As I begin the journey to a Kingdom Arts and Sciences entry, I would value feedback on my most complex entry, which I am just beginning. I am seeking:
- insights on my vision
- feedback on my planned process and early research
- tips for moving forward.
Below are some potential questions I hope you will help me answer. I italicized other questions for potential feedback throughout the presentation.
- What are some potential pitfalls of a project of this nature?
- What are some tools I might add to my analysis?
- Is there a direction I should consider heading that I have not considered?
- Are there concepts or research that I may be missing?
- Can you recommend any resources, including other researchers?
Detail of St. Margaret and the Dragon, Steeple Aston Cope, 1330s
My Kingdom Arts and Sciences Competition entry will be an embroidered stole, a part of the priest’s vestments for mass. I am creating it for my husband to actually use, and would like it to be an original design. At this point, he would like four angels.
Because it will be an original design, my plan is to create a database of extant images from Opus Anglicanum pieces. I will use this database to analyze patterns in their design elements, content, and themes. This will result in a database, a paper on my findings, analysis and choices, and a historically inspired design.
While each aspect of my entry will be judged on the quality of the work, I am new to this needlecraft and know it takes years to master. I hope the key aspect of my entry will be the legitimacy of the design and rendering based on my analysis, more than my embroidery skills.
Does this seem to be a realistic vision? How would you adjust it?
Is this a realistic expectation for a judging scenario?
I am doing this because I had questions, and could not find any existing image analysis of Opus Anglicanum designs.
I have analyzed images from the book English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum from the 2016-2017 exhibit at the V&A Museum. This book was frequently referenced by the researchers I found in my preliminary research of history and techniques. I believe it contains enough images for my purposes, but am prepared to look further if needed.
In assessing each image, I am looking primarily at identifying patterns of design elements. Interpretation and symbolism are not my priority right now, though I am gathering relevant information for the next phase. Some details I am watching for are listed below.
As you read below, do you have suggestions for what I should focus on more – or less?
- Colors: as they apply to a particular element.
- In examining about twenty images, I have seen a pattern already of halos being gold with green highlights.
- Which figures are based on medieval styles or biblical.
- Are there important patterns of use within medieval styles
- In a series of images about the life of Mary, she is wearing a crespinette. While at this time I’m not sure how it’s relevant, I think it may be later if there was a desire to look for symbology and other meaning.
- Personal Features: facial expressions, hair details, etc.
- One pattern I’ve found is that almost all men have beards. When a beard isn’t present and the subject is not obviously a woman, I have been noting that. Roman/Greek? Youth?
- Background Features: architectural elements, decorative elements, and color usage.
- Several images analyzed at this point include arches. There seems to be a fondness for trefoil designs.
- Subject Matter: frequency of a subject, or story
- How common is Mary or St. John or a lion?
- I will be particularly watching for angels and whether they are treated as additional embellishment or are the primary focus of a panel. In the example below, they seem to be either a design element or maybe symbolic of the heavens above, but they are not integral to the scene.
I am using Airtable, which was recommended to me in SCA Arts and Sciences Facebook groups. I am finding it very effective for capturing the data from image analysis.
I add an image from the web or via their app on my phone. Then I document my observations using either my phone or computer.
As a fun point of interest, my husband has been greatly amused by my glee at this process as I sit at a table with my computer, my phone and my book. I take a picture with my phone and add it to the table, then move immediately to my computer to input my notes more easily while consulting the book.
The fields I am capturing are listed here. Do you have any suggestions for additional fields?
- Image label: subject and what piece it’s from
- Photo of image: taken on my phone from the book, for later reference
- Date of image: time frame of commission/creation
- Subject: disciple, Jesus, Judas, angel, saint
- Colors: green, blue, gold, neutral
- Background/Setting: trefoil arch, bed, bookstand
- Clothing: crespinette, shoes, barefoot
- Appearance: beard, blonde, pregnant
- Accessories: crown, staff, halo
- Other descriptors: stylized, dimensional
- Detailed description: my narrative description
- Questions about observations: in the image above, I didn’t know who the smaller man was and noted it. I found out later that he is the servant.
