“Ever yours affectionately my dearest John Keats”
Corset and ribbons/letters – Fanny’s room
On the chaise lounge in Fanny’s room is a corset from 1800 with a solid wooden busk
The ribbons express Fanny’s interest in fashion, Ribbons were commonly used to decorate or dress up clothing and accessories
The busk inside the corset shows a section from a letter from Keats. Fanny keep Keats letters her whole life, the busk shows how she wanted to keep a part of him close to her. It says
“ever yours affectionately my dearest John Keats”
In the cupboard in the corner of the room next to more ribbons you can see a bundle of letters from Keats to Fanny, only made from silk
I had the fabric this corset is made from in mind for a corset of this era long before the exhibition, I wanted to have a corset in the exhibition as people are so intrigued by the underwear that creates the fashionable silhouette. They give a sense of seeing “behind the scenes”, both in clothing and in a house hold
Busks as this time were commonly given as gifts of love and I thought the idea of Fanny holding Keats words close to her on her corset busk was a effective way of expressing their love. I liked the idea, which runs through the whole exhibition that people would get more from the exhibition through handling the items and the corset need to be handled for visitors to discover the busk
Other items developed from the corset, the ribbons in the cupboard to give the room the feel of being in use, the letters changed purpose at the last moment, there were finally made to be a part of the dress but when they were not used I felt they worked quite well as a bundle of silk letters, linking in with the themes of paper and fabric change purposes and with the bundle of letters from Keats that Fanny kept with her all her life.
Dying the busk the right colour and applying the wording to the busk both required testing to achieve the right effect. The construction was a time consuming piece as it was mostly stitched by hand.
The placement of the corset was settled on once I was in the space; a couple of different locations were tried before setting on the chase lounge. The ribbons were originally placed with the letters in the drawers of dressing table but these subsequently had to be moved as the dressing table is on loan to the house and as such should not be handled by visitors. They were then placed in the cupboard near the window.
I am happy with the outcome of this piece, but I think the corset could have perhaps held more secrets. Perhaps though patterns revealed when it was held up to the light, something I would like to explore in future work.
Feedback from the visitor questioner showed the corset to be the most handled (jointly with the shoes)