Monday, March 17, 2014

The Celtic Princess and Murphy's Law

Celtic Princess
Was Murphy Irish?  Well the question sits out there unanswered even though I have had the great or grievous honor of sleeping in bed with Murphy for the last two weeks.  Murphy's Law as it turns out had nothing to do with a man named Murphy, and was directly related to scientific experimentation.  Now is this any way to greet the evening of St. Patrick's Day?  Well, no.  Happy St. Patrick's Day.  And, thank goodness I had the luck of the Irish with me today!

Irish Celtic Harp
For the last two weeks I've been beside myself trying to finish Daisy's Celtic Princess in time for March 17th.  It mainly concerned having the proper gold fabric to create the collar and cap.  I have a not so funny story to tell.  At first I tried creating these by purchasing gold brocade.  I tried two different weaves.  First of all, while they looked stunning in the photos, the paisley designs were too large.  And, when I attempted to work with them, it was apparent that satin brocade, which was actually upholstery fabric, would not work.  So I went back to my online search and tried two more types.  Lo and behold, the exact two upholstery fabrics appeared in the mailbox from different sellers! 

Vintage Postcard Illustration
So what I tried next was searching for a gold silk blouse with a floral pattern.  I believe it would be called silk jacquard.  I found the blouse!  The auction on Ebay was seven days long.  I begged the seller to reduce the days or offer it as a BIN.  She refused saying, "I think I'll let it play out."  What was I to do?  I felt incredibly defeated and frustrated, so I picked up a good book and read all week while the "auction played out".  Then I won it.  For a silly $14!  I was ecstatic.  Hoorah.  Now, to get it!  The next day a note came up with tracking.  I wrote to the seller and asked her if she'd shipped it Thursday or just that morning.  Ten hours later she wrote about a "family emergency" and had not shipped it out.  I took a deep breath and kindly asked her to get the blouse in the mail on Saturday.  sigh  Well it showed up today around 2pm. 

Daisy's Celtic Princess
I immediately began to work on the cap and collar.  I'd already made them several times so I had the pattern down, and the new buckram pieces were ready.  So just an hour ago, I finished Daisy's Celtic Princess gown.  The hour is late and St. Patrick's Day wans.

Daisy's lovely, third and last St. Patrick's Day gown was made from a gorgeously soft sateen.  The shamrocks were snipped out by hand as iron on appliques. The gown gathers at the empire waist by a hidden (underside) casing with silk ribbon running through it.  A double-sided, hand-tied silk ribbon belts around the casing gathers.  A gold satin ribbon rounds the border of the hemline.  Little pink slippers with gold buckles and silk bows were placed on her feet.  A "whimple" of Swiss lace lays on her head under the cap, or crown, of gold jacquard.  The collar is a separate piece of the same jacquard. 

I'd fully intended silk ribbon rosettes for the cap, but due to time, pink millinery roses were added.  I'll add the silk ribbons later.  There have been times when my costuming has rivaled the illustration, but in this case, I vote for the illustration.  Its a lovely costume, and no amount of time and expense was spared, but this one challenged me to the point of frustration.  If I'd worked on it another week, it would not have been any better than it turned out.  Am I hard on myself?  You bet!  I'm an artist first, a costumer of dolls second.

While creating this costume, and the two others, I discovered that my dearest friend, Betsy, was taking her son to Ireland for a holiday before he entered his second term of med school.  After looking around a bit for a little Celtic Harp on my own, I asked her if she would have a look while touring Ireland.  When she came home she had quite the surprise for me. 

Sentimental Shamrocks
The story goes that she searched every shop and counter top for Celtic Harp ornaments and all they offered were dark, stone molded pieces.  It was on her last day in Ireland, in a tiny seaside town, that the clerk in a gift shop happened to find two dusty old boxes of old store stock hidden away on the shelf.  She uncovered two hand-carved, gorgeously detailed Celtic Harps.  Of course she bought both, and wrote to me upon her return that she hoped this harp would be suitable.   I just about fainted when I opened the box Betsy had sent to me!  Let us count our many blessings for the friends we have.  Its one of greatest gifts I've ever received.

We both discussed perhaps painting the harps gold, but I would almost feel as if I were desecrating the piece since it is so precious and true.  I'll think about it.  If you look closely (just click on the photo) you'll see that shamrocks were carved into is as well.

Ah!  The lovely little green shamrock!  The term "Shamrock" derives from the Irish word "seamrog", which translates to "little clover".  Theory holds that the druids, or Celtic priests, looked at the shamrock as a sacred plant that was potent against malevolent spirits because its leaves formed a triad, three being the mystical number in the Celtic religion.  (See my last blog for the history of St. Patrick and the shamrock.)

On the luckier side, the four-leaf clover has a long history as a lucky charm, as its petals are often said to represent faith, hope, love and luck.  The fourth leaf is a product of genetic mutation and thought to occur in one of every 10,000 clovers.

They dance on clovers!
When I was a little girl, I used to play in my mother's hope chest, and one of the items I treasured most was this small box that held little jewelry bits.  When she died, this little box of treasures came to live with me.  I suppose she tied the little charms, the anchor, the four-leaf clover and heart onto silk ribbons for luck during the war years.

As I was creating the three costumes (and now I know its was meant to be!), I was also musing over clovers and shamrocks, and went looking for the four-leaf clover I found as a child after being inspired by my mother's charms and her stories of lucky clovers.  I still remember those summer days spent in the side yard of the house, crouched in the sun, going through all the clovers growing there.  I was so happy when I found a real four-leaf clover, so I tucked it between Kleenex tissue and the top of a plastic box lid.  And all these years later, it is still there, preserved.

It is hard to describe the feeling of defeat when all that you try and all that you spend towards that project concludes just hours under a self-imposed deadline. Writing is my salve.  This is why I journal on the creative process.  It wraps up a project and allows me to breathe again.  I have to say that upon unearthing and rediscovering the magic of these trinkets of the past, our luck is what we make it.  Find your luck by believing.

Miss E. Mouse
Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from the cities, and the sites of men,
Lived with the sunshine and the moon's delight.
I knew the stars, the flowers, and the birds,
The grey and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountains, moors and ferns.
J.M. Synge

I am Ireland
I am Ireland:
I am older that the Old Woman of Beare.
Great my glory:
I that bore Cuchalainn the valiant.
Great my shame:
My own children that sold their mother.
I am Ireland:
I am lonelier than the Old Woman of Beare.
P.H. Pearse

The Celtic Princess

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