Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Designing fabrics for the contract marketplace is more than just applying artistic and technical expertise to the medium. Textiles are often created and made with specific products in mind, such as furniture, panel fabrics, drapery, healthcare fabrics, and wallcovering. In addition to making fabrics that suit a particular function, the textiles also need to perform under basic industry guidelines and appeal to various aesthetic standards. The aesthetic standard is determined by market forces that comprise of a diverse customer base: architects, interior designers, facilities managers, and other product makers such as office furniture makers. American textile jobbers sell to this customer base. Approximately 75 to 100 mills worldwide compete for business with the American textile jobbers, which distribute their products internationally. How does the creative process work in tandem with manufacturing capabilities and market forces? What makes a textile design successful? What is the role of a specified pattern in the larger context of an architectural project, facility renovation or office furniture's market? How does a textile designer manage all these facets of information, create an outstanding design that can be manufactured, while also building her creative vision?

The focus of the presentation will be about the process of creating and making textiles for the contract market, and the factors a designer must know, consider, and handle. The perspective is from a designer that works for both manufacturers and jobbers for this specific marketplace. Aesthetic issues, technological and manufacturing factors, market forces and cultural imperatives are important considerations that directly affect this process of creating and making. The presentation will examine these considerations from a creative and manufacturing point of view, but with the understanding of the jobber, specifier and end user's need.