Aubusson weaves Tolkien

Weaving and exhibition of tapestries

Museum: Cité internationale de la tapisserie  website
Years: From 2016 onwards

Cité internationale de la tapisserie

The Cité internationale de la tapisserie is dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the crafts and know-hows of Aubusson tapestry, inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 2009. It aims at sustaining the local industry related to tapestry making. The ambition even goes further than safeguarding, by making Aubusson tapestry and the Cité internationale de la tapisserie a lever of development for a rural terriotry, confronted to serious economical and demographical difficulties.

The Cité internationale implements contemporary creation projects in Aubusson tapestry, which are entirely realized by the local professionals (weavers, dyers, spinners, etc.). It also hosts a training center that delivers an official diploma in tapestry weaving, ensuring the transmission of the craft to a new generation of weavers.

Since its inscription in 2009, the ICH has been a strong promotion tool for Aubusson tapestry. The Cité internationale de la tapisserie uses it on most of its communications and documents.

Aubusson weaves Tolkien

Description of the project / practice / program

In 2016, the Cité internationale de la tapisserie signed an agreement with the Tolkien Estate for the realization of thirteen tapestries and one carpet after original illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings among other works. The idea was to create an equivalent for our times to the great narrative tapestry sets illustrating famous litterary works (Homer's Odyssey, Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, The Bible, etc.) woven in Aubusson in the 17th and 18th century. J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of a universe that fascinated generations of readers, came all the more naturally that the author himself abundently illustrated his litterary works.

Jointly with the Tolkien Estate, the Cité internationale de la tapisserie selected fourteen illustrations, related to various texts (Letters from Father Christmas, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillon). The scienctific committee (which comprises the curator, the cartoonist and a retired weaver), decided to use weaving techniques used in the 1920s-30s, when the illustrations were created, for purposes of artistic coherence. The Bodleian Library provided the Cité internationale with high resolution scans of the illustrations, from which the cartoons are drawn accordingly to the artistic direction. The weaver in charge of each tapestry is selected based on a sample.

The complete set will consist in 130 square meters of woven surface and constitute an unprecedented valorisation of the author's graphic works. These tapestries are destined to be exhibited on site at the Cité internationale de la tapisserie, and to travel to other cultural institutions worldwide. Several demands have already been issued.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

When implementing a tapestry project, the Cité internationale always relies on the crafts of the local professionals, selected according to the rules of public contract. A project like "Aubusson weaves Tolkien" mobilizes the whole chain of know-hows associated to Aubusson tapestry: spinning and dyeing of the wool, elaboration of the tapestry cartoon, weaving of the tapestries.

The wool for the whole project has been spinned and dyed in one lot by Filature Terrade, one of the two spinning factories still active in Creuse, and Thierry Roger, the last independent dyer in Aubusson. The weaver for each tapestry is selected based on a sample showing his interpretation proposition for the tapestry. The coherence of the ensemble is ensured by the artistic direction of the scientific committee, which allows to trust different weavers with the weaving of the tapestries and to distribute the work to different practitioners from long time professionals to newly trained weavers.

CV of the author

Bruno Ythier is a cultural heritage professional. Ythier graduated in anthropology of oral transmission (EHESS: School of Highs Studies in Socials Sciences, Paris). He is founder and Director of the ‘Musée des Manufactures de Dentelles’, ‘Musée de france’, in Retournac, Haute-Loire, France (Museum about history, knowledge of hand made and mechanical laces), and scientific project manager then chief curator at the Cité internationale de la tapisserie in Aubusson.



25 February 2019 from 14:55 to 14:55



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