Monday, September 27, 2010

A Blog About The "Bog"

"The WHAT?" "The Loo." "The What?" "The WC." "The What?" "The Water Closet" "Oh, you mean the BATHROOM!"
Well, no matter what you call it, every house needs "facilities", here in the States, commonly referred to as the "bathroom." A very long time ago, I bought the porcelain set you see below, intending to use it in the Lovely Old Dollhouse when I eventually got around to re-building it. That was before I saw the black porcelain set and decided that the Lovely Old Dollhouse would have a fancy black themed bathroom. So I tried this old set out in the "Folly" and I really think it is perfect here. What? You think it is too crowded in there? Well, it is a small room in a small house, and believe it or not, the first house I ever rented had a bathroom just as tiny tucked in under the eaves and you had to duck your head sideways just to take a bath! I think it is just charming in here! So then I tried the black porcelain set in the black themed bathroom of the Lovely Old Dollhouse, and realized that I had a problem. The scale was all wrong for the room! I don't think it was just that the room was larger, the fixtures were really MUCH too small!

Pollyanna was in complete agreement with me! She is NOT a tall girl and the sink only comes to just above her knees! How terribly disappointing! It just will NOT do for this bathroom!

So I tried the old white porcelain set in there, and could see the difference immediately. This was more like it! And I think it actually has the old fashioned charm that this house deserves! In fact, it reminds me of the bathroom in the old house I grew up in! (Except for the black tiles, of course!)

And Pollyanna agrees with me entirely! She can reach this sink without bending down! I think we will have to keep it. Which means now we need to find the right fixtures for the "Folly" bathroom.

So I tried the black porcelain set in the "Folly" and was NOT impressed! Maybe we could get by with the smaller scale in here, but the fixtures are just the wrong shapes for this room! It just won't do at all! This black set is a NO-GO! (Anyone out there with a small scale house want a black porcelain bathroom set? Send me a message if you do!) Clearly, I am going to have to go shopping for another white porcelain set in the correct scale!

So the bathrooms in my relatively modern houses combine the function of bathing and "relieving oneself" in the same room.... a common practice in the "West" ever since indoor plumbing became the norm in the later nineteenth century. Prior to that there was the "outhouse" at the end of the garden path, and bathing itself was done in either the bed chamber or commonly, in the kitchen near the fire where the water was heated. And those conditions had remained unchanged pretty much since the middle ages. And while there are not a huge number of medieval illuminations showing these "facilities" as they were then, I did find a couple of examples. Here below is a good illustration of an "outhouse" or "privy," here attached to the outside of a building over the cesspit. This is from that illuminated version of Boccacio's "Decameron" that I refer to so often. It has such "Juicy" stories that it requires illustrations of such things as privies.... and in this case the young man of the story has fallen in.....! (Go read Boccacio if you want to know how it ends!)

And the bathing facilities were apparently sometimes of the communal variety, with no luxury overlooked! As you can see in this illustration below. Clearly they are enjoying themselves to the fullest!

And another illumination from Boccacio, showing a couple at a bath-house, enjoying a cuddle while the bath is being filled by a servant. Clearly, privacy was NOT the same as it is nowadays!

So the idea that the middle ages was a time bereft of the pleasures of a warm bath and indoor "plumbing", is clearly an inaccurate one! It was while I was considering this that I realized that my original plan for my Castle Dollhouse was clearly lacking an important detail! No bathrooms! I could argue that they would take their baths in a tub in their rooms, or by the kitchen fire, but there was no escaping the fact that I had left out the "loo"! This would have to be remedied or I would always feel I had made a big mistake!

You may recall that the Castle looked like this in the last view you had of the whole building. Kitchen, Pantries, Stables, Chapel, Guard Hall, Great Hall, even Dungeons! But no bathroom! So I decided to add a couple of "privies" to the back side of the great hall, as they would have been in a real castle, tucked into the buttresses, overhanging the moat on the outside of the castle, but easily accessible from the inside. This required cutting openings into the back of the Great Hall, and building external structures to imitate buttresses.

Of course, I didn't take any good pictures of this part of the building...... but you can see the new door on the right side of the Great Hall leading into the lower privy.

And the upper one is off of the balcony from the Lady's Solar.... and would have been used exclusively by the women. You can see the new door and a glimpse of the privy below.

Here is a closer view, showing the window with its wooden shutter, and the stone privy seat!

And another closer view of the lower privy off the Great Hall. This one would have been accessible to everyone.... easily available to Castle banqueters..... and a lot less private!

