The History Behind Tapestries and Tapestry-Making

These days, one of the primary ways to decorate a home includes hanging up unique and intricately woven tapestries on the wall. A tapestry is basically a type of textile art. It is hand-woven and created with the use of a vertical loom. This type of weaving is weft-faced, which means the end product can not be viewed until the weaving is completed. Warp threads lie hidden inside the work, not like cloth weaving where you get to see the weft and the warp threads.

Through the process of tapestry weaving, the weaver can produce various colorful images and patterns. A great number of tapestry weavers make use of warp thread bases like cotton or linen. While the weft threads on the other hand, can be made of cotton, wool, silver, silk, gold and other materials.

An artist usually first designs the tapestry that will later be completed by the craftsmen. Artists basically create the tapestry blueprints which are placed on cardboard. The craftsmen would then begin to create large scale tapestries out of the tapestry cartoons created by the artist.

Unlike other art forms in the olden days, the tapestry was considered to be immensely portable. When changing residences, noblemen and kings could easily have the tapestries rolled up to be taken to their next lodging place. There were numerous castles in the old days which had large tapestries draped on the palace walls. It was used as excellent decorative pieces and were also considered to be great insulation materials during the winter season.

Even in the Hellenistic times around 3rd century BC, tapestries were already being created by the Greek. But they only became really popular in Europe during the 14th century AD. Switzerland and Germany began producing large amounts of tapestries during this period. Later on the Netherlands and France followed suit.

By the time the 15th century hit, the town of Arras in France already had a thriving textile industry. The textile industry in Arras was known for producing fine-quality wool tapestries. The tapestries were so well made that they were used to decorate various castles and palaces all over the whole continent.

Unfortunately, only a few of the tapestries created from Arras managed to survive the French Revolution. Most of the tapestries from this period were burned with their gold threads taken out of them. Today, the term “Arras” is still being used to pertain to any type of exquisitely made tapestry regardless of where it was originally made.

During the 16th century, Arras was no longer known to be the tapestry centre of Europe. Flanders had replaced Arras.

Some of the most famous tapestry productions in history was taken from the 17th century Flemish tapestries. These Flemish tapestries show bursts of color and intricate detailing in their tapestries.

Tapestry-making disappeared for a while. It was in the 19th century when tapestry-making was resurrected. William Morris resurrected this lost art through the medieval style decorating at Merton Abbey. More tapestries were created for both ecclesiastical and home use. The tapestry cartoons were created by Edward Burne-Jones.

Today, tapestry-making is still a highly-valued art form. People value exquisitely made tapestries created by modern day craftsmen. Antique tapestries can still be purchased in auctions, and modern tapestries can still be bought in furniture shops and art exhibits.

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