According to stories of old which may or may not be legends, tapestry-related activities were established in Aubusson and Felletin either during the 8th century with the arrival of the Saracens, or during the 14th century with the settlement of Flemish upholsterers.
According to the most probable theory, the local cloth making industry was converted during the 15th century.
In 1665, Colbert granted the status of royal manufactory to all the workshops in Aubusson, which were mainly located in the districts of Terrade and Saint Jean.
This recognition strengthened the development of tapestry production in Aubusson, with orders for major tapestries covering religious and legendary themes lading to international acclaim. Aubusson was a supplier to the Europe of the Enlightenment.
During the 19th century tapestry production took on an industrial form, with the establishment of several factories whose main activity was the production of carpets. The largest of these factories included Hamot, Braquenié and Sallandrouze, each employing several hundred workers.
The factories had their own dyeing mills for treating wool in the desired colours. Ranges of dyed wool were stored in different compartments and arranged by shade of colour. They were placed on bobbins manually by winders, using simple wooden spinning wheels which they activated using a crank handle.
In the factories of days gone by, a single piece of work required a good ten or so people. Using low-warp looms, teams of weavers worked horizontally to produce the famous tapestries of Aubusson. At the outset, this skilled job was restricted to men.
Later, using low-warp looms which were vertical, it was mainly less well-paid women and young girls who produced the knotted carpets, known as Savonnerie carpets. These workers were known as “velouteuses”.
In 2012, Aubusson featured 3 manufactories and 5 tapestry workshops in operation. The number of these small workshops, which guarantee expertise of an excellent standard, is now increasing due to the action of the Cité de la Tapisserie.
Aubusson is well known for its tapestry workshops, witch were granted the status of royal manufactory in the 17th century. Discover the history of this artisanal activity and learn more about the organisation in the manufactories.