Hello, designers! Today I would like to share with you all a place in Madrid where time stops. A place that keeps and preserves, almost intact, a tradition of artistic trades of more than 300 years that produces real luxury products. This place is called Real Fábrica de Tapices (Royal Tapestry Factory) and is located in what used to be “the olive grove and orchard of Atocha”, that is, the suburban area of the capital of that time. Some time ago, I made a guided tour in its facilities, situated in Fuenterrabía 2 street and, a few days ago I returned, with the intention of sharing my experience with you; I loved the idea that you also knew, in a short walk, this jewel of the textile world, well kept in the heart of Madrid.

A little bit of history

Before starting, it’s good to make a quick review of the history of this very special piece of decoration. According to Wikipedia, the beginnings of the tapestry were cloths placed on walls and floors to insulate from the cold or heat that the walls of the rooms radiated in times of extreme temperatures. Over time, they began to incorporate decorative motifs made of very expensive materials (gold, silk, silver), transforming the tapestries into objects of absolute luxury. Centuries later, they would differ from carpets and rugs by their vertical placement.

What the Real Fábrica de Tapices does

The Real Fábrica de Tapices was founded in 1721 and since then, it has devoted itself tirelessly to the design, creation and restoration of carpets, tapestries and reposteros (reposteros are cloths that show heraldic symbols or noble houses; they can be manufactured with the same tapestry technique or with embroidery procedures). Many people might think that their activity is no longer practiced, as tapestries ceased to be trendy many years ago, but the truth is that when you enter the guided tour and see those weavers totally abstracted, focused on their work, immersed in a sea of canillas, threads and threads of infinite shades of color -and you see the authentic wonders they produce-, you feel that the art of tapestry is still alive.

This exquisite art form refuses to disappear thanks to the fact that, in addition, the Real Fábrica de Tapices plays a fundamental role in the conservation of Spanish textile heritage, actively participating in the development of procedures and technologies for the restoration of historical textiles.

An incomparable artistic work

It is astonishing to see, in times of “I want this right now”, how a work that takes between 6 and 14 months to be made (per square meter of woven fabric) becomes an impressive work of art, for which it is necessary an artistic and artisanal training of almost 20 years -yes, you read well: 20 years- in textile technique, drawing, dyes and history of the fabrics. As you can see, weavers are integrally trained in the art of tapestry, because they know the entire manufacturing process from beginning to end. At the Real Fábrica, in addition to weaving the tapestries, the threads are also dyed in the Dye Room individually for each project, to achieve two goals: the first, the exact shades of color that customers require in their comissions and the second, the optimal survival of the colors over time. Combining the most modern technology with traditional manual dyeing techniques, the materials dyed by RFT guarantee quality and long-lasting quality (quality that is highly desirable in a sumptuous, high-value item such as tapestry). This is one of the reasons why the Real Fábrica de Tapices has created pieces for some Ministries of State, the Congress of Deputies, the Senate, the Ritz Madrid Hotel, the Palace Madrid Hotel, Hyde Park Hotel (London), the Petroleum Club Houston, Lyford Cay Club Nassau Bahamas, the Cathedral of Malta and the Georges V Hotel (Paris), among others.

How a tapestry is created

A tapestry is first born as a full-scale drawing (called “cardboard”) and is the reference that the weaver will follow during its work. When the customer approves the design, having decided on colours and materials, the next step is the individual dyeing of the material. As if it was a very high quality photo (with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pixels), a tapestry of the Real Fábrica will always have a high density of woven fabric, to ensure a clear resultant image with an excellent level of detail. Of course, the sharper it gets, the more work the weaver will need to do; he uses the canillas (those wooden pencils you can see in the photos) loaded with fine threads of wool and silk to translate the pictorial details of the cardboard into the language of the tapestry. Do you know what’s the best about all this unique work? You can see it live during a visit, as the RFT opens its doors to the public with the aim of promoting the artistic-historical value of both, weavers and the institution! So, lovers of the textile world, lovers of color, lovers of the wise ancient techniques and craftsmanship, don’t forget: you have an unmissable appointment.

The Real Fábrica de Tapices, today

When talking about tapestry, it is logical that a baroque and ancient imagery comes to mind, but the truth is that RFT currently develops private commissions in which the client has, as I mentioned above, the power to choose colors, but also materials and designs, whether they look old or more contemporary. Thus, the art of tapestry enters modernity by reproducing actual images in its own woven language, thus ensuring its adaptation to the present and, consequently, its permanence in future times.

A brief walk through time

If the images of today’s post made you curious, if you’re planning to come to Madrid anytime in 2018 and if you like the idea of visiting RFT, a place that keeps art, wisdom and true passion for the art of tapestry, here I leave the link to the page with information about guided visits:

I hope you enjoyed knowing about the Real Fábrica de Tapices. For me it’s been like getting into an amazing and creative time machine.
See you in the next post, here, at In Pattern We Trust!

Antonio Sama (Conservative of the RFT Foundation), for his kindness and to make possible this post
Nieves Herranz, for his unconditional support