The Beauty of Rust


One of the printers at work in Pascucci's workshop

founded in 1826

I will always remember the peculiar, acidic smell that was in the air the first time I visited a workshop where textiles were being printed with Rust, near Rimini in Italy’s Romagna region. I soon learned that it was a combination of vinegar and metal which allowed the craftsmen who worked there to print these beautiful trailing foliage designs in deep orange and ochre tones in the same way that had done for centuries; the earliest references to rust printing in the area date to the late 1600s, though it is said by some to date back to Roman times.

Tablecloth by Pascucci

Traditionally the printing process was done using a few very simple ingredients; rust, vinegar, flour and ash and the ingredients have seen only a few minor changes over the centuries, though, the exact proportions of each ingredient remains a fiercely guarded secret of each individual workshop. The combination of its extreme simplicity and surprising wash and light fastness has assured the survival of this tradition and makes it a valid choice for hand printed textiles today.

Making printing blocks in the Bertozzi workshop

When visiting the Romagna region it is still possible to visit many different workshops and to purchase textiles – mainly for home furnishing – made locally. The patterns which are cut by hand from blocks of pear wood or walnut reflect the area which has retained a strong agricultural identity; featuring grapevines, fruit, roosters and other wild and farm animals the motifs are warm, strong and often playful like the people of this region, and a number of the more important workshops have developed new designs which are compatible with contemporary tastes.

For more information about traditional rust printing:

http://www.teleromagnole.com/ (the site of the association of textile printers in the Romagna tradition)

http://it.pascucci1826.com/ (in Italian only)

http://www.stamperiabertozzi.it/ (in English and Italian)

*We have two more places for this weekend’s course on rust printing in Wollongong – for information see: http://www.textilesupport.net/courses/workshops/printing-with-rust/

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