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When I was in the 7th grade I found a caterpillar at school. I took it to my teacher Miss McGowan who told me that it was a Mourning Cloak and that I could feed it mulberry leaves. I remember it’s spiky ‘fur’ and the way it’s sticky little feet felt on my fingers. I took it home, put it in a glass box with a dirt floor, a stick to climb on and a screen top.
On April 1st, it spun a chrysallis! I was really excited and told my best friend. She didn’t believe me at first (April Fool’s Day, of course).
A couple of weeks later, on Easter Sunday morning, the butterfly started to emerge from it’s chrysallis. I was up early with my Mom and we sat on the back porch steps together and watched it. It came out from it’s protective outer case, unfurled it’s wings and after they had dried, it fluttered away into the Spring morning.
My family didn’t go to church, but had a sort of underlying spiritual awareness. I remember my Mom saying that morning what a miracle we had witnessed and that this is the true meaning of Easter: rebirth, resurrection, new life.
It was a special thing to share with her and I feel that in those moments watching the butterfly emerge transformed and through the words spoken by my Mom, I learned about the deepest meaning of Easter.
I looked into the symbolism of the Mourning Cloak butterfly. It is also known as Harbinger of Spring, being one of the first butterflies to emerge, and as the Camberwell Beauty in Britain. These butterflies live for about a year, overwinter as an adult in a hibernaculum and reappear in springtime to mate.
The name Mourning Cloak is due to the appearance of the dorsal surface of the wings, said to resemble the traditional cloak worn by those in mourning, which was sometimes draped over the casket of the deceased. This is very poignant and meaningful to me. My Mom died from cancer in 1980, four years after the Easter of the Mourning Cloak. As a family we didn’t cope very well and never went through a mourning period together. I suppose we each dealt with her death in our own way. It was such a long time ago and although I’ve done a lot over the years to come to terms with it, at times I still feel cloaked in grief.
This beautiful wool flannel Mourning Cloak is from Twin Roses Designs.
Nymphalis antiope – The generic name is from the Greek nymphe, which was the name given in both Roman and Greek mythology to any of a number of minor nature goddesses who were young and beautiful, living in rivers, mountains, or trees. The reference here is to the goddess-like sylvan nature of the Mourning Cloak. Antiope was a noted beauty of Greek mythology who was seduced by Zeus in the form of a Satyr. She bore two sons, Amphion and Zethos, the founders of the Greek city of Thebes. The species name antiope creates a tautonym, as both of the scientific names of the Mourning Cloak refer to its embodiment of mythological beauty.
This May, when I was in London I visited Liberty, a long-established department store in Regent Street in the West End shopping district. Liberty is one of my favourite places to shop in the world.
The first shop was opened in 1875 by Arthur Lazenby Liberty, selling ornaments, fabric and objets d’art from Japan and the East. Within a decade, Liberty became the most fashionable place to shop in London and Liberty fabrics were used for both clothing and furnishings.
In 1884 Liberty introduced the costume department into the Regent Street store, directed by Edward William Godwin (1833–86). Godwin was a distinguished architect and a founding member of the Costume Society in 1882. He and Arthur Liberty created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris.
This garment with its full sleeves and long, flowing silhouette owes much of its inspiration to Pre-Raphaelite dress. The gown consists of a flared front panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back. The front panel has a patch pocket on the right side which is hidden by the deep plush edging. The puffed sleeves, wide cuffs and velvet edgings are inspired by plain, loose 16th century gowns. The sunflower and pomegranate motif on the fabric was a recurring design on objects associated with the Aesthetic Movement. The subtle gold and brown tones were popular ‘artistic’ colours used in both dress and furnishing fabrics during the 1890s.
During the 1890s Arthur Lasenby Liberty built strong relationships with many famous English designers. Many of these designers practised the artistic styles known as Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, and Arthur Liberty helped develop Art Nouveau through his encouragement of such designers. The company became associated with this new style, to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty, after the London shop.
The current emporium was designed by Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall. They designed the building at the height of the 1920s fashion for Tudor revival. In 1924 Liberty as we know it today was constructed from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The frontage on Great Marlborough Street is the same length as the Hindustan. It is a Grade II* listed building.
The shop was engineered around three light wells that formed the main focus of the building. Each of these wells was surrounded by smaller rooms to create a homely feel. Many of the rooms had fireplaces and some still exist. The wells created a wonderful environment in which to drape exotic rugs and quilts, whilst the smaller rooms allowed the display of smaller items.
Everything about Liberty is beautiful. From the exterior . . . . .
To the interior and all of the exquisite things for sale.
