Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Brustflect popular designs

I'm having trouble not thinking about the Cranach gowns. I did a breastcover (actually brustflect aparently) analysis today. I examined 85 images showing a brustflect and compared the designs. I'll compile an example of the more popular ones next time I need a distraction from the PhD.

UPDATED: Now includes 91 brustflects, Gold on Gold (no pearl or blackwork) is the catchall category where images are of poor resolution and I am unable to place the design (i.e. smeary gold)

Of the 91 images examined, 20 of the ladies sported a V shaped chain which terminated just under the top of the brustflect (56 had no chain). 14 of the ladies had a black ribbon in the same position. This may be the edge of a chemise so further examination of high resolution images needs to occur.

Blackwork on gold, diamonds 1
Blackwork on gold, geometirc, no pearls 1
Blackwork on gold, vertical only 1
Blackwork on gold, writing 1
Broacade gold fabric with black outline 23
Diamond frabric with pearlwork with central motif and floral or spirals 3
Dimond fabric with blackwork motif 1
Gold on gold work (no black or pearls) 10
Other - showing lacing or attachment detail 5
Pearlwork on black 1
Pearlwork on gold with central motif and two spirals or floral designs 6
Pearlwork on gold, abstract, flowing design 3
Pearlwork on gold, diamonds with flower central motif 3
Pearlwork on gold, diamonds with m central motif 1
Pearlwork on gold, diamonds without central motifs 5
Pearlwork on gold, fan patterns 1
Pearlwork on gold, floral designs 2
Pearlwork on gold, floral mounted on black 7
Pearlwork on gold, geometirc braid / knot 3
Pearlwork on gold, interlocking rings 2
Pearlwork on gold, vertical only 1
Pearlwork on gold, writing 1
Pure black 2
Pure Gold 2
Pure Red 1
Square pattern fabric with lattice pearlwork borders 1
Two sets of gold flames on white 1
Vertically slashed 2

Monday, 28 November 2011

Fabric find!

Found the perfect fabric for the snood lining (apparently called a goldhaube) in my fabric stash today!
I think it looks great under the pearls and from a distance looks enough like red hair.
My habit of buying interesting fabrics on spec has paid off once more!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Plate 4 - Experimenting with Relief

A number of the Spanish plates I have investigated appear to have some sort of relief. Figure 1 shows two different styles, the image on the left (1a) showing how the relief has been highlighted using glaze which pools further highlighting the depth while the image on the right (1b) shows more of a ridge shape which while it resembles some of the pattern, doesn’t appear to have been followed. 

Figure 1: a) Front of plate with depressions where glaze pools, some indication of imprint on the rear of the plate (Triana, 1525-1550, V&A Museum), b) Front of plate with ridges under the glaze, no indication of ridges on rear (Triana, 1525-1550, V&A Museum).*
*A lot of the earthenware produced in Triana between 1500-1550 appears to utilise relief.

One of the major problems I am having with remote research (creating a database of images from museum websites) is that I cannot get the angles and the light as I would wish, not are the item descriptions as detailed as I would like. Thus on some images the difference between a ridge or a depression may be a trick of the light. I have examined the back of a number of plates and some, like Figure 1a show depressions in the rear of the plate which appear to line up with the relief on the front of the plate. Some plates, like Figure 1b, show no such depressions. Without a massive background in earthenware I suspect there are two ways to make such plates; while they are wet gouge a pattern into them or use a mold to create a plate with ridges. The mold system would make creating sets much easier but I don’t know what sort of technological level is required for this. Gouging or pressing of objects into wet clay however has a long history as a decoration method.

As I am still in the early stages of learning this craft, I do not produce my own plates. Instead, I purchase them as bisque so that I may experiment with glazes and decoration without having to learn the entire craft at once. As they are ‘off the shelf’ I cannot create ridges however I can create depressions. Plate number 4 was all about experimenting with relief.

Bisque is very hard and reasonably brittle. I tried many different methods to carve smooth depressions into the plate. Tools experimented with included a wood chisel, laminate carving tools, a screwdriver, an awl and yes, a scalpel. Increasing the sharpness of the tool’s edge didn’t seem to produce better results and what seemed to work best was abrasion. I probably could have kept at it with the chisel but it was slow going (well, if I wanted control over the tool and all my blood to stay inside my body).

Figure 2: Some of the tools trailed for carving including a letherman multitool and a scalpel.

Ultimately I found the tool that worked the best was modern: the humbled (and my beloved) Dremel. I used three heads, a cone-shaped diamond burr for outlining, a large round diamond burr to hollow out the shapes and finally a course nylon brush to wear down some minor lumpy imperfections.

Figure 3: The Ozito Dremel and burrs used for a majority of the carving.

