Photo by Robert Damora, courtesy of KnollTextiles: Knoll showroom at 601 Madison Avenue, New York, in 1948. View of installation with string screen by Herbert Matter and textile display.
On Friday, DWR was treated to a guided tour of "KnollTextiles: 1945–2010" at the Bard Graduate Center. The exhibit, four floors filled with textiles and archival materials of KnollTextiles from its founding in 1947 to present day, closed yesterday, but a comprehensive book of the exhibit entitled KnollTextiles: 1945–2010 is now available through Yale University Press.
Known for her “full design” approach to interiors, Florence Knoll (née Schust) started KnollTextiles as a way to increase business for Knoll, the furniture company founded by her husband Hans Knoll. She wanted to develop a proprietary line of textiles focused on experimental fibers and materials that employed techniques in response to changing environments and needs. In turn, she built a legacy of pioneering female designers that began with Eszter Haraszty and today continues with Creative Director Dorothy Cosonas.
Courtesy of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum: Sven Markelius. Pythagoras. Introduced in 1953. Linen and cotton, screen-printed.
Florence Knoll advised designers to consider a pattern's appropriateness on furniture and understood that by simply offering it in new colorways, a pattern could easily be reinvented. With her guidance, KnollTextiles tested the limits of materials and were timeless in pattern and application. One of the first unusual textiles used as upholstery was webbing rejected for use by the government on a Jens Risom-designed chairs. During a visit to DWR corporate offices in February, the designer told us that this webbing – a plain weave cotton that failed to meet government standards for use as parachute strapping – "was used because it was the only textile available during WWII due to rationing and proved to be very durable." Shortly thereafter, Knoll developed its own version of the parachute strapping called Salt and Pepper (1945) webbing, which was made of cotton in a plain weave. Other notable, experimental materials included new plastic fibers, fiberglass and a fish net procured from the Fulton Street Fish Market.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum: Eszter Haraszty. Tracy. Introduced in 1952. Cotton, screen-printed.
Other notable exhibit highlights included the textiles of Eszter Haraszty, the head of KnollTextiles from 1950 to 1955, who designed Tracy (magnification of a leaf) and Fibra (based on the shape of loom heddles) – two of KnollTextiles' most popular fabrics – as well as Transportation Cloth (1950), which was designed for General Motors’ Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Additionally, Sven Markelius’ Pythagoras (1953), which is still installed in the ECO-SOC Council room at the U.N. building in New York, demonstrated the timelessness of KnollTextiles; the floor-to-ceiling, no-repeat prints of Gretl and Leo Wollner (Trails, 1972) were representative of the company’s experimental methods; and various KnollTextiles ephemera, including advertisements and mock-ups of client presentations provided context for company marketing techniques through the years.
Visit KnollTextiles.com for more information on the exhibit and its textile collections.