Monday, August 18, 2014

HSF '14: Late 1880's Walking Skirt

Another project building my late 1880's outfit.  You probably already know the back story about it, so I won't repeat it.  But I do want to say something regarding my fabric.  It is extremely hard these days to find a good quality cotton, with interesting stripes, printed on grain.  If you can afford them, reproduction fabrics are often the way to go.  And I have to mention Lolly's Fabrics in Shipshewana, Indiana, where I have found more reproduction cottons than anywhere else on the planet (that I have been).  Seriously.  Go to Lolly's.

And now on to the photos.

The Challenge: The Great Outdoors

Fabric: Windham Fabrics Presents Orchard House ca. 1860; Cotton; found at Lolly's Fabrics in Indiana

Pattern: Truly Victorian's 1885 Four Gore Underskirt - TV261

Year: 1885-1888

Notions: Thread and cotton bias tape.  I'm waiting to add a closure until I make a new corset.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty good.

Hours to complete: 8

First worn: Just for photos, it'll wait until the rest is done for a proper wear.

Total cost: About $40 for fabric, the bias tape was from stash.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Tale of Two House Museums

While we were in Trieste, I spent one day wandering through two house museums in the city center.  And my experiences couldn't have been more different.

The first was the Museo Revoltella, which advertises itself as a modern art museum, but started as a house that had a large wing attached to it in the early 1900's.  I spent most of my time in the house portion, obviously.

This place was amazing.  Everything looked brand new; there were no cords across chairs to prevent me from sitting on them; the banister of the three story staircase was covered in velvet--thick, plush, probably silk, velvet.  The whole time I was there I felt like the family was going to be home at any moment and ask why I was in their house.  And this feeling was amplified by two things.  First, I was the only one there.  And second, I don't just mean there were no other visitors.  I mean there were no docents or guards or employees of any sort.  Until I reached the third floor landing to find a guard, asleep in a chair(!), I saw no one.  I had an amazing house to myself for over an hour.  It was completely surreal and will probably never happen again!

Regarding that one guard, he woke up when his phone rang, he chatted loudly for a minute, and then left. And again I was alone.

The second museum was the Museo Sartorio, which simply advertises itself as a 19th century villa museum. So on the surface, pretty much exactly like the first one.  And once again, I was the only visitor.  But this time, I was stalked by docents.  And I mean stalked.

First let me say that I understand part of the job of a guard/docent (depending on the size of your museum you may have both with very different roles or just one) is to make sure visitors don't do stupid things like touching or sitting on things they shouldn't touch/sit on.  But whenever I'm stalked around a museum, it interferes with my experience.  I'm constantly aware of another person hovering, and am constantly wondering if my experience is good for them.  As in, 'Should I leave?  Are they just waiting for me to leave so they can get back to something they want to be doing?' or the opposite, 'Am I going too fast?  Maybe I'm going to be the only visitor they get today and I should slow down to give them a chance to do their job.' See the problem? A visit is supposed to be about my interaction with a space and its objects, and interaction with docents if I choose. Museum employees are supposed to facilitate that, while still keeping their objects safe. It is a balancing act, but the employees at the Sartorio were WAY off balance.

As I went from floor to floor, the docents walkie-talkie'd up to the next docent to tell them I was coming. As I wandered through a room one would pace in the next room, as I moved on, so did they.  On the 2nd floor there were two of them, and I was boxed in on either side.  It wasn't just annoying, it was kinda creepy. And the thing was, this museum had ropes telling you not to sit on the furniture.

Another difference from the first museum was that there was no impression the family would come home any moment.  The villa had been used as allied headquarters after WWII. Much of the original furnishings have been lost and walls painted sterile white. In some rooms it seems that restoration is in progress, but that process is always slow.

At the beginning of my visit, a woman who seemed like the head docent told me that the house was three floors and a basement.  By the time I was done with the three floors I was feeling done with house museums, and really ready for lunch.  (It was about 3pm at this point, so really really ready)  But as I was leaving, she stopped me with a hopeful, 'Don't you want to see the basement?'  And of course I said 'of course'.  She indicated a man who had been hovering in a doorway to come forward, and indicated I should follow him. He led me out of the house, through a covered courtyard, and into an elevator.  An exceedingly tiny elevator. Like two people, max.  And my irrational brain thought, 'And this is how I die.'  I really didn't know what to expect when the doors opened a floor below.  Certainly it wasn't that they'd open to reveal a wide, well lit corridor that had a glass floor, exposing Roman ruins discovered who knows when.  Or that amazing pottery would line the walls in perfect vitrines, making me feel like I was in a room in the British Museum and not underground in Trieste.  Or at the end of the corridor there'd be a case full of decorative cigarette cases that made me long for the early-mid 1900's where smoking accessories were more than a plastic 99c lighter. They were chic.

I didn't die in a basement in Trieste.  In fact, the basement was the most posh of the whole place, and probably shouldn't have been called a basement in the first place.  I really don't think it was under the house at all.

Two house museums, two interesting experiences, possibly neither to be repeated ever again. And that finishes my week in Trieste.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Week in Trieste

Trieste is a city that I knew nothing about before we went.  I'm not even sure I had ever heard of it.  It's in the very north-east of Italy, and looking at Google Maps, it looks like it should be part of Croatia, and was actually part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after WWI when Italy annexed it.

It's sandwiched between mountains and the Adriatic Sea, and for me there was a lot of hiking up and down winding, sloping streets and a lot of relaxing by the sea.

Dan's conference was at a Physics Centre that was about 8km north of the city, so buses were ridden daily in to town to explore.  But right by the Centre was probably Trieste's main attraction: Miramare Castle, so I spent the first day touring that and wandering around the expansive gardens, generally trying to avoid the Italian sun.

The castle has an interesting history, but if you want to read all that, Wikipedia is always available.  It's in remarkable condition too, after having been occupied by a variety of nationalities during and after WWII, and having all of its interior furnishings secure in Vienna when Trieste was annexed by Italy (Austria magnanimously gave it all back).

Another notable spot near Trieste is the Grotta Gigante, or Giant Cave.  It's a bit further up in the mountains but has been declared the largest tourist cave in the world, and I think it probably is.  The thing is huge!  And has a lot of steps (about 1000) to get down and back up.

Cave photos are generally bad, and ours really aren't an exception, so I'll just submit you to two.

The first gives you some idea of the size, and the second for the stairs in the background you can just see zig-zagging their way down.  So. Many. Steps.  The two white vertical things have very thin wires inside them and I think have to do with measuring seismic variations.  Or possibly tides.  Our guide spoke a very sort of mumbled hurried English after the spiel in Italian.

Trieste itself was interesting.  It has a lot of Roman ruins, and you can see the influence of Vienna (or so I'm told) in the architecture.

All three buildings are from the main square downtown, the Piazza Unita d'Italia.  I took a ton of photos of the mosaic work on the last building.  It looks really Pre-Raphaelite-ish to me, but I'm not sure that was intentional.

And that'd be Dan next to a Roman arch, and the ruins of a Roman theater.

The same day we explored downtown we spent some time sitting on a pier in the harbor, getting our obligatory feet-in-large-bodies-of-water-across-the-world photo and getting a bit of sun.

The water was actually quite a bit below the level we were sitting on, so this is us practically falling into the water trying to get our feet wet.

It was a bit windy.

And then a giant wave came and I got soaked up to my knees.

It was a good week spent in a place I never thought I'd go.  So thanks theoretical physics for having conferences in random spots around the globe.