Pins were a necessity for the fastening of clothing and the arrangement of dress accessories in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their importance for women as a personal requirement and expense is reflected in the term pin-money, the sum originally allocated to meet this essential cost.
Before the mid-16th century the finest pins were imported from France, but their manufacture in England was encouraged under Henry VIII, and an Act for the True Making of Pynnes was passed in 1543, controlling their quality and price. Gloucestershire and London became the main centres of the pin-making industry.
Materials & Making
As the industry developed in the 16th century the major advance in the manufacture of pins came with the use of a steel draw-plate with a graduated series of holes. Wire, which was usually brass, could be drawn through this to any gauge, permitting standardisation of the size of the pins. The heads were made from fine coils of wire that were soldered in place.
Enormous quantities of pins were used for the fastening of clothing. Elizabeth I was supplied with 24,000 'pynnes of diverse sorts' just for her coronation. Pins secured the petticoat in a ruffle above the farthingale (hoops that supported a skirt), and held the curves of the ruff in place around the neck. Several dozen might be used for one ensemble. Such a quantity required large pincushions, like the canvas work one here. These pins were found in written documents that were dated between 1620 and 1635.
When Robert Weil started collecting images for the Contemporary Makers book in 1973 the challenge to record contemporary gun work was daunting. Gathering material was difficult and time consuming. Few makers thought that there was any value in published documentation of their work. Electronic publishing has changed all that. Having a website or having one's work available to view on the internet is becoming a necessity. In spite of all the potential to finally have a true overview of what's being produced by the artists of today, a great deal of work still remains covered up and basically unknown. Our role is to make an effort to document some portion of what’s going on today. To comment on the established makers and to uncover the unknown. We welcome your comments and suggestions and look to you our readers to make us aware of the talented makers out there. Art and Jan Riser Robert Weil and The Makers