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Dijkmeijer learned the craft of weaving at Kendix Textiles in Waalre and Artex in Aarle-Rixtel, where he worked after graduating from the Akademie voor Industriële Vormgeving Eindhoven in 1963. Because he had sole responsibility for the design department, he quickly gained enormous technical insight. This period taught him that craft and industry are not opposed to one another, but rather an extension of each other.
In 1966 he joined De Ploeg, where he spent the next fourteen years designing numerous upholstery and curtain fabrics. In 1980 he and his family moved to Toulouse, where Dijkmeijer worked on a free-lance basis. Initially his main client was De Ploeg, but he soon expanded his network to include the Danish textiles company Kvadrat, a partnership that resulted in many successful fabrics that remain popular today.
A textile consists of yarns that cross each other at right angles. The threads attached to the loom are called the warp, and the threads that cross them are called the weft. To make a textile, some of the warp threads are lifted up, creating a space to pass the weft thread across. Then the other warp threads are lifted and the weft thread is passed back in the opposite direction, creating a woven structure.
The manner in which the warp and weft threads cross is known as the weave. There are three basic weaves, from which all others are derived: 1. Plain weave: the threads alternate, one warp to one weft. The front and back of the textile have the same appearance. 2. Twill weave: the yarns cross according to the following pattern: two across and one back. The connection between the threads is staggered and the intersections meet diagonally. Twill can be recognised by its diagonal ribs. 3. Satin weave: the threads cross each other according to the following pattern: four across and one back. The intersections do not meet, giving a very smooth fabric.
The weaving pattern, or the manner in which the weft and warp threads cross, is drawn on graph paper. If you imagine the warp as black strips and the weft as white strips, then the pattern has black squares where the warp threads lie above the weft, and white squares where the warp lies beneath the weft.
When the colour of the weft changes, it creates a stripe. A stripe seems like a simple thing, but a successful furnishing fabric calls for a ‘stripeless stripe’: an even stripe that does not fall apart and doesn’t dominate. Designing such a stripe was a great challenge for Dijkmeijer. He increased the challenge by placing ‘economic’ demands on the perfect stripe: achieving the richest effect with minimal means. He made use of the spatial effects of colour, shadow effects, colour gradations and played with the interaction between foreground and background. In this way, he created a broad range of visual effects with a limited palette.
A check is created when the colour of both the weft and warp are alternated. The benefit of a check is that the pattern does not have a dominant direction, which makes it suitable for use in interiors. In his checks Dijkmeijer varied the width of the bands and the thickness of the threads, resulting in rich patterns and expressive fabrics. He also created relief by increasing the thickness of the pattern in some areas.
Fabrics with non-linear patterns are easier to apply to furniture than fabrics with lines, stripes or other directional elements. By methodically disrupting the rhythm of the weave, Dijkmeijer removed any continuous lines and thus created dispersed visual effects. He achieved this, for example, with zigzags or by increasing the scale of the pattern so that other weaves could be added in the open areas. He created variations on a theme, superimposing them upon each other. Computer software played an important role in the research stage.
The expressiveness of a fabric is largely determined by its structure. Dijkmeijer created new structures by conceiving variations of existing patterns or combining them in unexpected ways. He was inspired by structures in nature such as shells and leaves, objects with unusual surface structures and non-industrial textiles such as African embroidery. Sometimes he reproduced these effects as patterns, but he often developed new yarns or special weaves to give material form to the structure.
The ultimate quality of a successful furnishing fabric is a good ‘surface noise’. The fabric is lively, has a varied structure without direction, beginning or end. This makes it ideal for upholstery. Such a fabric softens the form, whereas fabrics with linear patterns amplify or undermine the form. The lively granular structure of crepe, achieved through the boiling and shrinking of twisted yarns, is the ultimate quality in this respect. Dijkmeijer became a master at imitating these effects of crepe with classic weaves and standard yarns. He enlarged the pattern, added extra weaves to the freed-up space and so developed a new series of fabrics.
The photos of fabrics used in the video are made by Liv Renberg.
Textile designer Frans Dijkmeijer (Helmond 1936 – Toulouse 2011) is known for his extraordinary mastery of the techniques of weaving. He tirelessly explored the possibilities of different yarns and weaves, researching the physical characteristics of particular yarns, studying the results and reapplying what he had learned. His test swatches provide a kaleidoscopic picture of new weaves and original structures. In this video, filmed in his house and studio in Toulouse only ten days before he suddenly passed away, Dijkmeijer talks about his work, inspiration sources and the endlessly fascinating weaving technique.
This video was made for the exhibition ‘Intervention #19 Frans Dijkmeijer - A Life in Weaving’ in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which was originally planned for autumn 2011. Because of the death of Frans Dijkmeijer, the exhibition has been postponed and is now on display from 2 June until 30 September 2012.
Thanks to Marianne Dijkmeijer.
Interview: Annemartine van Kesteren
Advice: Els Hoek
Photos: Liv Renberg
Direction: Hans Wessels