Sunday, 24 April 2016

Planning the next project - Islamic filigree book covers

For those who've been following the saga of the stick purse/leather dyes over the years, you'll know I tend to pick major projects that will take me several years to complete. That's largely because they usually require me to learn new skills along the way. Since the stick-purse is nominally done (I say nominally since I plan to keep fiddling with the dyes as a background activity), I need a long-term new project.

I'm now officially at the starting line to start what I am dubbing "The crazy, what the heck are you thinking, Islamic filigree book cover project" (Trademark pending). I'll call it the CFP for short (Crazy Filigree Project).

I've contacted the Curator for the Islamic collection at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, where I first saw these crazy books. She's shared with me a paper she wrote on how they were done, along with some really close up pictures of some examples. While the pictures are super helpful, they've also showed me that this project is even tougher than I thought. Not only did they do cut-work/filigree patterns in the leather that are typically ornate for the illumination of that period, but there's leather tooling on the leather, in spaces that are only a few millimeters wide. I have no idea how they managed it, but its scary fine detail.

Here's an example from another source. This is a book from the 15th century. The area that's blue has actually been cut out of the leather and is showing the silk or paper that was placed underneath. The red lines that swirl through the blue is the leather lacework pattern that's left behind from the cutwork.

So, lots to do:
  • Research more on period Islamic/Persian book styles
  • Acquire both bookbinding equipment/supplies and knowledge
  • Work on my filigree and bookbinding skills
  • Develop filigree pattern for the cover(s)
  • Fail several times, probably by cutting the filigree wrong, or slipping with the knife and cutting off chunks of filigree
  • Swear a lot
  • Figure out if I want to add to the complexity by using my period dyes (I'd put money on yes cause I'm that kind of crazy)
I'l probably need to work on this in stages, like I did for the stick-purse and dyes, so several rounds of entries at QPT before the final thing is entered at Kingdom A&S.

I think for this year my goal will be to do the background research, and to work on my bookbinding skills. So for this fall's QPT, I'll try to make my first complete leatherbound book, which I can enter and get advice.

If I'm really productive I might be able to do some sample filigree work on a flat piece of leather, maybe as a scroll blank or something. I'm not going to try to get to that small a scale for my first attempts, but it's a cool enough technique that I bet some people would love it, especially Middle Eastern personas.

The other thing I could do is develop another round of badge patterns but using cutwork instead of standard leather tooling. I bet those would look sharp.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Thoughts about Future Kingdom A&S Entries (Part 2)

Here's part two of my post about Kingdom A&S. This one's just about what I've learned about why I enter Kingdom A&S and what I'm looking for in the process. I'm posting it because I figure I can't be the only one with these feelings and so hopefully it will help other people work their way through it. Happy to discuss here or on Facebook or even in person.

If you read part one of this post, you might ask if it was such a good day, the caliber of entries was high and my project went over well, why wasn't I jazzed following the event. That's an excellent questions.

Here's what I've figured out, and where I'm going from here.

As an A&S Minister I was super excited to see people geeking out about their work and being able to show people what they can do. And I can safely say that my feeling off had nothing to do with any expectations personally about prizes or awards because the feeling started pretty much as soon as I was done my judging. Hopefully it didn't overflow into the discussions I was having with other people, I tried really hard to be encouraging and to provide good comments.

I don't enter these things to win prizes (good thing too since I'm just not at that level compared to some of the really awesome artisans in the Kingdom. In the past, I've entered experimental projects like the leather dyes and the stick-purse, which have generated really good discussions and those have been the ones that I've been really excited about.

So after thinking about it for a while, here's what I came up with: I need to be more selective about what I enter into QPT and Kingdom A&S type events.

1) This year I felt like I SHOULD enter since the event was in our barony and I'm the Baronial A&S Minister, so I put together a project because of that, rather than because I was super excited by the research. I thought I came up with an interesting concept by recreating my original project from five years ago, but it still wasn't the same caliber as my previous two projects from a research perspective. The bottom line is it felt more like I was just showing what I had already learned, rather than actually learning anything new.

2) I think the other thing I've noticed is that people at A&S tend to gravitate towards stuff they know. I do it too. I may look at the fibre arts or illumination projects and say "oooo, that's impressive", but I'm unlikely to stop and have an in-depth discussion with the artisan because it's not something I know. I know enough to tell between an advanced effort and a beginner effort, but that's about it. Same thing goes for leather projects. There just aren't as many people interested in leatherwork in Ealdormere as most other arts, and so I don't find many people stop by to chat (unless its something so obviously awesome like Lucrece's book that everyone wants to see it). They see shoes or a purse and can appreciate the aesthetic from the perspective that we all need accessories to go with our garb, but the geeking out doesn't seem to happen as much and I think that's where I get my fun out of the event.


Given the above, here's what I think I've decided:

1) At least for A&S (QPT may be different), I think I'm going to try to avoid both entering and judging at the same event. I think judging entries on the day tied up so much time I wasn't able to be around to chat about my project with people, and since that's where I seem to get my energy from I think that its important to dedicate some time to that on the day. Given the following points that probably means I'll be entering fewer projects and judging more often at this point. I think that's OK.

2) When I'm deciding to enter a project, it needs to be something I'm going to learn something new out of. So that means either I start entering beginner projects in other areas, or enter different kinds of leather projects. That also means I need to work in advance much more than I did this year, since its going to involve more hard core research and skills development.

3) If I'm entering leather items, they need to be projects that add to the collective knowledge base like the stick-purse and the dyes, rather than just showing off what I can do. I also think these types of projects cross the boundaries better so more people will find them interesting, rather than just people who do leatherworking.

4) Tied to point #2, I need to take advantage of QPT like I did with the stick-purse and leather dyes. Use the full A&S cycle by entering mock-ups at QPT and final projects at A&S, incorporating the input I received.
So, thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Do you have a different perspective? Readers here have been seeing my various projects for years. You see what I get super excited about. Does this sound right, or am I thinking about it wrong?