Two things I suggest at the tutorial post to get the rich Fortuny look:
Use real silk fabric. I found that a heavier silk taffeta looks nice. I think silk dupioni is too slubby-looking for the fine Fortuny look, and thinner silks like crepe de chine are too flimsy. Taffeta is just right.
Here you can see a close-up of the Stencil Cremes on my silk taffeta and silk velvet:
Real Fortuny Pattern Inspiration
Now here are examples of real Fortuny fabrics, to give you some inspiration:
I think Fortuny’s damask patterns, like those shown above, give the classic antique and vintage Fortuny look. They also have tribal and Moroccan-inspired patterns, so there is variety to the Fortuny style.
Stencils to get the Fortuny look
It’s not a surprise that stencils can give you the Fortuny look, because Fortuny uses stencils. Here are a bunch of recommended stencils, all from Royal Design Studio, that can give you the classic Fortuny style.
I think all of these would give you a Fortuny look! Now, some stencils cost more than others so you may also want to choose a stencil based on your project and whether you would re-use the stencil for other projects. I made three pillows for my living room sofas, and I’m sure I’ll be using these stencils again in the future. You can also stencil on bigger pieces of fabric to make bigger things:
Recover chair cushions
Make a long bench cushion
Stencil on a duvet
Make a wall hanging
Stencil on curtains
Royal Design Studio often runs sales. Sign up for their email list to get notices!
When stenciling on fabric, I recommend that you use a textile medium. It’s a liquid that you mix with paint so that the paint will stay softer and pliable after it dries, instead of crunchy feeling. You can find textile medium near the acrylic paints in a craft store. I also give more tips for using textile medium in the “faux Fortuny” tutorial post at Paint+Pattern — check it out!
You can barely get through Instagram without scrolling past a footsie on patterned tiles. Follow a number of design and travel grammers, and these footsies will happen to you. Boldly patterned tiles are trending. People are noticing them enough to photograph them. People are making even bigger commitments to these tiles. They’re putting bold patterns on their bathroom floors:
And on kitchen backsplashes:
I’m in the camp of people who worry about resale value, to be honest. Lately I’ve been “beige-ing” my house, so there won’t be anything offensive to future open house visitors. But I still love a good strong bold pattern (just like I like my coffee). Moroccan tile. Turkish tile. Tile in Iran. So patterned, so colorful, so beautiful! Last year my flights to and from Marrakech were routed through Lisbon, Portugal. I had an overnight in Lisbon. (I recommend scheduling an overnight in a city while traveling — your flight could be cheaper and you get a taste of an additional place, if only for a day!) Lisbon is famous for its tiled facades. While searching for something to do in Lisbon, I discovered Portugal’s National Tile Museum (aka the Museu Nacional do Azulejo). Here are Portuguese mosaics you will see there:
Tile is not as easy to make as you might think it is. You may think you take a slab of clay and just cut it in squares and just put some color on it, right? Oh no. Many years ago I took a tile-making class at the Ann Arbor Art Center, taught by Nawal Motawi of the famed Motawi Tileworks. (And, crap, I really miss living in Ann Arbor with easy access to things like that!) We learned the factors can make a tile go very wrong, very warped. And how to make things go right. You might have an idea in your mind of the color you want, but the tile can have a mind of its own when fired in the kiln. The glaze — the stuff that colors the tile — can do predictable things or weird things. Knowing the skill from start to finish of making tile made me appreciate Portugal’s National Tile Museum.
First, the setting of the museum. It makes your jaw drop in awe! It’s in an old crumbling convent attached to a church. The slight crumbliness meshes beautifully with the old tiles, as some tiles are chipped and marred just like the building:
Here are photos snapped as I strolled through the museum …
You get glimpses of the tile mosaics across courtyards and through columns:
Not all tiles are only geometric. Some showed interesting scenes. This is a tile mural called The Leopard Hunt, made in the 1660s:
The leopards look really worried, as they should. It’s just tile, but the feeling feels real:
Ugh. It’s like they’re saying, go vegetarian, people! And light a fire for warmth, don’t steal my fur pelt!
