Discovering Point Paper Designs


The Project

The Project

The Silk Museum has recently rediscovered sets of Point paper designs that have not been touched in decades.

The Arts Society have kindly offered to help the museum understand this collection better.

Through their amazing work of condition checking, descriptive analysis, photography and marking; the museum now has a useable resource once again.

This exhibition showcases the work of the Society and a selection of Point paper designs.

What are Point Paper Designs?

What are Point Paper Designs?

Point Paper Designs are enlarged textile patterns drawn in a grid.

They were used by Card Cutters to help them punch holes in the Jacquard Cards, building up a code of pattern which was fed through the Jacquard Loom.

To allow the Card Cutters to clearly see colour changes and tiny details of small patterns, the Point paper designs were much bigger than the finished textile pattern.

To help the Card Cutter further highly contrasting colours such as red and yellow were often used on point paper designs, rather than the actual colours of the finished product.

‘It is interesting to see the designs laid out, which were then used to produce the Jacquard Cards for the looms. I think the punch card system for producing woven cloth designs was an amazing achievement by Jacquard, although there were some precursors such as the musical boxes, which used similar ideas’.
Arts Society Volunteer – John Langdill

Documenting the Point Paper Designs

Documenting the Point Paper Designs

This year the museum has rediscovered over 100 Point paper designs hidden in the collection.

To help us understand what designs the museum has in the collection the Arts Society has begun the task of documenting each design.

This has involved filling out descriptive forms, where the designs and any additional information such as manufacturers marks are documented for the museum’s records.

It is also important that the museum knows the condition of these designs, so conservation and preservation work can be undertaken.

Using Condition Report Forms the Arts Society has helped the museum document every flaw in the paper and in the designs.

This includes noting creases and holes in the paper, corrections in the designs such as tipex and any additional pen or pencil markings on the paper.

They have also started to remove the rusty pins in the designs, replacing them with non-rust conservation paperclips.

Photographing the Point Paper Designs

Photographing the Point Paper Designs

Photography is the last part of the documentation process, before the information is uploaded to the museum’s database.

This is an important process, creating a digital record that researchers can use in the future.

It also allows the museum to limit the need for over handling these delicate objects, ensuring they are preserved for years to come.

Meet Sonia and Sandra our fantastic photographers of the project. This is the first photography project they have ever tackled.

 “It’s exciting for us both to see all of the recorded patterns and samples. We try to work out the final design between us”.

It is a tricky process as the Point paper designs are enormous, taking up the majority of the space in the room. This has meant the pair have to be clever when placing the equipment around the designs, to ensure no rogue tripod legs are in the shot.

It truly has been a joint effort to photograph these wonderful designs. One person is needed to adjust the camera settings and to take the image. While at the same time another person is needed closer to the design on the floor, balancing on knees to place the patterns, folders and samples onto a white background.

A favourite Pattern

A favourite Pattern

This pattern was chosen by Sandra and Sonia as one of the more surprising finds within the designs, a Dragon!

This is most likely to have been used in a masculine accessory such as a tie or handkerchief.

Messages from the past

Messages from the past

It is not just the patterns themselves which have intrigued the Arts Societies, but also the pencil markings on the back and around the patterns themselves.

Some of the most exciting markings we have discovered are the short conversations between the Card Cutter and the Designer which often sweep around the edges of the Point paper designs.

This pattern for example from the 1950s illustrates a typical conversation.

The Designer asks:

‘Would you rather I dotted these yellows in black. They are not very good to see?’

With a reply from the Card Cutter

‘This piece is OK, as is the blue on the other sheet’.

It gives a real insight into how these two processes worked together in a commercial setting.

A Favourite Pattern

A Favourite Pattern

This is another favourite design chosen by members of the Arts Society.

Many of the patterns include large repeated designs such as this impressive swirl pattern. The final woven design is much smaller than this pattern, as seen in the finished fabric.

Samples of fabric

Samples of fabric

It has not just been paper designs that the Arts Society has uncovered.

Fabulous fabric samples have also been discovered in-between the pages of the Point paper designs.

These have allowed us to compare the grid designs with the finished product.

We now know that every Point Paper Design was uniquely constructed depending on the Designer and design.

When investigating similar smaller markings, it is clear they meant different things on each design.

For example, a white or yellow highlight has had multiple meanings sometimes being a coloured highlight, but it also referenced a gap in the design or even raised edges in a design.

This design language is still a mystery to the museum which we would love to learn more about.

If you knew anyone who used to work with point paper designs and might be able to help us please get in touch with the museum:

[email protected] or call 01625 612045

The Clients

The Clients

It is exciting to find further details about the fabric history within these designs. Hidden inside the Point paper designs we discovered this beautiful red paisley fabric, which was created for a client in New York, on 42nd Street. Although the fabric looks luxurious to our eyes, this type of fabric was marked as a cheaper alternative for this particular client.

 

There is still a big research project ahead of the Art Society, as we have found multiple markings on the backs of the Point paper designs referring to other clients unknown to the museum. For example, we have found many references to GDWN from around the 1950s which we are still to identify.

If anyone has any further information about this client or would be interested in helping us conduct external research into the trade journals, please get in touch with the museum:

[email protected] or call 01625 612045

A Final Thank You

A Final Thank You

Macclesfield Museums would like to say a massive Thank You for the work the Arts Society has done so far on this collection. There is still a long way to go with this project, but it has already begun to create a usable resource within the museum. For the first time Researchers and Schools have started using the designs as part of their studies.

If you would like to view the Point paper designs or would be interested in helping the museum with external research into the manufacturers associated with these patterns, please contact the museum:

[email protected] or call 01625 612045