Sunday, March 29, 2009

Test run

I've been spending the last while on the display boards - much researching, writing, precis-ing, re-writing... Having beaten them into something brief but still informative, I then sent the pdfs to Dad who printed them out (on 'parchment' paper or card) in glorious colour; they were then stuck to boards (stained and varnished earlier) and given a couple of coats of matt varnish to protect them from the ravages of time, packing, and sticky fingers...

An aside: you'd be amazed what The Public will poke and prod at. I learned a lot when I was re-enacting a few years ago as I also had a display then (although not as neat or as comprehensive as my current one) set up inside my tent, and at every show I would have to ask people not to damage it - the two old biddies who were attempting to bend a bone needle it took me half an hour to make, to see if it was plastic (I'm not sure how bendability or snapping it would have proved that); the young couple who placed my spare loom weights (threaded onto a loop of leather) over their child's head like a necklace and walked out of the tent, and made a great show of surprise when reminded that the object actually should stay with the display; the constant poking of fingers into the spice bowl (part of the tableware display) - most of the fingerprints were adult-sized (!); and the constant banging on drums, twanging the harp, strumming the lute, despite there being signs everywhere requesting the displays not be touched (and a rope a metre out from the displays!) - I had to re-skin a drum because of the amount of grease and something else (I think it may have been satay sauce) deposited on the head by one curious person.

Anyway, this time I decided that as public 'interaction' with the display was inevitable I should design the displays to be touched and make them as undamageable, or easily replaceable, as possible. The musical instruments, as ever, will be a problem...

Having got the majority of the display boards and accompanying models finished, I decided to set up the tent (I only finished sewing the walls, finally, last week!) and have a test run. It took me a couple of hours to set the tent up, put down the carpets (with a tarp under them - they're expensive!), tie up the wall hangings, and then finally set the display up. By this time it was very late in the afternoon and so Dad and I did a quick critique on what needed to be done/changed/ improved, then I went back later in the evening and made most of the major changes before I decided that I was too tired to make rational decisions and should pack it in for the night.

I spent most of this morning 'tweaking' the display and by lunchtime had it to a stage where I rang Dad and asked him to come over and do some more critique-ing. There is still a fair bit of work to be done on it - I need to make a model of an upright loom and finish a couple of the display boards, and stupid little things like replacing the thin dowel that some of the hangings are on with thicker dowel, as they don't support the displays without bending dramatically; but by and large I feel I've broken the back of it and will definitely be Good To Go by early June, when our first show is.

As it stands, the display covers the areas of tentage, lighting and furniture; a quick history of Cyprus during and shortly after the Third Crusade; textiles, dyes and cardweaving; games; medicine; music; feasting and eating; clothing and cosmetics; Dad is working on a display on the Benedictine Order (including himself in it, in costume); and Nat's planning a Trade and Travel display as soon as her studies (last year at uni!) allow. So, it's fairly comprehensive but still has a lot of room for upgrading and improvements (for example, replacing the wooden model dice with bone or horn ones, when I find some pieces big enough to make dice out of!). As I mentioned in the last blog it'll run to about 25,000 words, which basically makes the whole thing a big book with a stripey canvas cover and lots of 3-D illustrations!

And best of all - it packs down very neatly into three trunks and some loose stuff!

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