FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Nøkken – The Water Spirit
Outline the story …
Once upon a time... in the dark lakes of the Northern forests lived a mischievous water spirit: nøkken, näkki, the Neck. They were a shapeshifter that could take many forms in order to lure people to their watery realm. They loved music and in the form of a human they often wandered to nearby villages to play their fiddle and dance.
But in the deep waters no one has the need to weave and tailor - how would a nøkk with only a cape of watergrass spellbind fair young villagers at the winter’s dance? One needs to be as dashing as any townsfolk to get close to them.
Who dresses the shapeshifter? The clothes should be fashionable but also represent the essence of the magical creature. The water spirit might have witnessed the effect that a beautifully embroidered French waistcoat worn by a foreign traveller has had on the locals. They would summon up a waistcoat with the patterns they find most beautiful; flowers, bugs and plants from the nature around them.
Scandinavian folk stories about the water spirit Neck described for example in “The Fairy Mythology” by Thomas Keightley (1828) and ballads like the Norwegian “Nykkjen og Heiemo”:
Så gjeng han seg i stova inn
Med håge hatt og blomekinn
Nykkjen han dansa, og Heiemo kvad
Det gleddest folket i stugone var
He then enters their house
With high hat and rosy cheek
The nykkjen danced and Heiemo sang
It pleased all the folk in the houses
Outline the construction…
My entry for the Foundations Revealed Competition 2021 is a hand-embroidered waistcoat in the style of the 1790s. The cut is based on extant waistcoats in many museum collections, especially the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Norway.
There are examples of Scandinavian extant garments that are following the cut and design of high fashion of the 18th century, but are in the use of materials or the skill of making a bit more simple or even coarse. “Rough rococo of the North” was my main style and construction inspiration and resource.
The idea was to have a design resembling pages of a botanical book. Embroidered patterns are inspired by drawings by early European naturalist and scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). Most drawings I used are published in the book "De Europischen insecten" (1730), but some are based on extant embroideries on museum collections. I chose plants I especially like or that have meanings and memories attached to them.
I re-drew and painted the patterns in the correct size for the embroidery. That also helped to study the pattern and simplify them a bit. Embroidery was done as a single panel and worked in satin stitches and french knots. I have drafted and fitted the pattern for myself.
Japanese silk embroidery threads
Silk sewing thread
Bone button bases