What I did at the weekend


I have no idea where to start today so this might be a real ramble, for which I apologise in advance, but lots of things have come together in that last few days which has been fun but hard to untangle.

Let’s start with the four elements.

  1. The medieval historian and I, with our very Grate Frend Alf, are doing a mini-symposium in the summer at a conference in Utrecht (which is a lovely place and not quite as ‘urgent’ as Amsterdam).  Our topic is play fighting as a preparation for, and a metaphor for business.  Alf is looking at wrestling, the M.H. is looking at the melee, and I am looking at men’s business suits and suits of armour.  The M.H. (now Professor Medieval Historian) and I went to the Wallace Collection to have a look at some armour close-up.  Note to blog readers, the Wallace Collection has a bookshop and gift shop full of things you want to buy and not just cheap tat.  The restaurant and cafe which is a domed-over courtyard is just delightful.  The whole thing is a short walk from Oxford Street, and escaping that madness is always a good idea.  I never ever thought that I would have the slightest interest in armour, and to some extent it is still repellent.  Prof M.H. showed me a completely gruesome thing for upper cutting on the battlefield that really shocked me.  As Grate Frend Alf has been known to say, if you want to see creativity just look at the development of weapons and torture instruments.  Anyway, lots of sketching of armour ensued.
  2. Inspired by my other Grate Frend Beatriz Acevedo, who did a glorious series of watercolours (or possibly fluid acrylics!) of bug a day for a month, I decided to do a similar project and decided to learn properly about Zentangles, which is a sort of doodling which is supposed to help you to meditate.  I bought a teach yourself book which is a six-week course and I am on day ten.  I am not that bothered about producing Zentangles, but I do like the patterns for adding to drawings and initially started doing them to get some fresh ideas for machine quilting.
  3. I went to a workshop at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford with the gloriously talented Tanya Bentham, who makes reproduction medieval textiles.  I learned how to do some basic authentic medieval embroidery.  I was not brilliantly talented or a natural at this, but I loved every moment of it.
  4. The workshop was tied into the lovely Kevin Coates exhibition, A Bestiary of Jewels.  This is a collection of jewels based on making an animal pendant or brooch for a person linked the animal, so Montaigne and his cat, Lewis Carroll and his dodo, Gerard de Nerval and his lobster.  Coates is unusual because he mounts his jewels within an illustrated manuscript page or seemingly pinned to a page in his sketchbook with his preparatory drawings which look a bit like Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.  He is also clearly a really scholarly man, which leaps out from his designs, and he is a very talented musician.  Every year he makes a jewel for his wife’s birthday and a selection of these was on show too.

So, bring these four elements together and some sort of weird pattern emerges.  I will, I think, blog about these items separately, otherwise it would take all of Sunday for you to read a unifying post and no-one is that supportive of my endeavours – so some quick photos of all four elements:

Sketchbook page from drawing at the Wallace Collection




Medieval embroidery


Kevin Coates


3 thoughts on “What I did at the weekend

  1. Apart from the armour you seem to have been doing things I like doing. I love the Wallace Collection and the Ashmolean which used to,and maybe still has some beautiful samplers on display. I have just been reading about the exhibition of Kevin Coates work and was thinking how good it would be to go and see it.

  2. Ooh, you’ve done a bit more since yesterday, he’s looking good. I think he needs a nice dark outline stitch to stop him fading into the background.. The little hint of blue is really reminiscent of the mother of pearl on the piece tat inspired him.
    And I thought you were doing well for a first attempt (and you sketchbook is so much better than mine, I am notoriously lazy with sketchbooks)

  3. I saw a lot of beautifully decorated armour in a museum in Paris. I was struck by the mismatch between the purpose of armour, and the delicate all-over floral designs engraved into many pieces. More like the embroidery on an old-fashioned handkerchief.

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