I wanted to publish the speech that was given by Ellie Donovan, Executive Director at Plimoth Plantation at the Reveal – it was a lovely tribute to the embroiderers, lacemakers and craftspeople who made Faith and had faith in the project. During the remarks, a slide show was playing on the wall with a photo journey of the project and included an eight slide listing of all who worked on the project. I wanted to add that list again below – especially as we added almost 20 to the list that night alone on the yet to be finished coif! So we are now 260+ and going up in the last few weeks of the stitching on the coif. Any omissions are unintentional and I hope that you will let me know so I may continue to correct our master list.
For those who are reading this on the Plimoth Plantation website, this is the last entry there. Since March 15, 2009 the blog has resided at www.thistle-threads.com/blog. Understanding that the project has become bigger to the community than the original intentions, Plimoth realized that it would need a long term home where the enthusiasm around embroidery and costume started in the original blog on the museum website could continue after the project was complete. We invite those who have recently come to read about the project to continue to follow the path that Faith takes and read about the numerous offspring that this historic project has given birth to.
SPEECH BY ELLIE DONOVAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PLIMOTH PLANTATION
JACKET REVEAL, DECEMBER 10, 2009
Welcome everyone! Thank you for being here today for this wonderful celebration.
Before we go in to the next room to see what Elizabeth is wearing, I’d like to take ten minutes to talk with you about faith and gratitude. Over three years ago, our colleague, Jill Hall, showed me a few small photos of an early 17th-century embroidered jacket, pointed at one, and said “we’re going to make that.” Then she briefly described what would be involved in this effort. I was amazed, even incredulous, at the thought of such an undertaking, but Jill had faith – that sure and passionate knowing that sees a vision and allows us to “believe in things when common sense [may tell] us not to.” (George Seaton)
Not long after that conversation with Jill I had the pleasure of meeting Tricia Wilson Nguyen. Now, some of you may doubt that faith can move mountains, but don’t worry, if you need a mountain moved, give Tricia a call. Her faith is an enthusiastic, energetic, unwavering focus that is an inspiration to many. I recently read a quotation perfect for this project: “Weave in faith and God will find the thread.” But for tonight we must paraphrase and say “Weave in faith and Tricia will find the thread.”
Faith, as most of you may already know, is the nickname for the marvelous Plimoth Jacket. A triumph of research, skill and passion, a masterpiece of scholarship and craftsmanship. The people who worked on the jacket dubbed it Faith because it took a ‘Leap of Faith’ for everyone involved to believe that such an improbable project could be accomplished. And it took Faith, that over a long time frame and various challenges the project would be completed and the resources would be there when they were needed.
I could spend the next two hours naming all the people who contributed well over 4,000 hours to this project in countless ways, but I have promised to keep this to ten minutes.
So first, I’d like to thank the following people for going “above and beyond” to make this garment a reality. They researched, conferred with experts, studied, discovered lost techniques, collaborated, tried and succeeded – beautifully.
Jill Hall – Co-project lead and head of jacket construction
Tricia Wilson Nguyen – Co-project lead and head of embroidery
Wendy White – Workroom manager and contributor to embroidery and lace spangle development
Carolyn Hastings – Lead on lace
Mark Atchison – creator of the Lace spangles
Justin Squizzero – Silk Lining
And Denise Lebica – designer and creator of the wardrobe that accompanies the jacket tonight.
The significance of this garment, not only to embroidery but to the field of living history in general, cannot be overstated. A friend of the museum likened the Plimoth Jacket to Mayflower II in its importance as a reproduction object. Like the ship, the jacket required that same mixture of vision, faith and passion, scholarship, collaboration, technology, craftsmanship and recovery of ancient skills. I am proud to say that the jacket brilliantly illustrates Plimoth Plantation’s long tradition of commitment to well-researched and meticulous reproductions. Tricia reports that a curator recently told her that the project was “the most groundbreaking work in textiles in decades.” Museums throughout the US and Europe are aware of the project and have been following it for some time.
The sublime magic of this one object is that it was crafted by over 250 different people and yet is unified in its breathtaking beauty. It was made by expert hands and by those who had never held a needle before. As a result of this inclusive project the field of embroidery has been markedly changed and a new vitality is evident. Knowledge that might have been lost forever has been restored; techniques and materials have been recovered from the past.
Tricia tells me that Lamora Haidar, the distributor who spearheaded the development of the Gilt Sylke Twist thread, recently remarked how in this down economy she sees a bright future for needlework – lifted not only by the inspiration of the jacket project but by the influx of young, vibrant and enthusiastic individuals whom the embroidery team trained here. The team worked hard not to find the best of the best – but to take anyone who was interested and help them be the best. That is perhaps the most lasting legacy of the project – a new future for an old craft.
