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Researching the American Textile Collection

A few months ago I wrote a post on data entry and clean-up. While to some, it may first seem uneventful- the glow of the computer screen, clacking keys, cream colored files.

It is really quite exciting; allow me to share just a few reasons why.

While researching the American textile collection, I delighted in studying our 1930s and 1940s textiles, a few of which were designed and produced as part of the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft project. This was a highly successful WPA venture that provided work for under-skilled people. The project engaged workers in a multitude of handcraft practices, instructed by designer- technicians drawn from graduates of the Milwaukee State Teachers College art department.

In the IMA’s collection, we have two examples of textiles that were produced as the result of this highly successful project; both designed by Florence Kawa.

The Reapers, Florence Kawa (39.41)

The Workers, Florence Kawa (39.42)

Other noteworthy 1930s and 1940s textiles in the collection (not associated with the WPA movement) were designed by Ruth Reeves, an illustrator and textile designer, known for her Art Deco imagery, as well as Dorothy Trout and Tom Lamb. Examples of their work were included in the 1931 publication, ANNUAL OF AMERICAN DESIGN.

The Circus, Ruth Reeves for Morley Fletcher, Ltd. (48.32)

Ruth Reeves, design for a children’s room (47.173)

Dorothy Trout (47.179)

(Note Dorothy’s signature)

Tom Lamb (47.180)

The IMA also houses textiles manufactured by the Waverly Division of F. Schumacher & Co., a fifth generation, family-owned interior design company founded in 1889. Waverly is a division of F. Schumacher & Co. launched in 1923.

One example, designed by William Domaratius is entitled MidSummer. Note the swatches attached at the top, providing alternate colorways or complimentary designs. As the company grew they added a wallpaper line, as well as commissioned works from famous European designers such as, Lalique, Brandt, Seguy, Follot and Poiret.

MidSummer, William Domaratius for F. Schmacher & Co., Waverly Division (TR1700)

The last examples I will share are by Jullian Tomchin and Margaret King (who also designed for F. Schumacher). Jullian Tomchin designed this piece to commemorate the birthday of fashion designer, Norman Norell. Along the selvage note the stamp that reads “Designed especially for A PARTY FOR NORMAN on October 23, 1967”.

Jullian Tomchin (S6587.87.1)

King’s design, entitled Cross Country, depicts 8 historic landmarks throughout the state of Indiana, manufactured by F. Schumacher & Co. for L.S. Ayres & Co.

Indiana buildings featured: Soldiers & Sailors Monument, Indianapolis; Indiana University Student Building, Bloomington; Whitcomb Riley’s birthplace, Greenfield; a covered bridge, Raccoon; Lincoln Village, Rockport; First State Capital, Corydon; Old Mill at Spring Mill Park; George Rogers Clark Memorial, Vincennes

The IMA houses additional versions of this design in blue and beige, as well as a sample of the matching wall-paper.

Cross-Country, Margaret King for F. Schumacher & Co. (47.193b)

Filed under: Art

3 Responses to “Researching the American Textile Collection”

  • avatar
    Lisa Howe Says:

    Love the Tom Lamb, which wouldn’t look out of place today with current color schemes (although his color scheme is very classy, timeless even). I was most interested in the Florence Kawa textile patterns, and wondered if those were block printed. I’m always interested in printing methods!

  • avatar
    Petra Says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your comment. The two Florence Kawa textiles were block printed, on cotton plain weave.
    For additional information, The Workers, ca. 1936 was featured in the IMA publication, Fabrics in Celebration from the Collection (1983) by Peggy Stoltz Gilfoy, page 334.

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