Su­san Deliss shares her love of hand-stitched tex­tiles and tells us how she col­lects and cares for them

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - HOMES -

What sparked your in­ter­est in tex­tiles?

My ini­tial pas­sion was for Old Mas­ter paint­ings. I won a schol­ar­ship to study Art and Restora­tion in Venice and, while there, I saw many won­der­ful tex­tiles. This is prob­a­bly where it all started – think of all those fab­u­lous silks and damasks in Veronese’s paint­ings.

How did your busi­ness evolve?

One of my ear­li­est light­bulb mo­ments re­gard­ing tex­tiles was at the Cop­tic Mu­seum in Cairo, where I saw a 4th-cen­tury Cop­tic tex­tile. I was blown away by its age and beauty. Wher­ever I’ve trav­elled, I’ve col­lected car­pets, kil­ims and ceram­ics. And a!er lots of trav­el­ling and many cups of very strong, sweet co"ee, I’ve es­tab­lished sources of re­ally high-qual­ity suza­nis. I mostly sell mod­ern or re­cent ex­am­ples, but they’re made in the tra­di­tional way, gen­er­ally with colours that ref­er­ence old tex­tiles. I also sell old kil­ims and #atweaves; an­tique hemps and linens, o!en dyed by hand in nat­u­ral pig­ments; Greek is­land em­broi­deries and hand tow­els, and silk coats all made dur­ing the O$oman pe­riod (1453-1922). My prin­ci­pal in­ter­est is in tex­tiles from the Is­lamic world, as there is a re%ne­ment of pa$ern, colour and scale that I %nd very pleas­ing. My test for buy­ing any­thing is al­ways: ‘Could I live with it if I couldn’t sell it?’. So I only trade pieces that I have a gen­uine lik­ing for.

Do you have any tips on car­ing for and dis­play­ing del­i­cate tex­tiles?

If some­thing is re­ally old and valu­able or frag­ile I would frame it. But, gen­er­ally, th­ese tex­tiles were not made to be framed. I like to feel and touch them and move them around. Light dam­age is only a prob­lem if the tex­tiles are dis­played in di­rect sun­light. Moths should be taken re­ally se­ri­ously – there is only one rule: elim­i­na­tion if you have them and then pre­ven­tion. If you don’t get rid of them the prob­lem will get worse and worse. You have to blitz them. Mould marks are very di&cult to get rid of, but the only way tex­tiles will get mouldy is if you leave them wet or damp. Al­ways leave tex­tiles stretched out when they are dry­ing and check that they are com­pletely dry be­fore fold­ing and stor­ing.

What ad­vice would you give to any­one new to col­lect­ing an­tique tex­tiles?

Some­body once told me: ‘You have to buy to learn’, which is cer­tainly true. There is noth­ing quite like han­dling tex­tiles to build up an un­der­stand­ing about them. But I would strongly ad­vise a novice col­lec­tor to go and look at tex­tiles in mu­se­ums so they de­velop an eye for top qual­ity. Also read spe­cial­ist text­books to build up knowl­edge.

Can you tell us about a favourite piece in your col­lec­tion?

A long, 18th-cen­tury red silk and vel­vet panel with ap­pliqué and also a baroque ex­am­ple with %nely em­broi­dered coloured mo­tifs. They aren’t in per­fect con­di­tion but they are both beau­ti­ful.

Su­san Deliss has filled her house in France with an­tique tex­tiles. Suza­nis, such as th­ese, which are em­broi­dered with Ot­toman mo­tifs, hold a par­tic­u­lar fas­ci­na­tion and are avail­able in her shop (su­

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