It started with a boon begged to recognize a talented lady. Helena would be the seventh of my apprentices to be given the Laurel accolade. Her persona is Italian–the land not only of the granting of laurels, in imitation of the ancients, to artisans–most notably to the poet Petrarch–as well as the staging of allegorical spectacles known as triomfi. I thus conceived of a “triumph” for Helena that would incorporate all of these elements.
The first piece was to compose a Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet. This form consists of eight lines in which a problem or scenario is established, and six lines which resolve the problem or explain the meaning of the scenario. This poem would be the basis on which the entire ceremony would be created. The allegory here would be in the presentation of seven tools of the master tailor, and then the tableau created by the triumph of the lady who wields them.
Oh Muses! Bring forth the master clothier’s tools
And silken folds unfurl on table thick
Employ forthwith with care the meas’ring stick
With sharpened shears now cut upon the rule
Take up the shining needle, tailor’s jewel
And humble thimble, lest ye feel the prick
The beehive’s golden fruit, ‘tween fingers slick
On linen thread, unwound from wooden spool
Who is’t who garners Laurel’s triumph’s praise
Who wields such simple tools with master’s art?
It is Helena, she with wreath now crown’d
To Laurel’s state, with royal hands we raise
Roero’s daughter, wisdom we impart
In Ealdormere her name shall e’ermore resound.
To set up the vigil, then, I had seven members of the Order of the Laurel speak to these seven tools and their metaphorical meanings, placing the tools in a basket, followed by the Crown bringing forth the Laurel wreath that would later be part of the ceremony to contemplate.
For the ceremony itself, I created seven banners that the seven speakers carried in in procession as I recited the poem. Helena herself followed, proceeded by a banner, with the Laurel wreath being held above her head as in a Roman triumph. (We had considered finding a cart to convey her in, but decided that was a bit much. The Laurel wreath was built from a timely last-minute find of some holiday laurel silk flower picks at a JoAnn’s in the US.
I also embroidered a Laurel cioppa (in lieu of a cloak) for Helena. It was lined with pieces of silk drawn from a number of Dye Madness sessions she hosted over of the years in various shades of cochineal pink. I got a few shots of it inside out on my dressmaker’s dummy.
Cait, one of my other apprentices, created a wonderful banner of Helena’s arms, where the cat was done in fur to replicate the look of one of the cats Helena shares with her daughter. Here is that banner and the “big reveal”.
The ceremony mostly went off as planned; there was a section of it accidentally skipped, but the pageantry worked beautifully. The day itself was spectacular for such a late October day. And at the end, I got to ask the Crown to elevate another dear friend to the Order of the Pelican–yet another amazing thing to happen in these charmed four weeks.