Oh! Excuse me! I didn't see you in there!

"There is no banquet here!" says Henry. "I've been looking!"
"No privacy either! You're a nosy lot, aren't you!"

"And I don't know what a person has to do around here just to get a bath!"

Belle says a person could start by asking nicely!

"Aw, please!" says Henry.

And he's even willing to help haul the water!

She's not telling him how cold the Well water is!

But I think he pulled the hot water off the fire...... no point in a COLD bath!

Aaaahhhhhh..... that's more like it!

"You could always join me, Belle....." calls Henry.

"Or maybe just fetch me some ale...... !"

Some things haven't changed much over the centuries..... even if we do have the indoor plumbing!

The "bog" blog.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapel Windows

Stained Glass You may recall, when you last saw the Chapel, it was through the tiny window into the Monk's cell, and that I had decided it would not have glass because back in those days glass was a luxury that only the wealthiest could afford. It would not be wasted on a tiny bedroom window! But the windows of the Chapel proper would be another story altogether. The Chapel was the House of God and deserved the finest materials and treasures that the household could afford. But here I must digress, and remind you that even though I have not decided just how "modern" this Castle will be, the story is that originally it was an Abbey that had been abandoned and once it was fortified as a Castle, the Lord made many improvements and "modernizations". Amongst those were adding glass to all the important windows, especially the Chapel windows. Now I know that many of you will be like me in that when you think of Chapel windows, you automatically think of stained glass windows. I think of the windows of the "Sainte Chapel" in Paris, or the Rose window of Chartres Cathedral for instance. Below you can see a picture of a portion of a stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral in England.

This window was probably created in the fifteenth century, making it from the later end of the era that I am trying to portray with my Castle. Below you can see a drawing from a fifteenth century manuscript showing a Glass Works in action, showing all the steps taken in the process of making glass.

I know that by the fourteenth century they knew how to make colored glass by adding various chemicals to the molten glass.... even though I am not sure exactly what those chemicals were! They were able to produce blue, red and yellow glass. And yet, when I scour the pages of the illuminated manuscripts from that era, I only find clear glass being portrayed in the illuminations of church windows! Below is an excellent example from the copy of Boccacio's "Decameron" that I refer to so often. You can see the painted ceiling of the chapel and the carefully drawn leaded glass panes in the windows. This was illuminated in the early part of the fifteenth century.

And here is another example of Chapel windows.... clear glass, NOT stained glass, in an illumination from "The Hours of Catherine of Cleves" painted in the mid to late fifteenth century.

And a most magnificent version painted in the "Hours of Mary of Burgundy" in the later half of the fifteenth century....... showing not just the clear glass in the Church windows, but also a magnificent close-up of the bulls-eye roundels of glass used to make the window through which we are looking!

So why am I showing you all these NOT-stained glass windows? Well, really just to explain that even though it was highly unlikely that a Chapel in a remote Castle, in the thirteenth century or early fourteenth century, would have stained glass windows, I am choosing to make mine stained glass!

The story goes like this: Sometime in the late thirteenth century, one of the Lords who went on a Crusade took his young nephew with him as Squire. When they returned from the East, where they had been exposed to luxuries and artistic wonders too magnificent to describe, the young Nephew decided to stay in London and became apprenticed in the glass-making trades. In time he became a Master glazier of great reknown. After many years he returned to the Castle in the North and spent the last years of his life creating stained glass windows for the Chapel in the Castle. And so it came about that this remote Castle has beautiful stained glas windows way ahead of the times!

Below you can see the Chapel with the beginnings of the stone work painted and the unglazed window openings.

Here you can see it with the vaulted ceiling temporarily in place. I have added a layer of stiff paper to the vaulting ..... eventually it will be painted as if it were frescoes......

You can see the two narrow windows in the Chapel (sorry about the lighting.... the Castle sits in front of my real windows, and daylight is visible through one of them, while the wall is visible through the other, making it difficult to photograph!) The classic arched shape of the windows comes from the structural necessity of carrying the weight of all the stone above the window openings... an arch is the strongest shape and was used from Roman times onward. This Castle is pre-gothic!

Here below you can see the design I have drawn in "lead" on each of the pieces of window glass. I used a simple glass painting kit available in craft stores, having never painted on glass before! You can see that the glass pane for the rounded top section of the window is itself square. I did not want to have to cut round glass, so I designed a form that would let me use a square piece of glass sandwiched between two pieces of wood cut in the pattern of the window.

