It all started when one of our many amazing CHS volunteers (Samantha Ozzone) offered a great idea for a new store product: cell phone covers featuring fabrics from the Textile Collection. Initially we planned individually packaged hard covers, each featuring a piece from the CHS needlework or fabric collection. Some of you might have purchased the first in the series that shows a detail of a pocketbook (1771) originally owned by Ebenezer Punderson and attributed to Prudence Geer. Then, one of our vendors sent a clear cell phone cover sample with a paper insert and staff members reacted by suggesting that four different interchangeable inserts would be more appealing. Another great idea! We started browsing through our wallpaper and fabric sample books with an eye toward creating a cohesive grouping of images. Karen DePauw, Research and Collections Associate, pulled four large leather bound books, each entitled “Broderies / Dentelles / Moirees”, “Chemises”, “Cachemires”, and “Sujets”. Along with the usual wallpaper and fabric swatches, we found something completely unexpected – hand-painted pattern samples – in a marvelous array of colors and styles.
Traditionally, textile designers planned out patterns in pencil on paper, then completed the process by applying gouache for a smooth flat color to show how a design would translate into patterned materials. I recognized the technique because my very good friend, Barbara, majored in Textile Design while we were at RISD. I remembered when Barbara created similar patterns, usually with no small amount of anguish, because developing the skill to work with gouache – especially when applied to designs that include large areas of flat opaque color and small intricate areas of fine detail – requires a great deal of practice and patience.
These four books contain so many pattern samples, each time I browse, I find something new and completely wonderful. Diane Lee, Collections Manager, has been very generous about my repeated requests for photographing the images from these books, which, she learned, were a museum purchase. The place of origin is Paris, France, with the maker listed as “Gamichon Freres Bisschop & Maignan”. No date of manufacture is available but the accession numbers reveal an acquisition date of 1975.
I am nuts about these sample books! Each is truly so lovely and special it’s quite a challenge selecting just a few for our initial offering. How would you choose? Do you prefer traditional florals, vintage geometrics, large patterns, small mini-prints, bright colors, subdued pastels, or monotones? Should we offer a combination of styles and colors or keep it simple with similar patterns in similar hues? Let us know what you prefer and then stop by the CHS store in about a month to see how this project comes together.
Remember, History Nuts (members) receive a 10% discount on most items and all purchases support CHS programs and exhibitions.
Kathy Whitney is the Store Manager at the Connecticut Historical Society