Friday, 22 January 2016

Remaking the blue dress - Step 1 & 2

 Plotting at Great Northern War (2013?)

I've had my blue linen dress for a couple of years. I made it last minute for a tourney and feast in Atlantia. One thing I've always disliked about the dress is the hem was tacked up and contains at least 30cm of additional fabric. While this helps the drape quite a bit, it makes the skirt quite weighty. I also used hooks and eyes as fastenings, which are reasonably unobtrusive against a white chemise but they're not period. They're the good hooks and eyes with the little kink which means they don't pop open but still. Also, the fit isn't quite right. It doesn't hurt my back like my last blue linen dress but the arm holes are slightly too tight and my bust has changed since creation. Lace around a chamise should not be a requirement of wearing a dress.

I considered remaking this dress for Krae Glas's Ehrentag 2015 event but I gave up on the idea because I ran out of time as per usual. Instead of rushing through the remake, I'm going to take my time and hopefully end up with a late period dress I can be happy with. My first task is to fix the hem that's been bothering me for so long.

Task two, find a period reference as inspiration.

Domenico Ghirlandao, Birth of St John the Baptist 1486-90 Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

I started the remake by finding something similar in some extant art (above). The reference had to fit the basic features of the current dress - circular neckline, cartridge pleated skirt which starts at the natural waistline and no/detachable sleeves. Thus the new dress will be patterned on late 15th century Italian fashions.

The dress in 15th century Italian, is called a gamurra. There is a nice collection of similar images on a blog called Sophie Stitches. It looks like the come in a range of colours, with or without sleeves which may or may not match the main colour. The dress appears to lace up the front or at the sides. Removing the hooks and eyes and replacing them with a more period approach will be my next step.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Plate - 14th century Sultanabad

I've been rather quiet these last three months as I've been moving across the country and am still finding my feet in this new city. I have now found a place to rent and my furniture gets delivered in three days! I am enjoying finding all sorts of new things but last weekend I thought I'd try something new and old at the same time. I had passed through a homewares and overpriced duct collectors shop and found the sales lady painting white plates with some sort of commercial poly-paint. I've seen this stuff before, you paint it on, put the item in the oven and ta da - customized item. Unfortunately, the paint doesn't really stand up to wear and tear, the Stormhold Baronial plates haven't really withstood knives, forks and hand washing by people not told about their special needs. This is why I prefer to glaze my plates rather than buy the ceramic paint from spotlight. True, this restricts me in size, shape and I need people to fire it for me but the end product is much more durable. I've decided that finishing the A&S 50 challenge was enjolyable but I'm not done with the ceramic painting yet. So, I need to find someone in my new city who can supply the bisque and fire the finished products for me. Or make arrangements to get the my bisque to Melbourne for firing and collection by a friend.

So last weekend, off I went to All Fired Up in Joondalup. I've mentioned this place on my 'where to make your own ceramics' list for a while now so I thought it was the perfect first candidate for a replacement ceramics facilitator (i only have two candidates). So I saved a number of reference images from the Met Museum on my iPhone and off I rode (image 1). I arrived at noon, spent half an hour browsing their limited stock of bisque before settling down to another project. When I went I had no real plan in mind as I wasn't sure what sort of bisque range they'd have (small). I was there until closing (5pm) and finished the front of a plate and made an attempt at the back.

The blackwork outlines complete. I was tempted to finish here because the grey and white looked so lovely and balanced just by themselves but I knew it'd fire to black and throw the look off.

The blue is complete. Note the solid look of the blue over the black. The original used transparent glazes in blue and turquoise of the Saltanabad style. This is really hard to replicate using opaque glazes so I aimed for a wash and hoped the fired results would be satisfactory.
Finished! Well balanced and really happy with the front.

 The center of the design - surprisingly balanced for a free hand experiment.

Replicate or create original designs?
This is always a question I ask myself when creating something new. Should I replicate an original extant item I'm really taken with, or should I use design elements from a specific time/place and design my own items? I think every SCA artisan asks themselves this same question and I believe the answer comes down to, will the item be fit for purpose? SCA items seem to fit into two categories, 1) cheap make do items for a single or short term use or 2) expensive or hand made items design to hopefully last an SCA lifetime. The items in the second group are not used on a daily basis and are often expected to last for years beyond their more often used modern counterparts. For many people in the SCA, a ceramic item that is fit for use must look medieval. For some people this means old, worn or clearly handmade (see previous rants), others want ceramic items that fit their game, either referencing their personas storyline or featuring their heraldry. The final group of SCA users want items that completely replicate medieval items.

I feel that I make items that generally fit into five categories.
a) appropriation, the grotesques are an example of this. I copied images from manuscripts into a new medium. They are the least medieval ceramic thing I've made (let's not count the escher plate).
b) adaption, I count my early household plates in this category. The elements came from a number of related sources but the combination was created to meet a specific need.
c) insertion, Into this category I fit the Gabs & Stanzi plates. The design and a majority of the plate were period replicas with small elements of heraldric symbols to craft something appropriate for the leaders of my other household.
d) replication, I have replicated the designs on many of my A&S items straight from the originals adapting them only slightly so they'd fit on the bisque available. This Sultanabad item is one such item.
e) creation, the items I'm often most proud of, the Dr Suess bowl and plate fit into this category. These items are inspired by their medieval counterpart but the design is very much original.

Extant reference - Bowl, Il-Khanid, Iran, Sultanabad. 14th century. Freer Slacker, S1997.129.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Venitian dresses in India?

Anne de Wilde's elevation dress.

A friend of mine has been making an elevation dress for Canterbury Faire this year and has been sharing the construction on facebook. It is a lovely Venitian dress inspired by this image, a lady from the 1600's. When she posted the finished dress I was interested by the fact the main body of the dress ends below the breasts which are covered by a plain or decorated partlet. There is a whole section of images of these dresses here. Apart from being a beautiful dress which has taken her hours to construct, it also reminded me of an interesting image I'd found when browsing the collection in the Met Museum. The image below featured in one of my classes on indian choli tops. I was fascinated by the contrast in garb between the central figure and the ladies on the left looking on. I was quite taken with the European garb combined with the indian veils etc. I had thought the European garb was Elizabethian garb depicted in such a way that still displayed the ladies breasts for some sort of symbolic reason. Now I'm not so sure.

The ladies could quite well be wearing complete Venetian dresses. Even better, if you examine the center lady in pink, there appears to be some pinkish gathers coming from her neck and the lady in purple on the far left also seems to be sporting a neckline of some sort. Is it possible that this manuscript also shows light weight, solid colour fabrics as transparent? This would fit with other images I've seen of more traditionally dressed indian ladies wearing light fabrics depicted as a wash over the womens body or a halo behind it so the breasts and upper body can still be seen.

17th century manuscript depicting Amir Khusrau Dihlavi (1253–1325). 

Given my other research interests at the moment my next step will  be to examine the bottle in the central figures hand as well as any other time frame indicators in this and associate images and see if I can nail down the reason for the dresses. Are they contempory to the time of painting (was there a Ventian influence?) or are they from a period before the manuscript was painted?