Monday, March 23, 2015

Thoughts on additional feedback from K&Q's

After talking with one of my judges at K&Q's I received some additional feedback about what those judging me would have liked to see more of. I was told that the judges would have liked to see more information about "WHY" such as "Why those colors?" or "Why those styles."  I have started researching these questions and putting together thoughts that I already had on this topic regarding Anglo-Saxon beads specifically as this question likely needs to be focused on a particular time period/location in order to answer it well. This information can be added to my already existing documentation on the Social Significance of Anglo-Saxon beads, which talks about what beads signified in Anglo-Saxon society with regards to gender, wealth, and trade connections.

While I'm sure I will find some answers, these may not be easy questions to answer completely. One article about viking beads written by an experimental archeologists states that answers to these same questions are hard to figure out: "Nor has it been possible to find experimentally whether there was any reason behind the use for particular colors at Ribe. When red, white, and yellow are often used to decorate blue beads, but not the other way around, is it only a matter of fashion , or are there good technological reasons? (Gam, Prehistoric Glass Technology, 1990)

I've ordered some books from the library on Anglo-Saxon art, gender in Anglo-Saxon society, Anglo-Saxon color words and color classification, and I plan to look back through some of my older resources to see if there are answers to these questions that I missed. I also talked with the art librarian at the university where I work to get some advice on where to look for information like this.

Some scattered initial thoughts after an hour or two of searching are typed up below:

--Some initial research using the Grove Art Online Database gave me the idea that I will have to look at works on Migration period art (instead of Anglo-Saxon art)

--Polychromy as a design aesthetic/style was mentioned in connection to Anglo-Saxon and Migration period art. An entry on Anglo-Saxon sculpture notes that "much stone carving was painted in accordance with the Anglo-Saxon taste for bright and shining decoration." Another entry on wall painting notes that "Taken together with the similarly increasing evidence for painted sculpture, textiles, window glass and colored tiles, a much clearer idea of the polychromy of Anglo-Saxon buildings is now possible (Grove Art Online)

---One issue that I already have found will make this type of research a bit difficult is that glass beads are not considered by many academics to be important, and thus will likely not be discussed in general books on art of the period. One brief dictionary entry found in the Grove Art Online database notes that "the invading Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and possibly Frisians settled all over lowland England....and little of artistic interest survives from these years. However, missions of the 6th and 7th centuries encouraged a conversion to Christianity which led to the construction of stone buildings and crosses and the production of liturgical books, vessels, and vestments." (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms). This period where nothing of "artistic interest" lies is precisely when the beads I'm studying woudl have been made. As Christianity spread, Anglo-Saxons stopped burring people with grave goods, and it is from these graves that most of the Anglo-Saxon beads have been found. An article from the British Museum called "Decoding Anglo-Saxon art" also does not talk about glass beads, focusing instead on the metalwork of the period.

-- Some comments that I have seen being made about about the artistic style of the period would be hard to apply to glass beads. The article from the British Museum called "Decoding Anglo-Saxon art"  states that: "The early art style of the Anglo-Saxon period is known as Style I and was popular in the late 5th and 6th centuries. It is characterized by  what seems to be a dizzying jumble of animal limbs and face masks....such designs reveal the importance of the natural world, and it is likely that different animals were thought to hold different properties and characteristics that could be transferred to the object they decorated."  I have not seen any animal bead sculptures from Anglo-Saxon contexts (though I have seen much earlier Phoenician animal beads). The complexity of the designs pictured on the metalwork is not imitated in any way that I can see on Anglo-Saxon beads.

--Art books and sources do mention stained glass, but not glass beads.

Some scattered thoughts on this topic that I had based on previous research I've done are listed below

--blue was in one case associated with lower wealth graves. and that a lot of beads, especially early on are blue/green (which could be because the metals for those colors are easily available??). Glass w/o color will be tinted green due to iron impurities.

--A/S bead styles grew in some regards out of roman designs and were influenced heavily by Merovingian color/design choice (review Brugmann)

--I wonder if some basic design choices were made because well, these are the things you can do with this craft...lines, dots etc. Combining and recombining very basic designs. Some bead "types" even just have squiggles on them, pointing to skill as a factor in design.

--Maybe it has to do with what basic colors contrast well to the eye.

--Annular Twist beads may imitate metalwork in their design, as might Irish interlace beads. A quote on p. 66 of the book Color and Culture  (John Gave, p. 63)" states that the "interlace" on "irish manuscripts" "seems to derive largely from metalwork"
--yellow and red beads can be linked to Germanic fashion for gold and garnet jewelry. See documentation from my first bead. Also see Grove Art Online "techniques...were augmented in this early period by the technique of garnet inlay adopted from Frankish jewelers" (6th c) "In the kingdom of Kent greater access to resources has encouraged the development of more lavish and spectaculars forms of ornament. Particularly striking is the use of garnet, shell, colored glass and niello to create polychrome effects."(7th c)