Behind the 'Compass Rose' Scarf
Of all four scarf designs produced so far, the inspirations for the 'Compass Rose' design had to be pared down the most. In this case, it wasn't so much a matter of finding reference material, but of trying not to drown in it. Each individual piece I found was usually daunting in its skill and complexity, and the overwhelming nature of the search only multiplied when I began to realize that exquisite examples of decorative ornamentation pertaining to the history of illuminated maps span multiple centuries' worth of aesthetic movements. As someone attempting to appropriate these styles, this knowledge both inspired and haunted me as I waded through image after image of masterfully executed material.
In order to get through it, I needed to take a step back and select a focus. This is where inspiration boards come in.
The real impetus for this design was the delicate, almost floating quality found in the compositions of the Regency style—specifically the era's characteristic arabesque panels (shown on the bottom left and right of my inspiration board). The references available for decorative elements held example after example of compositions so full and dense, so flourished and elaborate, that it was very tempting to turn down an increasingly Rococo path. It was imperative that I continued to remind myself that my end goal was much more restrained: the somewhat spare, panel-oriented compositions that sparked the initial flicker of the 'Compass Rose' design. This is why composition references are highlighted on my inspiration board much more than any of exquisite detailing that could've been included.
The inspirations behind the 'Compass Rose' design fall into two main categories. The first addresses subject matter, for which I looked mostly to illuminated maritime maps (to which I have an entire other blog post dedicated, here). Within this, there were two main elements that intrigued me: the mythological creatures that frequently adorned these maps, and, of course, the compass rose. I did also reference this style for some composition elements, although mainly just for ideas of how to incorporate decoration and how to best utilize the compass rose motif. As you can see, in general, they inherently have a much more organic layout than the somewhat austere, symmetrical compositions I had in mind.
I have always loved the look of labeling in these more diagrammatic mediums, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate that into my design.
The botanical illustration above exemplifies the type of script I was looking at for reference in creating my "scientific" labels for my imaginary beasts.
The second main category of inspiration pertained to composition and decorative elements to arrange and supplement the subject matter. As I mentioned earlier, for this I looked primarily to panels from the Neoclassical-influenced Georgian era, particularly in the Regency style.
The final source of inspiration that ended up literally bridging the gaps of negative space in the design was the almost candy-striped look of the tented ceilings that kept popping up in the interior design recesses of my Pinterest, themselves very referential of Medieval encampments—a time when decorative maps would have been very relevant. The whimsy of bringing this very outdoor, temporary structure into more permanent, residential spaces had been catching my eye and felt like just the right touch to unite my composition.
What enchanted me during this research process was the ceremonious treatment of wonder. The same spirit that sparked the imaginations of those charting worlds yet unknown to them is also what compelled the artisans of their time to honor these documents by transforming them into treasures through the alchemy of their masterful adornments. I hope this comes through in the final design for my 'Compass Rose' scarf, and that it appeals to all those who appreciate the fanciful nature of these aesthetic movements.