Saturday, November 29, 2014

"In Readiness for the Expedition..." (...or a First Person Immersion Event- Preparation)

There is nothing like preparing for a first person immersion event which you will be attending stag (meaning without my usual group of folks with whom I camp) to illustrate what you are missing from your kit. I have been fairly lucky that the group with which I typically camp works cooperatively very well. Meaning I don't have tons of cookware- mainly because Mrs. Fox does the cooking and has tons of cookware. She enjoys it, I don't as much. Instead I sew her clothes. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Finished pomatum, almond cakes wrapped in linen, and my
jar of sugar.
I have many of these relationships with the folks in our group and it works to advantage for all of us. However, when it's time to attend an event out of our normal sphere where it's pretty much just me- well, those things are notably absent from my living history storage shelves. (Yes, these are a real thing- mostly in the basement but also in my sewing room and other random parts of my home. See below.)

One small section of my storage.
Don't judge.

Thankfully, the things which I knew I would need I was able to borrow from the fabulous folks I am blessed to call friends. For me, this included a brazier, extra blankets (Nat wasn't coming, and I get cold at night), tinder box, and (of course) food. My friend Stuart pretty much helped me out with everything but the food (including a lap writing desk and other neat things which he collects). The food was made possible by Alix helping me come up with things which I could make or collect in the rather short preparation time I had available (basically less than a week.) This along with coordinating with my housemates (who were the best housemates I could have wished! We made a lovely family!) made for plenty of food and none of us left hungry.

The rest of the things I needed, I prepared myself the week before the event. Many of these things were items I needed to make/remake anyhow, but I was a little anxious of time and getting them finished for the event.

I needed fresh powder, and I needed to make some more pomatum but put it into a pomatum pot this time, instead of my ball jar. I also needed to make some waxed linen (not enough time to get bladders) to cover my crocks.

Fresh jar of pomatum. Yum.
Measuring my starch and grinding up some cuttlefish.

Sifted and scented!

Almond cake... YUM. It actually turned out pretty nice.
The preparation for this event was cathartic in some ways, allowing me to finally get around to changing out some things I had been meaning to for some time. It also helped to point out some areas of need for us. For instance, I ran out of crocks for food storage. We definitely need more. However, I had plenty of pitchers and actually ended up using a pitcher as an impromptu storage crock because I needed the space.

As we were actually staying in an historic home, the other thing I realized was that I don't really need historical transportation storage for my clothes. Lugging trunks and whatnot isn't really necessary with an event like this. The young girl I was interpreting lived in the home and probably never really traveled outside of her town. All of her things would have fit nicely into the storage in her room and not in seven trunks and a portmanteau. This doesn't negate my still wanting some portmanteaus, mind you, but I don't think they are needed in this context. 

I packed my clothing into my (very modern and awesomely collapsible) Thirty One bags and you know what? It was pretty great. I was able to unpack and fold up my bags and leave them in the car/in the storage closet with no signs that I was not a native inhabitant of that house. In another context a portable chest of drawers or even a portmanteau would work, but for me this time it was nice to keep my furniture carrying weight down and still have wardrobe choices available. 

I would have liked some pegs, but we made do with
bed rails and drawers.
Aside from the physical prepping for the event, I don't want to forget to mention the mental preparation. The young girl whom I was portraying for this scenario had but a few lines which made mention of her in Mr. Martin's journal, leaving me to form deductions regarding her character from what few details I had. This led me to scouring other sources for mention of similar young ladies so that I might draw from them something to be known of her, but also drawing from the vast expanse of the human experience. Overall, she was a flighty thing with not too much deep thought of the troubles around her apart from the fact that they inhibited her own experience and desires. Which, I actually think is fair. 

Preparing for this experience really caused me to focus not on those items of fact from the period which "we should know" but rather the ones which we shouldn't. So many of us, even today, have but a vague understanding of the political atmosphere and a very narrow scope of fields in which we are truly knowledgeable. I think it is important that we do not forget that people of the past were probably much the same way. A young twenty-something in a small town with a mean education may not be particularly tuned in with why things are the way they are, only that she dislikes the effects of things as they are. Her personality might also change how she approaches the world around her. So much affects the people we are and to what we pay attention.

This can be liberating in first person. I don't have to know super important battle details by rote. I might have heard of such and such a battle or such and such a person- but perhaps not in detail. How much would I truly know of army life? Probably little, but I might be rather inquisitive of the soldiers to find out. I think sometimes we make first person more than it is by feeling the need to know too much. It is key to know what it is we do not know.

