This is an overview of my original work area in what we refer to as "The Back Room."
The opposite end of the room is my husband's domain, where he works on his mountain bikes. Poor guy, it also contains rows of bookcases holding my mini magazines, books, wallpaper sample books, and all kinds of containers for future scenes, etc. My stuff always seems to take over.
This was the arrangment at the time I was working on my favorite mini project so far, The Wife of Bath from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. As far as I can recall, it was in 2001.
This was the left storage wall as it appeared then in my end of the room. Behind the curtained doors are unfinished projects and uncompleted Chrysnbon kits, and Christmas items.
This shows the left corner and left end of my worktable- cluttered as usual. Behind the brown doors in the corner unit are sagebrush roots for trees and other awkward-size natural items for landscaping. (That's why the door's ajar.)
This shows the right end of my work table. Embarrassing amount of clutter, but never can seem to keep it presentable. The dark red silk in the package was the fabric for the Wife's dress. I found it at Pam Kille's Etcetera, Etc. table at a great price.
When I got a chip on my favorite cofee cup, it became my favorite desktop tool holder. This was a gift from a good friend, who knows me well. lol
The Real Women cup was a gift from a student many years ago. (I seem to've had every pair of scissors I owned on the work table that day!)
The Wife of Bath's wine cabinet is visible in the background.
I enjoyed making this wine cabinet; it contains so many items relevant to the story. I bashed another piece of furniture to make it, redoing the legs, using cardboard for a raised backing board, changing out the latch, repainting and antiquing it for an old oak finish.
The "pewter" plate standing at the back is a plastic plate from my daughter's old dollhouse! I used a silver paint on it, then an antiquing wash. The orange pitcher is one from a collection of pitchers (not all miniature) that I purchased at an antiques sale in the basement of a church in a small New Hampshire town. Another of those pitchers is shown in the Kitchen Box in the Smaller Shadowboxes pages.
Interestingly enough, one detail I added at the end of the wine cabinet is not even visible to an onlooker who examines my completed scene.
It's her chamberpot. But I know it's there, and most important of all, SHE knows it's there! It has a handle, too, which is unusual for that time period, apparently.
Notice the lacy-looking cross to the left of the cup? When one of my former teaching colleagues and dear friend, Fernie, passed away on December 24, 2000, I delivered the eulogy at his funeral. We had shared many ideas and lessons about teaching Chaucer over the years. Fernie's mother was with him almost constantly at the hospital in his last illness, and spent time making woven pastel crosses. She gave me one at the church that day as a remembrance. It made me think of the crosses that pilgrims brought back from their journeys and I asked her later if she would make one for my Wife scene in off-white. She readily agreed and brought it over the very next day.
It now hangs at the head of the Wife's bed.
Here is the Wife scene in progress.
Since she has just returned from an arduous journey, I wanted her to look so tired that she flopped over asleep before removing her wimple or her second red stocking. (I suppose her maid hung up her hat and pilgrim's cloak on the wooden shelf's peg on the left side of the scene.)
If I were to do the scene now I would try sculpting my own doll and do a better job costuming, I think, but at that time I lacked the knowledge or confidence, so I had to manipulate porcelain legs.
I had originally planned a roombox, but when I found a warped book box on sale I knew it would be perfect for my purposes. (After all, Chaucer's book is several hundred years old!) It took some doing to figure out how to make the base, etc, because of the warping. It was my first experience using one of those boxes. I have another for some future scene, but it's not as deep, and hopefully not as warped.
Using a font called Merlin, I created the front cover, duplicating the original figure of the Wife from the EllesmereManuscript, except that I have her facing in the opposite direction because she is returning FROM Canterbury.
I found the elaborate illuminated B there that I used with the Merlin font. Using the paint program I also manipulated and reconfigured the elaborate vine and flower motifs from that same manuscript. I would be able to do this a lot more easily now that I have more experience using graphics; it was an enormous amount of work for me to get the effect I wanted in those days.
After I glued the parchment paper to the book and added the gold trim, it didn't look old enough, so I rubbed a stain on it. The gold trim buckled on me! However, it looked exactly like the tin trim on an old photograph album that my grandparents once had. I was afraid I would ruin the whole book front if I tried to get it off, so, if anyone asks about the buckling, I just say the trim is made of golden metal!
The left interior of the book has the first verse from Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales and the title of my scene.
On the back wall over the wife's bed is a map of the pilgrims' route to Canterbury (parts of which are obscured by the curtain). I also used the flower and vine Ellesmere MSS motifs there.
I printed these and the front page of the book on parchment paper. I also duplicated the entire first page of the Prologue.
When I exhibited this scene in Tucson, that page was on a stand next to the display.
Because anyone not familiar with the story wouldn't have a clue what was going on, I also printed out a booklet, much like what now appears in The Wife of Bath page on my website, that gives the background of the story. It lay in front of the display. Even those who know The Canterbury Tales wouldn't necessarily have known about many items included in the scene that resulted from weeks if not months of research. Frankly, I don't know how many actually read it, although several people told me they had.
I loved teaching, and the Wife of Bath was always one of my favorite characters. I wish I could round up all my old students and share the fun I had doing this scene with them.