On Textiles and Motherhood

On Textiles and Motherhood

Nathalie Farman-Farmer, Decors Barbares
I was recommended the jewel box of a book, “Decors Barbares” by a dear friend, and ordered it promptly from Reed Smythe & Company, one of my favorite shops. The first line of Nathalie Farman-Farma’s introduction reads:
"With hindsight I can see that I was always sensitive to the power of atmospheric rooms. However, it was only later in life, after I started a family, that I became involved in the art of interiors, and specifically textiles."

Nathalie Farman-Farma, Decors Barbares
Nathalie’s words resonate deeply with me. As she mentions, one can always be sensitive to the levels of comfort, light, and space in a room, but with motherhood often comes a desire and feeling of responsibility to create that atmosphere ourselves.     



Thought #1: Motherhood catalyzes an interest in textiles, because we are suddenly responsible for creating a "home".   Natalie has a mind-boggling natural talent for interior arts, and is exceedingly humble here, but I found her later-in-life discovery of it refreshing and recognizable.
In my own experience, this sense of responsibility to create a home upon entering motherhood is emphasized by the importance of texture to children. My children long for “coziness” in all its possible forms. I remember telling my husband in the early days that I had “cracked” the code of motherhood:  
“It is simply about making them cozy – emotionally AND physically.”

Lea Rutledge Art and Design  
Just this week my son grabbed the white blanket in the photo above, and exclaimed: “This is the king of all blankets.”   Additionally, he asked for a silk pillowcase for his birthday after feeling mine. Maria Montessori knew this:  
“They learn through their hands. All one has to do is look and one can see young children reaching out to feel the grass, running their hands along wooden banisters, caressing a soft blanket, or enjoying other various textures around them.”   

Thought #2: The sense of responsibility to create a home upon entering motherhood is emphasized by the importance of texture to children.


(Sidenote: Perhaps this tactile sensitivity fades as we age, or perhaps we learn to suppress it. I believe adults get true tangible joy from textiles, and that we would do better to notice the sensory awareness of our inner child when decorating our homes.) 


Lea Rutledge Art and Design


While the urge to create a desirable atmosphere for ourselves and our families is perhaps an obvious link between motherhood and textiles, this is also a terribly daunting task to consider, and it is a slippery slope from a spark of aesthetic interest to a burdensome duty.


It is for this reason that the following quote lives on my bedside table. In the early pages of the book, “The Last Swan” about the exquisite life of Marella Agnelli, Marella herself writes:


Marella Agnelli, The Last Swan


“My mother had a developed aesthetic sense but no interest at all in domesticity. Whenever we travelled, however, she would open a trunk and bring out piece after piece of magnificent fabric to drape over sofas and lamps. She would fill the room with flowers. Thanks to her, those anonymous rooms became immediately beautiful and familiar to us.”



Marella Agnelli, The Last Swan


I find Marella’s mother’s quote inspirational because it paves a path to create a home – one of beauty, familiarity, coziness - without taking it on as an overwhelming domestic responsibility. A few favorite fabrics here and there. Some fresh flowers. An attention to lighting and texture. 


But she separates this from “home-making” in its traditional definition. Creating an “atmospheric room” as Nathalie Farman-Farma wrote, and “making a home”, can be two different things.


As mothers, we can lean towards one or the other depending on the phase, remembering also to prioritize our own aesthetic rather than letting "motherhood" dictate all. 


Thought #3: Creating atmosphere and "home-making" can be different, and we should be bold to prioritize our own textile preferences and aesthetic interests in the process. 


Lea Rutledge Art and Design

I, like many others, didn’t notice textiles until I become responsible for the comfort of others – others whose comfort is more tied to texture than I expected – but I revel in the knowledge that we can create welcoming, unique, and cheerful homes in small ways.

In conclusion, it is, after all, is the people contained in the home, not the textiles, that have the capacity to provide the most lasting comfort.

Mary Cassatt


Until soon,


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