Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Half an 18th century fan

When I found a complete and unbroken set of original 18th century bone sticks on Ebay a while I ago, I decided to make a really nice fan for myself just for once.

The fan was in a quite sorry shape when it arrived, even the rivet had fallen out and the whole thing was held together by a paper clip. I took it to the goldsmith who feared that a repair would break it, so I had to use a tongue piercing barbell and glue (this was not the first time, I might add). I love to see the staff's faces every time I enter the tattoo parlours with a nice old fashioned fan in my hand...

"Monture á la Anglaise".

The sticks are supposedly from 1790, but since the inner sticks are plain and rather similar to earlier stick designs I decided to make a leaf in early 1780's style, which should match most of my outfits better.
Now that it's finished, I realise that I should have made a silk leaf instead, I can't really say why I used paper. When I compared the result to one of my antique fans, I noticed even more that modern paper is about twice as thick as paper from the 18th century. The fan in question has a double leaf which is actually thinner than the single leaf on my newly made fan... and sticks that are more than 200 years old might be a little bit too fragile for thick, coarse modern paper... as you can see on the reverse, I had to strenghten the thin wooden strips on the upper part of the sticks to prevent them from breaking.
Oh well.

So, modern wooden sticks are not so bad, after all... wood is rather elastic and doesn't break quite as easily as bone. I don't really know if I have the guts to use this fan a lot, breaking it would be an unforgivable sin...


  1. How marvellous! I think you did those old sticks a great service (and a tongue piering? Pure genious!).

    What modern paper would you recommend to someone who some time might try her hands on making a fan (with modern, wooden sticks)? Is it at all possible to have double leafs with modern paper?

    I admire your work very much.

  2. Thank you very much! :-)

    Yes, tongue piercing barbells have turned out to be very useful for my fan making... At least those with paste stones look a lot more stylish than a plain boring metal rivet. And they are (most often) cheaper too. I prefer those with two loose ends which look a bit less piercing-ish.

    Hmmm, well... I'd recommend a thin but durable paper in some nuance of creme (not too white), preferably with visible lines from the "paper mould", to make it look more authentic. If you have an old print, book and/or fan from the 18th century at home, take a look at them for comparison. The paper that I use right now was bought at the paper store near Old Touch at Odenplan. I have also been using Roma paper (very expensive, about 100 kr per sheet!) from a paper store in Gamla Stan.

    It is possible to make fans with double paper leaves, at least I have succeeded once. But I'm not sure whether I would try that again... Fan making in general is very complicated even when making single leaves. During all my fan making years I can only think of two or three fans that were finished without tears and swearing. ;-)

  3. Eek! Perhaps I should start with something very, very simple... And actually pick up on drawing and painting again (it's been a few years...). Thank you for your suggestions. I actually have a fan from very late 1700s, maybe early 1800s and it's got a very nice paper leaf, but single layered. It's fragile and shouldn't be used...

  4. I guess buying a fan with a plain white leaf to paint and decorate would be a good start. The disadvantage would be that the thin rice paper on most of these Chinese fans isn't very durable at all... but at least you don't have to worry about pleating and mounting the leaf (det är någonstans där man kommer på sig själv med att kombinera ihop nya fina ord innehållandes jävlar, helvete, skit och apors bakdelar ;-) ).
    It is also possible to paint those nice smelling Chinese sandalwood fans, even if the nylon thread that holds the sticks together on most of them makes them less period correct.

    I remember seeing that fan in your blog a while ago... you were really lucky to find something like that at Hötorget (my best find there so far is a tiny volyme of Edmund Spenser's poetry from 1778... for only 40 kronor).