Sparklewren

aesthetic art corsetry

"Head up and tits oot!"

That's something my mum used to shout when I was setting off on a hack with Freddie. Probably in a bid to embarrass me (I was about 13 then), but possibly also as a result of having watched me at my first riding lessons where posture and position was drummed into us. So she says, at any rate, I don't remember that much detail about the instruction back when I was tiny, I just remember feeling the horse underneath and sitting as tall and light as I could. Learning to get out of their way and just let them move. But she tells me the lady was always reminding us about alignment, which is good. No point doing much with your hands or legs until your body is balanced. 

Without employing mum's phrasing, I got to enjoy passing this notion onto someone else this week, whilst helping the stables I volunteer at host a three day pony camp. I only did two days though, wish I could have stayed longer. Anyway, it's a lovely thing seeing someone make one or two tiny adjustments and all of my sudden everything improves. Very rewarding, and confidence giving too actually. 

I've been studying today. Bouncing around between the biomechanics of the neck/back (and struggling to understand how, with so much good information and research there is, people are still cranking their horses into over-bent shapes), superficial muscles, and closely watching youtube videos of great riders and teachers. Yes, I have spent an hour staring at the pelvic regions of Hester, Dujardin, Oliveira, Loch and Moffett. Not a pervert at all. 

This is a lovely video, the music is gorgeous. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4E4gqOASkZg

And a classic next, just because I can't think of Toothless the dragon without crying (I have the mental age of a 16 year old, okay, and when I think of Toothless being Hiccups best friend, and then see Charlotte and Valegro with that music playing, I struggle to keep it together)...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_Y

Dressage didn't interest me as a child, and I've been wondering about why it does now. What changed? I think it's because I've developed as an artist. Not with riding, I've no special skill level there. But with my work and my eye in general. What do I always say about our corsetry...? That it's materials-led. People always ask about inspiration and the answer is always the same, the materials you are working with suggest how they would like to be best used. You are playing with something that is already beautiful, refining it into something that has a more human type of aesthetic significance. It ties into what I was reading about baroque the other month. 

http://www.sparklewren.co.uk/blog/art-for-artists/5/7/2016

And perhaps this is another reason why, despite not being an artist in the equestrian field, I love horses. They could be the ultimate in "raw material". The greatest results pivot upon the notion of doing right by the animal, in terms of respecting their natural form, potential, and preferences. A badly made corset covered in bling is flashy and fun, but not beautiful to study in detail. A badly schooled Grand Prix horse is flashy and impressive, but not beautiful to watch. Sympathetic handling of the raw material matters. 

Though I still enjoy doing pencil drawings from time to time, I don't consider those to be "art", despite the fact that most people would think of a drawing as being art more than they would a corset. I lost my interest in pursuing drawing and painting (to any level) for a few reasons, the primary one being that they are somewhat dead. You make the object and it is alive during the making. Then it is dead on the wall. It's a fun memory of when it was made. Couture corsetry lives longer (and is therefore more interesting to me) as it breathes each time it is worn. Clothing is also generally less carefully preserved which I actually love, it let's the item live, show its history, and then die. But a horse is a different thing again. Nuno Oliveria: 

"Death eradicates all the work of the artist[...] After the horse is no more, only those who have admired him keep a remembrance of his quality in their hearts, which is gradually effaced by Time, and others who have not seen him know him only by romanticised tales, recounted, and sometimes embroidered, by those who have truly loved him." 

And there is the melancholy of it. The art fades away and by extension, the artist. But it does so rather swiftly, alarmingly revealing our brevity. Other art is preserved, artists are talked about like they have gained immortality. We all know that everything ends and we have a fairly good idea what the future of the universe will be. We're here for the tiniest moment and yet we grasp at eternity and hope to live on. People have kindly said that my corsets will end up in museums. Maybe one or two will, and that's sort of fun, but it doesn't mean much to me and it doesn't give me any peace with the fact that life ends (a terrifying thought). So imagine an artwork which doesn't pretend at longevity. Which consists of the constant (and possibly boring) practice of refinement and exists (as art) in rare, blindingly beautiful, moments. 

And so I think I can understand better now why it is that some people have, through the ages, become so enamoured of classical dressage that they have devoted their life to it. Imagine your artwork being truly collaborative. Imagine it expressing an opinion on your abilities! We'll turn to Nuno Oliveira, again. 

“The horse is the best judge of a good rider, not the spectator. If the horse has a high opinion of the rider, he will let himself be guided, if not, he will resist.”

To bring it back to corsetry, you absolutely can think of it in terms of your materials being guided (or not) by your efforts. Recall that difficult seam, in which everything felt fiddly and you had to really bully the fabrics into place. Perhaps your guidance was wrong. Perhaps you were asking your raw materials (fabrics/horses) to do something (construction/movement) which they are not prepared or able to do. Six layers of silk and cotton do not want to be clipped and sewn into intricate intersecting seams that cross the busk, for example. We are asking the impossible. And if we force an outcome, it won't be an elegant one. I care about elegance in art and if your materials are living and breathing, they will no doubt learn to care about elegance too! And reward or punish you for your sensitivity in that regard. 

But forget the highest levels and artistry. Every and any moment of harmony has its beauty. A simple but clean seam, a sitting trot that suddenly comes together, a pattern that is improved by tiny tweaks of millimetres, a canter out on a hack just for the fun of it... Harmony between all parties involved, that's the goal.