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Kilts, Bloomers & Horn Books…

I am finally reading Howard Zinn’s People’s History of Of The United States. As I picked up the book this morning I found myself at the chapter introducing the period of struggle for women’s suffrage. There was a description of bloomers, which resonated with my last curious post.

It offered a fair explanation for why women still might resist skirts. If anatomy suggests why men might choose kilts, the argument for bloomers against negotiating a stairway gracefully in heavy hoop skirts became symbolic of lingering societal constraints.

Skirts then come to represent oppression for women while they are touted by some… a minority, for sure!… as “freedom” for men.

It has less to do with anatomy than with culture.

In our phone visit tonight, Stephen in Minnesota, told of his attending a new musical at the Guthrie based on Little House On The Prairie. While he was watching what must have been a stage full of hoop skirts, I was working on a new bell wax which shape I told him reminded me of the horn books I’d heard about in my forth grade Kansas History class. They would have been in the background of any Laura Wilder story.

Since I found myself uncertain about my vague mental reference, I Googled to find images. Indeed, those do speak to the shape of my new bell, even more to the function of a horn book as to its form.

I am attempting to carve a two verse poem on a bell. THIS IS IT is a fixture in our home. Literally, as the name of our topmost deck, beside the door of which is a framed rendition of the poem. The cadence of these words is useful to bind a circles of truth with joy & frivolity.

This is it
& I am it
& You are it
& So is that
& He is it
& She is it
& It is it
& That is that

O It is this
& It is thus
& It is them
& It is us
& It is now
& Here It is
& Here we are
So This is it

Alphabet, the lords prayer, horn book… author James Broughton would, I hope, chuckle at all the notions of possible permutations in these images of antique teaching glyphs & words.

My experience with calligraphy teaches I must, especially at the scale I’m working, pay attention to the overall pattern the letters of the words inside my design. That is the overriding essential to my problem. Then, of course it must also be legible.

This distortion helps to show those divisions of graphic space I must use to convey literal meaning just below a unified surface which will sustain polishing as a cast metal bell.

So I share here the earliest waxing of these notions:

Once again I will get to attempt more than virtuosic carving, while that will eventually be necessary within the more technical considerations of flow. All those serifs could become rakes & combs for retaining air bubbles such as to foil easy production. Negative space becomes the potent essential. Designing toward process is much of my work.