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16 COVER STORY The 12 days of Christmas Gift ideas for your true love and others 13 How to... present your gift in an original way by making this pretty reversible bag designed by Akiko Mano Freedownloadablepattern,www.selvedge.org
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce
64 COVER STORY Puppetmaster Dreams and illusion at the Little Angel Theatre, Clare Lewis follows puppetmakerPeterO’Rourkedowntherabbithole 64 Tip top The finishing touch for your tree, Whetheryouwantanangelorpreferafairy,thereare plentyofmakerscreatingtheperfectfigureforyourtree 52 Fabric Swatches No2 Brocaded velvet Sarah Jane Downing writes in praise of plush and deeppilevelvet
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives
52 He’s behind you! Pantomime costumes of the past and present, CatherineHaill,SeniorCuratorof PopularEntertainmentattheV&Adrawsonmaterialfromthemuseum’sTheatreandPerformance Galleriestoshowcasetheevolutionofsomeofourfavouritecharacters 96 Mummers... Performance with pagan roots, SarahJaneDowningspotsaresurgenceinanearly formofruralentertainment
CONCEPT textiles in fine art
30 A cut above Su Blackwell’s paper pieces, JaneAudasadmirestheconstructions currently on showatTheBrontëParsonageMuseuminWestYorkshire.PortraitbyNienkeKlunder 56 Juvenile drama Toy theatres kept grown ups entertained, Primrose Tricker peeps into the miniature world of paper theatres
58 COVER STORY Delicate steps The conservation of costumes from the Ballets Russes, Susana Hunter, textile conservator at the V&A, recounts the intricacies involved in staging Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends
35 COVER STORY Santa suits Dressing gowns, dog hair and disinfectant, Canadiannovelistandshort storywriterDerekMcCormackdiscoversasurprisingnumberofwaystodepictSantaClaus
A modest proposal CHRISTINA KIM MAKES THE MOST OF THINGS
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It’s the thought that counts. At this time of year buying gifts is almost inevitable and most of us put plenty of thought into what we give to others. We realise that a gift represents us, and reveals what we think of the recipient but a gift has further layers of meaning.
An object is also an experience. It carries the experience of the maker: if you made the gift yourself then you are giving your own time and affection, as well as the present – that's what makes a homemade gift so special. What about the things we buy? Sometimes we forget that a purchased object also carries the experience of the person who made and designed it. In the frenzy of seasonal shopping we can overlook the fact that, factory or artisan produced, everything we give is an expression of someone’s history, skill and time.
Christina Kim tries not to overlook that. This KoreanAmerican designer made an early decision to design consciously: to be aware of the environment, to take pleasure in restraint and to enjoy her natural, perhaps cultural, preference for clothes, objects and decorations that visibly express theexperience of the maker.
Christina integrates recycled and organic materials and traditional, often regional, techniques into desirable modern garments with a light touch. There is a sense of purpose in her dosa fashion collections but no air of 'preaching'. It's an ease born of a long association with craftsmanship. “I remember looking at my grandmother's traditional Korean socks with fondness and amazement as a girl of around four. The soles were patched with pieces of cotton cloth clipped from our bedding; I was intrigued by the way the different shades of white overlapped. My grandmother
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Paper trail SU BLACKWELL’S A CUT ABOVE
A Cut Above SU BLACKWELL’S PAPER PIECES
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In that place where art meets life sits Su Blackwell, paper artist extraordinaire. In person, Su is rather like the heroine of one of her works – slightly ethereal, mysterious and a little bit lost. These otherworldly qualities are integral to her work. Exquisite craftsmanship combined with an underlying narrative and overlying sense of fairytale magic makes her work stand out from the paper crowd.
Su trained in art and design at Bradford College and then at the Royal College of Art, where she completed her MA in Textiles in 2003. She was one of those students who refused to be pigeonholed by her choice of medium, constantly sneaking off to try, amongst other things, welding, electro-plating and bronze casting. At the RCA, to her tutors’ frustration, she spent half her time in the textiles department and half in the sculpture department. It was there she began to experiment with paper, making sculptures and origami and exploring the nature of this material.
She followed her time at the RCA with a residency in rural Scotland. Rather a dark time personally, it transformed her art and helped her find her paper calling. In Scotland Su experimented with the fragility of paper: hanging it in forests, burying it, testing its limits. It was in Scotland that she made her first major book work, too. A discovery of luscious illustrated second-hand books led to many days meticulously and repetitively cutting out the wild flower illustrations and re-forming them into an explosion of fauna, spilling out of the open tome.
