Established in 1981 by Jean Monro, daughter of the famous decorator of the 1920s Mrs Geraldine Monro, Jean decided to reproduce and market the favourite designs used by her mother over the years and Turnell & Gigon took up the reins in 1998. Jean Monro Ltd is renowned for its English chintzes, producing traditional English prints from archive material, printed on the finest cloths and without compromise. Wherever possible, the Jean Monro fabrics are printed in England and traditional methods are still used. Jean Monro is one of the very few companies still editing hand-block designs. This process requires an apprenticeship of several years, often involving hundreds of different blocks and naturally, takes a long time to produce. The effect achieved is certainly worth the wait, given that it produces a look that cannot be satisfactorily copied by any other method.
In the hand-block method, each colour is put on separately and each will require several blocks, for instance the Jean Monro fabulous motif, Lucy’s Roses, has 180 blocks per repeat! The design details are applied by a combination of methods but all by hand and once printed, minute retouches, using the dye from the tray, are then also done by hand. Hand-blocks are notoriously difficult to produce to exact colour tolerances as the take-up of the cloth is subject to changes in the atmosphere and differences in drying times as well as different handblockers (who each carry their own recognisable style of printing). This process is repeated for each pattern repeat and for every colour down the whole length of the 18 meter table until that length is complete which can take up to a week. Admittedly, this is a very slow and labour-intensive process but the end result is a fabric of great beauty and subtlety that is truly inimitable. Because of the method of production there are variations within the length of the cloth which add to the charm of the final product.
Notable patterns in the rich Jean Monro collections include:
Geisha, which is an exquisite design of a European view of Chinoiserie. Faithful in all respects to the very fine detailed “sketch”, this multi-coloured design shows a beautiful Chinese lady beneath a parasol, literally on a bed of roses. Traditional Chinese motifs such as the tea urn appear, with a more western interpretation of floral swags and scrollwork in the surrounding cartouche.
Cecelia is an understated toile that depicts a serene and bucolic scene, printed on a natural linen in 8 colourways.
Polyanthus, which Auricula is founded on was the first design to be produced by Jean Monro which soon became a perennial favourite. Auricula has a totally different feel, printed on a linen quality with a soft handle in 3 fresh soft colourways. The main flower is a Primula Auricula surrounded with small clusters of rosebuds and leaves on a striped background.
Byron handblock is a handsome, grand design which dates from the second half of the 19th century and features a formal bouquet of roses surrounded by strap-work tassels and ribbons. The current set of blocks was cut in 1917 though the design itself almost certainly predates them. There are 60 blocks, each of which is applied twice to make one repeat of the fabric.
Radclyffe Stripe emerges from a design for a woodblock by Thomas Clarkson dated 1863 for which the original art-work still exists, this print has had only minimal alteration to scale to meet modern printing sizes. A ribbon meanders through the stripes of Dianthus, while between lies a charming secondary stripe of Maiden’s Hair Ferns.
Camilla contains a design of Ranunculus that is taken from a very finely drawn original of 1841. Every effort has been made to keep the finesse of the “sketch” and to respect the colouring. The starred background was added to replicate the pique ground used the last time this fabric printed.