Corsets and Saddles

I was thinking about the parallels between these two items. 

Helen in the Pyrite corset, surrounded by antique tack. 
Helen in the Pyrite corset, surrounded by antique tack. 

Saddles are soft-sculpture, in the sense that you take mouldable elements (leather and stuffing) and create structure based around cutting and firm elements (wood and steel).  

Corsets likewise, though softer still.  

Saddles are firm but often have flex built in, as with spring trees. They have to fit very closely, but they can’t be solid, they must allow for movement. 

Corsets are the same, with our retired Birds Wing design being a good example of a garment that creates and holds a shape whilst also flexing around the body on account of its patterning and construction. 

Saddles create a point of intersection and communication between two bodies.  

Corsets, not so much. You could perhaps make that link where ballet bodices are concerned, though it’s not the same. But it leads onto the next thought. 

Saddles are girthed in place, they don’t cinch the animal massively smaller but they prevent shifting. A saddle bouncing around or sliding over is uncomfortable for all concerned, plus it will muddy the signal making bodily communication through the saddle harder. 

Corsets *are* cinched to create a smaller shape, but they don’t have to be. What they do need, however, is at least a small amount of cinch (even just an inch) to prevent shifting. And what happens when one wears a smoothly cinching, well structured and well fitting corset? You become aware of your body in a heightened way. So although that communication is a closed loop with yourself rather than with a horse, the item is still enhancing understanding. 

Saddles are a shining example of function leading to form. Their decorative possibilities can be wilder than you think, though that seems to be a very rare side of saddlery. 

Corsetry is similar. The function of the thing must lead the way, but exploring that function can give rise to different aesthetic possibilities. You see more couture-esque corsetry, I imagine, because it isn’t so much an item of work in the way that saddles still are. So we go wild, as the corset is now a space for creative play. But remember when I was writing about how I think we may begin seeing more and more corsetry with a paired down Saville Row ethos? Saddlery is already like that, following generations of unbroken tradition and usefullness. 

Both crafts seem to pivot on small details combining to form a cohesive whole. So I imagine saddle-makers get just as geeky as corsetmakers, each fiercely championing their preferences! Tiny details that, naturally, those on the outside can’t even see. So there is my last thought on the parallels between these two worlds, that both are about development of the eye, supported by development of the hand. As indeed all art and craft should be.  

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