Friday, 21 August 2015

'A Matt Pierced with Holes'

Forster No.56 is a waist mat or kie fau from Tonga, described in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities' as 'A Matt Pierced with Holes'

Kie fau or overskirt, Tonga.  Forster 56, 1886.1.1178

We wanted to display it as an overskirt on a mount, but this caused problems.  Normally we sew velcro mounted on a strip of calico to the back of a piece of clothing in order to attach it to the mount - this is what we do with Maori cloaks, for example.  But the overskirt is made from the inner bark of the purau (Thespasia populnea), which, while flexible, is not suitable for sewing into.  The solution was to use the fact that the skirt is, as the Forsters describe in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities', 'pierced with holes' to help us.

First, a mount was made with a top and base made from ZFMDF and a thick layer of dense, inert Plastazote foam in the middle.  This was covered with polyester felt, and then fabric.

Completed mount covered in display fabric

The skirt was rolled around the mount:

Overskirt rolled around mount, making sure the holes in the overlapping layers lined up

Chris and Al, the technicians working on the case, had made 25 'staples' from copper wire, sharpened at the ends and covered with inert plastic tubing to cushion them.

A staple

The staples were the correct width to pass through adjacent holes in the skirt and into the foam mount below.

One the skirt was pinned to the mount all the way around, it was securely held in position for display.

Overskirt on mount

 Here it is in position in the mock-up of the new Cook-voyage case: