Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two More Updates

Because I'm on a role!

A new scroll in the style of the Black Hours inspired by this.

I would still like to do Squashed Bug some time, but I really enjoyed this, and it seemed appropriate.
Many thanks to my friend Katrusha, of this blog, for sending me to this site for inspiration. I know extremely little about Comedia dell'Arte (other than having seen some), but I have a real love for making scrolls that fit with peoples' personae and interests.
If only I'd remembered to send the silver pen with the scroll...

I will also be working to finish off two (and hopefully) more of my goals in the next few months:
I will enter my boqtaq in the Ice Dragon Pentathlon, thereby fulfilling goal of entering an A&S Competition with full documentation, and I am planning (hoping) to teach the combined Butter and Cheese class with Lidia at AEcademy, since it is super-local to me this summer. Maybe I can talk Artemius into teaching bead-making again, even though I blew his class off at 3 Ravens to finish sleeping and making my hat.

And last (but not remotely least), I have formalized my relationship with my dear friend and second mother, Mistress Sadira. She is now my Laurel, and I am her Apprentice. Yay!

For those unfamiliar with the SCA, we have four peerages (at the moment, and there is some discussion of a fifth, but that is another topic which has no real bearing here): Knights, Laurels, Pelicans, and Royal Peers (County and Duchy). These are basically the top of a chain of awards in three different areas, martial arts (knight), arts and sciences (laurel), and service (pelican).
Royal Peers are a whole other kettle of fish, also less than relevant here.

The royalty of one's kingdom decides who gets which awards, with some help from the other recipients of some of those awards, and gives them out at events.
Most people take between 10 and 20 years to attain a peerage, and many never do.
If you become a Knight, Laurel, and/or Pelican, you are encouraged to take students on formally (many want to publicize this arrangement for a number of reasons, so it is often done in court so everyone can see).

Every relationship is different: some have one at a time, some have many (my husband has five, but intends to have 9, I think); some expect specific things of their students, others are just there for advice and moral support. It is a little like gaining a family, if your peer has other students.
A Knight's students are his or her Squires, a Pelican's students are his or her Protegees, and a Laurel's students are his or her Apprentices.
They wear tokens and/or colored belts to denote their status as a student and their attachment to their peer. Typically, squires wear red belts, protegees wear yellow belts, and apprentices wear green belts.

If your peer has multiple peerages (mine, for instance, is both a Laurel and a Pelican, which is somewhat common), you may be a student of both or either discipline. I chose to be an Apprentice because the Arts are where I have the most interest, and feel like I need the most guidance.
I imagine I will learn something about service from Mistress Sadira as well, but the art was more important to me.

My attitude towards peerages is complicated. I have granted some, and so I have been privy to the conversations of the orders in my kingdom, as well as made the decisions myself (with help from my husband, and the order, of course). I have never been granted one other than the Royal kind, which is, as I said, another kettle of fish.
I tend to feel that in the SCA you should do what you love because it is what you love, and not so that you will get a fancy award and get to swan around in the regalia. However, I will not deny that I would like to be a peer someday, so it's a little hard to judge others for feeling that way.

The problem with doing something to get the award is that when you have it, you don't tend to continue doing the thing for which you were awarded. That, to me, is a failure of the award system.
Some also see the peer/student relationship as a step towards getting the peerage, because one's peer is meant to advocate for one in order meetings.

I would prefer a relationship in which my peer only talks about me if she really thinks I deserve it, and not because my advancement is her responsibility. I trust my peer in that regard, because I'm pretty sure we agree on this philosophy.

I also have not entered into this because I want the peerage, but because I know that I am a lazy-butt with my research and often with my projects, and I procrastinate horribly, and I'd like the kick in the pants.

The Hat: Mongolian Haberdashery Take 2

Now that I'm almost out of things I've already done, the posts are getting less frequent.

I mentioned in my last post that I was making a boqtaq from scratch, and I have now done so.
If you missed my post on what the heck a boqtaq is, here is the relevant information.

I had researched and made a boqtaq last year, which was passable, but really didn't quite have the right shape, and definitely didn't have the right attachment to the head.
One of my major goals for this challenge is to make one properly, from birch bark and silk.
Of course, once you start the accuracy ball rolling, projects just get larger and larger.
First it was just birch bark, then it was silk and dyeing the silk red with cochineal. I haven't quite gotten to the point of raising silk worms and peacocks as I'd threatened briefly, but close.

My deadline for this project leads me to another goal I have now completed, teaching a brand new class: The Boqtaq: Like Wearing a Boot On Your Head, which I taught at The College of Three Ravens in my local SCA barony, last Saturday.

The following is the adapted version of the class notes.

The Boqtaq: Like Wearing a Boot On Your Head
The boqtaq was worn by Mongolian noblewomen from at least the 13th century onwards. It features in portraits of many of the Mongol Khatuns (Empresses), especially those in the Chinese portion of the Empire. 
Chabi, Empress of Kublai Khan
It was about 12”-3’ high, round at the bottom and square on top, and attached to the head by a secondary hat which more resembles the headdresses of the lower classes.
For the purposes of reference, a cubit or an ell is about 18” long.
“(the boghta is) of birch-bark, some two feet high. This they generally cover with a black woolen stuff; but some of the richer women use red silk. The end is like a duck.”
-Li Chih-Chang, 1222

“On their head they have a round thing made of twigs or bark, which is an ell in height and ends on top in a square; it gradually increases in circumference from the bottom to the top, and on the top there is a long and slender cane of gold or silver or wood, or even a feather, and it is sewn on to a cap which reaches to the shoulders.
The cap as well as this object is covered with buckram, velvet or brocade, and without this headgear they never go into the presence of men, and by it they are distinguished from other women.”
-Jon Plano of Carpini, 1245

“Furthermore they have a head-dress, which they call bocca, made of bark, or such other light material as they can find, and it is big and as much as two hands can span around, and is a cubit and more high, and square like the capital of a column. This bocca they cover with costly silk stuff, and it is hollow inside, and on top of the capital, or the square on it, they put a tuft of quills or light canes also a cubit or more in length. And this tuft they ornament at the top with peacock feathers, and round the edge (of the top) with feathers from the mallard’s tail, and also with precious stones. The wealthy ladies wear such an ornament on their heads, and fasten it down tightly with an amess, for which there is an opening in the top for that purpose, and inside they stuff their hair, gathering it together on the back of the tops of their heads in a kind of knot, and putting it in the bocca, which they afterwards tie down tightly under the chin. So it is that when several ladies are riding together, and one sees them from afar, they look like soldiers, helmets on heads and lances erect. For this bocca looks like a helmet, and the tuft above it is like a lance.”
-William of Rubruck, 1255 

“Saray Mulk Khanim (chief wife of Timur Khan) was dressed in red silk, her face covered by a white veil. She wore a complex headdress, fashioned from red fabric ornamented with pearls, rubies, turquoise, feathers, and held together with gold wire. As she moved forward, the tall headdress swayed with each step.”
-Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, 1404

Because the writings we have to document this are mostly from the writings of visiting outsiders and from pictures, it is not easy to tell what it signified or why it was shaped in that way.
Taji, sister in law of Temur Khan
It has been suggested, especially recently, that the European hennin, popular in the early 15th century in Western Europe, was inspired by the boqtaq.
By the timing it seems possible, and yet, I would question it. We know that Europeans had the accounts above to draw from, however, as far as we know, there is no proof that anyone in Europe ever saw a boqtaq up close. I also question whether European women would have wanted to imitate the Mongolian women, since they often saw Mongols as murderous barbarians.
We have several extant examples of boqtaqs, but they are flattened and not very well preserved. It is nearly impossible to tell how they were constructed from these, except in terms of what materials were used.
We know they were made mostly of birch-bark frames, with fabric, often silk, covering them.
We can tell from the portrait of Chabi, the approximate size and shape, and how it is attached (to a point, there is much speculation involved). The portrait of Taji shows the band around her head as transparent, and therefore you can see what’s going on underneath.

Based on headdresses collected in the early 20th century by Henning Haslund-Christensen, and kept in the National Museum of Denmark, I have extrapolated that the base for the boqtaq is probably similar to the basic bead-hanging headdress still common in Mongolia today.

I bought a 4 foot square piece of Siberian birch bark, and soaked it overnight.
I decided not to go with a 2 foot tall hat, because I’m fairly sure that Chabi’s is shorter than that, and the taller ones can get very unwieldy. The one I had made before was about a foot high, and it was a little wobbly at times.
I used a yogurt container as a reference for the size of the base.
I tried to cut a 1 foot tall by 11” wide piece with the intention of shaping it into a cylinder at the bottom and bending it into corners at the top to create the square shape. Unfortunately, possibly due to not enough soaking time, when I scored the bark to make the bends, a large piece broke out between the two bends.

At this point I weighed my options and tried two different theories.
One would have been a cylinder with four trapezoids sewed onto it, and then to each other. I cut and formed those pieces, but did not sew them together, because a better idea occurred to me.

I cut one piece 11” x12”, made two scores on the bark side at 3 ½” in from either side, 8” down from the top, and bent them gently at right angles. I then used clamps and string to hold them into 3 sides of a rectangle at the top, and wrapped the bottom with string around a wine bottle.
I cut a third piece, 4” by 8” triangle, and flattened it overnight.
I let these dry.
I drilled holes in all the pieces at the attachment points, and used waxed thread to sew the pieces together. I decided to concentrate on the second design, especially given the tendency of the bark to split unexpectedly. I ended up just dealing with one split, and sewing up some of the others.