This next mural was my favorite, also from the 1660s. “The Chicken’s Wedding.” Whaaat? I know. I don’t know!
Okay, what is happening here?!? I had fun checking out every detail of this chicken wedding mural:
The chicken looks not too sure. Everyone else is having a good time. The only thing I know for certain about this story is, that mural was huge and it didn’t fit in one photo.
This gives you an idea of scale of some murals:
And here’s an idea of the realistic detail:
I loved the designs on these modern day tiles by ceramics artist Cristina Bolborea. The description really resonated with me — they’re evocative of a journey of a traveler and his impressions of far off fairs and their products, with layers of carpets and fabrics, and Islamic influences. Perhaps elements that are the only survivors of a temple forgotten today:
I had just left Marrakech, so these tiles reminded me of the shapes, patterns, cabinets, and carpets I had just seen there.
Here are some contemporary tiles made in the 1980s, still working with blue:
Look right or look left, and you see this setting around the tile galleries. I loved this old/new contrast:
How do I remember details more than a year after taking these photos?
a traveler’s photography tip:
When there are signs, first take a picture of the sign, then a picture of the art or tourist attraction. This way, you will always have all the information. It may be too small to read on your phone or camera, but you’ll be able to read it on a computer screen.
After enjoying the tiles, stop in the museum’s cafe for a jolt of Portuguese coffee. The best! I’m Googling today for more Portuguese coffee — we happened to buy Nicola coffee at HomeGoods of all places and we need more, more, more. So strong, so good. This coffee from a Lisbon cafe is what made me remember the Lisbon tiles, and that I hadn’t shared them here yet. Also enjoy museum cafe specialties like Codfish au Gratin with Pine Seeds and Raisins, maybe with a glass of Rioja, while viewing tiles that were once in a palace kitchen. So there, maybe putting these tiles in a kitchen is timeless despite our trends!
I walked there from the Baixa tourist area of Lisbon, but it was a long walk and I got off track and lost numerous times despite having a map that seemed clear. Usually I’m very good with directions; seriously this was the first time in life I got lost so much and I’m … uh, I’m not going to say how old I am but it’s a lot more years than you think because my profile photo is 10 years old. The older that photo gets, the more reluctant I am to change it! I was even able to navigate the Marrakech medina alone. But a seeming straight road in Lisbon really threw me. I was walking by myself and wondered a few times if I was making a big mistake that I’d be sorry for. And I’d call myself an “aware traveler” not a “worrying traveler.” It was a relief to finally see “azulejo” on a sign. You will be looking for this:
On the way back, I stopped at the nearby train station (I think it’s the Santa Apolonia stop) and took the train back to the big square near the Baixa area. People will tell you that you can walk, but take a taxi or the train.
Fortuny fabric is luxurious patterned art. And it is priced accordingly. But did you know, you can still have some of it for an affordable price? You can even have a collection of it to frame as wall art!
You don’t have to be fortunate to have a fortune to spend on Fortuny. Just don’t buy a whole bolt like this.
FINDING FORTUNY FABRIC REMNANTS
Instead, search eBay for “Fortuny remnants” and you’ll find shops selling small sample pieces of Fortuny fabrics. A Fortuny fabric remnant sized 8.5 x 11 inches is about $20 if no one bids against you.
I have purchased Fortuny fabric remnants from “rrrca1” eBay store and Caravan of Textiles eBay store(what a great supplier for a Nomadic Decorator, huh!?). Both stores sell smaller pieces of expensive designer fabrics. This makes it affordable to use luxury fabrics for small projects. You can make pillows. You can cover journals and books. You can frame the fabrics, or even cover wide frames with the fabrics. You can make little handbags.