Below you can see the cut arch-shaped pieces of wood , painted to resemble the stone they are pretending to be..... and the beginnings of the colored painting on the glass. You can also see a little bit of the window "frame" pieces. I discovered that the standard railing they sell to make for stair banisters has a channel cut in the bottom that fits perfectly over the edge of a pane of glass, making it really easy to cut and fit around each pane! That saved me a lot of cutting and fitting!

And a slightly closer view. Each pane of glass is about one inch wide by about four and a half inches long. I have chosen to depict the two Archangels, Gabriel and Michael.

Here all the coloring is completed.

If you look carefully you can see the pencil sketches showing the placemant of the windows, and the framing that will be built to surround them.....

Now the glass is in the framing pieces, ready to be fitted in the window openings.

Here is the view with the windows in place (Sorry about the poor lighting..... that window is now too dark because it is night outside...)

Here is a better shot, showing that my cutting and fitting is NOT as snug as I would have wished... I will be covering the gaps with the "carved stone" trim around the window......

A close-up of the Gabriel window.......

And the Michael window!

So, no matter that it is possibly anachronistic, my castle Chapel has stained glass windows made by the Master glazier as his last great masterworks!

Chapel Windows

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This One Is For My Mom

I have a love/hate relationship with curtains. To begin with, I love to look out windows and see the view. I love to watch the sunlight move across the floor of a room as the daylight changes. I love light streaming into a room, in the daytime, and I love the way the windows become mirrors at night, reflecting back the cheerful images of the warmly lit room. I love the very architecture of the window frames and hate to cover them up with anything at all! And on the other hand, I love the fabrics and laces that are used for curtains. I love the elegant drapes and swags and tassels that go with the truly well dressed window. I love the gauzy billowing mystery that is a lace covered window, coyly revealing only a hint of the view!

Perhaps I could blame it on my mother. When I was growing up we had minimally dressed windows, even though we lived in suburbia and had neighbors who could see into our windows. My mother has never been overly concerned with the "look" of her rooms and windows. Comfort and functionality were the important things. She was into the casual, even bohemian way of living, and curtains were so, well.... like her PARENTS' home! Besides, fancy curtains were expensive! I remember my grandparents GIVING my Mother the curtains for our house because they thought the naked windows were just not okay! So we had curtains, nice simple cotton ones for the most part, but we almost never closed them. The sunlight and the street lights and the moonlight were all free to come in at any time!

My Mother was more inclined to make use of curtains in imaginative ways than conventional ones. I remember one Halloween when I was six and my sister was five, Mom sewed us matching Princess costumes. She made our dresses from beautiful old marroon brocade curtains that she found in the attic. They were much too Victorian for her to EVER use them on her windows, so she blythely cut them up and made them into our princess gowns with lace doilies for collars! We never had such beautiful costumes before or since! I am afraid it set a dangerous precedent, and many times in my teen years I happily cut up old brocade curtains to make my clothes.

And when it came time for me to have my own home, I wrestled with the curtain issue constantly. The practical need for something to cover the window and block the extremes of light and dark, battled with the desire for the open unobstructed view. I usually ended up with a compromise.... minimal coverings in the city apartments as modesty required, and mostly naked windows when living in the rural countryside.

So, you can see that when it comes to deciding on curtains for my Lovely Old Dollhouse, I have had to wrestle with this very old dilemma. Because, even in the dollhouse, I love the way the sunlight pours into a room through an unclothed window! And having worked so hard at MAKING all those window frames, I hardly want to cover them up at all!

Below, you can see the way the front hall looks with the sunlight pouring in.

I am NOT going to put curtains on these windows!

But, recognizing that I would need to have curtains on SOME of the windows, I decided to put in the curtain rods for all the windows, and decide on the curtains later. I used small eye screws and cut "rods" from old metal coat hangers. Here you can see the bathroom window with a rod at middle height in case I decide on cafe curtains here, as well as one at the top.

And I gave the window at the top af the stairs the same double rod treatment in case I decided they needed to be matching windows......... there is something about the stark, bare window that I find very beautiful.

As for the kitchen window, I was going for a striped effect, probably because I remember the curtains in our kitchen when I was growing up were a beautiful yellow, gold, brown and white striped fabric. I could not find anything to match that, but found some woven linen cocktail napkins that make lovely curtains! I hardly had to cut them up at all! And while they mute the sunlight more than I would like, I am going to keep them for now.

