Jacquard weaving has a fascinating, and painful, history. The creation of complex patterns in cloth of course goes back a long way. Jacquard has its origin in the weaving of silk brocades, which became symbols of wealth and privilege due to their expense. In the 18th century the weaving of brocades by hand was an incredibly labour-intensive process requiring a weaver and an unfortunate known as the ‘draw boy’. The draw boy, who was always a child, would have to get on top of the loom and lift threads as directed by the weaver, about a 30-pound load at a time. Back-breaking, slow – a good weaver and draw boy team might produce a couple of square inches of finely patterned cloth, per day. It was one such draw boy, Joseph Marie Jacquard, who invented a better way using punch cards to control the thread ordering. In fact, a kind of programmable, digital machine, in 1801! the final version debuted in 1804.
Nowadays jacquard weaving is, of course, computer controlled, but the underlying principle is exactly the same as that invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard. Advances in technology allow me to produce these amazing designs. The main motif does not even have to belong to the same colour collection as the base cloth. Here we have a very striking, detailed, pineapple design in warm ochres and green, but the base is a blue and white small check! Even so the shirt is all of a piece, being woven at once using the jacquard technique. To me it recalls modernism, Warhol, and others of the avant-garde who looked to traditional reproducible procedures, such as screen print for their experiments at the cutting edge. Partly the composition – big, bold, and widely spaced, but also the particular flattish effect of images made in, and of, thread.
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