Weavings in honour of women’s rights

Artist Jacques Fadat and weaver Alain Chanard, creators of a tapestry project honouring the rights of women, were recently interviewed by Dr Claire O’Mahony, Director of our Master’s in the History of Design.

The meeting with Fadat and Chamard inspired the conclusion of Claire O’Mahony’s article, 'Renaissance and Resistance: Modern French Tapestry and Collective Craft', published in the November issue of the Journal of Modern Craft.

Dr O’Mahony’s recent research has focussed on the women weavers, designers and gallery owners who kept the French tapestry-making industry alive amidst the economic challenges of the 1930s and the dark days of the Occupation. Fadat's Olympe de Gouges tapestry project and the new City of Tapestry centre inspired Claire to extend her research to consider the legacy of these proud traditions of making and activism in contemporary Aubusson.

Artist Jacques Fadat's suite of 17 Aubusson tapestries celebrate women who progressed science, politics, aviation, exploration, sport and culture.

The 17 tapestries honour the 17 articles of the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen" written in 1791 by playwright and activist Olympe de Gouges. De Gouges, an emblematic figure of women’s emancipation, was guillotined in Paris in 1793.

Alongside Olympe de Gouges, women represented in the tapestries include singer Josephine Baker, author, journalist and politician Louis Weiss, physicist and chemist Marie Curie and painter Berthe Morisot.

Patrons of the project include Mme Danielle Mitterand, wife of French President François Mitterrand, and president of the foundation France Libertés Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, and Mme Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, married to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Each of the 17 tapestry panels has a ‘godmother’ in contemporary life: the Olympic cyclist Jeanine Longo, Minister of Culture and Communication Catherine Trautmann, Auschwitz survivor and Minister of Health Simone Veil, the astronaut Claudie Haigneré, as well as daughters of the Resistance leader Lucie Aubrac and the actress Simone Signoret.

Bernard Morel, as President of The Aubusson Tapestry Circle, bestowed upon Claire the honour of serving as ‘godmother’ for the project in the United Kingdom.

Three panels have so far been made.

The Aubusson Tapestry Circle, and Dr Claire O’Mahony as proud ‘godmother’, encourage new members to join them in supporting of this celebration of women’s history and liberty.

A grant from Oxford’s TORCH Women in the Humanities funded Claire's research in 2015. The Pasold Foundation has just awarded her a grant to embark on new project about tapestry making in Aubusson destined for government buildings and ocean liners so she looks forward to further discoveries in the Creuse in June.

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Published 8 February 2017