Even the lifts have something beautiful to gaze upon.
And the views are special.
One of my favourite Art Deco buildings in England is Palladium House, also referred to as Ideal House or the National Radiator building. It is a gorgeous black granite clad building, with exotic Moorish-Persian style enamel on bronze polychrome, by the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft. Built in 1928 by Raymond Hood and Gordon Jeeves, it is an exuberant and exotic fantasy, a tantalizing taste of Babylon in London.
Anyhow, I have been wanting to start making clothes (aka wearable art) for a very, very long time. But to be honest, I’ve had very, very cold feet. Even though I can undauntedly make the most exquisite pieces of fibre art, I’ve never made an article of clothing! My Mom and her mother were amazing seamstresses, so perhaps I was a bit intimidated. Anyhow, in May, I bought some beautiful Liberty fabric to make skirts from.
I’ve been casting about for a dressmaking class for a few years now, to no avail. In March, I bought a very simple elastic waist skirt pattern from Meme, a tiny, cute as a button fabric shop in Exeter. I went in to ask about classes and the owner Katrina suggested I just have a go with a simple pattern. So I bought one of hers for £3, and some elastic. I have my 2 sewing machines at home and a Baby Lock Imagine overlocker which my very romantic husband bought me for Valentine’s Day. (Thank you again, my darling!)
It took me six months to summon up my courage. So today, which is the first day of my late summer hols, I made my first garment!
I am so proud of it! I wore it down to the Co-op when I got some wine for dinner. When Steve rang to say he won’t be home in time for dinner :-( I said ‘Guess what I made today!” and that I’ll be up and wearing my new skirt when he gets back around 11pm. It was very quick to make, once I figured out how to thread (and re-thread) my overlocker and figured out which stitch to use (4 thread overlock) for the seam. That took about 90 minutes! I also had to translate Katrina’s pattern into Imperial from Metric. Oh, and discover what seam allowance non-quilters use (3/8″). I did cut my fabric with a rotary cutter and mat. This old dog don’t need to learn too many new tricks at once!
So it was tiring, but FUN! I felt (and feel) such a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know what the fabric pattern is called though. It’s not in Liberty’s current Tana Lawn floral fabric collection. (I bought it on sale.) The closest I found is this one.
The fabric is such a perfect design and colour for this time of year. It’s the last great “Hurrah!” of summertime, with the mellow golds, warm greens and greys, deep blue and a scattering of rich reds of an Indian Summer. While I was sewing the fabric, I loved noticing all of the little perfect details – the tiny flower petals and stems, stamens and details on the leaves.
I’m hoping for some Indian Summer days over the next fortnight that I have off. Tomorrow, I plan to make something wonderful for dinner from these home grown tomatoes I was gifted. And who knows? Perhaps another skirt will magically appear!
Info sources –
Yesterday, I held a Mask Making workshop for four lovely men. There were two visual artists, one writer and one psychologist. They are all interested in new experiences and inner exploration.
I plan my workshops within a framework which gives the day structure, but remains fluid in response to each unique group of people. I’m lucky enough to live in a large enough and flexible space that I can hold these in my home. I begin by welcoming participants with a hot drink and giving people time to arrive and meet everyone. We gather to introduce ourselves and say a little, or a lot, about where we’ve come from and what we anticipate from the day. Next we watch a DVD I’ve put together of masks in their six primary functions – protection, performance, disguise, ritual, entertainment and decoration. I begin with this quote from Howard Gayton, co-founder of Ophaboom, an English physical theatre company:
“The act of stripping away, of diving into areas of being that are normally not accessed, is not only facilitated by the mask, but it is how the mask works. Masks demand of us honesty, a reaching into our depths. To understand masks we need to be able to hold paradox; how can something that covers, that hides, reveal so much? Masks have been used for millennia by traditional societies as shamanic tools, to aid individuals in reaching altered states of consciousness; in other words to travel into their own selves in order to bring back a boon to their society. In our case, this boon is wisdom. We open ourselves up, we struggle with our internal selves, and our aim is to bring back wisdom.”
We have quite interesting discussions and observations about the interface quality of masks, eg, between the wearer and other people, between one’s inner and outer worlds. Masks have an inherent ‘performance’ quality – the empty form of a mask, though sometimes powerful in its own right, calls for a wearer and an audience.