Her love of books didn’t start there, though. At school English was her favourite subject and throughout her studies she might equally have pursued the written or practical side of the subject. So, in a way, beginning to work with books was an obvious route. It feeds both her love of words and of working three dimensionally. And not just any book will do. Obviously it needs to have fabulous illustrations but for Su the story is equally important. In her process, Su reads the story first to work out what she will do with, and to, it: “I read the story and an idea might form and it usually relates to the story itself.” Her sculptures are made from the actual book, consciously keeping paper and word and illustration together in one piece. Less obviously engineered than traditional paper pop-up work, these pieces seem much more organic. They look to have been grown. It is as if Su is releasing something that is inherent to the soul of the book. These are paper ‘happenings’.
Her most recent exhibition, Remnants, a sitespecific installation for the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Yorkshire seems to have been a propinquitous fit. The romantic cult of the Brontës and the Victorian clothing, ephemera and personal items s e l v e d g e . o r g
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for Harper’s magazine. One illustration has him dressed in garments borrowed from Uncle Sam: a fur-trimmed, star-spangled coat, striped trousers. When war ended, Nast put Santa in fur union suits. They came in brown, black and green. Santa wore them skin-tight, with patent pilgrim shoes. A tasselled hat. Holly sprays. It was Nast who first depicted Santa residing in a palace at the North Pole. An 1866 Harper’s illustration shows Santa spying on children with a telescope. His palace is made of snow and ice – ideal for storing furs. “Thomas Nast was an observer of Parry and Franklin and other early Polar explorers,” Santa Victor explains. “Perhaps that’s where he got that look.”
Santa in furs. Santa in short pants, argyle socks. Santa in a tam, a capelet on his back. Santa in a black oilskin coat with a black floppy hat. I’m looking through ads in the Montreal Gazette. Old issues from the end of the 19th century. Santa’s depicted in a slew of styles.
Among the ads, an ensemble stands out: a suit with fur trim, black boots, and a broad black belt about the belly. Who created this suit? Who knows? But it cropped up with frequency across Canada and the States. In catalogues, on greeting cards. In colour cuts, the suit was scarlet. It became ubiquitous, “the orthodox costume,” a newspaper called it.
So why did the red suit stick? Cultural critic Karal Ann Marling calls it a “highly decorated business suit.” It appealed, she argues, to an American idea that Santa was a businessman, an entrepreneur overseeing a toy factory. I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is ‘Santa’s a winter’. Scarlet suits his complexion.
“The early department store Santas took their costumes out of tickle trunks,” says Santa Victor, “or what the store had lying around for them to wear. Ads and promotions in the early days were usually local in nature, and as such there was no standard look. That’s why you see a wide range of outfits, from fur coats to tuxedos. It took Coca-Cola’s international marketing campaign in the early 1930s to give everyone a standard Santa look.”
Haddon "Sunny" Sundblom drew Santa for Coke. Santa, to Sundblom’s mind, was a big man – broad, and burly. “I prefer the look of Norman Rockwell’s Santa,” Santa Victor says. “He’s an elf, not a human. It’s more true to who I think Santa is.”
By the late 19th century, Canadians were dressing up as Santa. Surprising their kids, amusing church groups. Most men didn’t own scarlet suits. They put on togas, swaths of red felt or muslin tied at the waist. Boots were bolts of black oilcloth wrapped around shins. Any trousers would do.
Some Santas wore red bathrobes. Some wore whatever. “We heard a great noise, and the boys, they said it was old Santa Claus come,” said a Blackfoot boy
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in a letter to the Calgary Herald in 1894, “and we all ran out and there he was coming over from the Mission house with a long white beard, and a dress like an old woman, and a bundle of things on his arm and we all laughed at him ….”
“To make a Santa Claus costume is quite easy, inexpensive and creates endless fun,” wrote Mrs. E.F. Ashby in Farm and Ranch Review in 1928. She recommended buying red flannel, white buttons, and scarlet thread. All other costume components, she said, “may be had for the making.”
Mrs. Ashby patterned her coat on a man’s dressing gown. She cut it large, so it could be stuffed with pillows, or worn by men of varying widths. The tuque she stitched from scraps. Ditto the stockings. “On our farms are wild rabbits which are now turning white,” she wrote. A Santa suit required seven skins, fat and meat removed. Preferably tanned. “Trim off the ragged edges (the tail and legs) and with a sharp knife carefully cut the skin into a long strip.” Strips adorned cuffs and cap. A single skin was used for a collar.
