Fair Annie: Pretty as a Liability

The cultural desire for women to be forever young and fair comes at a price, especially when a couple faces a mid-life crisis.  The man (who was distinctly the more powerful of the two) might decide to find a way to cast off the old wife for someone new and younger.  This certainly is a main theme in the life …

Belle Femme: Beauty, Transition, and the Dawn of the 16th Century

What makes a woman beautiful?  The answer to this can certainly be quite different across cultures and eras.  Here I’ll explore the changing standards of female beauty and dress during that interesting cusp between the late medieval period and the Renaissance. Fashions certainly had their roller coaster ride across the medieval period.  Waists were loose, then fitted, here low, there …

Willie O’ Winsbury

Documented as Child Ballad #100, with many variants, this border ballad has strong Scottish roots.  Through my research, I found Winsbury to have been a Scottish clan name, though I could not find an actual location (like a town or castle with the name Winsbury).  If you know more about the Winbsury story, I would love to hear about it! …

Tapestry Gown: Fabrics on Display

I was intrigued by the lustrous gowns displayed in tapestry, not only from the weaver’s perspective but also from the costumer’s perspective.  I started by choosing an era somewhat earlier than the Unicorn Tapestries (mid 1400’s), where fashion is shown quite resplendently in the “Devonshire Hunting Tapestries.” In this period, the waist was high, with long, draping lines especially in …

Second Study–Fabrics

My second study when preparing for the “Deceiving the Hunters” tapestry project focused on the representation of different kinds of cloth as draped on the human figure.  Because so many tapestries of this era depict human figures, and most of these figures are sumptuously dressed in the fashions of their day, working realistic textiles in tapestry became an important skill …

A Rich Man’s Eden: Gardens in Tapestry

There’s no mistaking Europe’s love of its gardens.  While on a study travel program through St. Olaf College in 2008, I had the chance to stroll through some beautifully kept estate gardens from the 16th Century, with their peculiar “follies,” water features, and of course the roses with stems as big around as my arm.  We could only imagine such …

First Study–Verdure

Before embarking on the full-sized tapestry project, I knew that I needed to hone some skills and experiment.  My previous tapestry work had been much more simplistic in detail and shading, and there were two areas I wanted to give special focus–verdure (especially leaves) and fabrics (especially velvet). For the first, I started with an image detail from “The Hunt …

The Maiden, the Unicorn, and Symbolic Tranfer

The ancient ties of the maiden and the unicorn (as discussed in the earlier post “Who is She?–The Lady and the Unicorn”) stayed as an amazingly stable narrative from early times through “The Hunt of the Unicorn” tapestry series.  The balance between the wild and the domestic, coupled with the gentle lure of the lovely maiden, all play their traditional …

What Makes Tapestry Unique?

The word “tapestry” can often be used with very broad strokes in our language–from implying that something is colorful, comprised of many parts, or decorative.  But the word tapestry is actually much more specific.  In fact, it denotes a very small subset of textiles.  I’ll deconstruct the confusion in this post, with helpful illustrations.  As someone who is a weaver …

Visit to Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

It was six years after visiting the Cloisters that I was able to be close to medieval and Renaissance tapestries again.  During a trip to New England to regenerate and reconnect, we buzzed through Boston to visit family.  On top of my wish list of places to stop was the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, which is renowned for its extensive …