The curtains for the Chinoiserie Bedroom were the simplest of all! I had been saving these two small panels of lace for longer than I can remember! The first time I saw them, I said THOSE are going to be curtains in my Dollhouse! I didn't even have to cut them AT ALL! they were EXACTLY the right size for this window! I just LOVE the way the sunlight comes through them!

Here below is a close-up that shows the lovely pattern of the lace. I tell myself that it is perhaps a Tree of Life lace pattern! Perfect for the Tree of Life painted bedroom! I am VERY happy with the way it turned out!

But when it comes to curtains for the Parlor, I am not so sure. This is partly because I actually made a set of lovely green velvet curtains trimmed in gold satin and underlaid with lace gauze curtains when I was working on the dollhouse in my teen years. And I packed them up and have carefully kept them all these years! Here below you can see them, only slightly worse for wear. I think at the time I had in mind the beautiful green velvet curtains made so famous by Scarlett O'Hara.... the same ones she cut up and made into a dress! These looked really elegant against the cream walls of the Parlor back then.

But when I put them into the newly painted GREEN parlor, they didn't look nearly so nice! And they were too short! Hmmmmm.........

Helen isn't sure they will do at all... they are MUCH too faded for her liking!

Oh, did I forget to introduce you to Helen?

It seems that Helen's Great-Uncle passed away recently and left her the old family house. He was one hundred and three years old and never married. He traveled a lot in his younger years, but was pretty much a hermit for the last twenty years or so. NOTHING has been done with the place since HIS mother decorated it AGES ago........

Helen has NO idea what to do with the old place!

She brought her grandaughter Pollyanna to look at it with her. Pollyanna is studying Design and might be able to DO something with the old place! Helen's husband Charles is all in favor of letting Pollyanna take charge. Pollyanna LOVES the idea!

So does her boyfriend, Arthur. He's looking over the fixtures to see how much of a challenge they will be!

The kitchen is a bit primitive..... but Pollyanna is really excited by the old fashioned feeling to the place..... it is SO unspoiled!

Arthur agrees that it could be a great project for her to "practice" on!

But Helen is not sure.... Is it too much of a responsibility?

Charles says everyone needs to make a start somewhere!

And besides, they can't take it on themselves, they live too far away.... they wouldn't want to have to keep coming here just to check on the contractors all the time!

Pollyanna is looking the place over top to bottom.......

Oh MY! LOOK what she found in the attic! That must have belonged to her Great-Great-Great-Grandmother! And it fits her so well!

It's a SIGN! says Helen. This place was just WAITING for you!

(And isn't the dress just Stunning? Sewn by me in my teens and kept all these years.... she'll have to wear it to a costume ball.... !)

I think you're right Charles! We will let her have it!

But I do think SOMETHING is going to have to be done about these curtains. They just look terrible in here!

As I was searching through all my boxes and drawers full of fabric, looking for the perfect cloth to use to make new curtains for the Parlor, I came across a lovely silk scarf given to me by my Mother. She had been shopping at a local thrift store and saw the scarf and thought I could use it. Now, sometimes one receives gifts from loved ones and at the time of the gift, the reason for it seems less than clear, but one gladly takes the gift because it comes from a loved one. When my Mother gave me the scarf, I was in the process of packing up my house where I had lived for twenty years, accumulating waaaayyy too much stuff! I was holding yard sales, carting things to the dump and GIVING away tons of stuff. I had bureaus and bins and boxes full of cloth scraps, (and still do:)) what could I possibly need MORE cloth for? But she was right. It was very pretty with the irridescent silk and gold thread embroidery. So I added it to my boxes and forgot about it. Until I was searching for the perfect cloth for the new curtains.

Here below, you can see this scarf, in all its wrinkled glory, laid against the floor of the parlor. The irridescent redish brown and green is really very striking!

And when I bunched it all up as if it were cut into curtains and tried it for size on the window of the Parlor, I thought the colors tied together beautifully with the green and the red in this room!

Perhaps I HAVE found the perfect cloth for the new curtains!

My only question is how DID my Mother know?

But I AM going to have to do something about that bunched up effect! I don't care for that look at all! Sigh. I think I am going to have to cut up some CLOTHING to make some CURTAINS!

So thank you Mom! Thank you for knowing the cloth I would need before I did. Thank you for teaching me to sew and to fearlessly cut up curtains if they were the material at hand. And thank you for letting the light stream into all our windows! I love you!

P.S. All characters are fictional... and any resemblance to known characters is only SLIGHTLY accidental!