In 1915, a Prairie newspaper printed a recipe for readers – a simple solution: alum and water. The solution wasn’t pricy, wasn’t poisonous. It fireproofed fabric. “The use of this solution is a safety measure which should be employed for pageants, carnivals, and receptions… and as a safeguard at all amateur Christmastide and New Year displays.” The alternative could be agonizing. In 1905, a teenager in Victoria dressed up as Santa for her high school holiday pageant. Her robe grazed a candle. Students stampeded. It took her teacher minutes to smother Santa’s suit. In 1929, a union of travelling salesmen sponsored a pageant for Winnipeg children. Santa lit a cigarette while waiting to go onstage. His beard caught fire. Fire spread to the suit. Flannel burned fast, fur trimmings took some time. Spectators tore off the costume. Santa survived but was sent to hospital suffering burns to his face, legs, arms, torso and hands.
According to Santa Victor, the first professional Santa suits became available in the 1930s. “Charles Howard was the first department store Santa,” he says. Howard had trouble buying quality Santa suits, so he started the Santa Claus Suit & Equipment Co. The first firm specializing in Santa suits, red velvet with real rabbit furbelows. He sold them to students of his Santa school. He sold them to Macy’s. Santas sported them during Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“Some of those suits still survive,” Santa Victor says. Santa Victor relishes comparisons between himself and Howard. Like Howard, he makes expensive suits. Expensive but enduring. Like Howard, he sells accessories – spectacles, with or without prescriptions; double-stitched toy sacks; hand-stitched stomach s e l v e d g e . o r g
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Lost and found
PASCALE PALUN’S TIME AND EMOTION STUDY
In Pascale Palun's atelier, a dream-like, mysterious space in Avignon, France, satin ballet slippers hang intertwined with leather boxing gloves against a backdrop of faded wallpaper; bell jars sit atop a well-worn mantlepiece; oversized camera negatives are suspended within a glass and steel case – these somewhat ghostly images evoking a remembrance of things past, suggesting the voices of people long gone. Palun, an artist and interior designer, creates a poetic language through repurposing “found” objects, inviting them to engage in dialogue with one another.
Here, sitting at her weathered tool bench beneath a tall wall of graceful wire scrolls, Palun magically transforms discarded objects into art, calling upon an aesthetic that is both personal and fantastic. Her point of view, called ‘la récup’ chic, or recycled style, was cultivated at a young age: her grandfather, a bricoleur, taught her his skill of repairing things; her father introduced her to the mechanics of cars.
(car boot sales), and even the street for objects that she could repurpose.
After receiving encouragement from friends and accolades from local boutiques, she opened her own atelier and shop, Vox Populi. The marriage of her finely honed eye for line and colour to the practical handyman skills she learned as a child lets each found object retain its integrity, while giving her new design its pulse.
And Palun's art lives and breathes. In her creative world, when old, often brittle materials are combined with modern ones, they tell a compelling story. So Palun will surround a light bulb on a wire with an industrial-style cage, she will create a trumeau doorway out of an old painting and elaborate frame. She will allow the concrete of her staircase to crack and crumble, its painted walls to flake: they are more alive when changing form than when they are “perfect”.
To complement this technical training, Palun embarked on a sensual education: she studied styling as a young woman, and worked in the fashion industry for ten years before leaving her “day job” to raise her son. All the while she made small sculptures for her home, scouring les brocantes (flea markets), les vide greniers
Adventurous with her unexpected juxtapositions, Palun peels paint off walls to reveal a floral wallpaper beneath. She locates the delicate in a coil of wire; the sturdy in an almost translucent piece of antique linen. Part of the pleasure of viewing her work is the delight of discovery. As Joanna Maclennan, a s e l v e d g e . o r g
When the circus came... THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE BIG TOP
Like The Antiques Roadshow, The Office, and every cooking program hosted by chef Gordon Ramsay, the circus originated in the UK before being imported to the US where it was adapted for American audiences. The earliest American circuses of the late-18th century were equestrian expositions copied after the trick riding performances pioneered by ex-cavalry officer Philip Astley (1742-1814) at his Riding School in London. Known as the father of the modern circus, Astley invented the circus ring in 1768 when he discovered that a circular arena measuring 42 feet in diameter provided riders with the optimal centrifugal force giving them improved balance when standing on the back of a cantering horse. Astley’s arena-based horse riding shows proved highly popular in the States where the first President,
George Washington, patronised Bill Ricketts’ circus in Philadelphia.
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