Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Successful Summer for the Digital Photography Project

The Bata Shoe Museum’s Collections Management project to digitally photograph everything in the collection has moved ahead this summer. Heading the project since 2007, Suzanne Petersen, Collections Manager, was so pleased to have two university students join the museum this summer for a 12-week Young Canada Works program, funded in part by the Government of Canada.

Antonia Anagnostopoulos and Kelsey Myler worked with Suzanne to photograph a segment of the collection in high resolution digital format. After specialized training on-the-job, the team has created photographs of almost 1000 artefacts, a process that involves many steps, exacting attention to detail, metadata collection and team work.

Antonia Anagnostopoulos
Antonia has completed her third year in the University of Toronto’s History of Art program. She was the Artefact Handler for the project and was tasked with the safe and proper movement of artefacts. She planned the shot-order and movement of the artefacts from the storage rooms to the photography studio where she prepared the objects for photography by removing storage mounts. After placing an artefact on the photo backdrop, she worked with the Photographer to perfect the composition of the shot, moving the artefact slightly in order to capture its most photographic angle.

Kelsey  Myler
Kelsey was the Photographer on the project. As an Image Arts - Photography student at Ryerson University, she brought her passion for photography and her image software skills. For the project, Kelsey set up all of the photography equipment and maintained it, making sure she captured the object in its best light and angle. She also tracked all of the shots in a journal which was updated with every capture.

After the actual shooting was done, the team processed, resized, formatted and renamed the image files and then uploaded them with metadata to the Museum’s custom database. Today the new photographs are available to staff and researchers for use on our social media, website, publications and more.

This project has been made possible in part by funding from the Government of Canada.

Suzanne Petersen

15 August 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

Conservation Blog - Golden Booties for the Well-Shod Woman

In China during the era of foot binding, the ideal size for women’s feet was considered to be san cun, a measurement that roughly equals 7.62 centimetres or 3 inches.  Feet that achieved this perfect size were called jin lian or ‘golden lotuses’. These narrow red silk boots come from Zhejiang and were made to be worn in winter. They are decorated with symbols of good fortune including bats and peonies and date to the early 20th century

This particular pair of red silk booties was purchased by the BSM from a private collector specializing in bound-foot shoes from China and Taiwan. They were in poor condition when they were acquired, and needed a great deal of careful conservation work by BSM conservator Ada Hopkins. Many of the stitches that anchored the golden threads to the red silk had broken, leaving the embroidery looking as though it had been teased with a comb! In order to prevent further unraveling someone with good intentions had stuck the lose threads in place with scotch tape.

Tape securing lose threads in place. The ink outlines of the peony are visible in areas where the gold thread is missing.

The metallic threads are composed of two elements: an extremely thin flat yellow metal strand, which was wrapped around a silk thread core. Images of peonies (symbolizing wealth and honour) and bats (auspicious creatures that bring happiness and good fortune)  were drawn in ink onto the silk by the embroiderer. Starting on the perimeter of each design component (a wing or a petal), the metallic thread was laid down following the ink outline in an ever decreasing path towards the centre. The threads were secured to the fabric every two millimeters with a fine silk thread.

Lose tangled threads.

The first step in the treatment involved removing the scotch tape. Luckily its adhesive had dried out so it was just a matter of gently peeling off the carrier film. As the tape was removed, the newly released gold threads were loosely secured with a series of basting stitches to prevent them becoming further entangled with neighbouring threads.

These basted areas were worked on one at a time. The gold threads were gently untwisted, starting at an unanchored end and removing knots using fine tipped tweezers under a magnifying lens. Next the gold thread was worked around the existing pattern, working from the centre to the outer edge (the reverse of the original embroiderer). The threads were tacked in place with very thin entomology pins. Pinning everything in place gave Ada an opportunity check that the threads were properly placed before stitching them down with fine hair silk using an extremely fine beading needle.

Areas of lose threads are basted together to prevent further tangling. Thin entomology pins hold the aligned threads in place before stitching begins.

While the booties were purchased in 2002 it was four years before Ada was able to put aside the considerable time required to undertake the conservation. They are currently on display in "The Gold Standard: Glittering Footwear from Around the Globe".

Friday, June 1, 2018

Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes ~ A Retrospective at the Bata Shoe Museum

Manolo Blahnik has risen to fame as one of the world's most famous contemporary shoe designers. From delicate and incredibly intricate shoes, to daring and cutting edge designs,  the singular talent of Manolo Blahnik has secured him a place in the history of fashion, and earned accolades and awards from all over the world. It was inevitable that a retrospective of his work would be staged, and the Bata Shoe Museum is honoured to have been personally chosen by Mr. Blahnik as the final stop on its tour around the world. Composed of over 200 shoes from his private archives, Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes is an homage to the work of an incredible shoe designer.

Guest-curated by Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz, the intimate and thematic exhibition premiered in January 2017 at the Palazzo Morando in Milan.  From there it made stops in  Prague, St. Petersburg and Madrid, before travelling to Toronto for it's only North American stop.  An international team, including the curatorial department of the Bata Shoe Museum, worked for over a year to create an environment at the museum that showcased Mr. Blahnik's shoes in a way which would allow visitors to understand what moves and inspires Mr. Blahnik. According to Mr. Blahnik, his desire for the tour to end at the BSM was because he felt his shoes would be among friends here, as he expressed his admiration for the museum's collection and the work of it's founder Sonja Bata.

Mr. Blahnik prides himself on being first and foremost a craftsman and a technician, and it is this aspect of his work that continues to inspire and challenge him.  Every Manolo Blahnik shoe is designed by Mr. Blahnik, and each design begins life as a sketch.  Over 80 of these original sketches are on display in the gallery, many alongside the shoe they would eventually become, allowing visitors a glimpse into the process that goes into making these unique works of art.  His designs are driven by many sources of inspiration, including the natural world, history, personal muses, art and architecture. 

The BSM was honoured to have Mr. Blahnik join over 350 people at the museum for the opening of the exhibition, which was celebrated with a party fit for shoemaking royalty.  Guests had the opportunity to be among the first to see that exhibition and to meet the man whose shoes have never been more in demand - 44 years after he opened his first store in London.  

 Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes runs at the Bata Shoe Museum until January 6th, 2019. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day, when the special contributions women make to society in all walks of life are celebrated. We have many remarkable shoes belonging to many remarkable women in the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum and as we like to say, every shoe tells a story. So this year, on this day, we wanted to tell the story of Patricia Fish through her army boots from the 1940s.  Her daughter, Hilary Lee, wrote the following when she donated them to the BSM in 2002.

“Patricia Fish was born on February 19, 1921 in Hamilton, Ontario. She spent her formative years moving back and forth between Canada and England, because of her father’s work. She was living in England when the World War II broke out and together with her father and brother, joined the Home Guard. In 1942, while still living in England, she enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps because she felt the cause was just and she wanted to contribute. She was given the rank of Private. From time to time she was stationed in Brussels at CWAC headquarters where she was part of a typing pool. At other times, she was part of the contingent that followed behind the front lines where she could hear the artillery fire in the distance. In Belgium and Holland, she fulfilled her 100 hours of nursing taking care of burn victims, both adults and children. When stationed in England, she delivered messages between offices using a bicycle. She said that this job scared her the most because you never knew what was contained in the message you were carrying - one time it could be regular army paperwork, another time it could be top secret - and occasionally it could be a decoy message.  She had to be aware of anyone approaching her, and was even watchful of the planes overhead. She told of biking along with her message when a plane started flying directly overhead. When she made a turn, more to calm her nerves and let the plane fly on, the plane turned too. Apparently she pedaled faster than she ever had in her life so she could make it to her drop point. 

After the war, she remained in England and worked for a Member of Parliament. After she married in 1948, she returned to Canada and worked for A. V. Roe. Later in life she worked for the CBC and University of Toronto. In her private life, she was very active in the peace movement in the sixties and later became a member of Greenpeace. She traveled throughout the world, and attended many WWII anniversary events in Europe. She kept in touch with her army buddies until her death in 1999."