Lovely week, both for work, play, and ponies.
Spring is actually here. Thursday, in particular, was glorious. Everyone was happy, ponies playing in the fields, humans enjoying their work, the goat sunbathing, and the sheep doing as they always do… I love being outdoors anyway and don’t mind mud and muck, but a day like that, what a treat. It’s almost time to kill the fire for a few months!
In corsetry world, we got the Moonchild corset finished on Tuesday and made good progress on a little watery cincher for another client too. I expect we will finish the latter this week coming, which then means we have only one bespoke order left to do before our attention can go fully onto our Butterflies and Moths.
Very excitingly, the first of our Butterflies to find her home is Antique Willow. She will be getting embellished with fool’s gold and “crunchy” metallic lace, very much akin to the Pyrite corset from Where Angels Fear to Tread. I cannot wait! I’ve always loved greens and golds together, but when I first began studying the art of corsetmaking I would opt for rather loud expressions of that colour scheme. Really wild two-tone dupionis, things like that. While those silks are incredibly beautiful, my choices did get more and more muted as time went on and these days I would say that pieces like Pyrite are a very good example of that aesthetic. I love me some bling, but let it look like it has lived in an attic for a hundred years.
Antique Willow will be going to a lovely lady who has four more Sparklewren corsets, including a couple of my absolute favourites, Bloom and Amethyst. She recently sent me a very kind email and gave permission to share it here.
It is an absolute joy when you make something personal for someone, something that functions as an expression of their soul and yours, something that they love, that makes them feel glorious… It is a rare thing that should be shared and celebrated, and I’m very lucky to so often have eloquent, artistic clients who are really much more like collectors or collaborators than “customers”.
Of the remaining eleven Butterflies, we have begun work on Mauritius (27.5″ closed waist) and Cyclamen (18″ closed waist), just taking the embellishment wherever the corset tells us it wants to go. This is how we will approach all our work this year, except when a client has ideas to input themselves.
And of course, I have my Moths too. Though I’ve not yet had a chance to catalogue them, so the Moths page on the website is rather blank! These really are my absolute “playtime” projects, so I’m only looking at them when the whim takes me. I started applying lace to one before Christmas. That delicious dusty barely-pink Sophie Hallette lace that I always loved. The base silk is in a muted mouse sort of colour, like leather that has faded in the sunshine or the slightly pink ashes we get in our narrowboat stove.
In other news, I’ve got a copy of the winged horse colouring book making its way to me. Soon soon soon! I’ve also just reviewed the corset pattern pages of my corsetmaking book, so that’s ever closer too. And my unofficial equine anatomy studies continue nicely too. I was learning about the function of the upper neck architecture the other day… which parts of the nuchal ligament assist in movement by making use of elastic recoil (ie: pendulum motion of the neck), how excessive or sustained stretching of this highly stretchy ligament causes it to actually stiffen at its weakest area in a protective move, how the splenius resists gravity, how the semispinalis capitis is compartmentalised for a variety of functions but also contains a central tendon to assist the NL in its pendulum movement, and how the horse is so built for economy of movement that he will always (unconsciously, of course) choose to compensate with protective evasions rather than risk over-extending himself. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink! You can encourage and guide, but you can’t force health.
I have that dissection to attend towards the end of April and I’m so excited! I really hope to have a bit more of a handle on anatomy by then, but the challenge for me is always in the facts and figures when in isolation. I’m good at details because I get very interested in how things work (or don’t), but I’m not good at remembering names or numbers without context or further information. In corsetry world, I can tell you how different types of busk work and when/why we would use them, but I can’t tell you who invented them or in which year. In equine anatomy, I can understand why we would want the vertebral joints to connect on as large a surface area as possible (reduced pressure, more even distribution, and smoother transmission of forces from the hind legs through the spine, all the way to the poll = fewer blockages/anomalies of movement = soundness), but I sometimes struggle to remember the number of caudal (coccygeal/tail) vertebrae because that number has (as far as I’m currently aware) so little bearing on the things I’m interested in re: healthy movement and riding.
John recently went on a swimming workshop and one of the tidbits he came home with was the frankly feeble percentage of effort that makes it into forward motion in the human swimmer. Even elite athletes only manage about 10% apparently. We’re just not designed for it in the way that dolphins and fish are. And so what athletes are trying to do, fitness aside, is improve efficiency/correctness of movement. It makes sense. It seems to be the same in some horse traditions, though these days there is more science to actually back up or question methodologies both old and new. But I thought that was interesting, the notion of improving efficiency and soundness of movement. It ties in with another topic John and I have spoken of quite a lot, practice and development of skill as craftspeople. They reckon these days that “muscle memory” isn’t in your muscles at all, it’s in the increased insulation of the most used pathways in the central nervous system. Thus you can reinforce those pathways by practicing in your mind as well as in real life. Isn’t that interesting. Movement (employment of those pathways) becomes second nature and thus it is worth doing the thing slowly, consciously, and as correctly as you can right from the start as each repetition is reinforcing something. Repetition is worthless (even harmful) if you repeat the wrong thing.
I remember writing an article about practice for Foundations Revealed years ago. [FR are undergoing some exciting changes at the moment, by the way, definitely worth taking a look if you’re an aspiring corsetmaker!] It tied in with my beginners’ corsetmaking articles (you can find all my articles here, by the way) in that one of the ideas I wanted to highlight was the value of proper methodology right from the beginning. Beginner corsetry, at that time, was often more complicated and confused than the work we “advanced” makers would put out. Material choices were often of lower quality and appropriateness to the work, the idea being not to “waste” the expensive fabrics. We all do that, I certainly did on my first corset! But the lessons you learn on inappropriate fabrics are pretty much useless. You learn compromises and tricks and ways of strengthening constructions and handling up to nine layers of fabric which make the overall build heavier, clunkier, less elegant. Silhouette may be compromised by all this, along with your cutting choices and therefore your creative options become narrowed too. Far easier to, with a bit of guidance, learn something that is cleaner and more effective right from the start in which every step has a justification, a value, and is properly understood.
Hopefully this is something I will have managed to put across in my corsetmaking book (it is coming sometime soon this year, I promise!). If you muddle along with confused methodologies and no clear explanations you might eventually figure stuff out, but it’ll be a really convoluted path with no certainties and you’ll spend a lot of time and money trying to get there. But how many things in life are we taught in this way?! Just do the thing and eventually you’ll be better. Nope, not necessarily. I dread to think what I spent on teaching myself corsetmaking… if classes like Julia’s and Lowana’s, or if FR, had existed then I reckon I’d have saved a lot of time and effort and money overall.
Anyway, to loop back… I suppose I’ll get a lot from the dissection, regardless of how prepared I feel. I just really want to make the most of it, it’s my big educational treat for the year, haha. Oh wow, this must be how new attendees to the Oxford Conference of Corsetry feel! I shall tell myself not to be shy or nervous, since that is what I always tell new corsetmakers.
Right, this has turned into a much longer and multi-topic post that I had expected. I will sign off now, got a couple more work things to do (on a Sunday, waaahhhh), then perhaps a canal-side walk to stretch the legs.