In the run up to the Selvedge Winter Fair, 7th December 2019, we are featuring some of the 55 merchants and makers who will join us in Bloomsbury. Noel Chapman is a 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 collecting? I’ve always loved and been fascinated by textiles: the skills, the techniques, the history and the social significance. I’d known about the Indigo Chinese fabrics I now collect, for almost 30 years – when I stumbled across a stash of them I was so excited I had to buy as many of them as possible and try to learn more about them. The more I studied them the more interested I have become.
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.
What is your favourite part of the process of sourcing what you sell? The unexpected finds, and sharing the discoveries.
What draws you to textiles? It is the craft, the skill as well as the aesthetics. 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.
What's your favourite colour? It has to be blue, doesn’t it!
For more information about Bleu Anglais, visit Noel Chapman's Instagram page.
Tickets to the Fair are available here. Use code WINTERFAIR19 to buy two tickets for the price of one.