59 Sorties: Gold Cape, Blönduós, Iceland 2016
The Gold Cape is one of the 59 Sorties, from Nouveau Museé National de Monaco’s costume collection. It is unknown which production it came from or how old it is – though an estimate is that it is from 1850-1910. In 2015 the silk lining was disintegrating and completely coming apart from the cotton back and the sequins were falling off. Repairing it required light fingers and it took about 8 weeks to stitch the remaining silk and sequins to the back cotton.
The repair work was completed at the Textíl Seturs residency in Blönduós, Iceland. Blönduós is in North-West Iceland and sits next to the river Blanda and by the sea, it is approximately 6 degrees south of the Arctic Circle. Kvennaskolinn, a former Women’s Craft College is where the residency happens. Kvennaskolinn, where our studios and accommodation were is situated right at the corner of land where the river Blanda meets the sea. The view the from studio looks out towards the West Fjords, which we could often see as we had many clear days. I was helped to meet people in Blönduós through Conni Theimer Gardella, a tapestry weaver and the residency intern. She invited us (me and other residents) to attend a knitting club which took place on Monday evenings at the Blönduós Community Center. Club was from 8.30-10pm and members were in the process of working on knitted lamppost sweaters that they would cover the town’s lampposts in for the upcoming Knitting Festival. Conni introduced us to Berglind Björnsdóttir, who is the deputy principle of Blönduós School. Chat at Knit Club was a mix of Icelandic and English – with Berglind translating what we said or what we didn’t understand.
The Center has a beautiful stage with a bright blue star covered backdrop that I thought was special and could make a good setting for the Cape, I hadn’t been looking for a stage but this one presented itself and the gold of the stars felt like they fit with the gold of the cape. Conni, Kurt (an earth builder and other intern) and I made a visit to the school with Berglind and she showed us around and introduced us to children and staff. I asked Berglind if she thought children might be interested in trying on the Gold Cape from Monaco. She thought yes maybe they would, anything is possible she said. Berglind and Conni were instrumental in making introductions and helping me connect with children in Blönduós.
On Friday afternoon that week Jóhanna Björk Auðunsdóttir, Bjartmar Dagur Bergþórsso, Sigurður Pétur Stefánsson, Jón Gísli Stefánsson, Norbert Pigiel, Stefanía Hrönn Sigurðardóttir, Heiðar Berg Njálsson, Kristvin Máni Kristófersson, Hafþór Örn Laursen Ólason, Emilia Natalia Sawicka and Weronika Czyzynska were invited to wear the cape on stage. They struck poses according to how they felt and everyone felt differently about whether to wear the sequins on the outside or inside. Watching them wear the Cape I could see how it fell and how it fit. They were brilliant.
The Cape moved surprisingly well when children ran around the stage in it and it caught the wind billowing out behind them, or sweeping up like wings. On the taller children it hung beautifully, higher at the front, draping over their shoulders and lower at the back. It wrapped nicely. And when the sequins caught the light they glittered up on the wearer’s face.
The children had to go to gym class and after they left we took the Gold Cape outside to see how it moved, there was music playing from the upstairs window in the Community Center so we danced and moved to that. We held an exhibition of photographs from the Cape wearing day as well as the Cape at the Sýning í Bílskurs Gallerí, in Blönduós, all the children came.
Photographs by Cornelia Theimer Gardella