Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mini Talismanic Shirt

At Atlantian 12th Night there was a mystery ingredient scribal challenge. The event was Ottoman themed. I have really wanted to do more scribal things. I signed up. I couldn't resist. Once i've signed up for something I have a deadline which make it easier to ensure that progress is made.

The mystery challenges I'd seen in the past were fans and tangrams which seemed really out of the box and exciting. What did I get? I got paper. I was a little disappointed at first but after a week or two of thinking about it and a few synchronous research moments I had a wonderful idea: a Talismanic Shirt.

The paper was a thin fibrous paper made from mulberry bark.It looked and felt like fabric to me.
 The material and idea were married once I remembered reading that the talismanic shirts found in Persia and the Ottoman empire were made on fabric that was “paper thin.” The shirts were painted or inked by calligraphers with prayers or symbols of luck. After looking at several extant examples I noticed that in the original scale most of the writing was small and so my writing would have to be miniscule. I am not that good at calligraphy and I barely know any Arabic. I chose to do a larger scale design on a smaller scaled shirt.  I used some designs and prayers from the museum pieces and used other designs and prayers I have researched for other projects.

I believe this shirt belonged to Mehmed III. The overall cut of my project was based on this design largely because I have amazing pictures of it.

This shirt has larger designs of cypress trees and I wanted to use that.

 I had been doing side research on the talismanic shirts as a kind of dream project if my lord is knighted one day. Just based on the amount of time it took me to create the miniature version I have determined it will be a ton of work to make a full sized one. This was a kind of trial run for the bigger one. I have a lot to learn before I get there.

This one had such small mathematical charms I think I'd be reading it for a week and scribing it for years. Yikes! This style of shirt is most likely what I will use for my lord if ever I make one because he's a Berber and not an Ottoman.
I used my knowledge of Ottoman textile motifs, scribal and cultural design along with my very limited understanding of Arabic and its calligraphic nuances (seriously, they layered their words in an area to make signature calligraphed art) to make a miniature version. 

This is the finished piece with the sleeve and shoulder seams sewn.

Closeup of the sleeves

Closeup of the front before it was cut open

Shoulder seams

Back includes cypress, tulip and saz leaves.

I started out trying to use a dip pen. I did several trials on the scraps and had no problems. I was ten minutes into my finished pieces and ripped a small hole. I did not have spare paper so I decided to use modern calligraphy markers instead. I also had a small incident with a drooling cat and one of my pens not being indelible. I covered my mistakes as best I could and moved on. Lesson learned about the paper is that it would be very interesting for watercolor if you want it to spread around and make interesting blends.  I also used gold leaf paint. It was infuriating and flaked a lot.

Once I had completed the painting and undersewing I had to turn it wrong sides together and sew it. I used blue silk thread and as small a needle as I could for the thread. I was super careful. I then turned the whole thing right side out. There were a fair amount of wrinkles which, while it might be horrible for a scroll, is fantastic for that just worn fabric look. It was tedious trying to turn  the sleeves and I had to make more than one little snip under the arm to make it move without ripping. This also made the gold leaf almost completely rub off in parts and I touched it up after the fact.

I had originally wanted to make a doll to put it on and then ran out of time because there was a death in the family right after an emergency at work (sigh). Instead I put it on a mini easel and rigged a stick to hold the sleeves up. I intend to make the doll for another project involving the persona pentathlon.

Final piece is about 10x12 inches

All in all I had a fantastic time with the project. I wasn't able to go to the event but a friend took it for me and brought me back a prize! I have a lot to learn about scribal things (this was my second scribal thing ever). I have more to learn about Arabic.

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