Monday, August 11, 2014

A Brass Rubbing in a Fiber Frame

I thought I would provide some background on one of my Bonds & Connections pieces which is in the Designing Weavers exhibit at the Escondido Municipal Gallery.  Remember it’s there until September 27th – so plenty of time to plan a visit!

As I have mentioned before, a requirement of membership in Designing Weavers is to complete and present an annual project.  This year, with the theme of Bonds & Connections I was actually able to complete three projects that have been rumbling around my brain for many years.

Here is one of the pieces along with the exhibit description:

I am connecting with the past through the bonds of my Mother.  I start in 1465 where this wife of an unknown civilian was buried in All Hallows Church in London.  My Mother connects with this woman about 50 years ago as she made a brass rubbing of the woman's grave cover with black wax.  The connections are completed as I lovingly wrap the brass rubbing in fiber woven in my studio on my Mother's newly refinished loom.

My Mother was a weaver/tapestry artist and when she passed all her ‘art’ stuff went to me.  This included a tube of brass rubbings she had done close to fifty years ago in England.  I thought how wonderful to give new life to her remaining brass rubbings by weaving frames for them on her antique counterbalance loom. This loom was in our kitchen when I was a kid and now resides in my studio. Of course, I first had to finish the tapestry on the loom which had been there for years…and then I had to refinish and retool the loom before I could weave the final pieces.  But these are stories for another day.

So what is a brass? Brasses are burial monuments introduced in the 1300’s; like a tombstone but flat engraved brass pieces acting as a grave cover.  They were better than stone slabs since the metal was more durable and since they were flat they could go on the floor, wall or top of a tomb.   There are about 4,000 left in England and I have about six in that tube from my Mother’s stash.

How do you make a rubbing?  My Mother had white paper, which she taped over the brass in the church.  On her knees she rubbed black wax onto the paper over the engraved brass beneath.   The design showed up in relief.  She used white paper to practice.  Later if she liked the design she would use black paper with gold wax or gold paper with black wax for a final piece.  All of her favorites were framed and given as gifts.  I have several on my walls. Her least favorite went into that tube and remained there for decades.

What's the history behind brasses?  One of the many fun things about brasses is that they are historical documents.  There’s not a lot around from the 1400’s yet these brasses say a lot about the existing customs, clothing, occupations and professions of the time.  In addition, quite a lot of historical research has been done on the families involved.  So anyone with a brass rubbings wants to know a bit about the history involved.

What’s the history of this brass? As you can see below, this brass was actually of two people, a husband and wife. It was a practice piece for my Mother and she only did the woman on white paper with black wax.  The couple was also rubbed on black with gold wax, framed and gifted away.   This woman is the wife of an unknown civilian who died in 1465.   Much of the inscription has been lost so her actual name is unknown. Some scholars believe it may be Avisle Treffy.  She is wearing one of those horned headdresses with her hair pulled upwards to form horns over which the veil is laid. She is wearing a gown with full sleeves seemingly edged with fur. Her hands are raised in prayer.

And what about that fiber frame? The fiber frame is deceptively simple yet complex to plan given pull in, shrinkage and all those textile issues. The yarn was super high twist, which made it a beast to weave.  I only needed a couple of yards of material so it wove up quickly and my good humor remained intact.  The resulting yardage folded up like origami into a frame with the rubbing nesting inside.  The rubbing is hung with Velcro within the frame so it can be removed, if necessary.  I used strategically placed empty dents in my reed so the thick material would fold nicely.  And then of course I had to do some embellishment.

And how do I feel about the piece?  When I think about it, the overall concept is a bit macabre but also quite unique. Whenever I see it, I feel cool, calm and connected.  It is my favorite.  I do have a tendency to always  consider my most recent finished piece my favorite.  But this one may remain my favorite due to the bonds and connections within it.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Lovely piece and interesting story behind it. Great idea using the weaving as a frame and love the hanging is that one of those old loom pieces?