Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Sewing a Poem

In year 11 English I studied The Lamb and The Tyger by William Blake. The assessment task for the poetry unit was to make a visual representation of the poems, for example things like a drawing or a collage. My first thought was “Dress!” and first thing I did when I got home was to design a pair of dresses. Each design also included a head piece and a bracelet.

Down the side of each design are the key words phrases and concepts I was trying to include

The poems form a kind of contrasting diptych; The Lamb comes from the collection Songs of Innocence and The Tyger from Songs of Experience.

The dresses are the colours of the animals they represent. They are sized for a child and an adult to reference the different collections the poems come from: innocence and experience respectively. The 'Tiger' dress does fit me, but I have never had an occasion to wear it. There are some more poem-related design features as well.

Both poems feature the word "bright" so I incorporated matching gems as a ‘bright’ linking feature between the dresses.
For the white ‘Lamb’ dress I used towelling and feather wool finger weaving to give it a soft texture. The shoulder straps and headband are blue to represent the stream mentioned in the poem. The green and floral bracelet reflects reference to the meadow in the poem. The headband has lamb ears and sparkles for “rejoice”.
The Tyger is supposed to be representative of the disillusionment, suffering and damage that comes with experience so I gave the dress a distressed appearance. The beading on the appliqués is incomplete (as though some beads have fallen off) and the edges of the appliqué and underskirt are unfinished and allowed to fray.
There are black stripe appliqués on the front and back of the dress, but without beading on the back.

There are black veils on the headpiece and I finished these by melting the edges as the poem contains several references to burning. Also, it’s the neatest way I know of to edge chiffon.
The blue beads on the headdress are the stars’ tears, and the silver threads holding them are their spears to reflect the line “When the stars threw down their spears / And water'd heaven with their tears”.

The 'Tiger' dress has a bracelet made of the same feather wool fingerweaving that was used on the 'Lamb' dress as this poem also references The Lamb: “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

The straps of the dress are twisted cords for the line “Could twist the sinews of thy heart?” as well as chains for “What the hammer? What the chain”. I wanted a tiger’s eye ring to attach the chains to but I couldn’t find one, so I had to use wood instead (works for “In the forests of the night” I suppose).

The ‘English’ component of the assignment was a rationale about the choices I made in my visual representation (from which the above list is adapted). In the time-honoured manner of ‘design and rationale’ assignments, I did a basic ‘inspired by’ design and made up extra reasons afterwards to reach the word count. For instance there is a zip in the 'Tiger' dress because otherwise you couldn’t put it on, but according to the rationale it represents industrialisation, which my teacher insisted was an important message of the poem.  
And because the zip is inclined to pull apart I have hooked the elastic gathering the top of the dress to the other side of the zip to hold it together.

In my final years at school I made something of a habit of handing in dresses for assignments, so much so that English teachers began to fore-warn each other about me and I would get special handouts about clothes in Shakespeare’s time and such.

Costuming was a fairly new hobby for me at the time I made these dresses. It was while completing this project I came to realise how much I enjoyed it.

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