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BLANKET TOWN: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN MILL TOWN



WHERE ARE THE BLANKETS?




One of the advantages of hosting community works-in-progress screenings is that we get invaluable feedback from audience members. At the Q & A at one of our recent events, someone asked "Where are the blankets?" Incredibly enough, while making a documentary about the largest manufacturer of blankets in the world, we had forgotten to discuss the design process and to include many images of colorful Beacon blankets. 
 We put a call out on our Facebook page, asking for any collectors to contact us so we could film their blankets. Recently we filmed three different people who had beautiful blankets to share. We also spent time conducting additional research about how Beacon blankets were designed and were reminded of the sophisticated ad campaigns that Beacon created to help sell their products.


It is easy to forget how much artistry went into each blanket design. In pre-computer days, full color designs were sketched out by an artist and then created as a watercolor. Thread had to be assigned for every color or pattern. Remember, the designs were woven into the blankets, not printed on them. Once the design was approved a test run blanket was made. According to the book Language of the Robe: American Indian Trade Blankets by Robert W. Kaupon, the use of the Jacquard loom "...allowed for the creation of a blanket with a positive design on one side and a negative of the same image of the reverse."  

 Although inspired by Native American patterns, with bold colors and strong geometric design, Beacon blankets were not American Indian Trade blankets. Unlike some of the west coast woolen mills like Racine or Pendleton, Beacon blankets were not designed and marketed to be used and worn by Native American populations. Instead Beacon blankets, including their "Indian" designs, were marketed as colorful bedding, motoring or camp blankets. 





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