In all, I felt relatively well prepared for the event. I think everyone's hard work paid off and I can't wait to share with you the details of my weekend. Alas, as this post is much too long already I will save those for tomorrow.

To encourage you to read my forthcoming exploits, (or avoid them as you may choose) things will get rather *ahem* intimate in my next post as I delve into my day as an 18th century young lady in Milltown, PA and leave all modern amenities behind. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

An Event in Which "Dame Fortune Had Been Kind..." (...or a First Person Immersion Event- Introduction)

If you've been following my updates on facebook, you know that I posted some last minute projects for "something cool coming up." Well, that something happened and now you get to hear all about it! Last weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a first person immersion event at a local site which kindly hosts a number of living history events in my area. While the site itself is primarily an early 1840s site, our group was actually portraying a portion of the memoirs of Joseph Plump Martin (which is somewhat fitting, as his memoirs were first published in 1830- somewhat full circle, eh?)

Martin was a soldier in the American War for Independence and his recollections are considered a pretty cool find in regards to contemporary accounts of the average soldier during the war. They were thought lost for some time until a first edition copy popped up in a museum donation and Voila! lots of happy historians.

Anyhow, our goal was to recreate some of the people and interactions from the winter of 77/78 based on Mr. Martin's writings. Oh- and to stay in first person for the duration of the event, which went live at 9 p.m. Friday evening and officially ended at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

That's right. All first person. All the time. Potential for disaster- definitely present. But, happily, things turned out pretty well, and I think everyone had a really good experience. I'll be penning a few posts in regards to a variety of aspects relating to this event (preparing for full immersion, the experience itself, reflections afterwards, etc.) as I think it would be far too much for one post alone.

I will say that my experience was a positive one and that I would certainly undertake an event of this nature again. I leave you, dearest readers, with a small glimpse of my chest of drawers on Friday evening and the promise of more to come.

Powder, cap, puff, brushes, housewife, stockings, shaker,
bum, neck handkerchief, and shift are just a few of the
items populating the chest awaiting their use
the next morning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Must Travel, to Learn...

For me, this often means physically travelling to workshops, conferences, and historical sites relating to my wish to better portray history. These last two weekends I have done just that, attending a B&T polonaise workshop (of which I have zero personal pictures- we were very industrious and I just didn't think to snap a shot! Check out their facebook page for pictures of the class.) and the Colonial Williamsburg Wigmaker's conference (for which I also have a sad few pictures to show.)

Both experiences we valuable to me and I learned so much, met some really great new people, and spent time with friends whom I don't get to see in person very often. That alone made both trips priceless.

I was fortunate enough to see some wonderful items pulled from storage relating to the wigmaker's trade and am looking forward to applying some of the techniques, tips, and tidbits I gathered from the various presenters.

Samantha from The Couture Courtesan did an amazing presentation on ear irons which, even though it's not my primary period, was truthfully one of my favorite talks of the weekend. I hope she publishes soon!

Friday evening was the opening reception, and guests were encouraged to attend in "our finery." I wasn't sure if I was actually going to dress in my historical clothes for this (more to bring on the plane) but ultimately I decided why not. I wore my (not quite finished) Italian gown and made up a new wig to blend with my own hair.

Overall, I was happy with the look, but of course there are little things I'd like to fix- you know, like finishing the gown and cuff hems and playing with the hair style a bit more. But, no blog post is complete without pictures, so here are the few I was able to manage of myself for my future reference and for your entertainment. =)

Using a flat iron to set papillote

Curls set and ready for frizzing/powder.

Front selfie.

Side selfie.

Hair close up 1.

Hair close up 2.

I always learn so much when I got to these types of events and can't wait for my next opportunity. On another note- I just found out today that my topic proposal was accepted and I will be traveling to St. Charles, IL at the end of January/beginning of February for Military History Fest to give a talk on getting started as a living historian. More on that to come, I promise!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Dress Form and Other Things...

So the school year has begun, meaning my long stretches of radio silence have, too. Once I finish the bulk of my master's courses this summer I hope for that to change. Until then, I have created a Facebook page where I'm much better about updating on projects, workshops, etc. on a much, much more regular basis.

I'm also considering a couple of new dress forms, in the manner of my 1812 one. Now that I'm entering the 1780s with some of my interpreting, I'd really like to create a form with my 1780's pair of stays. I also have some ideas for better arms this go around. More to come on that front probably around semester and holiday breaks.

Until then, I'll be spending the rest of this week getting ready to leave Thursday night for the Polonaise workshop and the Head for Fashion conference the weekend after that. Blog posts to follow, at some point, but instant Facebook updates for those of you like me who like the more instant gratification. =)