Sunday, April 15, 2007

Day 3

Day 3 Thursday April 12
We headed north to Stirling Castle. The site of many famous battles, it rises out of the lowlands as the entrance gate into the highlands. The statue of Robert the Bruce you see here, stands outside the castle walls. I had not realized that many different buildings and fortifications have stood on this site since the 1200’s. The web is full of endless information about Stirling Castle.

I will tell you about the tapestry project. . We have the current renovation of King James V palace to thank for the Unicorn tapestry project. Historic Scotland is working with the West Dean Tapestry studio to recreate the 7 tapestries in the Hunt of the Unicorn series.The originals are in the Met’s Cloisters Museum in New York. Tracy Chevalier also wrote an excellent historical fiction book called “The Lady & the Unicorn.”

Since records show King James had many tapestries in his palace very likey including of version of the Unicorn tapestries, the Hunt series was chosen to be made anew. Louise Martin, the head weaver of the project, gave us an I- depth look into the scope of this amazing project. The 2 tapestries already completed are hanging on display at the Chapel Royal. The image you see is the Unicorn in Captivity. A temporary studio was built on the north end of the castle for this project. 3 weavers are currently working to complete the 3rd tapestry by mid summer. A 4th tapestry is being woven at the West Dean Tapestry studio in England. The entire project will be completed in 2012 when the whole set of tapestries will hang in the newly renovated palace at Stirling Castle.

The head weavers go to New York to the Cloisters. They have access to within one millimeter of the original tapestries but cannot touch them. They figure out yarn colors, where silk was used instead of wool and make a detailed plan for each figure and motif in each tapestry. Working from full size color copy, they makean acetate tracing of the tapestry. Then from this they make a paper cartoon. Samples are woven to work out specific techniques to achieve desired effects.
The wool yarn is all being acid dyed at the West Dean studio. Instead of silk, pearl cotton is being used for the shiny parts as it has longer color fastness. Historic Scotland requires that the materials being used in the tapestry hold up for 250 years. From there the loom is warped, the cartoon hung behind and the weaving begins. This process starts fall 2007 for the 5th tapestry. Weaving on it will commence in winter 2008. But reweaving the tapestries is not a matter of copying.

First, the new tapestries are being woven smaller than the originals to fit in the space in the palace. They are weaving with fewer EPI (ends per inch) in the warp) because it would take too long and cost too much money to weave them at the original finer warp set. (A patron in her eighties is financing the project.) Also, the head weavers have to train the weavers who come in to weave each tapestry. Although all experienced tapestry weavers, they need to undertand the specific techniques and develop nuances of skill. There will be about 25 weavers total who have worked on the series by the time it is completed. Each weaver has to leave their own individuality and style behind and try to get into the mind of the original weavers as they work.
Getting this inside look at the current project was really special. The scope, historical accurateness, detail, and dedication is amazing. The sun came out while in Stirling and followed us to Edinburgh where the coach driver and I turned the travelers loose on the Royal Mile which lies between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrude Palace.

As part of Edinburgh’s annual spring Ceilidh Culture Festival, we attended a concert. Cheyenne Brown played harp with Seylan Baxter on cello and vocals.
Their traditional and contemporary tunes and songs had varied and interesting arrangements. Cheyenne is an Alaskan who studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Drama and Seylan is still a student there. Although this combination of instruments in this up and coming group might sound a bit unusual, the styles, harmonies and rhythms can are reminiscent in the playing of Bachue Café, Ferentosh, and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas. I would recommend listening to recordings by any of those artists.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm enjoying your photos and commentary. What is April like in Scotland. Overcast, of course. Any rain?