Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Boutisful" Ladies of the Club

Traditional boutis stitched in a traditional design. (Francine Born)

The tradition and heritage of boutis, which is a technique of corded white work whose provenance is specific to the southern areas of Provence and Languedoc, is still being actively promoted and practiced by many needle artisans from the region. It's origins in France date back to 15th century Marseilles, where between 5,000 to 6,000 women were employed in needlework ateliers producing between 40,000 and 50,000 finished pieces of "toiles piques" (hand stitched needlework), mostly for export. Fortunately, subsequent generations have understood and appreciated the rich heritage of this craft. They have continued the tradition with dedication and enthusiasm, both by creating and by teaching.

For the past two years, I have had the privilege to further my study of boutis (it's techniques as well as it's historical significance) from Madame Francine Born , www.boutis.fr, who herself has learned from and worked together with Madame Andree Gaussen, http://boutis.chez-alice.fr/ , author of the book "le Manuel de Boutis" and who is considered to be one of the sage authorities on boutis. Mme. Born has been handed the torch from Mme. Gaussen to educate and perpetuate the craft, which Mme. Born does with much dedication and competance.

Mme. Born is holding up a tapestry cushion cover, luxuriously stitched and rich in colours. Although this is not boutis, she does appreciate and promote other handwork.

Mme. Born presides over two local "boutis" groups that meet monthly. This past spring she invited me to join the group that meets in a town near where we live. Just as is the case with quilting groups in North America, these "ladies of the club" all come prepared to spend the day working on their current projects, are eager to learn from each other, and enthusiastically and generously share their specific talents and knowledge with others. And of course, Mme. Born is there to offer her expertise and experience and to provide inspiration.

As is consistent with quilters from all over the world, the enthusiasm of today's generation of "boutiseusses" to share their knowledge and the history of boutis is done with generosity and patience, even to "etrangers" (foreigners) such as myself.

"Boutisful" ladies all working on their various projects!

A beautifully designed and expertly stitched christening gown, made by Nelly (3rd from the right in the photo above).

Although traditionally most boutis is stitched using a fine quality white cotton batiste, some of the ladies prefer to use silk dupioni from time to time, particularly when a more contemporary design is used. Patricia, current president of this association (standing second from the right), had completed the stitching and the cording of this piece, which is to become a bag, and was in the process of sewing it together.

More "boutisful" ladies intensely focussed on their stitching. Mme. Born, standing, is always available to offer guidance and advice.

This particular traditional design, adapted by Mme. Born, has been stitched by a number of the ladies. Helene, (third from the left wearing a white sweater), is working on this one. She is using the white cotton batiste on the top, a yellow batiste on the bottom and cording with both white and grey yarn .

Another individuated (personalized) design of Mme. Born's, stitched by Helene. Helene is an expert on some of the less commonly used lace stitches, like the ones used in the insets above.

Madame Leone Combes, standing on the left, is a friend and assistant to Mme. Born (standing, right) and accompanies her to many events. She has made many of the boutis pieces that Mme. Born uses as class examples. I feel very privileged to be learning from these very talented women.

This class example is made from yellow batiste. Although not as widely used, yellow is another traditional colour used for boutis.

A close-up of one of the pieces showing a sampling of the variety of stitches that can be used. Boutis, sometimes referred to as "broderie de Marseilles" (which translates as the embroidery from Marseilles), bases it's construction on embroidery stitches. The stitches make the channels through which the cording will pass, which then creates the relief that distinguishes boutis from other needle work.  You will recognize the different stitches as those we are familiar with from embroidery, such as back stitch, stem stitch, chain stitch, and the running stitch.

Since the group does not meet over the summer months, this was the last meeting that I will be able to attend this year, but I am looking forward to continuing my boutis experience in future years and in getting to know these warm, generous ladies better. (And with any luck at all, I will come equipped with a better understanding of the French language!)