We begin the practical part of the day by going ‘under the mask’. I use ModRoc Plaster of Paris bandages, which take about 30 minutes to harden enough to remove. I generally have a helper and we keep the room calm and quiet, making sure people are warm and comfortable. Besides being very relaxing, people may take an inner journey, perhaps travelling to meet the Other behind their mask. Even though this is a relatively ‘passive’ part of the experience, I have found (personally and through observation) that it is very valuable. Some people share imagery of being in a tomb, of a death, perhaps some sadness; it is quite a profound experience to have one’s features erased, if only for a short while.
I give people the option, where time permits, of applying the mask.
Once the masks have come off, they go into a low oven to dry while we have some lunch. After about 90 mimutes, the masks are decorated.
Being two-sided, some masks held hidden mystery.
It’s always great at the end of the day to see people donning and posing with their masks.
I am constantly amazed by the diversity and individuality of people’s creativity.
One of my best Christmas presents last year was a Sony Walkman digital media player. I’ve finally put all of my CDs and the videos I’ve made onto it. I thought for a few minutes about buying a case for it, then remembered a magical card case I made a couple of years ago from some silk fabric I printed one of my Southbank graffiti photos onto. It’s a pretty perfect fit. I put my earphones in a aluminum soap box from Lush to complete the urban vibe.
When I want to change my music, I just pull the strings and up it pops.
The back looks good too.
I just finished transferring Musical Depreciation: Original Recordings by Spike Jones and His City Slickers onto my mp3 player. I first heard Spike Jones on the Dr. Demento Show in the 1970′s and got my first Jones LP ‘Thank You Music Lovers’ when I was ten. Incidentally, this album cover was illustrated by Jack Davis, one of MAD Magazines very talented cartoonists.
Lindley Armstrong “Spike” Jones (December 14, 1911 – May 1, 1965) was a popular musician and bandleader specializing in performing satirical arrangements of popular songs. Ballads and classical works receiving the Jones treatment would be punctuated with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and ridiculous vocals. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, the band recorded under the title Spike Jones and his City Slickers and toured the USA and Canada under the title The Musical Depreciation Revue. My parents went to hear them play at the opening of a bowling alley some time in the 50′s.
Here’s the City Slicker’s take on “Laura” a popular song composed by David Raksin in 1945, with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer.
Winstead Sheffield “Doodles” Weaver signed on in 1946 as a member of Spike Jones’ City Slickers band and toured the country with the Spike Jones Music Depreciation Revue until 1951. Weaver specialized in horse and auto racing routines, delivering rapid-fire spoonerisms that galvanized such fan-favorite routines as “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “The William Tell Overture,” and “Dance of the Hours.” Weaver also co-starred from 1947 to 1949 on The Spike Jones Radio Show, there honing his popular horse character Feetlebaum. However, his relentlessly cornball material was best enjoyed in small doses, and Jones used him sparingly. Moreover, Weaver suffered from alcoholism, and after he took a live television routine too far, Jones let him go in 1951, although he returned to the fold often in the years leading up to the bandleader’s 1965 death.
Another MAD connection, Weaver was a contributor to the early magazine, e.g. Doodles Weaver’s strict copyediting of the Gettysburg Address, advising Lincoln to change “fourscore and seven” to eighty-seven (“Be specific”), noting that there are six “dedicates” (“Study your Roget”), wondering if “proposition” isn’t misspelled and, finally exasperated, urging the writer to omit “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as “superfluous.”
Here’s Doodles spooonerizing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”.
Finally, Spike Jones & his City Slickers star in the short film Cocktails for Two (1945) a year after recording their comedy version. The romantic ballad, originally written to evoke an intimate romantic rendezvous, was re-recorded by Spike Jones in 1944 as a raucous, horn-honking, voice-gurgling, hiccuping hymn to the cocktail hour. The Jones version was a huge hit, much to the resentment of composer Sam Coslow.
This pattern by Normajean Brevik was published in the Winter 2006 (Issue 24) of Quilting Arts magazine.
Magic! The card rises to the top when the ribbon is pulled. The case can be made into a necklace if desired.
I made my first one to coordinate with one of my favourite outfits.
I’ll make a few more just to stay at the height of fashion. Here’s one that I made last night using a piece of A5 fabric I made by printing one of my Southbank graffiti photos onto white pima cotton, an eyelet and silver leather cord for the necklace.
The little compartment at the back is good for spare cards, driving license, oyster card, etc.
This is a modern take on the Japanese Obi Sash.
I made it from charcoal grey wool, pumpkin and pewter dupioni and my Southbank Shadows photograph printed onto silk habotai and fashioned into a belt loop. The padded part is layered with cotton batting.
Obi – detail
It is designed to sit just at the small of the waist and the ties wrap around to tie into a short bow on the opposite side. It can be dressed up or down and works over a few layers of clothing or just a top.