Remoulade developed out of a hand-woven wall hanging Jack Lenor Larsen made during the summer of 1954 at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, where he remains an Honorary Chair. The original hanging, a weft-faced weave, used over seventy different yarns, including cotton, silk, wool, jute, and Lurex, inserted randomly, to create a richly textured surface. To adapt the design for commercial production, Larsen turned it ninety degrees, so that the yarn variation was programmed in the warp, and reduced the number of different yarns to twenty-seven. Initially hand-woven in the Larsen studio, the design won first prize in the American Institute of Decorators Home Furnishings Design Competition in 1955. Demand soon exceeded the studio’s weaving capacity, so Larsen found a a small mill in New Jersey run by Mr. Bolan, an Italian weaver who was willing to use techniques that slowed production, but preserved the the distinctive, hand-woven quality Larsen demanded. Remoulade is a perfect example of Larsen’s ethos of combining industrial and artisanal processes to create a uniquely beautiful product.
The fabric was introduced commercially as part of the Spice Garden collection. Larsen, an avid gardner, “collected dried flowers and pods through the Spice Island Company, consulted works at the New York Botanical Garden, visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the medieval herb garden at the Cloisters.” A palette of hot colors was selected, and grouped under the headings Saffron (yellows), Paprika (reds) and Spice Fire (brilliant blues and greens).
Susan Brown is Associate Curator in the Textiles department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.