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Research is such a pretty thing

by Sayraphim on March 30, 2010

I’m working on a new project, this time it’s a solo photography exhibition. I wont say too much about the actual theme at this point, but so I’m doing a whole swathe of research on stuff from the 30s.

I want the photos to have an element of realism. Since they’re sort of vaguely set in the 30s, I don’t want to have something that’s glaringly from the 60s in them. This stuff didn’t used to matte to me so much, but now I’m a little older and I’ve worked on a few films and tv shows that the head of the art depaartment clearly know so much about the time being portrayed and search high and low for just the right thing, well ladies and gentlemen, I have been influenced.

This doesnt mean, however, that if I need a pair of shoes in the shot that they have to be from the 30s. More I’m interested in getting the right feel, so a pair that are 30s in style but modern will be jsut fine.

And since I’m researching lots of interesting things, I thought I should share some with you. Today I’ve been researching old pin cushions.

Usually I start by asking – did they use (insert whatever I’m researching) back then, or is it a more modern thing? Today I didn’t need to ask that as I know that Nicole, the owner of the amazing Circa Vintage Clothing has a pin cushion dating back to Victorian times, we chatted about it last time I was in there. So I was ok with the item itself.

Next I do some research to see if I can find what they looked like back then. Google images and ebay are your friends for this. I don’t have to BUY what I’m looking at, I can jsut as easily make it. And anyway, usually old things that are cheap enough that I can afford them look worn and faded, and that isn’t great for convincing someone looking at a photo (or a set) that they’re looking at a brand new thing and the era itself is old.

I didn’t find any pincushions labeled from the 30s, but I did find a number of vintage ones in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I loved this one (above), found here, although I don’t think the person who runs that website created/found/owns it. It’s an old tin with a roll of paper in it that’s been used as a pin cushion. The antique pins are great and the cushion itself is really unusual, I’ve never seen one like it. I decided that I might go with this one, until I came across the next one…

Then I found this, over at Little Paper Dog.

It’s perfect! It’s got that perfect homemade feel to it, but also that Depression era never-throw-anything-out, always-reuse-what-you-have feel to it. That ‘make good, make do’ sensibility. I was reading about the times when stockings were just simply too hard to get, that ladies drew their seems on with eyebrow pencils. Very clever, very thrifty. And that’s what I like about this jar.

Little Paper Dog’s Michelle has a tutorial here for these jars, but they are all over the craft-o-sphere (I guess I’m late to the party) so you can google “pincushion” and “mason jar” and find a number of people who have caught the fever already…

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