On an image search recently, I stumbled upon a new source of enormous entertainment: historic costume sewing patterns. The patterns look great and believe me, I wish I had the wherewithal to sew any one of these, but there is just something about the modernish-day model juxtaposed with the costume, that just kills me.
Here are a few of the best:
For a while, I thought that was his real hair. Now I am not so sure. The illustrated rogue looks a little bit like Barry Gibb.
This one looks like a hell of a lot of work. Look at the bric-a-brac. Look at the waistcoat. Look at the size of the kid’s head on the right. You can purchase this one here.
Both of these fellows seem to be offering up some kind of treat in their left hands. I would advise against taking it. You can get this one here.
Someone went to town with the make-up on this one. Does that child have a five o’clock shadow? He sure has an attitude. You can get this one here.
And the Vampire Renaissance Poet…a character just crying out to star in a YA novel. This guy actually pulls it off. And he has inspired a couple of portraits:
The young man on the left is a pretty good likeness. The ladies’ man on the right was conjured from my imagination, given a rose and a pirate belt buckle. He reminds me of a shifty Tom Jones.
Penelope’s silhouette was observed from her bedroom window by Captain Windstrong, and her visage was forever seared in his memory. His longing for her could be sensed by the beluga whales and walruses he had set off to study.
At four bells precisely each day, Penelope would summon up her memory of Captain Windstrong as he stood gazing out to sea. She would write several more stanzas of the poem that she meant to present to him upon his return. As his 5 year journey dragged on, her poem was beginning to near epic proportions.
When she wore a corset and he wore nothing, they entered into a special place. Some say it was pure fantasy and others claim it was real. The truth may never be known, but many have reported a euphoric sensation when swimming in the Sea of Love.
One look at the smoldering black eyes and very short legs of a mysterious seaman and she knew in an instant that life on land would never satisfy. He was feral and arrogant, she was impetuous and seasick, the perfect match for a life of high adventure.
Daggers of defiance flashed from her very normal eyes, as if to say, “Yes, I will sleep with you in the desert tonight.” She longed to be put down so as to pull off his very strange boots.
Inside of his sun bronzed chest his heart pounded, but was it fear or the tantalizing sensation of being her captive? Where was he and why was his blindingly-white pirate shirt always open? He knew not of what she spoke, but only of her bizarrely arranged teeth.
As if possessed by the turbulent waters that carried their vessel into uncharted waters, the bodacious tresses of both man and woman guide them into wildly impossible poses.
He came from a far away land full of brutally short and handsome men. She felt the heat of his gaze on her collarbone as the blood of her Viking ancestors raced through her veins. Soon they were awkwardly dancing into each others’ impassioned hearts.
There was no explaining her insatiable appetite for Madeira wine and the sight of his muscle-free calves.
A kiss below-deck triggered a whirlpool of reckless abandon as the Golden Hind sailed into port.
She requested the pleasure of his company for cake and refreshments. However once below deck her tempestuous spirit was laid bare — for it was her birthday and she was ready to celebrate.
She felt his bare chest beating and noted the stiff soles of his boots. It was wrong, but it was good.
What began as innocent horseplay soon became the call of the wild.
Beaches in the off-season have a mystical appeal, especially the one with a medieval castle, St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Like a fairy tale, it perches on a tidal island in Mount’s Bay, which, during high tide can only be reached by boat or over a long stone causeway. While returning to our car rental from our trek out to St. Michael’s Mount we passed a smattering of off-season day-trippers. Slack tide allowed for a long stretch of damp sand which was carved in the familiar organic patterns of tidal ridges. We veered towards the dunes and passed swing sets. Boys were hurtling themselves off the dune edges in flips to land on the sand below.
Hundreds of Gothic novels were likely inspired by places like this, as well as the steamier pirate romance books that have informed our textile designs. The Naked Now is one part St. Michael’s Mount, one part Pirate Romance book covers and a large dollop of tongue-in-cheek.
Driving on the wrong side of the road in lanes meant for a horse and cart was part of the brain-twisting thrill that brought us to Land’s End in Cornwall. The large tourist center on the island’s most western peninsula is a perfect example of a tacky entertainment venue plunked down on a naturally beautiful setting. If the top of mountains were easy to build on we would have arcades and amusement parks there as well. Nevertheless, it is a spectacular place with crashing waves below steep rocky cliffs in three directions. We were awestruck and spent a good 2 hours staring out towards the north, west and south. It is the kind of travel experience that moves one’s soul.
And to commemorate the soulful experience we developed Desert Island Toile. In our typical melodramatic way, it tells the story of a storm at sea, a shipwreck and the two surviving lovers who are ecstatic to find each other on a desert island.
Before we headed off to Cornwall in search of pirate romance novel settings, we took a trip to Brighton, where a former king built a bodacious anomaly of a palace. Perhaps because of the sea-side resort environment, he took the proverbial decorative ball and ran with it. The Royal Pavilion is an early 18th Century Chinoiserie wonderland.
Not far away is the quintessential boardwalk built high and far into the ocean. Like homing pigeons we zeroed in on the off-season arcades and reveled in the flimflam environment which we have come to embrace as manna for inspiration.
This is an entirely different kind of boardwalk than the one at Hampton Beach. We were humbled by the very sturdy, wrought iron railings and antique gingerbread details of the stands. This was a British version of a raised beach-side heaven. Nevertheless, acclimating came easily. We knew somewhere there were mechanical fortune tellers and spin-art stands. In a couple of months there would be the heady scent of salt air and fried dough.
A post with which Leslie tries to answer the question, “What the what?”
Steph and I were kicking around ideas for a textile design collection. Naturally, we had been leaning toward designs inspired by penny arcades (see our origin story), but we had not fully developed that idea, when, on a plane headed to Boston I gazed at the cover of the cheezy pirate romance novel that I was reading and thought, “Man, that is a bad book cover…” The only thing that would have made it worse would be if I had drawn it. I am, you see, really bad at drawing.
It’s not for lack of education; it is has been purely a lack of practice and perseverance. I am occasionally hit with the whim to improve upon my skills, buy another sketchbook with visions of paging through a collection of beautiful work someday, paint some godawful thing, and abandon it on page two. I present as evidence, “Baby gets first haircut” below.
A few days later, at the first official working meeting of Princess Doraldina Designs, I recounted the book cover story. Stephanie immediately picked up on it, and we sat down to try and see just how bad our paintings could be. On that day, a collection was born.
Recreating gestures of some iconic romance novel book covers, we had a ball. Steph was able to capture what appears to be the gist of every romance novel cover in this one painting:
She wants it, but she doesn’t. Or does she? Oh, she does.
While I concentrated on muscles and facial hair:
Pirates are muscular and always in the wind
Stephanie realized that she has been drawing feet the same way since she was eleven:
Shoes and feet are optional
While I abandoned all art school training, especially when it comes to drawing hands…and what is that, a flank?
Draw what you know, not what you see
We ended the day on a high note, with this masterpiece, painted by Stephanie. There is so much wrong with with this picture, we don’t know where to start.
At the end of this working session, we had definitely developed some kind of style, and realized that by painting and outlining our characters and leaving them on a plain white background, we would have most flexibility to use them for our designs.