If you happen to attend the exhibit ‘Twixt Art and Nature‘ you will be treated to footage of the Plimoth project in the video which is on the second floor. The story of how our project was added to such an important exhibition is an interesting one, and starts with the sorry state of many blackwork objects.
During the planning stages of the exhibition, Melinda Watt was having conversations with Susan North and Mary Brooks about blackwork and how degraded the pieces which are in collections are usually and how the viewer may not understand the glory of the originals. Thoughts developed about using digital techniques to restore an object and therefore be able to show what it looked like originally. Mary knew that the person who would need to do it would need to be both technical and knowledgeable about needlework technique to be able to deduce what each needle hole meant. That’s how the project got to my door steps – would I apply my engineering and needlework skills to digitally restore a blackwork nightcap where more than 80% of the blackwork was missing? Obviously from this jacket project – I can’t resist a challenge.
So while working on the exhibit, conversations would also turn to the jacket at the MET and why it was so intriguing to me. That stitch for the gold coils came up again and again. Melinda then decided that the public might not understand how complex the objects they saw were and so a case study might help them comprehend it. Would I consider animating the stitch? The answer was yes – but only because I have been working with Charles Wilson of Smudge Animation for years to try to animate difficult stitches. You might recognize the last name – it is always useful to have a professional animator in the family! See the final stitch diagram here to get a feeling for what Charles animated. To complete the case study of the jacket for the video, Melinda traveled to Plimoth with Han Vu from Bard to video the techniques we were using and overlay the video with discussions of the statistics we had gathered from working on the project. The completed effect with their jacket, the close-ups, animation of the stitch and views into the professional workshop of the 1600′s afforded by our work were very compelling.
As I stood at the opening and listened to the gasps and comments, I knew that the narrative had worked. Kudos go to Han Vu for the fantastic videography and editing for dramatic effect. The blackwork nightcap was finished also and features in the video. The cap is displayed next to the video so as it is restored to its former glory on screen it is contrasted with its sad losses of thread on the original. The interesting part is that the restitching digitally is impressive, but the crowd really gets excited when the badly corroded blackened silver and silver-gilt thread becomes sparkly and metallic before their eyes showing the blaze this piece was in its original state. Tricia