- Materials and techniques: when noted in the book caption
- Location of original piece: when noted in the book caption
- Citation: where found, page number, etc.
I have also created a second database to gather images and descriptions of the elements I am finding. So far I’ve researched types of vestments, architectural features, women’s head wear, and the stories behind characters. This database is more for my use when I need to remember what I’ve learned.
While the image analysis presented here is the core of this project, I will also be doing some research into Catholic vestments as they were used in the 13th century.
I know I want to make a stole because that is the decorated item my husband will use most often in modern life. But historically, there are many layers of vestments that would have been embroidered.
I want to have at least a basic understanding of how and when vestments were used, in case that influences my design. I also am curious if I can fit the specific gift of a stole into my entry’s backstory.
That backstory is that I was commissioned to make this stole as a gift from a noble in appreciation or commemoration. I’m not sure yet how far I will develop that into my final design and choices, but it is helping me to visualize the process further.
In speaking of this project to my church geek husband, there are many layers of this that can be explored – just as it relates to Opus Anglicanum and the images used. I know that one challenge for me will be to not get lost down too many rabbit holes.
Do you have any suggestions of other supplementary aspects I may want to look into – or rabbit holes to avoid?
Scaffolding Embroidery Skills
In parallel to the image analysis, I will be growing and honing my embroidery skills, especially as they apply to historically accurate Opus Anglicanum.
I am working to scaffold my skills and am consulting a mentor as questions arise. She has been a huge support and has recently fed my enthusiasm with a gift of silk floss and gold thread.
So far, I have done some basic research regarding history and techniques and have been reading papers. I’ve joined some key Facebook groups to learn more and attended online SCA classes. I have also been practicing the split stitch on modern projects.
Here is my plan for moving forward:
- Make simple altar linens on fine linen with silk thread. My goal is to become familiar with the materials and small stitches. (Note the image is not a period example, just a visual.)
- Practice couching with tutorials.
- Complete a kit or pre-designed project.
- Create several simple designs on my own to practice.
- Final project.
Do you have suggestions for additional steps to take? Do you know of good resources to access?
Kingdom Arts and Sciences Entry
I have had a vision for a while of entering three pieces in the Kingdom Arts and Sciences competition in the next couple years. I would like them to be at least loosely tied together as follows – the third entry listed below is what I am describing in this presentation.
- A research paper with a full development of my persona as a Welsh woman, an artisan specializing in Opus Anglicanum in the first half of the 13th century.
- A research paper with scale model exploring what my persona’s home would be like. (Or the paper on my image analysis?)
- The original design embroidered priest’s stole using Opus Anglicanum as described above.
Do you see any challenges tying these together?
Do you have suggestions for other directions to consider?
I appreciate you giving your time to review my presentation, and look forward to all feedback and guidance. Although I asked specific questions above, I would value any thoughts, even tangential.
- Featured Image: Detail of Life of the Virgin from a panel, English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, p. x-xi
- St. Margaret and the Dragon, Steeple Aston Cope: V&A Museum – https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-steeple-aston-cope
- Detail from Thornton Chasuble: V&A Museum – http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O118444/chasuble-unknown/
- The Betrayal, Bologna Cope: English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, p. viii
- Catholic Vestments: http://thesacredlandscape.blogspot.com/2013/05/know-your-liturgical-vestments.html
- Ecclesiastical Stole: V&A Museum – http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O16677/ecclesiastical-stole-unknown/
- Embroidered Altar Linens: Catholic Supply – https://shop.catholicsupply.com/store/p/36624-11-105-Altar-Linen-Set.aspx
Clare, Brown and Glyn Davies and M.A. Michael. English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum. Yale University Press. 2016.