Le Musée de l’Impression sur Etoffes

The creation of the museum

In 1833, a group of textile manufacturers based in and around Mulhouse formed an Industrial Society known as the “Societé Industrielle”. They decided to collectively archive the designs they produced. In order to complement their own personal collections they added designs from other countries, and from earlier times. This collection grew in importance to become what is today the premier collection of printed textiles in the world. The original purpose of this design collection was to inspire artists and designers of the time by introducing them to new and different patterns and styles. This long established history of sharing ideas continues today in the form of the textile research room, the S.U.D (Service of using documents) as a professional service. More than 6 million samples are housed here, spanning three centuries of design history.

In 1880, in order to house a part of the Industrial Society’s ever growing collections the impressive museum Rue des Bonnes Gens was built. Many of the items in the growing collection were bought or donated by local manufacturers who belonged to the Industrial Society. In 1955 an association was formed in order to run the museum. Today, 6 million samples including 50,000 textile samples, and pieces ranging from bedcovers to lengths of cloth span the history of printed textiles from the 18th Century to the present day. The Museum’s premier collection is still housed in the original building, providing a beautiful new environment for these priceless works.

The Museum’s vocation is to understand and make known to as many people as possible the history and technique of printed textiles. Decorative Art Museum, Industrial Museum, Local History or Museum of Fashion, the Museum of Printed Textiles is situated somewhere between memory and creation. To accomplish it’s mission the Museum’s first priority is to preserve the history and practice of printed textiles. Secondly, to share this with as many people as possible. Focusing on every aspect of the art and craft of textile design, the Museum’s rich history in qualitative as well as quantitative terms is it’s strength. The many, varied and innovative services to the public include : Temporary exhibitions, publications, demonstrations of hand printing techniques, creative workshops for children and adults. Guided tours are available in English, French German and Italian. The Museum Shop and tea room are open to the public free of charge.
Ranging from a sumptuous 18th Century decorative hanging, to a mass produced T Shirt used for advertising purposes, the art and craft of textile printing covers a vast area. To define textile printing as “the reproduction of a design or decoration”, using an implement charged with a dye paste, is obviously too simple. To decorate a fabric involves today as in earlier times, the skills of a large number of dedicated craftspeople. The processes used are often laborious, and in earlier times, dangerous. Artists, designers, engravers, chemists and printers have worked together throughout the centuries and the fruit of their labor, as well as being useful and decorative result, holds an important place in the sociological hierarchy of it’s time.

Technically, Printing on textile can be defined as the reproduction of one decoration by application of one tool loaded with colouring material on a textile support. In 18th century, the engraved Wood block, used since the 14th century for pigments printing, dominates. The meeting between the proceeds of coloration from India provokes its development.

The designer realize a model with gouache in a real size. For each colour of the motive, the engraver makes a block with a fruiterer wood often completed by the insertion of teeth and small strips of brass for a work in precision.
Finally, the printer put the blocks full of coloring material on the cloth and apply a  blow of mallet. Wood block printing is practiced in plenty of workshops until the middle of 20th century. It remains until 1980.

In 1769 Watt and Boulton invented the first steam driven machine. Unfortunately the high accident rate, coupled with heavy pollution slowed down it’s progress.
The year 1783 saw the first patent for textile printing machine using engraved copper rollers. Thomas Bell, a Scotsman was it’s inventor.
Fourteen years later, the textile manufacturer “Jouy en Josas” put into production the first copper roller textile printing machine in France.
A rival machine, invented by Jean Louis Lefebvre at the beginning of the 19th Century proved to be very successful, and as widely used in Beauvais, the Paris area as well as in Alsace and Germany.