Nearly 90 Years On, Three Wiener Werkstätte Textiles Debut

At the 2004 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), to be held May 15-18 in New York, Maharam is introducing Dagobert Peche’s Blumen pattern (1913) into its Textiles of the 20th Century collection. The lush, botanical design—the first of three Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) textiles to be added to the group—is a departure from the minimal Modernism that we’ve come to expect from Maharam; the other two Werkstätte textiles, by architect Josef Hoffman and painter Koloman Moser, are scheduled to be available later this year. Mary Murphy, the vice president of design at Maharam, spoke to Metropolis associate editor Kristi Cameron about how Blumen relates to the rest of the 20th Century collection.

Peche is known for ornate natural designs. Beyond that, how did you choose this textile?
We didn’t choose the textile, we saw a design. There was a beautiful Peche show at the Neue Galerie [in New York]; I have to admit, I wasn’t that aware of his work. In looking at it, I was, first of all, very impressed with how prolific he was, especially since he died so young [at the age of 36 in 1923]. In the show, there was a little, six-inch pencil sketch of a textile design. I liked the design very much and contacted the mill that owned the document. It was a mill in Austria that we’ve worked with before, and it had all the original documents of [Werkstätte members] Hoffman, Peche, and Moser.

I found out that no one had ever produced the design. So the mill wove it for us to take a look at, and we loved it. We looked at it in different scales, and brought it up to a scale that we thought was most appealing and really emphasized the movement of the pattern.

The reasons I like the pattern is the contradiction of the organic and geometric shapes. I thought that it was very timeless.

In how many colors are you producing the textile?
Seven. Since there was no original woven document, we weren’t limited to having to match something. So we instead tried to look at things from that period of time and draw some conclusions about color. We were really drawn to a range of things here. It’s probably a somewhat abnormal color line for us; for example, this kind of wine and mustard color together isn’t something we would normally do. But it’s really quite handsome in this pattern. It also sort of evokes a memory of the period, I think, to have these funny colors. You’ll also notice that the weaves follow the shapes of the pattern itself—you can see it where you’ve got curlicue shapes following around with the weave. I think that enhances the feel and quality. And the weave changes from a rib weave to a satin weave and so on.

Is there any difference between the way Maharam produced the textile and the way it might have been produced in Peche’s time?
Since it’s the same mill doing the same work, I think the only change is that the design probably would have been of a much smaller scale originally. The interiors that I’ve seen from that period mostly have smaller scale patterns in the upholstery fabric.

Do you know how many textiles Peche designed in total?
Dozens. That’s an interesting story: The mill was bombed during WWII, but someone had moved these thousands of original designs offsite before it was bombed. They thought that they needed safe-keeping, so they still have this amazing library of designs, this tremendous archive of Werkstätte patterns. The same family has owned the mill for hundreds of years.

What are the pattern names for the Moser and Hoffman textiles?
The Moser pattern is called Oracle Bloom; the Hoffman piece only has a working name right now. The Hoffman work shows how amazing it was that he was doing these small abstract geometric patterns in the beginning of the century—at the same time these botanical patterns were being done by his colleagues. And I love Oracle Bloom because it’s really hard to do a floral without making it look too sweet and feminine.

How many historic patterns have you worked on that have never been produced before?
Many of the Textiles of the 20th Century were not textiles before. Only one of the Eames patterns, CrossPatch, was, and it was a printed textile.

Categories: Cities, Textiles