Saturday, July 23, 2016

Other Jewelry and Poseys

Lot 1, 07 July 2009 Sotheby's London

And this might be the last post of inspirational material for the Design Contest.  There was a Dutch casket which had these two items inside and they are just toooo wonderful not to show.  They blur the edge between needlework and jewelry.  The poesy on the right side is full of spangles, gold wire, smooched purls and gold wire wrapped parchments along with garnets and pearls.  Then there is the holder which is the same expanded bullion around silk wrapped wire.  

The object on the left is made from silk wrapped parchments in bow bunches, reminds one of the garlands on the tops of caskets!  

These are examples of late Renaissance style of jewelry that focused on bows as can be seen on the necklace from the V&A collection.  

Now these examples are something to think about for the contest with their bullion wrapped silk - quite the yummy casket toy!  Check out the details below, but the website for Sotheby's has a really great magnification of these two pieces.

Lot 1, 07 July 2009 Sotheby's London

Lot 1, 07 July 2009 Sotheby's London

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stags and Dogs

National Museum of Scotland  A.1961.502B-D

At this point, I have only seen the one dog in the National Museum of Scotland collection.  He is about 8 cm in length.  But I am assuming that there must be a few more out there.  It seems that once you see one item that is intriguing like these, you find more.  It also lends some credence to the idea that these were either sold or class projects - otherwise we wouldn't find so many similar objects.   

So it shouldn't be a surprise that there are more stag's out there too.  I found two in a very interesting and unique shadowbox in a private collection.  I had seen the auction picture of this piece somewhere (I try to keep records, but in this case I think it was in someone's personal library and I just can't find it online!!  If you know of it - send me a scan).  So I was quite excited when I turned the corner on a tour of a collector's home and found the original!  While I was allowed to take pictures for my research, I don't have permission to share them so I will do my best to describe my drawing (which is quite lacking talent!).  

The shadowbox was about 3" deep and over a foot tall.  The top surface was lined with a geometric wrapped card and another one was along the bottom of the back of the shadowbox.  The rest of the background was a traditional late 17th/early 18th century floral vase filled with flowers; all worked in detached needlelace.  The urn itself was blue and had a holie point voided date of 1712.  MB were the initials on either side.

The two sides were fabricated out of flowers with leaves and petals cut from sleaven silk and glued in place.  Shells and spanish moss filled the bottom along with three small vases with sleaven silk flowers.  And the piece-de-reistance, two wire stags made from silver bullions! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bullion Birds

Swan from Martha Edlin's Casket T.449-1990

When looking at the wheat sheafs, we saw two drawings of birds done in the same technique.  I love the idea of the multicolored birds in this method!  Well, there is a bird that exists in a collection - it is a toy from Martha Edlin's cabinet and we got to see it last year.

Note that it has lacets attached too! Hint Hint (Contest...)

This bird or swan is cream colored and looks very similar to the drawn bird on the right side of the illustration from Seligman and Hughes book (1930s).  But we know that this particular bird is not the same as it came in the Edlin collection, passed for generations in the same family.  So somewhere out there is another that might even be in multiple colors!

Plate from Domestic Needlework by Seligman and Hughes, listed as owned by Sir William Lawrence, Bart.
Looking at my research pictures of the swan, the body is covered in cream woven silk fabric and the feathers are wrapped in cream silk thread.  Then the entire piece is wrapped in expanded gilt bullion.  There are black and white stumpwork eyes attached (the iris is white).  The size of this piece is substantial, it fits in the palm of your hand at 8 cm x 10 cm long.  The legs are a thick brass wire with the bullion around them.  While we can't expand the wings - it looks similar to that in the drawn picture in configuration.  There is black silk fabric for the beak as well.

Just imagine our favorite birds from the 17th century being worked this way!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Another Pansy Poesy

Victoria and Albert Museum T.144.1934
In searching for something else for my blog discussions (I routinely troll sites looking for private collection pieces that likely ended up in public ones 80 years later), I found a 'dress ornament' made from lacets in the V&A collection.  The poesy of pansies is obviously made from lacets, I just wish we could see the colors it is made in.

I bet if we combed through many other collections, we would find many more of these casket toys (a general term for personal items that have been found associated with the embroidered boxes).


Friday, July 15, 2016

Wheat Covered in Bullion

Wheat Sheaf, Royal Collection RCIN 37353
Wheat... this is the most often found item made in this technique so far.  There is one at Holyrood Castle in Edinburg in the Mary Queen of Scotts Cabinet, laying near a casket in fact.

Museum of London Ornament 37.12/7
Then there is the one in the Museum of London collection
with the snake wrapped around it.

Another resides in a private collection with a rust colored squirrel on it as part of the assembly.  The squirel is also made from the same technique with an assume wire armature and padding/silk wrapping and then a gilt bullion pulled around it.  I like this pieces because the long gold thread strands that emanate from the wheat have spangles on the ends.
Close up of Wheat Sheaf

A fourth sheaf is in another private collection and came with two lacet flower posies, a silk purl rosemary stem, and some accessories like in the Martha Edlin collection as well.  This one is just glorious and can give you just a peak into what they all must have looked like originally.

