Friday, June 06, 2008

Fellowship of the String

One skien to swift a balll, One skein to wind them,
One skien to knit them all, And in the darkness bind them (off).

I reacquainted myself with my inner geek. Over the course of a month I sat down to watch the entire Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings", the film trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien's epic tale of war before the time of man. After hours upon hours of viewing, I did feel like a Hobbit. But I found myself completely inspired by the detailed costumes and armor designed by Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor — not to mention the art direction of Grant Major. I made screen caps and studied the symbols and patterns on fabric and armor closely — many of which inspired me to design cable work and fairisle patterns. I came up with a "Tree of Life" cable pattern (inset, above). I've seen similar patterns, like Barbara Walker's Twin Trees and Apple Tree cables ("A Third Teasury of Knitting Patterns"). But I wanted my tree to look like it had a sense of history and antiquity more than style. This pattern would be better suited for a cardigan or a gansey, but it might attract the attention of jocks, schoolyard bullies and the like. Maybe this would work better on a pillow case or a bathmat.

Stansborough Fibers a, New Zealand textile company, created the fabrics used for cloaks and other costumes made for the film. The syncopated Elven pattern is called the "Stansborough Fabric - GWT1A". The fibers are spun from a breed of light-grey sheep that was selectively bred over generations to produce an unusually silky, soft and lustrous fleece. (They also designed textiles for the film "The Chronicles of Narnia"). I translated a few Elven patterns into a jacquard scheme. This would easily translate into a lace pattern as well. I call the diagonal pattern "Woodland Checks" (above). I'm plotting this pattern on a hooded cashmere scarf. The basic vertical pattern (left) I call "Woodland Leaves". It looks a bit like the classic candle/flames pattern. I made it into a screen background for my computer but it made me dizzy — nauseous actually. Can you imagine this as bathroom tile? Whoa, that could be a disaster. "Woodland Leaves" might also make a nice pattern for shower curtains. "LOTR: The Two Showers" ?

Conceptual artist John Owe, worked with designers Dickson and Taylor to create other-worldy armor, which inlcuded equestrian gear, helms, crests, guanlets, rerebraces, swords, plate & chain meil, and shields. The armor clearly defined the races of Orcs, Elves and Dwarfs and men. I'm designing a balaclava base on a First-age Evlen helmet. I finally got the face plate to curve with my forehead. I just have to get the sides and back to meet. Will it be warm enough? Who cares, this looks cool! The guanlets will follow after I get the helmet figured out.

I read "The Hobbit" and most of "Lord of the Rings" while riding the bus in college. I don't know much about Tolkein. Dan tells me that Tolkien was a language professor and he studied Eastern philosophies and religions. His sudies and his service in WWI inspried "The Silmarillion", his first book that launched the others. Maybe I'll have some of these done before the movie version of "The Hobbit" launches.


Eliza said...

That's really awesome! I cant wait to see how it all turns out. I keep feeling like I should be designing something, but I just don't feel like I have the time. Glad you're doing it for me. :)

judy coates perez said...

This looks great Tony! The helmet made me think of the work of this artist