Over many years I have been researching leather helm crests. They were mostly used for pageantry. Pageantry was used to display the name and wealth of a person or house. Most people during the Middle Ages were illiterate. Because of this imagery was used to identify a Kingdom, Family, or other things such as a Guild. Pageantry used imagery in clothing, illuminations, painted or carved personal or public items, flags and many more items. Pageantry took the imagery of the owner(s) used it as a celebratory display of who or what they represented.
Jousting became a popular event. Pageantry was used so people could identify the person who was jousting. One of the things that were used was know as a helm crest. This was an item that was secured to the top of the helm (using various techniques). It would be made out of various materials over the years ranging from metal to wood and or leather. These items were painted in heraldic colors and became very elaborate of time. The fancier the helm crest the more expensive it was and meant the house or person who paid for it was very wealthy. Sometimes these helms were used in the actual jousting event and other times they were used for the initial pageantry parade before the event, allowing the audience to view their greatness.
When I first looked into making a leather helm crest, I had found out that my current Queen Kienna was a jouster. So I asked if I could make her a leather helm crest, and she agreed.
After I had started learning how to make hers I started to learn more about various techniques. The whole process would never have been done by one person. There are many stages to making a helm crest. Design, leather construction, gessoing, painting, guilding and any extra work for extra adornment be it a mantle (a cloth worn under the helm crest) or jems to be inlaid for the eyes or other items. The process was lengthy and arduous.
I took most of my learning from ‘Il Libro del Arte” written by Cennini, an artist and writer of the time. Though as I found out from my reading and work with the information in the book that he knew the basics of everything, but perhaps didn’t know the hands on experiences of his teachings.
Either way, I present one of my papers to you and images of the other helm crests I have made, including the first one I made for her Grace and one of my own heraldry in the SCA.
My Swan Helm crest displayed at Pennsic
A Blue Pony Helm Crest
A Skull With Wings Helm Crest (using my personal heraldry)
The following are images of my demo helm crest I did to help show how a leather helm crest is made.