Then there is the fifth!  Yes - five of these that I have found described or have seen.  This one is also drawn in the Seligman and Hughes book and was once in the collection of Sir William Lawrence, Bart. It shows a sheaf of wheat that has a bird in what looks like the same technique standing on it.  It is listed as a hair ornament.  Next to it is a separate bird - to be discussed in a later blog).  I bet the bird was just stunning!

So why wheat?  Wheat is a symbol of Ceres, the grain goddess and is often shown with allegories of virtue and vice.  Certainly the snake wrapped around the sheaf could stand for that!  And the glittering presentation is something that runs through jewelry design for centuries, wheat sheafs have been made as part of diamond tiaras, pins and other accessories in diamonds.
Plate from Seligman and Hughes, Domestic Needlework (owned by Sir William Lawrence, Bart.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Making a Bullion Snake

Making these wire animals aren't very difficult, if just comes down to making the armature out of a thick wire (20-28 gauge).  Once the wire is bent into the desired shape, you can use cotton floss to wrap the structure to the desired thickness.  While I have seen 'wood' listed in some museum entries for pieces I haven't seen or touched in person, the close pictures I have taken all suggest that wire that is padded is the technique for them as the wire peeks out or the structure has give.  Certainly the snake is all wire.

I have tried wrapping the structure with wool roving but found that it was so fuzzy that the next layer of Soie Ovale was difficult to put on without it disappearing into the wool layers.  Strips of wool just didn't give the smoothness I was looking for either.  I could see doing this with felted animals that were very compacted.

Once the padded wire was made, I wrapped it with Soie Ovale.  and then affixed the bullion to the
silk and started wrapping while I pulled the bullion open.  The originals weren't perfectly wrapped because it was just hard to do so, so give yourself some slack!  You don't notice when it is sitting on the table!

The more expanded the bullion, the easier it is to see the color that you have wrapped below.  I suspect that the hound from the National Museum of Scotland has embroidered details on the wrapped and stuffed form to make the black spots.  (He also has lacet ears!).

Once the entire snake is finished, you can bend it carefully around a pencil to shape it like the originals.

I truly can't wait to see what everyone comes up with using this technique!!


Yesterday's picture was a bit squished!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bullion Animals - Casket Toys

There are a series of small animals that have been found in caskets that almost all share the same making technique.  A wire armature is padded and then wrapped with silk thread (or fabric) and a final finish of expanded silver or gilt bullion is wrapped around the entire animal, making it glitter.

The effect is quite charming and you can just imagine how cute these were and then the little girls making them to play with.

National Museum of Scotland, A.1961.502C (Snake), A.1961.502B (Stag) and A.1961.502D (Hound).

Quite a few snakes exist, including the one in the National Museum of Scotland collection of casket toys.  The snake is silver bullion that is expanded an wrapped around a wire that is wrapped with wool or cotton and then silk floss in yellow and pink stripes.  In this case there might have been a black silk thread going through the silver bullion, but it is degrading away.  The snake is about 11 cm in length and 3 cm in width max with the body about as wide as a pencil.

Domestic Needlework by Seligman and Hughes.  
Adam and Eve formerly of Mr. Percival Griffiths Collection
I have seen snakes listed in collections as well as around a sheaf of wheat in the Museum of London as well as a drawing of a piece in a private collection (in the 1930s).  I got to wondering why about the snake.  I mean, the stag and dog I totally get.  But a snake?  It certainly makes more sense when thinking about a scene of Adam and Eve... but why by itself?  Then I started trying to figure out the technique to make one of these animals and the snake was the natural first step you would try to make something! So I think the snake was the learning piece.

Museum of London Ornament ID No. 32.21/7  (1665-1699)
The Museum of London piece has some similarity to the National Museum of Scotland snake; it is about the same size and it is covered in silver bullion with blue and pink stripes in silk underneath.  But the mouth seems to be open like the snake in the drawing above and the wheat that it is wrapped around (Note those lacets, I suspect that they were actually what is wrapping the snake) has a lobed bottom to make it stand up - just like the tree in the drawing.

(Note - if ANYONE knows where this Adam and Eve pieces is - fess up!!).  My guess is that it is a velvet pillow with 3-D ceylon snakes on the green velvet and you can recognize the techniques for the leaves and apples... just hope someone gets inspired by that drawing!

While the Museum of London record says that the snake is around a tree, I don't agree as it looks exactly like five wheat sheafs that I have seen personally.  I'll bring the wheat up in another blog post.  There is one tree-like version that is also in the Museum of London.    (From both of these we get an idea of how the trees on the Royal Collection Casket stand up).

A close up view of my snake example
So back to the is a close up of my snake.  Which is now a Needlework Nibble!!  So learn this technique by trying out a snake and then see what you can extend the idea to for the Design Contest! It really is pretty easy and the effect just can't be explained in pictures as the expanded bullion just glitters so much.

It has been suggested that some of the wheat pieces with animals (there are more to show you!) were hair ornaments and I can believe that as they were so pretty and sparkly.

I have made two snakes!  One in silver and the other gold.