Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 6th Armoury Construction at CW

During 4th of July week we made a visit to see the latest with the Anderson Armoury Reconstruction Project. They were building the workshop behind the blacksmith!




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

George Mason University

Today the kids and I made a visit to George Mason University.  Last week I discovered there was only one tour left for the summer for prospective transfer students, so I signed my daughter up for that. I planned on my son to tag along, since this might become an option for him.

I went over the directions with the kids before we left so they could navigate for me. They got lots of practice today and learned many new things about navigating...because we were absolutely lost! To our surprise we found ourselves at our real estate agent's office! I had no idea they were next to GMU!

We arrived late and found the tour group at the George Mason statue.  Partway through the tour I received an important phone call.  I stepped away from the group to receive the news.  Last week the kids and I were in a traffic accident. We've been in pain off and on. Today I received the final news of the demise of our car. =(

I am so prepared to move to a 4pmh society and take my major transportation with a horse and carriage.  I'm sure George Mason, who lived in the 18th century, would understand.

Since I was busy communicating with various individuals today, I got very little info on this tour.  I'm not sure where all I walked.

I do know that it is a lovely campus. I do not like the modern architecture, but at least the buildings are set among wooded areas that remind me of the university I attended in San Antonio. As we left, talking about college expenses, we walked by the George Mason statue.  We've "met" him before and my kids knew what he was holding in his hand...the Virginia Declaration of Rights. They know when that was written and why.  I quipped that they should receive a full scholarship to GMU just for that! I have to wonder if anyone else at GMU knows. Having George Mason set among modern architecture seems quite a bit odd to me. 

This campus isn't my kids' favorite option. We could tell that the quality of education isn't quite what they'd get at West Point, Patrick Henry, or University of Virginia.  That's one reason why I've been taking the kids to college tours.  I've been trying to tell them.  I finally decided they need to experience the different campuses themselves, so they could see for themselves. As a result they are becoming much more college savvy. UVa hinted at that last week, by the way.  Also it is motivating them more than ever before to work harder for scholarships. GMU is at the bottom of their list, but it is a realistic option if scholarships elsewhere fall through.

Anyway, no pictures of the loveliness of the wooded campus since my mind was quite distracted by the details of the latest circumstances in our lives. Horses are nice. I'm sure George Mason would agree.

Monday, July 29, 2013

William Strachey, The Tempest and Jamestowne

Recently we got to meet William Strachy of Jamestown, 1611. His incredible tale was immortalized by a famed playwright of his day.  Because of Strachey's vivid imagery that influenced William Shakespeare, we now have...The Tempest. Strachey's story had me on the edge of my seat, intensely caught up in his word choice that made the drama come alive.


In 1609 Strachey embarked on an adventure to the New World on a ship fittingly...or forebearingly called, The Sea Venture. Ten days before the anticipated arrival at Jamestown, a hurricane unleashed its fury, tossing the Sea Venture about its tempestuous waves.  He knew this was no ordinary storm at sea when the sailors became full of fear.  For six days the passengers became groups of three, taking turns either baling, pumping or sleeping.  Strachey told the tale in such a way that we could well imagine the storm tossed ship careening upon giant waves.  As they were about to give up hope, land was sighted.  Captain Newport skillfully drove the ship between the corral reefs so they could row ashore on the smaller boats. 


They had arrived at the Bermuda Islands, known to them as Devil Islands, where no one could survive.  Of the men, women, children, and a dog, none perished. To their surprise they discovered an abundance of resources.  Crystal clear spring water. Abundant food. Their wants were few.  There were weddings. There were births.  Life was good.  However they had committed to a mission. They were expected at the first of England's colony's in the New World, Jamestowne.     


During their 10 months of abundance, Strachey and the other men built two new ships from the wreckage of the Sea Venture.  Fittingly these new ships were named the Patience and the Deliverance. When they finally arrived in Jamestowne, they found a stark contrast to the land they had left behind.  The wealth of resources on the island were sharply juxtaposed against the emptiness of starvation and death of the Jamestowne colony.  Strachey and his comrades had arrived at the "starving time."  They found doors of buildings left open to the elements. Foundations of former structures were laid bare as bones.  Former occupants had died due to lack of food and disease.  Of the 400 inhabitants they had expected to meet at Jamestowne, only 50 were still alive, but barely. They looked like the walking dead. Few of them survived.

Hopelessness and despair so pervaded the colony that leadership failed and by the next year the men sought to abandon ship fort, allowing their mission for the King of England to sink. I sat spellbound, listening to the tale from Strachey as he said, "The Tempest of dissention was worse than their own shipwreck."   As they left, they ran into the newly arrived Lord De LaWarre who put the men to work to clean and rebuild the fort, and established martial law.


First things first though, in that Lord De La Warre dedicated the venture to Providence.


