Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sugar sculpting research: Period appropriate bases

I had a brainstorm for a project. I am going to do a science type experiment with various types of bases for sugar sculpting. Maybe have different frameworks with the different period type materials and sealants. I can keep track of which ones work vs relative weights vs cost vs accessibility of material. Maybe different decomp rates. No time line as of yet.

I will keep this as a research project with visual aids, separate from my sugar work.  I will be able to use it as an appendix to any sculptures that I do. I come up with these things as I am sewing (mind numbing work, the sewing). Since my hands are on auto pilot, I can think of other things. I think this will help me find something that works and is both economical and sustainable.

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Sugar


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Update: Heraldic tunic- HRM Lucan

We have a design decision from HRM Lucan. It will be the quartered gambeson. Not my favorite, but you will not miss the King on the field. Objects will be appliqued within an inch of their lives. Maybe I will do the other one too (it seems to be the populace vote). Next step: ordering the fabric and other materials.

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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Fencing Armor, Heraldic


Heraldic tunic- HRM Lucan Von Drachenklaue VIII

Every project starts with the art. The ideas that roll around in my head until I put them on “paper” and make them real. Here is the concept artwork for HRM Lucan.  There are three different concepts using his arms, crown of the East and strawberry leaves. I am most partial to design concept #3 (the belt will be where the fabric divides).

Design #3: Split colored tunic with arms and trim

Design 2: Solid tunic with arms and trim

Design 1: Quartered padded gambeson

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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Fencing Armor, Sewing


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Armatures for sugar

I’ve been on a quest to find acceptable building materials to replace the rice treat cereal bases I’ve been using in my sugar sculpting. While safe, practical, economical and environmentally friendly, that is irrelevant if what you are trying to accomplish is a reasonable facsimile of a period art form.

Many materials that may have been used historically are not practical or safe to use modernly. Plaster of Paris was one of the more common materials available at the time. However, it produces a chemical reaction when mixed with water, exothermic in nature and has been recorded to cause severe burns. Sanding plaster released particles into the air which can be toxic when inhaled over long periods of time. It begins to decompose at around 880-900°C. Paper mache would be a great alternative.  It was known in period and was a by product of the printing industry.  However, it was not known as a building material outside of the orient.  Its role was primarily relegated to toys and dolls. Wax has it’s own challenges including cost and potential for burns.

It is hard to “know” exactly what was used in the 16th century to support sugar sculptures. Unlike fabric or other artifacts, sugar has a short lifespan. There is some evidence of the types of armatures (structural frameworks) used in period subtleties, most is speculation based upon hand me down information and texts written in the 1700’s.  At best, we can make a reasonable, educated guess. And occasionally, we get a better guess for general armatures, but nothing specific to sugar.

The accomplisht cook by Robert May- 1588
_Triumphs and Trophies in Cookery, to be used at Festival Times, as _Twelfth-day_, &c._

“Make the likeness of a Ship in Paste-board, with Flags and Streamers, the Guns belonging to it of Kickses, bind them about with packthread, and cover them with close paste proportionable to the fashion of a Cannon with Carriages, lay them in places convenient as you see them in Ships of war, with such holes and trains of powder that they may all take Fire…”

In this case, the armature is paste board (or binder’s board), the pre-cursor to modern cardboard. This substance was the product and by-product of the printing industry.  Close/coarse paste referenced is probably a bread dough.  However, we can probably make a logical leap that paste board can be used to create structure and then covered in a food type substance.   Or in my case, sugar.  It will have to be supported by some sort of wired under structure, or the weight of the sugar may cause it to collapse in on itself.

The biggest challenge will be sealing the paste board prior to applying the sugar. Sugar contains moisture, paste board will absorb moisture and become “soggy”. This will create a wrapped underlying structure and cause the sugar to prematurely dry out. Sugar that dries too quickly is prone to cracking and will eventually become unable to support it’s own weight. Subsequently, if the surface is sealed and becomes too smooth, then the sugar will not have enough of a grippy structure to adhere to. And the result will be slumping.  I may experiment with glare, to see if this will help. Another option is to do what is done in clay creation.  Wad up newspaper, build a base of sugar around the newspaper in a “generic shape”, allow the sugar to dry and then burn out the paper (or remove) .  This method too will have the problem of drying too quickly.   But if it works, what I will be left with is a rigid structure of hollow sugar paste.

Either method will be much more laborious and costly than what I am currently doing.  This may be something I do once to say I’ve done it the “right way” and be content with stopping there.  I’ve already switched over to period sugar paste (tweaked to be sculptural rather than here, eat this). It’s cheaper than using modern sugar pastes and easier to produce.  Structure/armatures… we will see how it goes.


Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Sugar


Update-Swan Dress v2

The event is over and we were able to make a sizable dent in getting the full outfit done.  More beads need to be applied. We ended up taking second place in the advanced category and winning the Baroness’ choice award.

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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in 16th Century, German, Sewing


Swan Dress v2

I will be working on another sleeve for a Swabian Dress. This time as part of a team for this event in the Mid Realm. My part is to do the art for the sleeve, applique work and helping with the sewing of the main dress. My partners in crime will be doing the beading and the rest of the sewing. Should be a hoot.

Here is the new art. It has a rose and cherry blossoms in stead of the generic flowers and thistle.

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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Embroidery, German, Heraldic


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Update: Swan Dress- completed sleeve

The sleeve for the Swan Dress was completed in time for coronation. It was worn and sent back home with me for some last finishing details and alterations. I will be adding pearl and garnets around the collar and cuffs. And some gussets for ease of arm movement.

Project details:
Linen applique on velvet
~1000 seed beads in various colors
The sleeve is lined in linen

Photo courtesy of: Cateline la Broderesse

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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in 16th Century, German