A Chuvash woman in traditional clothing with an ama wrapped around her
The Chuvash have lived over the Volga region of Russia since ancient times. They are considered to be successors of ancient Turkic, Finno-Ugric and Iranian cultures. The Chuvash formed the core of the powerful medieval state - Volga Bulgaria.
The ama which is one of the most common accessories worn by Chuvash women is made of bands of silver coins, and worn around the body in a way that resembles the armor of a soldier. As in many cultures of Eastern Europe, Western Asia and Central Asia silver coins are used in the traditional clothing of the Chuvash as talismans against the evil eye and malevolent spirits. The ama derives its name from a pre-Christian goddess of fertility worshiped by the Chuvash in past generations.
Penny MacBeth is a textile artist and painter based in Cornwall. For Fashion Flashback Penny is creating pom pom and floral headdresses based on traditional Hungarian and Russian folk costumes alongside sketches and paintings based on costume portraits and traditional embroidery motifs.
Penny started her research process with a selection of Russian postcards found within the British Library. She has worked alongside FHT student Lally MacBeth who has sourced a number of other texts and images of Hungarian dress for her. Images of traditional Hungarian wedding costumes have been particularly fascinating as they consist of enormous layered floral headdresses.
To accompany her research conducted in the library Penny has also been inspired by a large collection of costume dolls left to her by her late aunt , the historian Barbara Ronchetti . The dolls are all extremely intricate in their depiction of traditional folk costumes, and a number of the Hungarian dolls depict large pom pom headdresses. In keeping with the use of fashion dolls to illustrate Parisian fashions of the nineteenth century , these models have provided accurate information on fabrics , cuts and embellishment.
Using the texts and images collected, Penny made a number of original sketches, paintings and costumes elements ( including both floral and pom-pom headdresses). She then incorporated all these original works into a series of photographs which refer back to the original photos from the archive ( which includes a number of photos of costume dolls).
Having a wide range of visual material is very important to Penny who believes in creating a whole experience for the viewer rather than just singular items. Penny’s stall for Fashion Flashback will celebrate the diversity of her process providing a rich and colourful experience for visitors to the event . Cards and badges featuring Penny’s images will be on sale . Penny’s original paintings , sketches and largescale photos will be on display to illustrate her creative journey from archive to final artwork. There will be an opportunity for people to try on the headdresses created for the project (a mirror will be provided !)
Hofer, Tomás & Fél, Edit. (1979) Hungarian Folk Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
British Library Shelfmark(s): General Reference Collection L.42/267
Korshunova, Tamara Timofeevna. (1979) Kosti︠u︡m v Rossii XVIII _ nachala XX veka : iz subranii︠a︡ Gosudarstvennogo Ėrmitazha =[Costume in Russia, 18th- early 20th centuries. Leningrad : Khudozhnik RSFSR
British Library Shelfmark(s): General Reference Collection L.42/437
Lepage- Medvey, E. (1939) National Costumes. London: The Hyperion Press.
British Library Shelfmark(s): Document Supply f391 *325*