This December Mary Ward House in central London will be transformed into a textile capital for one day only, as the Selvedge Winter Fair gets underway. Noel Chapman, textile specialist and founder of Bleu Anglais; his company selling original Chinese indigo paste-resist patterned cloth, talks about his work in advance of exhibiting at the fair...
What inspired you to start making?
I’ve always loved and been fascinated by textiles: the skills, the techniques, the history and the social significance. When I first stumbled across a stash of indigo-dyed Chinese fabrics I was so excited I had to buy them all and learn as much as I could about them. The more I studied them, the more interested I became.
What draws you to textiles?
Textiles are part of a peoples’ culture. They tell us a story, bringing insight to the everyday lives of the folk who created them and the skills they use. I’ve long recognised the intimate relationships we have with fabrics, from the moment we enter the world wrapped in a blanket, to the day we die. Significant events are remembered and marked by the clothes we wore. Many of the Chinese textiles were made precisely to celebrate or commemorate such significant milestones in the lives of their creators.
What inspires you?
I can find inspiration anywhere; in colour, music, art, culture, history and ancient techniques. I'm inspired by artists and musicians, from Edmund de Waal, Christian Dior and Dries Van Noten to Joni Mitchell, Sylvia Plath, John Keats and Philip Glass.
What is your favourite part of the process?
The unexpected finds, and sharing the discoveries. Learning a little more each time – which always provokes more questions, which then need more answers, and so the hunt goes on.
How long does it take to make one product?
I don’t know exactly; there are several processes involved. The indigo-dying usually takes a month – pieces are dipped three times a day to reach their depth of colour. Finding beautiful old textiles can take a while too.
Tell us about your ideal Sunday…
It includes a trip to London's Columbia Road Flower Market, and a visit to Angela Flanders' lovely perfume shop. Then staggering home with arms full of flowers – followed in winter by an old movie (maybe black and white), watched on the sofa under a blanket, and later supper at home with close friends.
What's your favourite colour?
It has to be blue, doesn’t it!
If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Japan. I’ve been only twice, loved every moment and there’s so much more to see and experience.