This fall, the graduate course i teach is called "Decorative Arts," which basically indicates that it covers crafts-related topics which don't neatly fall into the other three course topics of Millinery/Wigs, Masks/Armor, and Dyeing/Surface Design. We start out with gloves, then progress to shoes. We cover jewelry, then parasols, and lastly discuss body padding and other projects in a unit called "reshaping the actor."
And, the students also do a hypothetical project in which they propose and solve a crafts-related engineering project (usually something involving macropuppetry, like a four-person elephant, but sometimes something like "inflatable Lysistrata
phalluses" or "the growing bird tail in Seussical
"). For this project, once their general concept is proposed and accepted, i give them a venue size and budget range, and they do all the research and development--materials sourcing, drafting construction plans, creating a half-scale model or a miniature mechanism, and labor projections. Basically, they get to the point where they'd start making the real deal, but due to time and budget restraints, we don't actually build them.
One of the things i totally love about the cycle of teaching these courses is, it allows me to regularly revisit specific crafts-related topics on a biennial basis, even if it's something that hasn't come up in a stage context in the interim. Before i began teaching, my work was tied to the programming of the company for which i worked (i.e., if we weren't doing any shows with masks in them, i wasn't making them). Each time a course topic comes around, i have the opportunity to comb the library stacks for related books. It keeps me on my game, as it were.
There are a couple of "general overview" books i've not mentioned in this blog before which i'm going to be using as potential project references for students, Fashion Accessories since 1500 by Geoffrey Warren
, and the eponymous Fashion Accessories: The Complete 20th Century Sourcebook by John Peacock
. Warren's book, published in 1987, is very similar to the hand-illustrated The Mode in...
historical references produced by R. Turner Wilcox. (We use her book, The Mode in Footwear
, as another class resource this semester.) He divides it into chapters by century beginning with the 16th, each one a general sort of collage of detailed drawings of shoes, gloves, hats, handbags, canes, and so forth, interspersed with little blurbs of text. It's not thorough or comprehensive, but it's a decent enough resource for a very broad overview. Peacock's volume, published in 2000, is much the same, except its drawings are rendered in color, and its blurbs are less detailed--Peacock's text would feature a drawing with a caption that said simply "Lace jabot," while Warren's might say something like, "collarette of lace, net, and silk ribbon."
I mentioned a few glove books in this prior post
, but another resource i picked up for potential project images is Valerie Cummings' Gloves
, part of the costume accessories series edited by Dr Aileen Ribeiro. These are slim volumes (under 100 pages usually) on specific fashion accessories, discussing history, trends, applicable vocabulary terms, and full of both color and B&W photographs of several examples both period and modern.
Another great book in that series is Jeremy Farrell's Umbrellas and Parasols
. Since the course is about making these things, i require my students to buy my parasol construction text
, but it doesn't have a lot of historical research images on which to base their projects, so Farrell's text is a good supplement.
I led an independent study in footwear alteration and construction some years back, and at that time posted an extensive list of shoe book reviews
. I've got three more to add this time around, as well.
If you have perused a lot of shoe books, you do wind up seeing the same historical examples depicted in them, volume to volume. Lucy Pratt and Linda Woolley's Shoes
does contain a fair number of color photos, but many of the shoes are familiar from the Shoe a Day
calendar and Mary Trasko's Heavenly Soles
. Unlike the calendar and Trasko's book (which is essentially a coffeetable flip-book), it's got a lot of well-researched text augmenting the images, historical info and trend analysis of previous eras and construction commentary.
Joy of joys, am i glad to have found Norma Shephard's In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles
! This book is to shoes what Susan Langley's Vintage Hats and Bonnets
is to hats--not only is it full of nicely color-photographed period and vintage shoes (and not ones you've seen in five other books on the topic), but the footwear photos are augmented by period advertisements, daguerreotype portraits with prominently featured footwear, images and info on related topics like hosiery, socks, and even shoeboxes! This book only just came out in 2008, so it's fairly new. Stepping Out: Three Centuries of Shoes
is a full size glossy 95-page exhibit catalogue that was published to accompany the exhibit of the same name at Australia's Powerhouse Museum
. Much like the Shephard book, it also contains reproductions of period advertisements, photos, and paintings related to the shoes (which are also shown in full color photos), and is peppered with great historical information. This is another 2008 publication as well. Guess it was a good year for shoe books!
To peruse some past projects for this class and read book reviews from previous posts on related topics, you can check out the "class: decorative arts" tag
in the sidebar. And, i've got a full class of six students (with a potential overenrollment of a seventh, depending on paperwork coming through for her) so there will be lots of cool projects to look forward to this time around! I'm wondering whether anyone will rise to the pattern-matching challenge
's parasol... :D