ISIS the Elephant – a fantastical creature inspired by a fantastical place
In 2012, ISIS Lacemakers were inspired by a study visit to Waddesdon Manor and the opportunity to design and make a bobbin lace exhibit on the theme of House Party as part of the Imagine… Lace 21 exhibition.
After the visit a text message went to group members suggesting elephant, silk casket, summer flowers, gold trunk … and positive responses came flooding back. With the exhibition theme in mind we decided that Waddesdon house party guests could look forward to exotica, opulence and beauty in every room. Inspired by the ‘Marvellous Elephant’ Musical Automaton, and the flower-adorned clock in the Green Boudoir, we decided to create a contemporary mixed lace piece comprising a golden trunked elephant on a casket of summer flowers.
And so began the design and creation of our exhibit. ISIS the Elephant looked fine as a felt prototype and then changed into a different sort of beast in calico. Creating him directly in our chosen Indigo blue silk resurfaced the elephant within, and with some supporting armature and deft stuffing he was ready.
We designed a Bedfordshire lace panel for the front of his head, with space for a hanging jewel, and with a gold wrap-around trunk. A bead-encrusted Torchon lace blanket was designed for his back and two gold thread Bedfordshire lace medallions added. Then – some gold kid for ears and tasselled tail, stitched eyes and clay tusks. A precious amber–coloured glass bead filled the space we designed into the front panel on his face. Almost there but something was missing. A strip of Torchon Little Fan lace with some gold thread included seemed just right for his (rather chunky) ankles.
We wanted a luscious collection of lace Roses, Iris and Poppies to fill our silk casket and group members went into production. Lace petals arrived through the post as well as at group meetings and with a growing collection of red, pink and blue (Iris) flowers we expanded our selection to yellows, creams, mauves. We also added in lace daisies, ‘Hattie’s Pin Cushion’ (a very apt country name for Astrantia) and ‘Love in a Mist’. Not forgetting Marigolds, more about which, later. We also designed and made lace leaves for the Roses, Poppies and Iris, selecting threads as close as possible to their colours in nature.
With his small ears, we decided ISIS our elephant was Indian in origin, and therefore researched Moghul architecture to inspire the curved window tops in his casket. Created from card, we padded the exterior and covered it in Perigot silk. The interior was lined with Mint silk and the little Torchon fan used to edge the windows. Hours of hand sewing with fine curved needles created the casket we had imagined.
We designed and created the Rothschild family emblem in Buckinghamshire lace and placed this centrally at the front. In a central position at the rear we mounted a circular piece of Tatting from one of our late members. We created a Torchon mat for the top of the casket with ribbons of yellow, red, blue and mauve in the same shades we had used for some of the flowers. Gold braid then edged the seams.
Inside the casket we introduced a mint green silk covered block and into this inserted all our flowers, filling the space to create the abundance that would be seen by house party guests. With these visible and emerging through the windows we were nearly complete. A mounting board covered in Perigot silk provided the base and we put the whole exhibit together at last.
And so to those Marigolds. We wanted our now revered elephant to have a garland made with these and so a group member embedded individual lace Marigold flowers in shades of orange and yellow as she created a gold Kumihimo braid.
And now, after the 2014 season living in the State Bedroom at Waddesdon Manor and numerous visitors, ISIS the Elephant is resting briefly until 2015 when he plans to get out and about in a specially designed acrylic box – for all to view!
ISIS Lacemakers are thrilled to have been included in the Imagine exhibition and proud of our golden trunked elephant. We designed it so that as many of our group members who wanted to get involved could do so, with varying types and complexities of lacemaking and with sewing and mounting tasks. We are delighted to share our handsome elephant with other Lacemakers and with the many, many people who visited Waddesdon during the summer. We hope it inspired some of those visitors to try lacemaking – there were some 50 lace exhibits in all, and great variety.
Note: ISIS Lacemakers welcome visitors to their twice monthly evening meetings, during which group members meet informally to chat and make lace, and also to receive tuition. We will be starting a new and exciting exhibition project in 2015, combining the beauty of silk and lace. Watch this space for snippets about our progress – or better still, come and join us!
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