The exhibition “Designing English” at the Bodleian’s Weston Library (1 December 2017 — 22 April 2018) showcases almost 100 of Oxford’s medieval manuscripts, objects and books illustrating graphic design and the book arts.
Alongside that exhibition are the results of a workshop and competition among book artists: “Redesigning the medieval book“. A surprise and pleasure to find the medievally inspired work of Turn the Page‘s own Jules Allen:
Jules Allen was kind enough to provide additional photographs and some background on the making of Pilgrim Shoe.
Guided by the anthology of possible texts, I made Pilgrim Shoe in response to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The following points in the brief inspired me:
Where and on what should you write if you seek ‘to do things with words’?
Does form always fit function? Does a function only have one form?
Is looking more sensuous than reading?
I approached the project from the perspective of a Medieval Cordwainer seeking to attract wealthy customers and found that although it was common practice to decorate shoes by engraving or cutting patterns into the leather, other forms of decoration were rare during Medieval times. An inventive Cordwainer might have thought of personalising shoes for specific purposes or events using text, images, or even a charm for luck.
With this in mind I made a Poulaine style shoe with wooden patten specifically for Chaucers’ ‘The Lady of Bath’, who may have been attracted by the decorated shoe both as a unique, sensuous status symbol and a map with which to find her way from London to Canterbury. Such a shoe might have been admired or found useful by fellow pilgrims en-route, and with a recipe for love (from the Anthology of texts) concealed within the rein-forced heal, perhaps she might attract a new husband during her pilgrimage.
I hand painted images and added calligraphic text on the shoe. The place references from London to Canterbury were researched using various historical sources including the Gough Map http://www.goughmap.org/about/
Materials: Leather, artificial sinew, watercolour and acrylic paint, calligraphers ink, wood. paper, metal studs, starch paste and wax
Dimensions: L30cm W10cm H16cm
Paper charm: Selected from a section on Medical Remedies and Charms from the 1400’s for the concealed charm written by hand on paper, housed in the heal of the shoe.
Credits also to Ernst Allen for the wooden patten and Eileen Gomme for the passage of calligraphy on the paper charm.