Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Whimsy -- 18th Century Peeping Fan: A tutorial

I've always loved hand fans -- ever since I can remember.  I recall visiting the 1964 World's Fair in NYC as a kid and the first souvenir I bought was an Asian silk fan in the China exhibit. Love them. Fans were not only fashion accessories in the 18th century, they also served a very real purpose since there was no air conditioning.  Ladies used fans as a non verbal way to flirt as well.  Fans of the 18th century were quite decorative--often made of vellum or silk with the frame being ivory.  Fans were often souvenirs, decorated with paintings of famous people, places or events.  My favorite of the 18th century fans, however, are the peeping fans.  I've read that these fans were created so that proper ladies could watch scandalous plays without being embarrassed.  I've also read that they were used for flirting.  A number of these survive today in museums:

French fan, 17th century

 18th century Spanish, Met Museum

 1770 of unknown origin

Being a crafty sort, I decided to embark on making my own peeping fan.    I had made some souvenir fans using pre made white paper party fans using this tutorial and they turned out quite well so I thought I'd try this starting with a paper prototype and if successful, making a silk fan for the final project.

I realized that I would need to cover the entire fan with images and to create a face for the center.  I also realized that I would need to cut holes in the fan and that those holes needed to be placed between the fan spines so as not to cut them.

Here is the process.

Step 1:  Completely flatten your fan and trace the paper part.  This will mean tracing the outer curve and measuring the depth of the paper to get the inner curve.  I needed larger paper as the entire fan did not fit on 8.5 X 11 inch copy paper.  I decided to divide the fan in half so that my final images could be digitized and my printer won't handle 11 X 17 inch paper.

Step 2:  I cut out the left and right templates and laid them on the flattened fan to check for fit.

Step 3:  I scanned the templates and made several copies.

Step 4:  Next came the face.  I sketched some rough shapes and played with sizes.

Step 5:  Check the eye placement to make sure the eyes can be cut without cutting the fan spines.

Step 6:  Creating the face.  I traced the outline of the face and eyes with pencil and created a watercolor prototype.

Step 7:  Scan the face into a graphics program--I used Photoshop Elements.  The color and detail often washes out when scanning so adjustments will most likely need to be made to the color.

Step 8:  Print a copy of the face to check your corrections.

Step 9:  Collect appropriate images for the rest of your fan.  I did several Google searches like "18th century arts,"  "18th century theater," and "Roccoco images" to find some that I liked.  I used images that were from paintings.   I saved the images to my computer and resized them in Photoshop Elements to sizes that I thought would work.  I then just placed them all in a word document to print and save for future use.

Step 10:  I cut out the pictures in random shapes and laid them over the template, making sure that the face was centered (I had a line drawn at the center.)  It's important to make sure that the outline of the template will not cut off the faces or main elements in the pictures.  This is probably something that could be done digitally using Photoshop or Illustrator, but I'm not that proficient with doing things that way.  I centered the same theater graphic on both sides of the face.

Step 11:  I glued the images in place and cut out the templates, checking for fit on the fan as best I could.

Step 12:  Scan the cut and paste template so that you only have a single thickness of paper.  If you've done your cut and past digitally, then you can probably skip this step.

Step13:  Apply a fixative to your printed graphics to protect them from moisture--here are two possibilities.  I selected a gloss finish.

Step 14:  Cut out your templates and glue to fan using paper glue.  You may have to do some trimming.  I found that my face was off center and I ended up cutting the spines to make the eyes.  It was okay as the added layer of paper stabilized the fan. Paint a gold trim on the edges of the fan and face and when dry, carefully fold your fan and rubber band in place for a while. 

While I was happy with the result in paper, I didn't care for the thick, bulky feel of this fan so I decided to go ahead with my original plan and reproduce it in silk.  Since all my templates were digitized, this was an easy task.  I purchased silk fans that were the exact same size and had the same decorative frames as my paper fans.

Step 1:  Print images on printable silk, peel of the paper backing and apply very fine fusible web on the back of the silk.  Then cut out your templates.

Step 2:  Pin your silk fan flat to a padded surface.  

Step 3:  You will need to line up your images. This time the face must line up as the silk graphics will not have enough support for you to cut the wooden spines of the fan.  I lined up the center first and started pressing my images moving toward the sides.  I ended up having to trim the graphics at the sides by 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Step 4:  Trim both the top and bottom of the silk with gold and outline the face and eyes with gold.  I started with Decoart fabric paint markers which were okay but they bled a little when outlining the eyes.  I went over it with Martha Stewart acrylic paint in gold that was much better so that's what I'll use from now on.  I also painted the two wooden ends of the fan with the acrylic gold paint.

Step 5:  Refold the fan and rubber band closed for a day or so.

Voila!  Finished project!

Over all, I'm pleased with the end result.  Since I digitized my templates, these can be made quickly and I won't have the paint issues.  You can add sequins and crystals to your fan to make it as fancy as you want!

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