Archival Paraphernalia


I have always been drawn to the paraphernalia and ephemera of archives – everything so neatly boxed and categorized. Shelves of files and folders, each ordered, dated and labelled. I have to confess that it is a pretty superficial fascination with the aesthetics – grey metal-bound boxes marching in rows with their punched corners gleaming. There is something of a haberdashery quality to the punched metal - rows of hooks and eyes, or corset lacing, or patent leather polished brogues.

I love the furniture of archives too – institutional metal shelving in utilitarian slate grey or that ubiquitous green hammerite of so much industrial equipment of the later twentieth century. It’s the green of Dornier power looms, of finishing plant, of our studio hank-winder and our little German letter scales.

I love library trolleys with their sloping shelves, old wooden card index drawers, plan chests and wheeled library steps. All old school and analogue of course.

One of the great privileges of my time at Fallingwater was the chance to delve into their archive. The material ranges from letters (below left), documents, plans and photos to material samples, objects and artefacts, textiles and furniture. Amongst the treasures were these three little unassuming concrete cores (below right) – drilled from one of the terraces. The original fabric of the house.

And the textile collection in the archive is extensive too. For me, most interesting are the original Jack Lenor Larsen fabrics. The ‘Doria’ wool upholstery used on banquette seats, hassocks, and zabutons, and the ‘Landis’ double cloth (below left) - designed by Lenor Larsen’s associate Richard Landis - which feels so familiar to me. But alongside these are wonderful Berber rugs, African mud cloths (below right), Kuba cloths and Ikats.

The archive at Fallingwater is ‘back of house’ and behind the scenes. But it is a hugely important part of the history and legacy of the house. In ‘Framing a View’ we bring a little taste ‘front of house’ in the gallery with an ‘archive wall’. On the authentic gun-metal shelving my favourite grey boxes stack alongside original textiles from the archive, and over a hundred yarn cones from my studio yarn shelves. It is a very satisfying mish-mash of the Fallingwater archive and my own weave studio.

Eleanor Pritchard