Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Secret Society Sale: Introduction

Now that I've gotten past a few pressing projects, I'm ready to delve into my next one - a project that I've been mentally working through for months now, and am finally able to tell you all about it, I'm really excited!

Back at the end of last year, I purchased four antique ceremonial robes that came from an old Oddfellows lodge somewhere in West Virginia.


My best guess is that they're from somewhere in the vicinity of 1910-1925 era. Definitely very old, and they've seen some use and some tribulations, as they're not in great shape. My plan is to make a small body of work using these four robes to comprise as much of the art as possible - all of the parts of these robes can be used to make dolls - the cotton fabric, the lining, the buttons, embroidery, tassels, tags, and even the reverse sides all have merit and potential.

Normally I would hesitate to take scissors to such artifacts, but like I said before - these are not in good shape. The photos make them look better than they actually are; there's a lot of fading, staining, moth-holes, ripped seams, broken buttons, water damage, and other issues. I want to take these objects that would otherwise just languish in a dark closet somewhere, and turn them into cherished objects, and breathe new life into them by transforming them into Dust Bunnies!




I've long been fascinated by the mystery and lore of "Secret Societies". Not necessarily the organizations themselves, but their reputations for mystery and intrigue; secret symbols and rituals, bizarre initiation ceremonies and complicated membership rites. Not the reality of secret organizations, but the fantastical rumors and stories built around them, by the uninitiated. I've also been drawn in by their keen sense of design and symbolism - antique fraternal ephemera is just a pure aesthetic treat.

So, I'm about to start building this body of work, which I will sell this spring as as online event called the "Secret Society Sale". I'm looking forward to forcing myself to be creative, to research and learn, and to really get to know these garments as I work with them. Who knows how long they were used in Oddfellows meetings? How many people wore them? I love a good antique mystery.





Just as a note, historical or factual reality is not my goal with this project - I know the history and rational existence of the Oddfellows and other charitable fraternal organizations, which are still alive and well. It's an exercise in suspending our belief, and asking "what if?". What if there were invisible, mystical hands pulling the strings of important events? What if every symbol we see actually has a deeper, hidden meaning? What if that plain-looking person walking toward you on the street is actually the highest post in an elaborate and powerful organization!?

My bunnies are obviously not smart enough to actually be a part of any organized membership, secret or otherwise, but they'll be doing their best to festoon themselves with (what they deem as) appropriate attire, don (what they think are) meaningful symbols, and (attempt to) show you just how organized and powerful they can (or can't) be.

More info soon!




18 comments:

  1. Im loving this idea!!! the whole thing... colours, the fading, the imprints of time use wear, the history and the upcycling! and the sheer fun of your dustbunnys running amok with this plan of yours!!! I want to reserve a dustbunny from this project... tell me if I can! tell me how much you need as a downpayment to reserve one of these magical dustbunnys...

    moira hawthorne copeland... on facebook

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    1. Unfortunately I can't take reservations - but I'm hoping to have quite a few across different price points so that I can get them out to many folks...and hey, if people love the idea, maybe I'll be up for a Secret Society part 2 later on!

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  2. Great idea! I would love to own a dust bunny made of the purple dress. You could make the pattern on the top part of it look like fish scale. :o)

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    1. It's true! I'm excited to work with these materials :)

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  3. How cool! I was visiting a friend in an old mountain town and they showed me a secret compartment in their Odd Fellows Hall that had a coffin and real skeleton inside. It was the first and only time I've seen a full real skeleton and it hit me that they used to be alive and here I was peering at their remains.

    Back on topic...I'm super looking forward to this!

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    1. Oh wow, that's crazy! I remember reading once that actual human remains are a pretty common part of many Fraternal ceremonies - I think it has something to do with an appreciation and understanding of the fragile and impermanent nature of our existence. Bones are interesting that way - I actually have a human pelvis (from an old school biology lab), and sometimes wonder what the person was like when they were alive.

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  4. Oh I'm so excited about this and can't wait to see what you come up with!!! It gave me chills reading about it!! :D

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  5. I have a feeling i'm going to love what comes out of this :D

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  6. This sounds and looks like an awesome idea! Can't wait to see the bunnies!!

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  7. These are going to be fabulous! I'm really looking forward to festooned, ceremonial Dust Bunnies!

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  8. Beautiful robes can only mean beautiful bunnies! Love all of your work because of it's historic feel, this is especially historic. I agree that the mystery and secrecy makes the robes that much more alluring. Cannot wait to see the final product. And thank you for putting us in the know so early so we can start saving our pennies now!

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  9. I sent you a couple of emails but got no reply. Did you get them?

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    1. Uh oh - let me check my spam folder...sometimes my mail gets a little overzealous with the spam blocking. Sorry!

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  10. How many Dust Bunnies will be available?

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    1. Not entirely sure yet, depends what I can make! I'm going to say no less than 5 full-size originals and a smattering of smaller guys for sure.

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  11. Very Neat!

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  12. The robes are gorgeous. Really looking forward to seeing what the combination of the robes and your research creates. :-)

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  13. The details on these pieces are absolutely divine!

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