We are grateful for the generosity of all who touched the project. Those who read the embroiderers blog and called to purchase a sample kit to help us pay for the project – excited to help in the way they could— from afar. We thank those who gave of their time again and again to come to Plimoth to work in a simple workroom plying their needle or bobbin on an object they could never own and for some, perhaps never even see completed in person. These volunteers had faith and they spent small fortunes in travel and accommodations – coming from all over the US and from other countries, for the pleasure and satisfaction of contributing to something they felt was larger than themselves.
And to our generous donors – we offer many heartfelt thanks for your wonderful support that made this project possible. Yours is the kind of faith that keeps the mission of Plimoth Plantation alive and well.
We are also grateful for the kindness and generosity of those who saw other needs here at the Museum and wanted to help, such as the individuals and groups who founded a fund to conserve textile treasures in our collection so that future generations would be able to know them. And the stitchers and those who read the blog who volunteered to knit and repair gloves and stockings so that the Colonial interpreters would have warm period-correct accessories for the sometimes harsh New England weather. Many of these volunteers had never visited the Museum—but heard about the need through the jacket project.
There are indeed hundreds of people to thank, but tonight I want to acknowledge two in particular.
To the lead team on the project: Jill, Carolyn, Mark, Justin, Denise – I know you’ll all join me in offering special thanks tonight to Tricia and Wendy for sticking with us all through thick and thin, for seeing the project through to completion and for being devoted supporters of Plimoth Plantation. (Wendy and Tricia come up)
Tricia and Wendy – Words cannot adequately express our gratitude. But since a picture is worth a thousand words I’m hoping that this will convey our thanks every time you look at it.
In closing, may I say to absolutely everyone who had something to do with the creation of the Plimoth Jacket… The quality of your work and your commitment shines out in every silken thread, in every bit of lace, in every shimmering spangle. And I am sure that no recognition I could give, no gratitude I could express, no words of praise I could say to you, could equal the satisfaction you must already feel for having been a part of this amazing project. As William Butler Yeats said…
Had I the heavens embroidered cloths
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light
I would spread them beneath your feet…
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS WHICH WERE PLAYING ON THE WALL WITH ADDITIONAL NAMES ADDED THAT EVENING
|Louise Anne Leader|
|Melanie Anne Liss|
|Shaina Roux Dumbrowik|
|Tricia Wilson Nguyen|
|Emily Woods Hogue|
|Joanna K Cadorette|
|Tricia Wilson Nguyen|
|Sara Gene Posnett|
|Mary Cragan Motherway|
|Anne Cragan Connerton|
|Dr. Photini Dimock|
|Shirley A. Wilson|
|Margaret L. Low|
|Eilene Schwartz Cross|
|Ria Elena MacCrisken|
|Monica Grida Houghton|
|Cristina Balloffet Carr|
|Siu Ying Woo|
|Betsy krieg Salm|
|Die Modlin Hoxie|
Lamora Haidar of Access Commodities
Bill Barnes of Golden Threads
Neil Halford of Benton and Johnson
Kate Smith of Eaton Hill Textile Works
Jan at Delectible Mountain Cloth
Au Ver a Soie
Anonymous donor of slate frame for 3-years
Scott Sweet, Sweet and Son Metal Finishing
Peter Evonuk, Department of Small Metals, Mass School of the Arts.
Shay Pendray, NeedleArts
Curators and Researchers
Susan North, V&A
Lynn Szygenda, Embroiderers’ Guild
Pam Parmel, MFA Boston
Linda Eaton, Winterthur
Melinda Watt, MET
Christina Carr, MET
Han Vu, Bard Graduate School
Elizabeth Rolando who made ‘Faith’ come to life
The hundreds of stitchers who purchased sample kits to fund project
Donations by countless individuals to the jacket project
The readers of the blog who have made this project a world-wide phenomena
Sorry to all for the one day delay in getting some video up for all to see. I have Jen Thies to thank for these two clips. I will get my video edited in the near future to put up – but I have to admit that I was totally exhausted from the reveal, the press coverage (I have two more magazines to do tomorrow!) and the delayed preparations for the holidays (why does that always fall to the lady of the house?).
During the reveal, Elizabeth would walk a few routes so the visitors could see the jacket in a few types of light – some overhead spotlights near the visitors so the embroidery could be viewed a bit and then behind the table where the candles were lit. Jen’s videos show both situations. The low light of the candles show the brilliant twinkling of the spangles.