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  • Writer's pictureEmma Ford

Making a Tent - for some reason!

Although this first chapter of my graphic novel is in a woodland setting and the only encampment we see is Tristan's hunting camp where the shelters are permanent structures, I have used tents in the world-building previously.

These drawings were all inspired by classic medieval and Viking tents, and I have used several different styles, similar to real world examples.

Tristan's tent is meant to look like this one, circled in red: the proper name for this I believe is a two mast pavilion.

They are also called umbrella tents and are quite common when you Google "Medieval Tent" as they are often used in films, by re-enactors and at renaissance fairs.

I did look at hiring one of these for my final assessment/show but the cost is astronomical!

However I really wanted to display my work in a medieval style tent on the university site, and the solution I came up with was to borrow a 20year old gazebo from my parents and transform it into a believable tent from within my fantasy world. I decided that the tent does not need to be a perfect replica of the ones within my created world, as the final installation would be more about giving the viewer a sense of the world they were entering, rather that an perfect reconstruction.

The design for the tent was a simple one.

Construction begins:

Authentic canvas would have been incredibly expensive, so my dad made the suggestion that I could use decorators dust sheets. They are a hessian style woven canvas that are backed with polythene. This meant that on the outside the tent would be canvas, but on the inside it would also be slightly waterproof. They were also really cheap in comparison to the canvas and calico I had been looking at with my mum when I first mentioned I wanted to make a tent.

We began work in my parents back yard, using the original gazebo roof as a template for the tent roof. Once the roof was cut to size, I used my mum's 60 year old sewing machine to sew it together. (This wasn't to be historical, it is the only sewing machine we have in the family that works!)

The sides of the tent were much easier to produce than the roof, since all I needed to do was to sew four uncut dust sheets together. the dust sheets are 3.6m long and 2.5m deep. The total length of the four dust sheets sewn together was enough to wrap completely around the perimeter of the gazebo and leave enough fabric to pleat at the front to give the impression of open curtains. The depth of the sheets meant that I could roll the excess fabric up at the bottom to encase sand-bangs which would keep the fabric secure at the base of the tent.

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