Sunday, August 16, 2015

Steppes Artisan Competition 2015

Photo courtesy of Jamie Snow

Today's Steppes Artisan event was epic! It was wonderful to see all the amazing things that our populace is learning and creating. It's scary to put your craft out there, not knowing if it will be praised, or criticized, or both. This was my second year entering in this competition, and each time it has been an incredible, rich experience. A fantastic opportunity to tap in to the deep well of knowledge and wisdom that our members represent.

For those who were unable to make it, here's a quick tour of my display, with links to the relevant projects included for those of you who would like more information.

So here's my table up close! From the left you have a complete outfit (again on Mom's duct-tape double) which includes pieces from the following posts:

You can also see the leather and wood journal I created to hold my documentation, as well as a selection of tablet woven pieces that demonstrates my growth in this medium over time. There are simple chevrons and diamonds in silk and linen - even some woven with linen and silk sewing thread. Once I became comfortable with the chevrons, I moved on to patterns which have survived in the archeological record. In this image, you can see a narrow linen band woven in a pattern from the Oseberg Ship Burial (around 834 A.D.) and a companion piece that used the same pattern but with a tiny color rotation on a single card.

While the goal of the competition was to show "a diversity of endeavor" in a body of work competition, I wanted to make sure that the pieces I chose to display followed a certain theme. In this case, it was to come as close as possible to a complete Viking kit. Not just the outfit, but the accessories which transform it from a costume to an actual representation. The "diversity of endeavor" then came naturally. To make these pieces I had to learn to hand sew, to dye fabric, to weave via rigid heddle and tablet weaving, to do some leather work, and even some wood carving.

In the middle of the table, we move on to the piece I am the most excited about: My Hedeby Harbor wooden-handled bag. I wanted to reach a whole new level with this piece, and I really hope you'll check out the blog post for this project, because I am so proud of it. In this image you can see some beeswax candles, which represent some baby steps into a new craft.

On the loom is another tablet-weaving project, and probably the most difficult one to date. I've started another band style from a period piece: the Snartemo II, from about 500 A.D. in the southern part of Norway. The original is wool, but my allergies force me to do my tablet-weaving in linen or silk, so I started my band in black and white silk. The version of the reconstructed pattern that I found used only two holes of my four-holed weaving cards, which means that with every turn I have to fight my cards to keep them in formation. I did hear a rather fascinating alternative format today, from one of our fabulous artisans, and I will be doing more experimenting with this style in the future.

Also on the table are a couple very small thread reels I carved out of walnut, and a Viking cap. I started doing the research for that project back in 2003 when I was spending a semester in London. I took a weekend train to York and saw the original silk cap on display. I'm fighting with the actual silk version of the cap right now, but I was able to include a linen version which was much more fun to make. More information - including an email I received from a gentleman at the Museum of York - is in the cap's blog post, which you can access with the link below.

And, finally, the right side of my display is is devoted to my recent experiments with period dye, specifically madder root. I kept wool samples as I went, although I did throw in some scrap linen to see what it would do.

I had two sources for my madder, which allowed me to do some compare and contrast. In the green ceramic cup you can see the last of the 4oz of fresher, fairly uniformly chopped roots I ordered from AcrossGenerations on Etsy. The round glass jar contains part of the 4-year-old 1lb package from Aurora Silk that my friend Emma gave me. It contained a greater variety of root sizes, from the almost hair-thin to chunks that were bigger than my thumb.

It was fascinating to see the difference in color that they yielded. The younger, more uniform pieces gave me my brighter oranges, while the older batch with the wider variety gave me some lovely, rich browner colors. I can't wait to get my hands on a madder plant and try using shaved roots of the really fresh stuff for vivid reds. You can see more information about the project - and more pictures! - by visiting the blog post:

But the absolute best part was to be called into court, surrounded by some of the best artists and craftspeople I know, and be chosen as Artisan. Thank you all, so very much, for this incredible honor!

Photo courtesy of Martha Schreffler

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