green? You completed the theme much better than many of the submissions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh, see this is what happens when you fire off comments without reading the actual post properly. i completely missed that YOU made that one! yay! I'll vote for it now"

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  4. WOW!!! I love this design. I am trying to figure out what I could make it into. A canvas type bag maybe or an apron. I would really like it as a chair but I don't have a fancy smancy chair to do it with. Maybe pillows, I think the green would match the stuff in the dance floor room. Oh it is so cool!! Great job.

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  5. Franca, Thanks, I'll add the Edinburgh Toile / and Timorious Beasties to my list at the end.

    Mom, I'm glad you like it. I took some liberty with the Dargin barnyard and placement Lady/Anna/Windmill, but I think it works. We can talk, but what I could do is to upload a "coral" version to the Spoonflower site. If I order it, I get a small designer discount, so that is an option too.

    Softspoken: Thank You!!

    Cathy: Thanks! A canvas type tote bag could be cute, or pillows. We can see how mine turns out first.

    ReplyDelete
  6. WOW!!! I love this design. I am trying to figure out what I could make it into. A canvas type bag maybe or an apron. I would really like it as a chair but I don't have a fancy smancy chair to do it with. Maybe pillows, I think the green would match the stuff in the dance floor room. Oh it is so cool!! Great job.

    ReplyDelete
  7. oh, see this is what happens when you fire off comments without reading the actual post properly. i completely missed that YOU made that one! yay! I'll vote for it now"

    ReplyDelete
  8. Too cool! Do you think I could order it in coral instead of green? You completed the theme much better than many of the submissions.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There's an Edinburgh Toile which was commissioned by the Edinburgh festival. It shows contempoary scnenes, buses, towerblock etc including some guys pissing in a fountain. It was quite controversial at the time! It's by the design company Timorous Beasties. You should check it out!

    ReplyDelete