Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Royal Armouries

Took Jodie to The Royal Armouries on the dockside in Leeds on Sunday to gather some research info on next years GCSE Art module which is based on other cultures and their influence on art and design taking in the media of pure art and textile design.

Having not done too well last year until I gave some input into the last module (bad dad, should have been paying more attention) we went to see her art teacher and got advance notice of what next years module would be and having studied the Asian section of the Royal Armouries the last time we went there I have chosen this as my thesis, sorry, her thesis.

The Royal Armouries moved most of their impressive display pieces oop north from the Tower of London fifteen years ago after finally admitting that the 900 year old tower was pathetically inadequate for displaying this world-important collection of armaments from this country and all over the world, some pieces dating back to the BC years.

Its an impressive museum, very impressive, even if you are not into guns and violent ways of killing other folk it is impressive in other ways - armour design and textiles for instance.

As an example we went straight to the Asian gallaries on Sunday and were immediately immersed in some beautiful examples of silk and leather woven armoured jackets from China and Japan that were five to six hundred years old yet appeared to have been run up just yesterday - Chinese quilted silk jackets with tiny little half inch square quilts inside each of which was woven a small square of metal to afford protection against arrows and sword slashes, each example being delicately embroidered beyond functionality into a work of art.

Likewise the Japanese Samurai era leather armours with narrow strips of hard tanned and laquered leathers bound closely together into rich patterns, the leather dyes still vivid despite being three to four hundred years old - we spent a long time in the gallery just taking in the symbols on each individual item of clothing as the original owners, who were usually wealthy warriors, had had the family symbol incorporated into every design - lots of photos were taken for reference.

The Royal Armouries has a reciprocal agreement with the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Japan and so has an extensive display of oriental armour since the 1600's including two full pieces that were presented to King James 1 in 1613, it s possible to spend most of an afternoon in that one gallery alone if you were to stop and read all of the information on display, it really is an excellent example of how museums should present important information.

The elephant armour in the picture above was for warfare and for hunting and was from the Moghull dynasty of India from 300 or so years ago, again it consists of a heavy cloth liner which has had thousands of tiny strips of engraved metal sewn to it making the armour as pliable as cloth and yet completely resistant to spears, arrows and angry tigers - and each tiny sliver of metal is also engraved, completely unnecessary for protection but simply done for pride and decoration.

And the best thing about the museum is of course that it is free, being a national collection, and funded by government central funding rather than public entry fees.

I think I'm going to enjoy doing this GCSE module, I mean, I think I'm going to enjoy assisting Jodie in her GCSE art homework.

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