Thursday, September 10, 2015
Day Three- Lyon, France - The Silk Museum
Beginning in the 1500's, Lyon became the capital of the European silk trade. Thousands of workers, called canuts, worked in the industry, and by the 1600's, there were 14,000 looms used in Lyon. The industry fed one-third of the city's population. Today, we visited the Silk Museum, took a guided tour, and swooned over the items for sale in the gift shop. We were given a loom demonstration, and attended a short presentation about the industry in Lyon. It was an incredibly tough life for the apprentices and weavers. There were revolts throughout the years, because the living and working conditions were horrendous, and it was incredibly long and tedious work. Punched cards of the Jacquard loom were actually the predecessor of the computer, in that they gave some automation to repetitive designs. I first became aware of Lyon as a textile center when visiting the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. The Biltmore had sent wall hangings and other textiles to silk weavers in Lyon for restoration, and they showed a short video about the process. Today I learned that Jackie Kennedy had used the weavers in redecorating the Yellow Room in the White House. And, of course, silk was used for royalty and the ultra-rich since the very beginning of the industry. Currently there are only six master silk weavers left in France, five of them in Lyon.