Printing using a wooden board
During the first ten years (1760-1770) of Oberkampfs manufacturing in Jouy-en-Josas, printing on the wooden board was the only technique used, allowing for full colour printing. The unbleached cloth from France, India and Switzerland was first washed in the waters of the Bievre, and then it was beaten to remove the scourge (later replaced by battery powered mechanical manipulation). Once dried, it was flattened to remove the grain. Next came the application of the wooden planks on which the motif had been carved in relief. It was not the colours themselves that the printer applied to the canvas, but different mordants-mainly iron salts and alumina- that were used to obtain the desired colour.
After printing, the fabric was dipped in a bath of cow dung which removed the excess thickener and fixed the mordants to the cotton fibre. It was then washed again and passed through a bath of rose clair, made by cooking gavance roots, which when boiled revealed the mordant colours on the canvas prints. Using this process they were able to obtain a range of colours from dark red to pink, black to lilac, purple and sepia. Yellow and blue were printed directly onto the canvas. Green was obtained by superimposition of blue and yellow until 1808 when Samuel Widmer, Oberkampfs nephew discovered "solid green" that gave a good foundation in one application. Finally, the pink tinged canvas would be stretched out in a meadow and left in the sun to bleach.
After completing the work -details and other colours- made by "pinceauteuses", some parts were given a primer composed of a mixture of wax and starch, it was applied to the canvas which was then put on a hot grill. To gloss these pieces, they were buffed by agate marble or a crystal attached to the end of an articulated arm-the smoother.
The screen printing, or the copper plate
From 1770, a new technique appeared in Jouy-en-Josas : screen printing, which allowed them to obtain mass results using the stencil principle and only a single application of an engraved copper plate, ideal for sensitive and delicate designs. It was the early scenes and characters that made Toiles de Jouy so famous worldwide. As with the board technique you use the same screens and add colours or shades to the design.
Copper Roller Printing
In 1797 a Scottish patent was implemented, replacing the plate with mechanization: copper roller printing. Engraved in intaglio, it took six months for the best engravers to make each cylinder. The new machine, colloquially known as "bastringue" by the workers, was operated continuously, allowing the production of 5,000 meters of cloth per day, a considerable time saver compared to the copper frame. Production reached 1.45 million metres in 1805, including a roll of 890,000 metres. Unfortunately most of these cylinders have disappeared over the years through war and only a few models are still on show in some museums around the world.
Paradoxically, it is likely that the modernization of printing techniques directly contributed to the demise of Toile de Jouy, including the closure of the Oberkampf factory in 1843.
Mechanization allowed the production of cheap cloth, thus devaluing it, and the unique sense of luxury now seems less pronounced.