Sunday, 18 November 2012

Even when I'm feeling down, it's good to keep going on something, no matter how little I get done.

For the past week I've been working on a cross-stitch called Barnyard Kitties, a kit I've started well over a year ago, then put down because working with a brown palette on a black fabric wasn't as interesting as I thought it might have been....

This weekend, I allowed the annoyance of not having an A&S entry for the SCA event next weekend bubble over and I finally thought of something I could get done in time.As part of the Realm of Venus competition, I made myself a flag fan. But I still coveted a feather fan. Something big and fluffy that I could sit proudly in court with and fan gently to catch peoples attention or tickle their noses with...

There are many Italian portraits with flat fan, but few of them show details of the handles. So I turned to this portrait of dear Queen Lizzie from 1590 to base my design on. 

The top of the fan, where the feathers emerge, looks to be gilt, embellished with a large ruby, pearls and diamonds. This, I thought to myself, is doable. Especially as it's an idea that's been percolating in my head for quite some time now.





To start with, I purchased a set of wooden utensils from Ikea for less than €2 to make my base with. I selected the wooden fork from this set as the handle shape appealed to me the most, sawed off the tines and rounded off the top.


 Before the cutting started, I traced around the fork onto paper, and used this as a guide for the fan shape based on the above portrait. Unfortunately, the shape I made here was a little too wide for the piece of wood I had, so I had to redraw it with the side swirls just a little tighter to the body. And forgot to snap it. D'oh! Thus started an evening of forgetting to take most of the pictures as I went, so at this point you'll have to engage imagination mode. 

Tip: when you're not confident of drawing the complete fan design, then just draw half. The design above is literally all I drew. For the next step I used my light box to flip the image so I could be sure that both sides of the fan would match. This image I traced onto a 10mm piece of balsa wood twice and cut it out. I swear, next time I have to work with wood, I'm investing in a fret saw.

With the balsa cut, I then hollowed out a section in each piece to fit the wooden fork core, to add strength to the piece. So far, so good. Though balsa has a nasty habit of pretty much dissolving in wet conditions, or absorbing vanish like a sponge, so I needed to add another finish. This is where my previous playing with mask making comes in.

I decided the perfect finish would be to cover the pieces with a Papier-mâché layer, and finish it with a tissue paper layer. When this dries, I'll give it a coat or two of shellac, and when that dries I'll be left with a surface hard enough to sand, which should provide a lot of resilience too.

To finish it off, I'll be drilling the top of the fan handle to insert the ostrich feathers I have on stand by, paint it with gilt and decorate with glass gems (much as I'd love to be able to use the real materials all round, glass it is). I'm concerned that I won't have enough feathers to make it look truly extravagant, but that's always something I can fluff out in the future.

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