The ladies also generously gave their consent to have their work photographed and posted to this blog. Merci beaucoup mesdames!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quilting Inspiration in Southern France

It`s been almost 3 months since we have been back in France and, as is very typical of life in general, the time disappears very quickly. Although I have not had much "quality" stitching time, my mind is never far from the subject. As we travel around the area, my camera is always poised and ready to capture new ideas and inspiration, old ideas and inspiration, and of course, objects of beauty that are always inspirational.

These wildflowers are growing on the sandy banks along a quiet country road in the  camargue (a region of salt lagoons surrounded by marshes near the sea). At the end of this road stands the Romanesque cathedral of Maguelone, built in the 1100's. The quiet, serene setting of this cathedral, standing alone in a vineyard between the etang (a lagoon) and the sea, makes it one of my favourite places to visit. And of course, the opportunities for inspiration are limitless.

Below are some examples of how I use these influences in my work.
Above the main portal of the cathedral of Maguelone, is an early 12th century marble lintel, sculpted into scrolls of acanthus leaves. The acanthus leaf is a very popular symbol of the area, and it's motif is therefore frequently found in needlework patterns. This scroll of acanthus leaves would work quite well as a border just as it is.
In my sanglier quilt (see my post from Aug. 25, 2011), acanthus scrolls became a major design feature of the quilt.
In spring, when the Judas tree blossoms, much of the landscape in the Provence/ Languedoc regions becomes a sea of magenta. Here, at the recently uncovered ruins of the ancient city of Glanum, near St. Remy-de-Provence, the site was completely enclosed in a wall of these blossoms when we visited in early May.The soft grey/white of the stonework provides a perfect backdrop for the powder puff display of the fluffy pink blossoms.
An example of how these colours have influenced my choices.
The stone-grey ruins of this early medieval mountain top village, at les Baux-de- Provence, high in the Alpilles mountains, is a very typical example of the colours found throughout the countryside of Languedoc and Provence.
The stone-grey linen of this apron reminds me of these shades of grey.
The medieval abbey-town of St. Guilhem-le-desert, nestled into a ravine in the Herault gorge in Languedoc, grew up around the 11th century abbey-church of Gellone. The grayish stone buildings, with their red-tiled roofs, against the brilliant greens of the wooded landscape, have inspired colour choices like the apron and the placemat below.
Hand monogrammed apron made from linen and cottons.
Here brown and off-white toile de jouy are paired with natural linen. The little stripe of red was added in homage to the red tiled roofs.
The Jardin des Plantes in Montpellier, founded in 1593, is the oldest botanical garden in France. My collection of photographs of this garden are a constant resource for me when looking for images of foliage.

The golden-yellow and white awning on our balcony provides not only shade, but also a bold burst of colour every afternoon. Against the intense blue sky, the colours appear all the more brilliant.
These golden yellow and white placemats with the olive branch are hand appliqued and machine quilted. They are a homage to the warm, golden sunlight that brings so much intensity to the natural colours of the southern regions of France.
What a pretty calico this variety of flowers makes, at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

The "Espace Van Gogh" in Arles is the hospital where the artist spent time from December 1888 to January 1889. 
These table runners share a similar colour palette to that of the gardens.
Here at the medieval gothic chapel of Sainte Chapelle in the heart of Paris, the floor tiles immediately caught my attention. Floor tiles can provide an excellent resource of images of the symbols and motifs associated with a region.
These free motion machine embroidered napkins were inspired by scroll work.
One of the many wrought iron balcony railings in Montpellier that seem to have been designed for free-motion quilting. (How very thoughtful of the designers!)
This 13th century rose window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a "mosaic stained glass window quilt" waiting in the wings to be constructed.
The rose window of another cathedral in Paris is a perfect design for boutis. Some day! Possibly soon? Hopefully soon!

During the last 8 years, my resource file of ideas and inspiration has grown almost daily. Although I will only use a fraction of the images I have collected, they all have a general influence in what I do, so I will keep my camera poised and ready whenever possible.