Monday, 23 April 2007

Eggs and more at Kittsee

The Web is great! Saturday morning Jerry was looking for something special going on to make an excursion of along with the wine tasting in Illmitz. What he found was an exhibit of Moravian Easter Eggs at the Ethnographic Museum at Kittsee.

The main collection at Kittsee is Folkart collected during the final decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to show the variety of customs of the Empire. The problem with the museum is that Kittsee lies off the beaten track, right at the eastern edge of Austria between the route to Bratislava and the route to Budapest. If you wait until you are passing by to visit the museum, you will only see it if you are deliberately tramping along the border. It's a small museum, probably not worth an extra trip from Vienna, but the drive itself is nice, taking you along the Danube, then through the old city gate at Hainburg. However as the whole area is only an hour from Vienna, it can easily be added to an excursion to the Roman site at Carnuntum Another possibility would be to connect it with a trip to the newly renovated palace at Schloss Hof a short way from the other end of the Hanburg bridge. Or use it as a cultural tag-on to a summer's day of swimming on the Eastern side of Lake Neusiedl.

But right now - and only until the 29th of April, they have a few hundred Easter eggs on loan from a Czech museum. Lovely eggs, new and old, modern and traditional, techniques ranging from painting with coloured wax, designs scratched out from a dyed egg, bits of cloth or lace glued on. Wire baskets formed around the eggs, Eggs done in 'plant batik' where a leaf has been laid down first, then the egg wrapped in onion skins and then boiled leaving a pale shadow of the leaves in a warm brown background. Wonderful eggs! If you like Easter eggs, even just these two rooms might be worth your while.

The main collection incudes all sorts of fascinating items: Stumps used as beehives carved with a picture of Samson tearing a lion's jaw apart - and the entrance for the bees in the lion's mouth, painted cemetary crosses from Romania, goat and horse costumes for processions, ceramics, decorated furniture, wood carvings, ...

And, of course textiles. One of the first was a few printing samplers- Strips of cloth with one design after another printed on them. Of the many embroidered items I particularly noticed a decorated kitchen towel - just a normal striped linen towel with rows of embroidery along one edge. There were many shirts of the several rectangles sewed together variety. I like these as they give so much scope for decorating each piece and also using decorative seams. Each is different, and even with similar ones I love looking at the individual touches of the needlewomen who made them. After the last few exhibits I have seen of ecclesiasical embroidery done either by professionals, or at that level of experitice and care, it was fun seeing things done with large stitches, with awkward stitches left in. The whole thing done either as showoff pieces or just for the love of colour and pattern. Remember - just the fact that someone had the time and materials to create a fancy embroidered shirt was show off of wealth. It said that the family didn't have to work hard from sunup to sundown just to survive.

My very favorite piece was a 'Sunday coat' for a woman. It was made of white leather with a sheepskin lining. I bet it was warm. But it was also beautiful. The outside was pieced, with major seams decorated by having folded lengths of other colours of leather worked in. The pieces themselves had fancy appliques of brown leather sewed on with tiny stitches. And between the appliques were various small motives in colourful satin stitch. And all of this on leather! The mind boggles. And here the stitches were small and regular. Wow!

At the moment I am working hard on my quilt and the sampler. Putting the quilt together requires a lot more careful sewing that I am usually good at, and for some reason I decided that I had to add the whitework bands from Linn Skinner's 'Beds of Roses' to the bottom of my sampler. Linn warned me that they are difficult. I'm not sure difficult is the word, but you can't afford a second of distraction. Not to mention that the satin stitch really does have to be properly laid. The fact that I am actually finding both restful, in the sense that I can keep my fingers well occupied without having to use most of my mind, says a lot about how hard the infection hit me. Although I am basically well again, My creative urge is only back to the extent of wanting to be doing, but not if I have to figure out what to do. It is lovely seeing the quilt top come together. It really is going to be beautiful. But I think it is a good idea to keep working hard at the finishing while I am enjoying it.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Crusader Exhibit in Schallaburg

I'm almost feeling human again, so Jerry, Steven and I decided to make use of the lovely summer weather we are having to go visit the new Crusader exhibit about an hour's drive from Vienna.

In terms of textiles, the quantity was minimal. However, the quality was great, so we won't complain too much.

First was a chausuble from the 12th century (German). Long arm cross stitch in silk on linen. Lovely work, and in places the fabric was quite close to the side of the showcase. In style it reminded me of the set that is at the MAK, but much more consistency within the piece. The whole cloth was divided up into rectangles (perhaps 20 - 25 cm) each of which held one or more figures. There were fairly narrow borders separating the rectangles. The linen was only visible where the stitching had worn away. The rows of cross stitch were only a few mm wide, all very even, giving a striped or braided effect.

Second was a hood or bonnet from the late 12th or early 13th century. Sicilian work. It is now taken apart and shown flat. Unfortunatly, it was at the bottom of a tall glass showcase, so there was no way to really see the stitching. The cloth had been stitched in an all over pattern of whirls, couched gold thread on red silk.

Third was early 12th century Egyptian. This was a small bit of plain fabric with a woven in border.

There were also a fair number of chain mail outfits, but I don't count those as textiles. Oh, yes, one later tapistry depicting scenes from the crusades. Not in the things from then, but with the items showing how the crussades have been depicted in later eras.

Anyone interested in medieval ceramics from the Near East would love the exhibit. There were lovely tiles and containers. My favorite had been first glazed in a soft turquoise. That had been covered in black, and the design scratched out.

There were several models of crusader castles and cities of the time that were nicely done. Steven loved those, and either commented on how dificult aech castle would have been to attack, or wished that he had the original to climb around in.

Many of the larger items on display were casts or modern representations of the originals. In some cases this was fine, but the two graves of arab leaders of the time were more theatrical props than anything else. I would have wanted good detail pictures of some of the decorations on the originals, I assume these were inlaid stone? and not paint on fiber board.

As ever, the items I really liked were not available as postcards. The catalog (German) looked interesting, but at Euro 29, more than I felt like paying.

Schallaburg is a lovely castle, well worth visiting for it's own sake. I didn't think the exhibit was very exciting, but neither was it so big as to get boring. If visiting with German-speaking children, get the children's guidebook before going in, and try to answer the puzzles as you go through. There are two side trips off the main route. Follow them when you see the signs. You'll come right back to the main exhibit. There are a few special events planned during the summer if you are into tournaments and such. Basic information on the crusades was given in both English and German. There is also a spectacular dragon playground. All in all a good family outing. Combine it with a drive through the Wachau.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Week 14 Setback

I have been working on the sampler. Do you remember bookmark 2? I'm working on that band of the sampler now. It's fun to see how different it is to sttich with the other colour distribution. Obviously I think unconciously as a stitcher. The bookmark was so much easier! But I think both ways look super!

Nothing new this week. Sorry, but I've not been well, and creative effort has been beyond me. I do have a beading project started which I should be able to show you next week. Luckily, I'm ahead of plan, and there is a bit of leaway for weeks like this.