I used two clamps and a piece of wood for the top shaping, and a wine bottle for the bottom. After 36 hours it was mostly dry, and could dry the rest of the way without the support system.
Because the bark portion was a little lumpy, especially along the seams, I covered it with a layer of cotton batting. I believe that the Mongols would have used wool felt, but I didn’t have time to make some of my own, and batting was available and cheap (I did use 100% cotton, though). If one wanted to justify it, Mongols did have access to cotton, although it probably wouldn’t have been as processed as this was.

Before covering the hat with two layers of red silk, I embroidered the silk with pearl and coral beads (having learned from the last time that embroidery should happen before attaching the fabric), and left plenty of space around the diameter of the hat. I then used a doll-making stitch to secure the fabric together, trimmed the top and bottom, and hemmed them.
Finally, I made a flap for the top of the hat, and sewed it on. It is easier to see the shape of this flap in some of the later illustrations, rather than in Chabi’s. It appears to be a rectangle, the width of the top of the hat (front to back), and about 3” longer on either side. It also appears to be tacked down on both sides. 
This makes sense to me from my experiences wearing the first version--in high winds the flaps like to float around.
I made a tonsure-shaped cap out of red wool, 4” in width, and curved. I used a weaving stitch to put it together because I felt the more room I had the better. I then covered it with one  layer of red silk.
I made a long strip out of wool felt (commercially made), and covered it with black linen. I will eventually re-cover this with black silk.
I speculated, since none of the portraits show the back of the hat, that the black strip around the chin is also the same piece as the two black ribbons down the back of the hat. These are trimmed with pearls at the ends. I chose to recreate this by making a black strip long enough to go around my head under the chin, cross at the top, and hang down past my shoulders in front.
I then posit that the red silk piece goes on top of this, and is pinned to it, making the hat more secure. The hat, I believe, is attached to the red silk piece with the triangular pearl embroidered pieces shown in all of the portraits. I think the pearls are attached to something a little stronger (more fabric, or leather perhaps), which would hold the hat in place. The red silk piece extends the hat further onto the head, making it even more secure.
One of the descriptions of the boqtaq mentioned the feathers being inserted into a tube in the hat. I chose to use a goose quill I had around (for scribal, but I’ve never figured out how to use it, so why not?). I trimmed three peacock feathers until they fit into the quill together, and then chopped the hollow part of the quill off of the rest of the feather, and sewed it into the back of the hat between the fabric and the bark.

What I Learned

One of the best things about teaching a new class is that you learn so much from the students. When I tried the hat on for the first time in class (because I only finished the strap beadwork five minutes before class, thank you, procrastination :)), it was very wobbly.
We then spent most of the rest of the class talking about how the attachment might work better.

  • The strap is probably not one piece, but at least two and maybe three. 
  • One piece probably is attached to the front of the hat with a brooch (instead of the cloth triangles I used) in the front, and goes under the chin. 
  • One piece is probably attached to the bottom of the back of the hat, and may tie underneath the veil. This would be similar to the back of the traditional headdress.
  • There may also be a hat pin that goes through the hat, caps on the other side, and goes through a mass of hair on the inside of the hat. I hadn't remembered the quote that the women tied their hair on top of their heads and inserted the hat over the top. This form of attachment makes a lot of sense.
  • My dear friend Baroness Mistress Daedez of the Dark Horde Moritu reminded me of the story of the boqtaq, in which a group of Mongolian women have to defend their homeland, and so ride out like men, and are awarded the boots of their enemies, which they wear proudly ever after. This may or may not actually describe the reason for the hat shape, but it is a good thing to know.
  • I think if I were to do it again (which I probably won't), I would make the front triangle wider to make the shape more exaggerated. It looks mostly right, but it could be wider.

Boyer, Martha Hagensen and Ida Nicolaisen. Mongol Jewelry: Jewelry Collected by the First and Second Danish Central Asian Expeditions. London: Thames and Hudson. 1995

Daalder, Truus. Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment. New York: Macmillan Art Publishing. 2009

Dawson, Christopher. The Mongol Mission: Narratives and Letters of the Franciscan missionaries in Mongolia and China in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1955. Print.

Lane, George. Daily Life in the Mongol Empire. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

Roxburgh, David J. “Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo’s Narrative of Courtly Life and Ceremony in Timur’s Samarqand, 1404.” The Book of Travels; Genre Ethnology and Pilgrimage, 1250-1700. Ed. Palmira Brummett. Leiden: Kononklijke Brill NV, 2009. 

Weatherford, Jack. The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. Print.

Ordos Tribe Married Woman’s Headdress and Ear Pendants, Qing Dynasty, c. 1900, Art Institute of Chicago. Web, 11 February 2014.

Mongolian Women’s Costumes, c. 1936-37, collected by Henning Haslund-Christensen, National Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark. Web, 11 February 2014.

Some very nice pictures of boqtaq finds from Mistress Aleea Bagah, which I haven’t been able to locate recently, and so cannot comment on the provenance.