Tapestry of Aubusson: A Living, Breathing Artisanal Art

Tapestry of Aubusson: A Living, Breathing Artisanal Art

Originally published in France Passion Magazine


I must admit that when I first approached this assignment, the idea of peering into the world of tapestry in middle-of-nowhere France conjured up images of dusty religious relics,
disintegrating Persian rugs, and the never-as-accurate representations of Renaissance oil paintings.

The idea reminded me of the petit point works my grandfather would reproduce, with love and grace I should add, however antiquated these representations were in my mind. There’s nothing novel about this craft I thought. I could not have been more wrong.

As I began my research, what struck me immediately was the tremendous support for the arts in France. Even in the smallest of towns where people don’t seem to have much money – somehow there’s money for culture. You find contemporary and classical dance, music, and art exhibitions all year long, all over the country. Though hard times with the euro have not denied budget cuts in this sector, arts are still a priority. Like some sort of unspoken rule as ludicrous as a meal without bread on the table – the idea of cutting funding completely for arts is sacrilege.

Tapestry originates in Aubusson, dating back to the mid-fifteen century, and though many claim its origins are Flemish, this hasn’t been completely proven. What is clear is that the development of tapestry as an artisanal art form corresponds to the appearance of a number of different artisanal crafts (cutlery, paper, silk products) throughout the Massif Central, an area of central France distinguished by its high elevation mountains and plateaus.

For tapestry in particular, it turns out there is a renaissance in the craft, much due to the art’s own adaptability to the contemporary domain. And paff! (as the French would say) contemporary culture meets old world artisanal art: my curiosity was ignited.

The first mentions of tapestry artisans appear in the late fifteenth century, but it isn’t until 1665 when the Aubusson ateliers become known as the Manufacture royale, designing commissioned tapestry works to decorate the royal courts. In 1884, l’École nationale des Arts décoratifs (ENAD) d’Aubusson is built, and later restored in 1969 to become the current building that you’ll see today designed by architects Danis and Caradec.

In September 2009, a breath of new life begins to permeate the tapestry world when the art form is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Once recognized for that, it has been no stopping Aubusson.

While the inauguration of the new tapestry museum and school, La Cité internationale de la tapisserie et de l’art tissé, isn’t until 2015, art lovers and Francophiles alike should keep an eye on these years leading up to the opening, if only for the commendable way they are building the new collection. And the press is certainly paying attention.

The goals behind the project of La generic to zoloft zoloft tablet price in pakistan Sertraline without prescription Cité are varied: from veritable fiscal support for education in the trade; to support for the growing international demand for newly commissioned works; to the digital documentation of much-loved historical works, so that they may be virtually appreciated by the public, worldwide.

Since 2010, La Cité has held an annual contest in order to build its new collection, receiving tapestry project proposals from all over the world. The winner is chosen and the project is funded. Once complete, the piece is exhibited in the museum itself.  The first contest saw over 300 artist proposals from over twenty countries.

Unicorn Skin, or Peau de licorne by Nicolas Buffe won the grand prize in 2010, and is a true symbol of the open door to contemporary inspiration for this art form. Traditional methods were used to weave together the mythical story of the unicorn hunt using traditional Mayan design, as well as a Japanese manga, comic, and video game characters to tell the story. The ancient trade embraces popular culture, with no loss of quality.

If you’re telling yourself – sounds great, but I still need to see Paris – take a day or two to run around the city, but then spend a week in Limousin. Rest assured that an adventure to the heart of France will bring you the authenticity of old world France that you are craving. And if it’s not the cobble stone streets, tiny houses with fairytale shutters, the long roads lined with fields, flowers and woods, then it’s the people of the lesser-known parts of France that you should visit for. Go ahead, try your French, and trust that the smiles and charming laughter are a warm and hearty welcome.

What To See This Year

To ramp up the new museum’s opening in 2015, the existing school will hold “Aubusson Tapisseries des Lumières” from June 15 – November 3, 2013, exhibiting 18th-century works, exploring the diversity of styles born during the Enlightenment.

Meeting An Artist    

Patrick Guillot is one of a kind. While he is not easy to reach, he is whole-heartedly involved in the renaissance of the trade, and does find time to teach, to welcome select visitors to show his world of tapestry in Aubusson, and of course to produce commissioned works himself. It is helpful to direct inquiries both through his website, and through La Cité’s information center, noted above.

Around Aubusson 

Aubusson is just under four hours by TGV from Paris. The town is also only an hour and a half drive to Limoges, where you can visit various museums dedicated to the traditional porcelain craft there. Find all the information about the city of Limoges propecia 5mg or 1mg generic propecia and the departments of the Limousin and Creuse.

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