Author Topic: Function or Asthetics?  (Read 2536 times)

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Offline Badger

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Function or Asthetics?
« on: July 28, 2010, 01:39:34 am »
   A few years back several of us had discussions on bows from different cultures that seemd to have no logical reason for their design. The Ottawa bow posting brought this to mind for me. In all cases we were able to make good sense out the designs used. In some cases it was because of available materials or tools, in other cases it may have been a specialized use for the bow. I felt it was one of the most interesting discussions I have particapated in. I would almost be willing to bet that if in fact that Ottawa bow did exist we could nail down a logical reason for it besides just looks, unless it was ceremonial in nature. My personnal feelings are that they were made from branches of trees most likely and the scallops were natural, I own a naturally scalloped bow. These could be quickly made with not many tools and would not give up much too performance.
    I would still like to see better documentation that these bows are in fact Ottowa, I don't believe in throwing around historical names lightly. They tend to stick once used, kind of like the holmgarde and the mollagabet. Steve

Offline Del the cat

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Re: Function or Asthetics?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2010, 06:02:39 am »
Form generally should and does follow function, however we do tend to embelish things in a response to the world around us.
Art and engineering and design are to me inextricably linked, if it looks good it usually is good. (maybe that's why compounds are so darned ugly ;) )
I personally don't like too much embelishment, some longbow horn nocks are verging on the ridiculous.
Even paint jobs could serve to protect a bow and identiy the owner or camoflage the bow.
Hmmm I'm rambling now, I s'pose I feel it's each to his own, but we should be able to justify our designs, even if it's just pure fun & frivolity.
I'm thinking of doing a couple of Ash bows (vaguely Meare Heath shape, but a bit shorter) I'm toying with decorating one in a grass/leaf inspired abstract patern, but I'd hope to keep it in sympathy with the bow. But hey, a bow with some Mondrianesque blocks of colour would look funky too.
Don't get me going on abstract art, it's one of my loves.
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Offline profsaffel

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Re: Function or Asthetics?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2010, 07:39:50 am »
Thanks Badger... you know what I mean.  ;)

One of the areas that I especially enjoy sharing with my students is that of the Paleo through Neolithic ages (go figure  ;D ). Anyway, in that course of study, we examine the possibilities of Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons. Because we lack much more than we have, we make much of our history on logical speculation based on a handful of bones and artifacts. One of my favorite pieces of study is a Discovery channel film entitled Neanderthal. One of my favorite scenes is one in where the early humans as well as the Neanderthals make jewelry. Both of these groups are certainly in the harshest of conditions and certainly on the fringes of life and death daily. Yet, the need to create and decorate, to become more comfortable with the world around us, is evident throughout history.

Now fast forward 100,000... the great nations of the west, and certainly the Eastern Woodlands had much more time and resources on their hands than Cro Magnon would ever dream of. Just because the Ojibwa and kin were hunter/gatherer mixed with small scale agriculture didn't make them so primitive that even their basic hunting bow couldn't be embellished. I can buy many guesses, but the "only ceremonial bows or bows by mistake" idea is a hard one to sell me.

What I can buy is the notion that was actually proposed to me by Rich (again, go figure). He says the scallops make an "animal spine". Now, based on what we do know about animistic (nature worship) peoples, a form of worship or 'prayer' was to create art of what it was they wanted to acquire. For instance, the Lascaux cave paintings depict large game animals and successful hunts. While it is easy to think that this was a form of record keeping of a great hunt or sighting of game, it is more likely in the minds of ancient people that they are in fact calling to the spirits and praying for these things as their survival depended on it.

Finally, go back to our scalloped bow. If the Seneca or whatever groups made scalloped bows, they would do so because it was the animal spine, the very thing they wanted to acquire in the hunt (or warfare if you consider it a human spine). That would be plenty of reason, knowing they certainly had the artistic/craft skills to make such weapons. These were primitive people by our standards, but they were not so primitive...

Does that winded explanation help some of you to understand why the bows were scalloped? Some of you might want to ask further why then more natives bows weren't scalloped. That's like asking why all Christian denominations don't have a flame and cross on their church signs... because all are not United Methodist!

Professor of History, Student of Bowyery

Offline Justin Snyder

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Re: Function or Asthetics?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2010, 08:25:37 am »
I am a firm believer that some bows were built for cerimonies. I think they were based on hunting bows, that is they got their primary form from a hunting bow. I think the design was often exagerated well beyond what would make a practical bow for shooting.

I have only seen one old scalloped bow, and it wasn't really very old by standards of what we are talking about, it was built around 1800. It was straight grained with no knots. The scallops were on one side of the limb, but on opposite side of the top and bottom limb. It makes me suspect that it was cosmetic at that point at least.
Everything happens for a reason, sometimes the reason is you made a bad decision.

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Offline JackCrafty

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Re: Function or Asthetics?
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2010, 11:22:33 am »
Interesting topic.

If you were given the challenge of comming up with an "artsy" design for a bow that would be based on the simple "D" design but wouldn't take too much away from performance, what would you come up with?

Perhaps the following:

Non-waterproof paint?
Double curve or "gull wing" design?
Carved tips in the shapes of triangles, diamonds, circles, heads?
Locks of hair tied to the tips?
Strips of fur attached to the limbs?
Fur attached to the tips?
Snakeskin backing?
Engraved lines, images, or symbols?

All these were done to NA bows and I'm hard pressed to come up with other "artsy" things.  Recurved tips, sinew bands and wrappings, narrowed tips, pin nocks, etc. can add to a bow's beauty but they also enhance performance in some way.  I wonder if anything that we could come up with, that is purely artisitic, wasn't done to NA bows at some point.

The scallops were simply a cultural identifier and/or an "artsy" thing.  IMHO
Any critter tastes good with enough butter on it. :::.

Patrick Blank
Midland, Texas
JackCrafty (youtube)

Where's the Rock?  Public Waterways, Road Cuts, Landscape Supply, Knap-Ins.
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