Sunday, April 15, 2012

Victorian Picnic Etiquette

With spring upon us, my thoughts turn to possible upcoming outdoor activities. It is still quite chilly here on the Canadian Prairies, but I know that won't last for long. I was thinking about possibly hosting a ladies picnic when the weather gets warmer. This got me wondering about picnics in the Victorian era.

People have been eating outdoors for literally ages of course, but the notion of "picnics" became popular during the Victorian era. During Medieval times, eating a feast outdoors was usually part of a hunting party. Nobles would host elaborate feasts of game, roasts, pies etc. for those involved in the hunt. In the 18th century the idea of hosting a more informal feast outdoors for your guests, minus the hunt, began to become a popular activity. It really took off during the 19th century, with even Quern Victoria herself partaking in such excursions.

Her Majesty picnicking with the royal family.

As much as it was considered a more informal occasion, food was still expected to be sumptuous. Dishes like lobster, and chicken, with sauces and sides, and desserts like tarts and trifles were acceptable picnic fare. Champagne was also included, kept cold it was advised, by wrapping the bottles in newspaper.
Servants would sometimes be sent ahead with the dishes, a small kerosine burner for heating up tea, and cutlery (eating with your fingers was considered improper). If there were no servants for the outing, then the gentlemen were expected to wait on the ladies and entertain them after the meal with any musical talents they had.

Victorian picnic set

After dining, games like blind man's bluff, charades or even tag, were played, or people wondered off in pairs or groups to explore the grounds. Usually around 5pm tea was served, before setting off for home.

As per usual during the 19th century, there were still lots of rules for polite and appropriate social behavior while picnicking.
When choosing a location it must be scenic but not too dramatic (like a cliff or dark forest) as it might excite or frighten the delicate ladies. There must also be ample shade for them, so as not to cause them discomfort in the sun. A light breeze was also considered ideal to keep the women comfortable (apparently we are easily made uncomfortable, but with several layers of petticoats, tight corseting and a possible bustle in summer weather, who wouldn't be?).
Men were not allowed to sit down on the ground near a lady, unless invited to do so. Men and women were also not allowed to wander off alone for too long either, or the lady would not be invited back on further picnics. Personally it all sounds a bit ridiculous to me, and who knows how long "too long" was - an hour? 20 minutes? 10? Before one was branded a "picnic tart".

I will have no such silly rules at my picnic. Just good food, friends, and some dressing up. What would you suggest for a gothic/steampunk picnic?

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Artistic Inspiration

This month our dear Professeur Gothique's homework assignment is to talk about our artistic inspirations. This is timely for me, as I am currently working on a series of paintings, to be shown in January 2013, at the Cr8ery Gallery . The work I am doing is based on a medieval/Northern Renaissance series, done by several artists of the day, called the "dance of death". My particular inspiration is the series by Hans Holbein (the younger). Mine has contemporary subject mater, with some of the figures changed up, but the idea is the same.Here are some examples from his series.

The Monk - Hans Holbein 1538

The Priest - Hans Holbein 1538

I am a big fan of medieval art and literature. When I was in university I studied history and English (history major, english minor) for three years, with an emphasis on the medieval period. When I switched to Fine Arts, I studied art history as part of my honors degree, again focusing on this period.

Agony in the Garden - Hans Holbein 1505

Living in western Canada, there aren't a lot of opportunities to see actual medieval art. Sometimes art tours through, but when I do travel to major cities, on occasion, I take the chance to go to their art galleries. I was thrilled when I got to go to the National Gallery in London in 2008, and in April last year, and was able to view some of their fabulous collection. Here's one of my favorites.

Wilton Diptych - artist unknown 1395-99

I really enjoy gothic era diptychs (two panels), triptychs (three panels) and polyptychs (many panels). There's something neat about these folding, ornately designed devotional pieces that I find charming.

Another favorite artist, also from the Northern Renaissance era, is Albrecht Durer. His detailed work, often of biblical scenes, I find to be dark and inspiring.

The Revelation of the Four Horsemen - Albrecht Durer 1497-98

Expulsion From the Garden - Albrecht Durer 1510

The list of inspirations for me goes on and on, but I think it's worth mentioning one more for me - Francisco Goya. A court painter for the Spanish crown During the late 18th and early 19th century, he did more than just paint portraits, he chronicled the events of the day in a dark and sometimes subversive manner.

The Third of May 1808 - Fransisco Goya 1814

Works like the one above, broke from depicting war as a heroic endeavor, and instead showed the horror and debasement of humanity. He also used art to criticize the long running Spanish Inquisition 1408-1834. His series of works called the Black Paintings comment on the superstition that dominated the mindset of this horrific episode.

Witch's Sabbath - Francisco Goya 1823

These are just a few of the works and artists I find inspiring. I can't wait to read everyone else's. :)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Music - Hannah Fury

I was looking for some different music to listen to, as I would like to add to and diversify my music collection. It was suggested to me that as I like the music of Emilie Autumn, I might check out the artist Hannah Fury.

Hannah Fury is an American independent, self taught musician. She started teaching herself to play the piano at the age of 16. Her first EP, Soul Poison, was released in 1998, and her first full length album in 2000, entitled The Thing That Feels. She has recorded several EPs since, and another full length album, her last release to date, Through The Gash in 2007. All of these were recorded on her own independent label MellowTraumatic Recordings (I love this name by the way). She started using just keyboards, piano and vocals, and has later added bass guitar and a drum machine to her music. I have to say I admire her for writing, performing, and producing all her own songs. She has also reportedly never performed live due to being very shy. It is inspiring to think that despite this, she didn't let this stop her from writing and recording.

