Omar textile design, Charles Townsend

Omar textile design, Charles Townsend

Textile design entitled 'Omar'
Charles Townsend
Great Britain
Pencil, watercolur and bodycolour
Width 22.8 cm x height 24.3 cm
Museum no. E.593-1974

This design for a woven double cloth is partly based on a Persian motif of tulips and leaf shapes, hence the name 'Omar' (after the twelfth-century Persian poet Omar Kyayyam). The pattern is composed of one pattern unit consisting of a fully-opened tulip and three tulip buds on a leaf shape with a plant stem which forms a vertical closure to the pattern unit on both of its sides. The pattern unit marked 'A' is turned through 180 degrees to give a horizontal mirror repeat marked 'B'. This can be seen in the coloured horizontal mirror repeat. In this coloured repeat, the fully-opened, orange tulips in profile in each pattern unit appear to make a single, orange flower divided by the vertical, blue plant stem. The tulips which face inwards mirror each other to make a symmetrical motif which is actually formed from the horizontal mirror repeat of the pattern unit. The designer arranged this pattern into what is known as a brick repeat variant with a horizontal mirror repeat. He only finished one horizontal mirror repeat in watercolour and outlined the others in pencil which is enough to show how the brick repeat works. On the bottom row, the designer moved the pattern unit a whole unit to the right. Each pattern unit is therefore to the right of the same pattern unit on the top row. In this way, the designer created a sense of variety in the design which makes it a variant on the brick repeat.

Processes and Techniques
The design is for a double cloth, in silk and wool, to be woven on the loom. A double cloth is a textile produced by weaving two cloths one above the other, on the same loom. These are bound together by binding warp or weft threads. An important reason for the production of double cloths is that a heavier cloth than could be made in a single texture can be achieved without spoiling the fineness and weave of the face cloth (the side of the cloth which is to appear uppermost). Double cloths can be used for upholstery and this design is probably intended for that purpose.

The Designer
Charles Harrison Townsend was born in Birkenhead on 13 May 1851 and died in Northwood , Middlesex on 26 December 1928. He was an English architect and designer. He was educated at Birkenhead School and articled to the Liverpool architect Walter Scott (about 1811-1875) in 1870. Townsend is best known as an architect who designed churches and the Horniman Museum and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, both in London. This design has some of the characteristics of British Art Nouveau. Yet Townsend, as a member of the Arts and Crafts movement, would have rejected any connection between his work and continental Art Nouveau because he shared with members of the Arts and Crafts movement a belief in 'truth to materials'. They believed in honesty of construction, traditional forms and appropriate and sparing ornament. The Arts and Crafts Movement was an informal combination of architects, designers and craftsmen who shared the ideals of Pugin, John Ruskin and William Morris. They disliked the machine, and especially the mainstream commercial manufacturers. They hoped that the public would accept their vision of society where only necessary and useful things would be made by skilled designer/craftsmen and -women. They formed various guilds and societies, but the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was probably the most important. This Society held its first show in London in 1888 and it continued to hold exhibitions until the 1920s.

This design can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box EDUC 7.