While I am always interested in looms and weaving of any kind, I do love damasks and pretty much anything that occurs along the Silk Road. (Okay, what am I saying, you say “loom” and I’m there) but more to the point: a few weeks ago I was presented with a very exciting and unique opportunity to go to Lyon, France to see a few looms (*giggles in hysterical excitement*). Lyon was the capital of weaving production during the 19th century. It seems that weaving wasn’t well paid and it was an undervalued job. I find that interesting. Nowadays when I see a weaver, I always get excited and am like “let’s talk about weaving, teach me everything you know!” but back then they weren’t well treated and only got paid once the fabric was finished; if the buyer didn’t like the fabric, or said there were mistakes in it and wouldn’t buy it, the weaver, who could have been working on this fabric for one to two years, would have had a disaster on his hands. It seems crazy to me to think that there was a time when weaving was something other than an art, all that time and energy spent weaving, making such beauty with your hands. Sad to think that when the weavers went on strike they were simply shot during the strike.
To me, an experienced weaver is like gold. It’s funny how different what we used to, and now do, deem most precious. Mostly it’s been money (mostly? who am I kidding, it’s always been money). At one point silk and gold were equally valuable, which I find quite amazing considering the fact that now we can buy silk very cheaply; it can cost almost nothing (although there are no promises about the quality).
Lyon was also the home to Joseph Jacquard, the inventor of the Jacquard loom. His loom changed the way of weaving forever and was the first mechanical loom.
Not to mention Lyon is just a beautiful place to be. If you climb up Lyon (it’s partly on a hill) you will have such a wonderful view looking across the city and down to the two rivers. It was so wonderful to enjoy the sun after being in Denmark; it felt almost like it could have been summer in the middle of winter. It was quite a break from the depressing, gray weather.
Of course they are famous not only for their weaving; there’s screen printing and velour to think of as well. Below is a picture of velour painting. It’s got such an amazing texture that you want to touch it all day. It’s genuinely wonderful to see how the colors are blended on the fabric as well. It’s a fabric with a very magical feeling. Very aesthetically pleasing.
These textiles provide not only a history of the techniques but also of the people who make them, sometimes for generations. This man (or what you can see of him) has been working in the business for ages, working with screen printing and velour. Here you see him adding the last layer of paint to a series of scarves. In the studio, they mix the inks themselves with their own recipes, and there are many tests done to assure that the color is the same every time. He even went back with a brush to fix some mistakes where the ink didn’t come through. There is just so much precision to it that it is truly incredible to watch.
However, Lyon as is sensational on the inside as the outside. When it comes to looms it’s actually difficult for me to put into words the way I feel about them. They are like very old people with so many stories, so smart and yet often overlooked. I want to be the person who hears the stories of the looms, the unique fabrics they have produced. I always want to be around looms and I can’t really explain why, but they just make me happy. A well-made loom, at least to my mind, is as valuable as a painting or a precious stone, if not more so, as it gives you more and increases its worth every time a magnificant piece of fabric comes off of it. Pictured below is a brocade weave, with the background as the white and the small shuttles are the pattern, not unlike a knitting pattern carrying the pattern threads.
Below is the first mechanical band loom I’ve ever seen. It’s truly an fascinating thing to see at work. They don’t have one big reed, they have individual ones for each band. I found that very curious.
Here is a woven velour. I wish I could have everyone one touch it. It’s got such a unique texture, especially the difference between the cut and uncut parts. Of course this is the weave you have to pay the most attention to, as if you make a mistake there is no going back!
This a picture of a piece woven on a Jacquard loom (that I had to stand on a chair just to take a picture of). This fabric made in Lyon is all about where I grew up, Philadelphia! I think it’s so cool that you can see the far-reaching arm of the Lyon weaving industry stretching across an ocean, all the way to my home town!
There are some other things that just can’t be beat, and I have to say that the open air fresh food markets were definitely right up there (but after looms of course). I mean, just look at this lettuce! It’s so green and tasty! Makes me want to have a salad even in the heart of winter. With all the people out there buying their fresh food everyday, it’s really something that we in the north could take a page from, although maybe not through all
of the winter. But, we definitely need more veggies that look like this up here.
Lyon sits on the uppermost cusp of southern Europe, making it just as picturesque as any city in the south of Europe, while still having small elements of northern Europe hidden in it. There are so many little galleries and cafes. It would take years to explore. While I do love it here, even that short taste has made me wonder, why don’t I live there?