During his time at Jamestowne, Strachey served as secretary. This was the perfect job for him, since he had an incredible gift of choosing words.  He was even friends with noted literary figures such as Ben Johnson and John Donne. Strachey wrote a letter to a "dear lady" which was full of vivid description of the tempestuous storm he and his colleagues endured.  It is thought that this lady was a wife in the Virginia Company and the letter got passed around, eventually to William Shakespeare, who whipped up a play called The Tempest.

Shakespeare's play includes much of the imagery, drama, and even words here and there that can also be found in Strachey's letter. My kids and I were already familiar with The Tempest from having read children's versions years ago.  The day before we met Strachey we read a Folger's edition of Shakespeare's play, which is quite nice because the actual text is on the right side whereas text notes and period illustrations are on the left. We read the play aloud, like Reader's Theater, where we each take parts.  Like voice talents for radio shows, we have to assume more than one part since there are only 3 of us, so we tried to change our voices to fit the character.  We had great fun and can testify that we were indeed reminded of Shakespeare's drama as we listened to Strachey's tale. There are key elements where one can see that Shakespeare, like any other author, was inspired by a vivid experience.  I plan to find a copy of Strachey's account and find match ups in The Tempest, and I think the interpreter who portrayed Strachey said he did that and it was a fascinating study!

Strachey told us he would soon return to England, where he planned to write an account of everything he saw.  Strachey indeed wrote The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia in 1612 but no one ever published it.  In the present day it has become invaluable to historians. Strachey wrote in such incredible detail, that archaeologists today use his writings to determine details of life in the colony, as well as specific details as to the location of certain buildings. Today we know exactly where the Jamestown fort was because of him.  

During Strachey's presentation, I noticed he was wearing a ring.  That struck me at the time, but I forgot about it during the Q&A.  I am guessing that he was wearing a reproduction of the famed Strachey ring, found by Jamestown archaeologists in 1996. This ring, which can be seen at the link, bears the image of the Strachey family crest which served Strachey in striking his stamp into hot wax when sealing paperwork.   

I got to ask Strachey if he had met his goals in coming to Jamestowne. He said he had come for riches but none were to be found. He hinted that perhaps returning to England to write the details of Jamestowne would be enriching. Sadly, that did not happen for him personally. Unpublished he met death in 1621. His last written words were:

Hark! Twas the trump of death that blew
My hour has come. False world adieu
Thy pleasures have betrayed me so
That I to death untimely go.

In truth, Strachey's riches were to be found not in material wealth, but in his rich storehouse of vocabulary that he cleverly crafted to bring far away events seem present. Thus he inspired the Bard of Avon! Strachey's specific details allow us today to stand in Jamestown and see what he saw.  Strachey lives today through his words.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

University of Virginia

Last week we went to the University of Virginia for a prospective student admissions tour. It is a beautiful campus...I mean grounds.  (They don't use the word, "campus".)  Our tour took us up the hills and down the hills all across the campus...I mean grounds.


This is the engineering library.  I was so busy looking up at the incredible architecture that I fell down.  Thankfully I was okay.  The student guide led us to a lecture hall, although most of us were drawn to this room.  We finally came back after the lecture hall visit to see all the details here.



This is the School of Engineering where we got a mighty in-depth tour, just for my son who is strongly considering engineering for his major.


A secret society letter. They are all over the campus.


These chalk messages helped us find our way around when we weren't with the tour guide. They are everywhere, spelling out directions for buildings and events.


The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson, who lived nearby at Monticello.  You can see the rotunda (in the above photo) from his mountain top home.  This is the Academical Village on the Lawn, which is the original campus, I mean grounds, of the university. Jefferson specifically designed this village according to his educational philosophy of shared knowledge and interaction of both student and teacher.  These two story pavillions are where the professor lived. There are 10 of them, with sections of single-story rooms for the students in-between. Today, these continue to be historic structures in that the student rooms have no air conditioning, heating or plumbing.  There are wood burning stoves within and bath houses behind these structures.  Only seniors live here who vie for the coveted honor to be assigned one of these rooms.  Only the top seniors earn this honor.


This was my favorite entry into one of the palladians.


Thomas Jefferson overseeing the studies of prospective students...


There is even a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Here is a reproduction of the George Washington Houdon that can be seen in the Virginia Capitol in Richmond.



Another palladian with rows of student housing on each side.


Inside the rotunda...



This is the third floor library, where dances were held.  Jefferson purposely designed this space so dancers could enjoy the entertainment without feeling like they were in the library, because the books were strategically located inside the walls in glass door bookcases.


Lots of study nooks.



Wood burning fireplaces between the nooks...





The architecture is definitely Jeffersonian.


Another lovely palladian entry way.


One of the palladian gardens...


I could easily enjoy studying at this university. There are many wonderful nooks for deep thought and study.


Friday, July 26, 2013

"Recreating" a 1920 Fortuny Delphos Gown

Three years ago after much research into Grecian gowns, I started shopping for something silky appropriate to wear for the upperclass lady I was going to portray for a history presentation.  I found some changeable turquoise/bronze crinkled silky fabric on sale, and immediately thought of the lovely pleated gowns from the Fortuny collection. Knowing the connection between Classical Greece and Fortuny's gowns, I bought enough to make a chiton to wear for our Ancient Greece history presentation...