She notes her inspirations as the novel Wicked (particularly the character of Elphaba), Marie Antionette, and the Rococo era.
Listening to her music I can see the comparison to Emilie Autumn, especially her earlier work, as it is very melodic and haunting. She also uses some disturbing imagery in her lyrics too, though I find it a bit more toned down. Personally I like my music a little more aggressive, but I can see why people might like it, and I certainly admire her as an artist.

What are your thoughts on Hannah Fury? Are there any other steampunk type artists you recommend?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pastel Goth and Bubble Goth

I have been hearing the terms bubble goth and pastel goth tossed around a fair amount lately, along with people debating wether or not these are legitimate forms of "goth" or not.
First of all what are they? And what's the difference?

Bubble Goth

Bubble goth was a term apparently started by the Estonian singer Kerli, to describe her style. It seems to take cues from Cybergoth with PVC, masks, fluffy legwarmers and dreadfalls, but uses a lot of white rather than black, with accents of bright color. The masks are sometimes made out of stuffed animals, and outfits can include childlike motifs.

Pastel Goth

I'm not sure where this style developed from, but it seems to combine elements of Lolita, and gothic motifs, like bats and skulls etc., but in pastel colors. Some wear black lipstick with pastel dyed hair and clothes, while others combine black clothing with pastel, and use motifs like cute bats, cats etc. I did hear someone describe it as "casual lolita" but I think it's a little more than that, as it does use some gothic symbols.

So What's All the Fuss?
There are those who sneer at these terms saying they're not goth at all, as they are too colorful, and not dark or macabre enough. Those of us that have been around the scene for a while may look down on this as a new fad, or as something that is watering down goth, making it more palatable for the pedestrian masses.
I think that pastel goth can be a great introduction to the subculture for the younger set. Especially if their parents may frown on wearing a lot of black. I also think that both these styles still contain some of the elements of fascination with things that are considered dark or macabre (the Teddy bear masks of bubble goth are definitely disturbing to me in a weird way).

Source - Tumblr

Whatever people choose to label these styles, I think, at the end of the day, it is important to dress in a way that pleases you. There will always be those who say "you are not goth enough" or who frown on others for stepping outside of a prescribed fashion box. To loosely quote Jillian Venters, there is no goth cabal who will kick you out of the subculture. I also find that those who criticize others the most, are usually projecting their own insecurities onto others.
What are your thoughts on these styles? In favor of it? Do you hate it? Let me know.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Bonnets

As the Easter long weekend is almost upon us, I thought I'd write a little about Victorian Easter customs.

Easter of course is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It is celebrated the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (wow that's a mouthful). Many of the symbols and traditions date back to pagan times. Easter eggs date back thousands of years, when eggs were decorated and given as tokens of good luck and fertility during the spring equinox. In eastern Europe eggs are still decorated with elaborate patterns. In western Europe royalty sometimes had eggs decorated in gold leaf, while regular folk would dye theirs with different plants to produce different colors.

The name Easter, is derived from
The Germanic goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. She was symbolized by rabbits and hares, symbols which carried over when the Spring Equinox traditions became Christianized.
German settlers took their traditions with them when they settled in America. In the 18th century their children would make a nest in the barn from a cap or bonnet for the "Ostra Hare" to lay a nest of colored eggs in on Easter morning. This tradition spread to the other settlers, and became the Eater Bunny.

The first Easter treats were made in Germany, though were from candy, rather than chocolate. Marzipan shaped rabbits were a particular favorite.
Chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany in the early 19th century, though were small and made from bittersweet chocolate. The first mass produced chocolate eggs were made by Cadbury in 1873. From there, the eggs became more elaborate, including ones decorated with icing, and of course, chocolate rabbits soon followed.

The tradition of the Easter Bonnet, goes back to at least Medieval times when people were encouraged to wear their best clothes to Easter service. After the restrictions of Lent, many would buy new clothes to show off and to represent the renewal of spring. Victorians continued this custom, with women donning elaborate hats and outfits. They would then parade their new clothes after church in an Easter Parade.

The tradition has died out somewhat, though I still like getting new clothes or a new hairdo in spring. How about you? What do you do for spring/Easter?
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Dark Sunshine and One Lovely Blog award

Thanks so much to Smashed Doll at Thoughts of a Smashed Doll for the One Lovely Blog Award. :)

Also a big thank you to Chloe at Cemetery Sandwiches for nominating me for the Dark Sunshine Award. I love both these blogs, so it was an honor to receive both of these. <3

Dark Sunshine Rules

- Post the award picture with a backlink to the person who nominated you
- Answer the ten questions posed to you
- Pass on the award to 10 or more bloggers

1. Favorite Colour? Black of course! Closely followed by purple then red.
2. Favorite Animal? I love all animals, but here's a few of my faves - cats, dogs, foxes, horses and narwhales.

3. Favorite Number? 15. It's my birthdate and good luck for me.
4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink? Cola probably, though I do enjoy egg nog at Christmas to.
5. Facebook or Twitter? Facebook, though I enjoy Twitter for following news channels, because it gives you a good run down of the headlines.
6. My Passion - I have several, besides my beautiful BF and family and friends, my art, my music and my writing.
7. Getting or giving presents? Both! I like getting, but am also thrilled when I find just the right thing for someone.
8. Favorite Pattern? Damask. I love it for wallpaper.

9. Favorite Day of the Week? Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
10. Favorite Flower? Rhododendrons. I discovered them when I went to England. They're beautiful!

I'm supposed to nominate others, but I think everyone's been nominated. If you haven't please consider yourself nominated. :)

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