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The Refined Art of Decoupage

 

My introduction to the art of Decoupage occurred back during my college days at Rhode Island School of Design.

My department Head, a great bon vivant, routinely invited students to “Kaffeklatsch” at his apartment, where we would enjoy long winter-y evenings sipping French coffee and chatting long into the night. A man of meticulous taste, his place was always a joy to visit. There were always witty and amusing visual treats to delight the eye. To me, his home was the epitome of gracious living. With an atmosphere of natty elegance, this was inarguably a gentleman’s quarters. Refinement and attention to detail everywhere. My evenings there made an impression on me which I have retained all these years.

Among the objects which I found the most captivating was a small, elaborately patterned accent table, which sat beside a reading chair. Also, a stack of what I thought were handpainted boxes, sat on the coffee table. I’ve been in love with pattern and color from the beginning. These were gorgeous, and totally unique. They were, I learned, examples of Decoupage, created by none other than my professor himself. It was, he explained, a hobby which he had been perfecting for years. The accent table and boxes were pieces of which he was most proud. I had never seen anything like this before. As an art student, I was fascinated by the fact that these gorgeous objects were created without drawing or painting. They consisted of already existent art and/or photos, and/or images of any kind, arranged into collage and then applied to an ordinary object.

An art of re-creating art.

The art of Decoupage has an interesting history , going back to 18th Century France. During that time handpainted furniture was all the rage. So much so, in fact, the artists and furniture makers could not keep up with the demand. Someone came up with the bright idea of printing the fine designs on paper and applying them to the furniture, thus producing a handpainted effect. The process, called Decoupage (from the French verb decouper, “to cut”), required painstaking execution, but could be performed by capable assistants, allowing for the production of more furniture. 18th Century mass-production, if you will.

The method has remained in existence to this day, an art unto itself, requiring great skill and discipline.

It goes something like this: The image of choice must be cut out with special decoupage sheers in such a way as not to expose any white cut edges. The cut images are then artfully arranged in the desired composition, carefully glued into place, then lacquered and sanded, lacquered and sanded, up to seven or eight times until the surface looks and feels like glass, and there is not a trace of cut paper edges under the fingertips. Labor-intensive, but worth it.

The art of Decoupage became so fashionable that it was adopted as a pastime by the affluent ladies of French society. Even Marie Antoinette herself became infatuated with Decoupage. She could afford to cut the original artwork and prints of famous artists such as Fragonard and Boucher!

Decoupage has continued to be a craft prized and collected for its beauty throughout the ages. One will see it transforming all manner of everyday objects into extraordinary works of art, from decorative boxes to room dividers, on surfaces from glass and porcelain to wood, metal, or stone.

SHOPSICLE is delighted to present an exciting collection of handmade Decoupage lamps, boxes, cachepots and other objects.

Each one a collectible treasure!

-Karen Saloomey

 

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