I have more photos from the art museum trip, I promise, but I thought first I might post about the project I was working on all weekend that distracted me from posting.
First, some back story: Mary Robinette Kowal is an author who writes a series of books called the Glamourist Histories, which are usually described as “Jane Austen with magic.” She does an enormous amount of research for these books to make them as historically accurate as possible, (before she changes them for the purposes of her story, because magic works in this version of England, and it has some other effects on history, too.) She also runs a challenge every February called The Month of Letters, in which people try to send a piece of actual mail every day the post office is open that month (23 days). Obviously, writing letters was a huge part of living in the Regency period, and if you are a fan of her books and want to send either of her main characters a letter, they will write you back, in the style and timeline of the books.
MRK came to Quail Ridge Books last year to do a reading for the third book in the series, and while getting my book signed, I explained that I liked to make temari for authors I enjoyed, and I’d love to make one for her. She seemed intrigued by the idea, so when 2014 Letter Month rolled around, I thought I’d finally make one and send it, but then I got too busy and ran out of time. Fast forward a few months to when she started her book tour for the fourth book, and it looked like she wouldn’t be hitting the East Coast at all… but then she added a stop in Raleigh! Hooray! And this was the impetus I needed to actually finally work on the project.
First, the temari. In the books, the main character, Jane, wants to find a way to make magic transportable, because glamour, the magic system used in this world, is basically light being manipulated into a visible illusion and anchored onto something stable in the real world. It can’t be used while moving, because it’s too hard to keep anchoring it to things (more or less.) But then Jane gets the idea that maybe individual effects (sort of like spells) could be worked into a glass sphere, and that could be carried. A magical sphere? How could I resist? The swirl pattern seems the most illusionary and magic-seeming, obviously, so then I just needed to choose some colors that reminded me of glass.
The Glamourist Sphere, as magical as possible
I ended up with a dark teal background to offer contrast for some variegated thread in soft blues and greens. This was the first time I used variegated for a swirl, and I think it worked well. (DMC Pearl Variations, I think color 4020 Tropical Waters, but I’ve lost the tag, so I’m just guessing based on an image of the color chart right now.)
This is me, though, and none of my author temari can be one simple ball (see past examples for Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, and Susan Wittig Albert.) Hence, my brain also decided I needed to write Jane a letter explaining in a period-appropriate way why she might be receiving such a thing.
Two and a fourth pages of tiny writing
First I did a week of pondering and research (as much as I could do from home, without a PhD in Japanese history or easy access to an academic library) to come up with a plausible story. Then I wrote a draft of the letter on the computer, so I could fiddle with it until it seemed all right. And then I wrote it out longhand. On fancy handmade paper from Japan, from a fancy stationery set I bought in Tokyo in 2002. Clearly I had been saving it for just this occasion!
(I’ll post the text of the letter behind a cut at the end of this post, for anyone interested in how I managed to make the gift of a Japanese temari semi-plausible for a woman from Regency England.)
Fancy Japanese stationery
I did also attempt to use my wax and seal on the flap of the envelope, because, yes, I am the kind of person who would already have such a thing on hand, but it had been a really long time since I tried to use it, so it didn’t turn out very pretty. Also, I managed to set the edge of the envelope flap on fire briefly, but I blew it out before it could do more than singe. Anyway, I didn’t take a picture of that part. Let’s look at the pretty books instead! Here is the temari sitting on top of book two, Glamour in Glass, and three, Without a Summer. (I didn’t just choose these two because they coordinated with the temari; book one, Shades of Milk and Honey, is just on my Kindle, which is far less picturesque.)
Books 2 & 3, with temari and letter
This time, MRK was touring for the fourth book, Valour and Vanity, and she gave everyone who attended the reading and bought a book at the bookstore a sandalwood fan, as a
bribe reward for supporting independent bookstores. The fan will probably find itself being used as a photographic prop in the background of future temari pictures.
Book 4 and fan
And, for anyone who hasn’t been to a Mary Robinette Kowal reading before, know that some of the things you are missing include period-accurate attire, including discussion of all the layers of undergarments necessary, if you care to ask; and a puppet show, this time with a truly hilarious bonus pre-reading story about a marionette show gone horribly wrong. (Ask about the Sleeping Beauty needle incident if you would like to laugh yourself into tears.)
Regency attire and a shadow puppet play
And now, for the truly intrepid, my letter to Jane. I’ve added footnotes and links to historically accurate stuff that you can read more about on the internet. (more…)
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