Mermaids, Snow Queens and Chinese Opera.
So last week, I quickly introduced myself and briefly described how I became interested in chaimaille and Viking Knitting. This week I thought I'd share with you a little more detail on how and why I named my business Atlantic Rose, and not something along the lines of "Emma Thorpe Designs".
I have always been a crafter. Like most kids, I loved art; drawing, painting, playing with plasticine, glitter, glue. But then, when I was 4 or 5, my mum taught me to knit and a switch in my head was flipped. I developed an almost pathological need to make things. As a result, I was never without a pair of knitting needles in my hands. And I do mean never! My mum even gave me the nickname "Madame Defarge", the Charles Dickens villain who constantly knits through the horrors of the French Revolution, not because I secretly knitted the names of victims to be beheaded into my work, you understand, but because I was ALWAYS knitting.
Mum may have started, supported and facilitated my new found passion, but my Nan was my source of inspiration and whole heartedly encouraged me in my new found obsession. Nan was an art teacher and an artist in her own right and would spend hours instructing me in sketching, oil painting, knitting and finally crochet (although to her frustration, that technique was a complete mystery to me until my mid 30's).
Growing up, one of my favourite times of the year was the summer, not because school was out, but because of the local Annual Community Week Fancy Dress Competition. Nan would flex her creative muscles and would make me the most incredible fancy dress costumes. The two that stand out the most in my memory were the Little Mermaid (see photo) and the Snow Queen costumes she made for me, both complete with the most fantastic headpieces. I never won anything, probably because it was so evident I hadn't made my own costume. But I didn't care, because I knew my costumes were amazing.
When I was 12, I made my first headpiece for a drama project. It was a replica of a traditional female Chinese opera mask and headpiece. Nan had given me a set of drawings of Chinese opera masks and I was fascinated by the intricate bead work and embroidery on the female character's headpiece. I tried to copy the richness of the headpiece using beads and materials my grandmother gave me, which really was the only help I got, although I think secretly my Drama teacher suspected my mother had helped she didn't- I wouldn't let her). I still have the headpiece, which is somewhat battered now, hanging on the wall in my studio space.
By 17, I had developed a keen interest in costume, especially medieval dress. I made a costume for Lady Macbeth, complete with headpiece, based on a 13th century dress pattern, for my GCSE Drama.
I never really considered my 'crafting' anything more than a hobby which kept my hands busy and, instead of going down the art route, my love of history and textiles took me down the line of archaeology- the plan back then was to become a textiles conservator, though I eventually ended up working as a field archaeologist for 10 years, before moving into museum work.
Then 8 years ago, when I was getting married, I decided to make my own jewellery for the wedding. It was a decision partly based on budget, partly on the the fact I couldn't find anything that I liked. I wanted something that was very different. The High Street didn't supply what I wanted and a bespoke piece was beyond my budget, so the 'maker' in me decided I should do it myself. The headpieces I made for myself, my bridesmaids and flowergirls, drew a lot of attention, with friends and family suggesting I start a business. I spent the next few years dabbling with the notion of designing and making chainmail jewellery, practicing my new addiction (because, lets face it, that is what is was) until I realised I either went for it, or forgot the whole thing.
Sadly my Nan died just before I decided to take my leap into the unknown and I guess that in part, her passing inspired the name "Atlantic Rose". After all it seemed only right that I named my business after the woman who inspired and whole heartedly encouraged my creativity, and of course, who made the most amazing mermaid outfit an 8 year old girl ever saw.
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