The result:
Figure 4: a) Initial ‘scratching’ with hand tools, b) smoother result results from dremel.

Figure 5: The whole plate carved out. Even with this image it is difficult to determine if the leaves in the bottom left are depressed or raised.

Once glazed and fired the plate looks great! The glaze pools in the base of the depressions similar to Figure 1a. It has also smoothed out some of the minor lumpiness in the base of the carvings. Looking at Figure 6a, even though I know I carved the rim, I find it difficult to determine if this is a ridge or a depression. Quite happy with how this experiment turned out.

Figure 6: a) The front of my plate, b) The inspiration plate from Reus (1575-1600, V&A Museum), c) the black of my plate, d) the back of the inspiration plate.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

16th Century Saxon hauben (snood thing)

As I am working on a 16th c Cranach gown (saxon), I need to create the appropriate accessories. I have started with headwear as I already have my first attempt at a dress. Many of the paintings by Cranach show women wearing what appear to be snoods –woven nets to keep hair bundled up and clean. So I created the snood below (Figure 1). Originally I was happy with the outcome of this project as this is the first time I’ve used precious stones and pearls on any of my medieval costumes. I felt quite spangly! However upon wearing it and undertaking further research I find it is not entirely correct and needs some alteration. I will discuss shape/fit, lining, bands and decoration as they are shown in Cranach’s paintings and how I plan on replicating this.

Figure 1: Cream snood - stage 1. Snood has been crocheted out of cream cotton and beaded with alternating cream pearls and garnets. a) worn with loose hair, b) worn with restrained hair

Shape / fit:
As can be seen in Figure 1a the weight of my hair pulls the snood down onto the back of my neck. A quick examination of all Cranach’s Ladies show the snoods ending well above the neck, typically at the base of the ear (Figure 3). Some like Figure 3e actually bulge out away from the head. This suggests that the hair was braided possibly similar to the style shown in Figure 2 before being wrapped in the snood. As the snood is a net, it does expand to accommodate hair growth which would mean the owner could use the same snood for many years.
Simply looping my hair up (Figure 1b) results in a much better profile and will ensure my hair doesn’t escape throughout the day. I have very fine hair and I can guarantee that it will get frizzy by the end of the day and end up poking through the netting. Tying or braiding my hair will help however close examination of a number of the Cranach portraits indicates the snoods were actually lined in an orange or gold cloth. (and here I was thinking that Cranach had a thing for red-heads.)

Figure 2: a) Saxon Princesses Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia – detail of Sibylla’s hairstyle (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1535). The contrast between the slick braids and the fuzzy decorative curls in front of her ears suggests this is a hair extension. An extant sample of this (b) may be part of Germany's National Museum collection however the information on this is limited (image taken from http://www.hartwoodcastle.com, 25/11/2011, image has clearly been scanned from a book and states "Nurnberg Germanisches Nationalmuseum Inv Nr T 2321 Haubenstock)

Most of the snoods worn by Cranach’s Ladies appear to be lined. In many of the images this is difficult to see as the weave of the fabric as painted follows the same grain you’d anticipate from loose hair (Figure 3a and Figure 4) however on some a cross-grain has been painted such as that shown in Figure 3b. This is further supported by some images which show a distinct colour difference between the wearer’s curls and the snood (Figure 3e). Figures 3h and 3i show snoods which have been constructed out of brocade rather than a plain fabric with an overlaid decorated net. Most of the snoods show an even distribution of the net over the fabric suggesting that the snood is actually one piece and the decoration is sewn directly to the fabric. Only in Figure 3b do we see the net pulling on the fabric suggesting it is a separate piece. Additionally this painting does not show a decorative band meaning the woven fabric and the pearled snood are not clearly joined and may be two separate pieces.

Figure 3: a) Old Man and Young Woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder), b) Portrait of a Young Woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530-1533), c) Portrait of a young woman – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530), d) Ill-matched lovers (Lucas Cranach the Elder), e) Judith with the head of Holoferenes – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, Metropolitan museum of Art). f) Old man in love – detail (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1537), g) Christinia Eulenau (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1534), h) Ill matched lovers (Lucas Cranach the Elder), i) Judith with the head of Holofenes (Lucas Cranah the Elder), j) Feast of Herold (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531), k) Sampson and Delilah (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529-1530, Metropolitian Museum of Art)

