Author: Lucy Commoner

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Summer Straw
Sample books, originally created for commercial, educational, or scientific purposes, have become valuable guides to understanding the products, technological processes, materials, aesthetics, provenance, and use of objects manufactured in the past. Both the Museum and Design Library have extensive collections of sample books containing diverse groups of samples ranging from paint chips to lace. This...
Picture of a Fan, 1860-1910
Special Fan
This elegant fan appears to be from the Meiji, or late Edo (mid-19th century) era, although its high quality sets it apart from standard export wares. It is meticulously crafted, with a subtle hand-painted leaf. Unusual for a Japanese folding fan, the front leaf is constructed of very finely plain-woven silk adhered to a paper...
Fashionable Fan
This folding fan dating from the 1880’s-90’s is a perfect example of the expression of the Aesthetic Movement in costume accessories. Fans and the Aesthetic Movement are deeply intertwined. The Aesthetic style was strongly influenced by the decorative arts of Asia, where fans originated. During the late 19th century, Asian fans, particularly from Japan, were...
A Fan of the Directoire Period
This finely painted paper fan exemplifies the simpler styles of the Directoire period and the effects of the French Revolution in 1789. The period 1789-1800 is characterized by a radical change in fashion: the excesses of the pre-revolutionary period were rejected for simpler designs and humbler materials. Earlier 18th century fans were elaborate in design...
letterpress
Monogram guides

The numbers, letters, and monograms taught and illustrated in manuals and pattern books were used by a wide variety of craftsmen, including engravers, wood carvers, painters, and embroiderers—as seen in samplers and in other forms of domestic embroidery. A twentieth-century example shows an intermediate step between hand and machine embroidery: felt embroidery forms of the alphabet, such as those distributed through Crowley’s Department store in Detroit, were used as a raised guide, to be covered with embroidered stitches for the embellishment of household linens.

Design for wool work. Scroll design in yellow. In center a blue box, lighted candle and some playing cards.
Democratized embroidery
The first pattern books documenting textile design motifs were published in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and their proliferation into the nineteenth century allowed the wide dissemination of motifs and patterns used in samplers and other types of embroidery. Eventually, by the nineteenth century, embroidery patterns printed directly onto the foundation fabric were...
Folding fan with a black silk net leaf with white cotton needle lace motifs of irises, scrolls and flower sprays applied; lace elements embroidered with silver -colored steel spangles. The sticks are of tortoise shell, piqué, with guards ending in a serpentine form; ebony slips; glass stone at the rivet.
Fans of Art Nouveau
This beautiful folding fan is one of a pair of similar fans in the Art Nouveau style in the collection of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.  The silk net leaves of both fans are decorated with cotton needle and bobbin lace embellished with shiny steel spangles.  The sticks are identical in both fans and are made...
Folding fan with a leaf of painted paper backed with parchment, sticks of carved and pierced ivory, guards decorated with mother-of-pearl, silver, and metallic spangles. The leaf is painted on the front with an allegorical scene depicting a hero returning from war; on the reverse, the leaf is white decorated with foliage sprays in gilt.
Small is Classically Beautiful
This rare and beautifully painted fan dates from the early nineteenth century, a period when smaller fans became fashionable.  Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s collection includes other small fans of the early nineteenth century that are often made of spangled silk and net, such as this delicate fan from 1805-1810: Folding Pleated Fan. France, 1805-1810. Gift...
white fan with feathers edges
A Fan with a Story
Of the 300 folding fans in the Cooper-Hewitt, Nation Design Museum’s collection, very few have as fascinating a provenance as this beautiful fan designed by the artist Simon Lissim (1900-1981).  Lissim was a prolific painter, stage designer, illustrator, metalwork designer, ceramicist, and textile designer whose works are found in the collections of over 70 museums...