A Home with all the Trimmings – Fit for a Queen.  Reviving the Beautiful Art of Passementerie is Fabulous designer Wendy Cushing, one of a dying breed of skilled British craftsmen.  Her talent for creating and recreating specialist trimmings and furnishings have led her from Royal residences to famous museums and even to the sets of Pirates of the Caribbean and Sherlock Homes for the current BBC TV series.  Her stunning designs are to be seen in the most exclusive homes, yachts and venues, but she is remarkably down-to-earth.

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Ask Wendy Cushing what her greatest professional regret is and she will tell you that she is mourning the lost art of passementerie.  All is not yet lost, as Wendy is attempting to pass on her skills, but she fears it maybe too late for the British.  Passementerie was originally the French art of creating trimmings and decorations for beds, cushions, curtains and other furnishings. But there has been a different development of the styles in most countries over the centuries, including in Britain.   These braids, ropes, tassels and other accessories are traditionally made from silk, wool, crystal and metals, but modern versions make use of synthetic materials which are less expensive to produce, easier to care for and can be more durable. 

Take a look at Wendy´s website and you will see an incredible range of things of beauty.  It is true that her products are not cheap, but you are paying for hand crafted items. Also with a starting price of around £45.00, there is something almost anyone can afford.

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Considering that Wendy has met many royals, including the Queen three times whilst commissioned to work on various projects at Windsor Castle, The Maritime Museum and on the Crown Jewels, she is remarkably straight-forward in her approach.  She said:

‘After studying textile design I worked for an 84 year old craftsman at a factory in Hackney. Mr Sindall was my mentor and I have since been in the trade for 26 years. I learnt the traditional skills of a weaver, hand-making tassels in the same way they have been created for hundreds of years.’

Wendy has since developed her own company which provides restoration, reproduction and replacement of historical items.  She has also produces a range of contemporary products which she mostly sells directly to interior designers.  Business is good, but it seems that fashion has been the greatest foe of passementerie as Wendy explained:

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‘Trends have been more minimalist so interior designers have had less experience in the use of trimmings.  This means that the art is dying out.  I can only hope that fashion will change again before it is too late.  There has been some revival of blending old and new styles so hopefully people will begin to realise the beautiful effects that can be achieved. I recommend your readers consider using plain fabrics and dressing them up with trimmings.  We have Murano crystal from Italy, embroidered braids, silk tassels and beautiful polished wood and metal accessories.  It is also possible to create a great look by using a traditional shape with a contemporary fabric.  There is a lot of grey around at the moment and that lends itself well to luxurious touches such as gilded silver.’

Wendy also works on yachts, often for Middle Eastern royalty and is frequently commissioned for restoration projects which involve reproducing items from historical records or sometimes blending an existing furnishing with new sections in order to restore it.  She has worked on projects for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Ringling Museum of Art, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, St James´s Palace, Queen Beatrice´s Palace in the Netherlands, The National Trust, English Heritage and more famous hotels than you can shake a stick at.  She further explained:

‘It felt like a privilege to work on two beds created by the famous 17th century upholsterer Daniel Marot, particularly the one at the Metropolitan Museum, as I had to work from only a tiny sample.  Marot was responsible for introducing French skills with the wave of immigrant Huguenots and developing what was later to be considered the English style or ‘William and Mary` style.  He is well known for his work at Hampton Court.’ 

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One only has to look at Wendy´s website to see how many different influences she has instilled in her work.  Some of the crystal beading looks so good you almost want to wear it rather than leave it inside the house.  What a pity it would be if we cannot find a way to preserve the skills that can produce such beautiful objects.  So here’s a shout out from the iProperty Company to home owners, interior designers and textile design students. Please take another look at passementerie so we can continue to enjoy the luxury of hand-crafted silk, gilding and crystal.  It would be a pity not to pass on this wealth of history, skill and beauty to the next generation.

You can buy ready-made items directly or hire Wendy´s team to create something completely bespoke from http://www.wendycushingdesigns.com.

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Dawn Blake

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