Most of Cranach’s women wear a version of a snood with a majority of them pearled or gemmed. Figure 3 shows examples of the different styles. 3a and 3c have a flat band with simple embroidery while 3b and 3d show a black ribbon or tie to secure the snood onto the head. As discussed earlier the lack of band in 3b may be due to the fact the snood net and the woven fabric underneath are separate items. In Figure 3d, the snood is not woven but rather a decorative brocade fabric. This may in fact be a bag of brocade tied onto the head with a black ribbon though it is difficult to find evidence of gathering along the bands on any of Cranach’s Ladies.
As my snood has a crocheted band which does not sit close to the skull (it’s stretched out a little) I will attached a band of cloth so it can be fastened on securely. This with have the added advantage that I can leave small gaps which will allow me to slide bobby pins between the layers of cloth and surreptiously secure the snood to my head.
Cranach’s Ladies had many different styles of snood band. Figure 3c and 3e show a common leafy embroidered pattern in black. Figure 3a and 3k have a chain pattern that is utilised in many paintings. The snood in Figure 3f has a Latin saying picked out in pearls while Figures 3g and 3j use pearls in a simple geometric design. I rather like this style so will use pearls and garnets to create a simple geometric pattern.

I have already decorated the net of the snood with pearls and garnets (Figure 4). There are multiple ways of decorating the net shown in Cranach’s paintings. Figure 3c shows pearl work at the junctions in the net while most of the others have a net made of pearls (Figure 3f and 3g) or what appears to be gold spangles (Figure 3j and 3k). Figure 3j also shows the junctions of the nets being decorated with gems in gold settings. As I do not have the money to afford to decorate every strand of the net with pearls I chose to highlight the junctions of the net. I wanted to use some garnets as well as the dress I plan on wearing this headwear with is a deep pink colour. These gems were sewn onto the snood using silk thread after the snood was constructed. Next time I might use a thinner thread to create the snood and drill out some of the pearls so they can be placed during construction.

Figure 4: The cream snood is decorated with alternating pearls and garnets. It stands out well against unbound red-hair.

To finish this project I need to line the snood with an orange or gold cloth. These will be sewn together both along the net and at the band. The band will be decorated in geometric designs using cream colored pearls and garnets.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Saxon Mk1

So Atlantia November Crown (2011) has come and gone. Since I'd managed to kill all of my good dresses while teaching medieval history or scorched the good under-dresses doing who knows what, I was stuck with the typical girlie problem - I had nothing to wear!. Well, that's a lie but I would have frozen in a saree and I thought wearing my slopping-around-the-campsite-viking garb wasn't respectful of a crown event. So I pulled out one of my UFO's and decided to complete it.

I've been working on this Cranach dress (after the dresses depicted by Lucas Cranach the Elder) for about 5 years. I'll admit, when I started this I didn't do much research. I found some images and fixed them in my head rather than actually studying the construction methods. With some help from Ms Dawn (Montjoy) I managed to get the chest section in mostly right and I finished the sleeves with some scrap I received from Bryces mother way back when.

It was in a wearable state for crown but now I've done some actual research, some things need to be done to finish / fix this outfit.

  • The key to any good outfit is accessories. I need to create some headwear, make myself some jewelery and work out a pouch or token storage option (sometimes the boyfriend doesn't have pockets either).
  • I need to actually put some puffs in the puff and slash sleeve sections (I had the fabric ready to go for crown but ran out of time).
  • I need to exchange half the clips holding the breast band in for pants clips. The pants clips sit flatter and have a little lump helping them lock into place. They seem more secure
  • I need to make the skirt fastening more secure as this system only works when there is tension on the band and doesn't like it when I slouch as I have a tendency to do. I got stabbed alot my the pin I used to ensure my dress didn't gape
  • The breast band sits too low (top is just above nipple line). I need to raise it by about an inch. This will have the added benefit of pulling in the shoulders of the gown so they don't slip.
  • Once the chest is raised I'll then need to extend the lacing section of the gown.
Things learnt so far:
  • I'm not very good at sleeves (but that's nothing new)
  • Fully make the bodice before attaching the skirt as tightening the lacing pulls the bodice and skirt up higher on the hips.
  • Temporarily lace up dress then set the breast band.
  • Overlapping knife pleats are a pain to sew (cartridge will work better given my waist-hip ratio)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

UFO complete - Caul

I have finally finished one of my UFO's that has been sitting around for years. (since early 2005). It's needed the brim finished for quite some time and so, while watching the Chalice of the Sun God tourney in Ponte Alto I completed it (phew).

This is a 'fancy' caul. A late period hat typically worn on the back of the head. I think I've made the band too wide. Below is an image of me wearing it (unfinished) at St Beocca's Eve Feast (April 9, 2005) with Master Piers of Malmesbury.

I cannot remember all of the references I used for this one as it was LONG ago. However this is one I do recall. I really liked the pearl work here which inspired the clusters of pearls on the original. It's earlier than the other references I used, but it's the only one that sticks in my memory.

Lorenzo Costa, c1490  Portrait of A Woman with Pearl Necklace