Paisley – The Motif
An easily recognized motif, Paisley, is one of many variations. The name “Paisley” is associated with the Scottish city where woven Paisley shawls were manufactured to replace the costly Indian cashmere shawls, which were imported for the very wealthy European market. However, the motif originated in India as “Butah “ (Buteh) the Hindu word, meaning flower.
The French called the design “palmette”, the English knew it as “flame and spearhead pine”.
The motif, whether an elaborate teardrop design or a plant form with leaves and stem or a pinecone and medallion form, has been adapted for centuries for use in art and textiles. The design is marked by an absence of dimension and can be found as a simple , singular form or as an allover, elaborate design depending upon the requirement of the finished textile.
Costumes, Textiles and Fabric Swatch Books, Sothebey's, London
Auction catalog, Lots 1-254, Thursday 24 September 1988
Paisley Textile Patterns -18thCentury Europe,
Kyoto Shoin Co.Ltd, 1998
A related design element is known as a “Buti” which is Hindu for “small flower”. It is a small motif, which may be abstracted, and is used as a filler pattern, small in scale and repetitive. An example of Buti patterns can be found in delicate Foulard textiles. Originally woven in silk for men’s ties and fine handkerchiefs, they now can be found in acetate and manufactured fabrics.
Of course, the most common association of the paisley pattern and textiles is the historic fashion accessory, the Paisley Shawl, which we shall explore in an upcoming blog.