Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Midnight Phantom Blogger....strikes again

I do wish I knew why this happened. Off I go to the Land of Nod, happy as a sand-boy. Thirty or so minutes later, I am wide awake, probably twitching or aching somewhere. And absolutely certain-sure that sleep will not come again for quite a while. OK, so I have learned to deal with it by getting up and doing something, so it doesn't matter if I am late up the next day. But, it's a pain, really.

Anyhow. The post I had meant to do earlier (like, yesterday) and didn't get around to.

I have finally got my act together, and have had a meeting with the Curator of Pottery and Textiles at the Bankfield Museum to see their collection of spindles and whorls. I'm about half-way through, and will have to go again. Such a hardship.

There is a downside. These artifacts where simply collected. If we are lucky, there will be a tiny label attached saying where one was originally found, but not always. Now they reside in boxes, preserved but in some ways useless. No, that is not fair, they can tell us things.

They tell us that people used their spindles - the condition is not always due to having been buried for centuries. And people valued their spindles, because sometimes they decorated them. Every kind of material you could imagine was grist to the mill of making whorls - bone, stone, clay, pottery, lead, wood. Many of the spindles had shafts worn smooth and polished by hours of work. They tell us that spinning traditions travelled and as they did so, changed subtly. And they tell us that just as today, people spun all sorts of fibres - thick, thin and gossamer.

Spindle of unknown origin

This one had no date, no provenance. It is probably not very old, it has an iron hook in the top of the whorl, and it and its fibre are in quite good condition. I had to wear gloves, of course, so couldn't feel the fibre. I could hazard a guess that it is cotton, and it is beautifully spun. From where? No clue, but as there is a famous monograph by a former curator on the spindles of Egypt and the Sudan, my guess would be one of those. I itched to try it - but of course, could not.

Eastern European spindles

These were a surprise. So like the "Orenburg" spindles, two of which I have downstairs, never mastered. They were labelled "Ukraine" and "Little Russia". (Although there was another marked "Jugoslavia.) See what I mean about traditions travelling? Although fairly crudely carved of plain wood, they had simple painted bands around them in two or three places.

Spindles whorls

The first box of (mainly) spindle whorls.

Blie-glazed pottery whorl from Ptolomaic Houses

Egyptian, 2nd century BC, the only one so far of fired, glazed pottery. A pretty blue. For fine cotton, maybe?

Lead, Roman

A geographic, cultural and textile jump. Pretty, moulded, painted, again blue (I wonder if there was any significance to that?) And heavy as....lead. Labelled "Naples", so I am going to assume Roman, as I have seen pictures of other Roman spindle whorls similar.

West Indian spindle

Now, here we have a nice example of an African bead whorl spindle. Or rather, we do not. This, seemingly, comes from the West Indies. There is a story there, then. I don't think I can cope with a story like that just now.

It is, I should add, one hell of a buzz holding these in the palm of your hand, even with nasty latex gloves on. This last is a terrible photograph, but it gave me a shiver of pleasure. It is a very rough, clay whorl, quite heavy and functional, pragmatic. Except that someone has put a decoration around the rim, simply pressing a stick or something into the clay, just as I might make thumb-marks around the edge of a pie crust. I found that very touching, somehow.

(Edited - because idiot forgot to paste it in!)

Clay whorl

And then there was the whorl from "Ancient Mexico" (I haven't identified which photo it is yet.) Which as I picked it up, sent and almost electric shock through my fingers and hand and up my arm, and made me just for an instant feel cold and shaky. Now, I am not an over-fanciful type. But that was....weird.

But, whatever, I can't wait to go back and see what is in the rest of the boxes.

Edited to add an apology for the quality of the photographs - I couldn't use flash.


freyalyn said...

How interesting! I'd certainly be interested in seeing more reports of this.

ambermoggie said...

. Especially loved(if that is the correct word) the feeling you got from the Mexican one. Too weird. I know that things can hold feelings, hence the success of psychometry but to actually feel that from an ancient artifact?

beadlizard said...

More, please!!! If Stephenie doesn't have enough bandwidth to see this, I'll print a copy for her -- this is her cup of tea.

And boy do I know what you mean about feeling a zing when you touch artifacts. Sometimes I even see the scene from long ago. Yikes! --syl

beadlizard said...

Steph says she has dial-up of 26kbs so I'm printing your post and mailing it to her. She's thrilled!


Barbara Blundell said...

Fascinating. Perhaps you'll tell us some more at AH
Please strike again

Dorothy said...

I went to Bankfield Museum on Saturday to see the Tapestry 2008 exhibition - as you recommended! Enjoyed it very much.

I was very impressed by the museum, especially the old looms, I hadn't realised that the looms in H Ling Roth's book are actually in the museum collection! Wow! And now I find they have spindles as well.