Making of the eCrowns
Below are the traditional materials used in making the eCrowns. The electronics are not included here, as they are described later.
- Wollen fabric (e.g. felt)
- Thin fabric for lining
- Glass beads of different shapes and colors
- Thread for sewing beads and felt
- Thin beading needle and scissors
- Ribbon for decoration
- Sturdy cardboard
Here we are shopping beads for the crowns in Riga with our master Linda. It took us hours to get out of that huge bead supermarket, as there were so many beads to explore!
We also explored conductivity of different metal beads, as this was a critical aspect in the Dancing Crown for triggering light effects. For this purpose we used a little LED test piece that we had prepared beforehand. You can see the LED light up below!
When learning about Latvian crowns from our master Linda, we got photocopies from a book that described the Skrunda pattern, the crown materials and the dimensions. We used these instructions as a starting point for sketching and measuring. We started by cutting an appropriately sized pice of red felt, on which we sketched the Skrunda patten with a chalk.
As soon as we had made the sketch on the fabric, the chalk lines started to wear off, so we decided to make more permanent outlines that could handle our extensive beading process. We ended up sewing the pattern with a red thread on the fabric as we did not want to draw any marks that might show later.
We also used the Skrunda pattern copies for mapping our circuit plans on the crown. You can see below a sketch for the Dancing Crown with the LED connections and switches drawn on top of the paper sketch. The electronics had to be taken into account from the start so we would not end up in trouble later!
Lastly, we wanted to make sure that our crowns would ultimately be wearable, so we asked our friend Diana to serve as our head model, to which she kindly agreed. The traditional crowns are worn quite high on the head so that the lower edge is positioned on the forehead hairline. We were hoping that our crowns would not become too heavy with all the electronics, as the idea was that they would stay on even when doing some folk dancing!
We knew already before starting to bead the crown patterns that this would take time - but even then we underestimated the effort. The beads are very tiny and one must be careful in positioning them, at least if the aim is to make a neat, symmetrical pattern. We were beading and beading and beading. And the days went by. Whenever we see beadwork nowadays, we can surely appreciate the amount of work and precision in such crafts!
As our idea was to embed electronics into the traditional bead patterns, we explored beading techniques with which for example LEDs can be hidden in the bead structures. You can see below how two LEDs get covered under a berry-looking bead complex. Special thanks for learning this technique goes to Santa, whom we met during our Aizpute adventures!
Most of the patterns, materials and structures were similar for the two eCrowns that we made, except for the electronics. The Sirius Crown worked with a mood selector and sensing of nearby objects, which triggered light and sounds effects, while the Dancing Crown was based on the idea that the wearer’s movement triggers lights. Find out more about the secrets of each crown’s electronics here:
After a long and laborious - but fun - crafting process with beads and electronics the time became to assemble all the pieces together. This actually happened during the very last night at SERDE, and finalizing would not have been possible without the help from our craft masters Linda and Santa!
Before putting the bigger parts together, a decorative ribbon was attached above and below the bead pattern according to the traditional design.
After the decorations were ready, a sturdy cardboard ring was made, which was placed inside the fabric in order to keep the crown upright.
For the dancing crown, a slightly different approach was taken, where the cardboard was first sewed to the back of the felt and an additional insulation layer.
A lining was also needed. It was made from a thinner and more slippery fabric, which was attached to on one of the long sides of the felt piece prior to placing the cardboard ring inside, and closing the whole construction from the outside.
Finally the eCrowns were finished and they looked quite fabulous. It was really nice to see how the results of hard work evoked laughter and astonishment in the people who tried out the crowns. If you happen to pass by Aizpute, please drop by at SERDE and try them out yourself!