...with plans to convert it to a Fortuny Delphos gown when our history studies brought us to the 1920's.

Then an international historic sewing group I'm part of had a challenge for eastern influence. Fortuny's Delphos gowns were definitely influenced by the East! Everything seemed to match up, so here is my attempt to recreate a Fortuny gown with crinkled silky fabric! No one knows the secret to Fortuny's pleats, so I based my work on looking at his extant gowns.  I draped mine based on a 1920 gown I especially liked. I know that I did not achieve the accuracy and intrigue of his gowns, but I learned a lot and that was my goal.


Like Fortuny's gowns, I used a patterned belt of contrast fabric.


In the photo below one can see some of the glass beads I used at the armholes and side seams, like the Fortuny gowns.


Fortuny gowns, created from 1909-1949, were also called tea gowns, at first worn in comfort by fine ladies at home.  Breaking from the trend of the early 20th century corsets that created the S-silhouette, these gowns were to be worn without the traditional underpinnings in the comfort of home. The daring eventually wore them as evening gowns.


Fortuny gowns, also called Delphos gowns, were designed after  the Classical Greek garment known as the chiton.  Greeks wore these as long tubes, sewn on one side, and attached at the shoulders with brooch like items, the same way I wore mine in the first photo.


Mario Fortuny was highly influenced by the East. While growing up he was surrounded by treasures from the East.  Orientalism began with Napoleon's treasures that he brought back to Paris in the early 19th century.  This style changed in new ways in different eras, and in this case in the first half of the 20th century. Obviously lucsious silk fabrics were from the East. French Impressionist artists were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints which it seems later to have influenced Fortuny. Many of his belts, for example, were printed. The belt itself might have been influenced by Japanese style.  The influence of the kimono encouraged comfort and ease in movement.  He created rich colors (reflective of the East) to dye each of his famed gowns, even importing some dyes from the East.  The pleating process of the fabric is thought to be influenced by Eastern technique. Even the use of beads might have been Eastern influence. (Dykes, Amy R. Documentation of a Mariano Fortuny Delphos Gown. Thesis. Univeristy of Georgia, 1997. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.)

Much of the information that I learned about the Fortuny gown is from the following sources, complete with photos:

A simple google image search reveals numerous Fortuny gowns, no two the same.  Each unique, yet all highly identifiable, there are many similarities yet a few distinctions discerned by close study. My own gown is primarily based on this golden Champagne gown from an antique auction.  Shown are close-ups of the pleating, gown label, beads, and the white round box in which the gown would be stored, with a close-up of the box label.

Unfortunately, the pleating process was a closely guarded secret, so no one knows how to recreate the pleats today. My fabric was purchased pre-pleated, so this gown merely has a hint of Fortuny look to it.  The deep colors in my gown are indeed Eastern influenced, using bold color combinations like I found in other Fortuny gowns.  I sewed beads to the armhole and side seams.  For the belt I used a printed ribbon, reflective of the printed fabrics Fortuny used.


Now for the HSF details:

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #14 Eastern Influence

Fabric: polyester

Pattern: self-drafted from analysis of extant gowns


Notions: beads, ribbon, thread

How historically accurate is it? very little since I used a look-alike fabric for a secret process

Hours to complete: about 5

First worn: this photo shoot

Total cost: free, from fabric stash

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jane Austen and the English Ten Pound Banknote

Jane Austen will be the new face, replacing Charles Darwin, on the English ten pound banknote. That is truly sense and sensibility!  Read all about it at the Telegraph.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Naming the Royal Baby

This afternoon the kids and I were at the base pharmacy watching CNN when the name of the Royal Baby was announced.  My son piped up that George was for Brtain, Alexander was for Russia and Louis was for France.

Tonight I'm going through my facebook newsfeed and found some interesting articles on the naming of the royal baby.

The BBC gives a British historical account of the name here

Not to be outdone Mount Vernon gives their version of the name "George" here.

Fownes Opera Gloves for Me!

Once upon a time, the house of Fownes Brothers and Company opened in Worcester, England, in the year 1777. Their business was in glove manufacturing.


By 1887 Fownes opened an office in New York City.


Here is a great ad from 1914: Fownes Gloves at Peace Prices


I especially love this ad: You can wear better gloves than those we made for George IV "Gloves worn then by by princes of the blood would not equal the standard we set now for even the most expensive gloves in our line."



Now that history includes me! Being gifted opera gloves (by Fownes) was a boon to my attempts to look historically accurate! They were, in act, gifted to me 170 miles from the old New York City office.




Obviously these gloves do not date to 1812. However I was told that they actually date to the 1930's. I've researched for evidence of that, but I cannot tell one way or the other. Does anyone know?