The hard part is choosing the fabrics. Which ones? There are so many patterns and colors! For my DIY framed collection, I narrowed the choices by looking for the “tribal” inspired patterns in neutral and metallic colors. The Fortuny designs I used are called Ashanti, Cuzco, Maori and Peruviano.
Here’s a sample of Fortuny patterns and colors you can find on eBay …
So, I’d say to choose a few colors you like, and a pattern style you like — geometric? floral? swirly? — and watch for Fortuny fabrics that fit those. And if you are putting a collection of different fabrics together, obviously you want them all to look good together. Without some limits, it’s so hard to choose.
For inexpensive “art” I don’t pay for custom frames. Ready-made frames are just fine. The frames I used are from Michael’s. They are this frame in “rustic gold” color:
If you need many frames for a collection, the frames can actually cost more than the fabric! Here are some money-saving tips:
If you want to buy these frames online, sign up for Michael’s coupons.
If you buy frames in the store, there are often “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” or 50% Off sales on frames, and that’s how I got these four.
You can also use the Michael’s shopping app on your smartphone. You can find coupons in the app. Pull out your phone at the cashier, open the app and they’ll scan the coupon.
Fortuny fabric remnants are usually 8.5 x 11 inches, so look for frames with a slightly smaller opening in the mat. A frame for a photo sized 8 x 10 inches is perfect, and this is a common size in frames.
DIY TUTORIAL FOR FRAMED FORTUNY FABRICS
It’s ridiculously easy to make a framed collection of Fortuny fabrics.
If you’re using a ready-made frame:
Open the backing
Remove the product marketing fillers
Pop the fabric into the frame (add a small piece of tape if you feel a need to secure it, but I did not do this, the frame pieces fit tightly enough to hold the fabric in place)
Close up the backing
You are done! Instant textile art collection! Isn’t that short tutorial kind of anticlimactic? But really, it is that easy. As I said above, the hardest part might be choosing the fabrics!
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This uniquely patterned wood headboard found on Pinterest yesterday reminded me of an “online trip” I took to Sulawesi a few years ago, to the villages and homes of the Toraja people. It’s not just coffee that comes from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. There is pattern and design too. You should see. You must see! So come, let’s go to Sulawesi …
First, see the houses these panels come from:
You can see the headboard up above has the remains of these colorful patterns:
Here is a view of the arching architecture of these homes, surrounded by rice paddies:
The house style is called tongkonan, the Toraja tribe’s traditional house. The height and ornamentation communicate the owner’s social status.
Here you can see how deeply carved the patterns can be. Sometimes the paint colors fade, but the carvings hold the pattern forever:
What’s interesting to me is how other societies will take the decorative pieces of these homes and display them as a sign of wealth and the owner’s social status. That’s not a conscious move — “I’m gonna use a Toraja panel as a headboard to show you how well my investments have done! Hear my mighty wealthy roar!” — sounds pretty silly! But it takes being in a certain circle, usually involving a well-traveled interior designer, to even know these things exist. They wind up in settings like this and published in Elle Decor:
You don’t find Toraja style knock-offs at Target. And it costs to source and ship these things around the world.
This is part of a huge 8-foot architectural panel on 1stdibs priced at $11,200:
The dealer explains that the auspicious patterns carved into this panel include the Pa’tangke lumu or “moss branch” motif with five stylized buffalo heads. The ornamentation was meant to drive away evil influences. But the buffalo is also a symbol of wealth and prosperity. When funerals are held, families sacrifice buffalo and keep the horns. Wealthier families can sacrifice more buffalo. So houses that have more buffalo horns displayed on them are a sign of higher status and wealth.
This painting by French painter and sculptor Emmanual Michel captures a Toraja woman:
The patterns they carve and draw have meanings. As with many cultures, they wish for fertility, good fortune and happiness and harmony for family.
Remnants of these panels can be turned into mirrors:
Mounted for tabletop display:
Crafted into tables:
Framed as wall art:
I hope you enjoyed this trip to another world of patterns!
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