You may be asking yourself right now, “What is this guy writing about?” or “Who Cares?” In fact, many of you may have something like this on your mind. There are those into genealogy research, heraldic studies, etc. who will appreciate what little bit of information they can find on the compartment of an achievement and its overall purpose.
The compartment was the latter of all the design elements that of which an achievement is comprised of. Its main purpose is to act as a filler between the shield with any supporters and the motto that lies beneath it. Many people will argue of what its true intention was, but some may speculate that is was put into place so that the entire design could me made into decorative piece for one’s home. Whatever the case may be, the compartment was truly an after thought in the overall design of an achievement.
To be quite honest, there is not much to be said for the compartment. Its role is basically to hold in place the supporters for the shield, and to affront the motto for all to see. The uniqueness of this feature is that it can be interpreted as land or water, or anything else that can come to mind. You can also make more use of it to redefine your family name or organization. Then you could at least leave it plain or do without it all together. The compartment of an achievement is what you want it to be in your design, and does not really need to be used at all.
There must have been much discussion of compartments between the eighth and nineteenth centuries as to whether or not use a compartment because it wasn’t until the latter that it became a common practice in the design of an achievement. As supporters became more and more widely used in the design, the compartment began to serve as a nice resting place between them and the motto. This was also an excellent way to display the family coat-of-arms. Businesses began to use them more and more as well in their company logos/emblems. Compartments became a mainstay in the artistic design of a coat of arms as we know them today.
Most compartments are visualized as some part of land upon the earth. Many of which are just plain green grass to set off the supporters and shield as to not distract from them. Some designs show the compartment as rocks if there is a lighthouse upon the shield or crest, while others may have a deer or ram somewhere in the design. Manitoba, Canada has one of my favorite designs where it shows wheat on the Dexter side of the compartment, purple flowers at the center, and pine trees on the sinister side. If you don’t know which side is dexter or sinister, they are the right and left respectively of the design. This is not your right and left. Some would also call it the “French” right and left. Earthy compartments may be the most common, but are not the only designs.
Some compartments will have water in them. Not literally water, but they will be shaped to look as if water is in them. Usually, but not always, when there is water for the compartment you will find the shield or crest have something such as a boat or fish design on them. The fish can range from salmon to dolphins to whales. You may even find a mermaid, not a manatee, somewhere on the achievement. Boats or ships can range from the simple one person fishing boat on up to ocean liners today, but that would not be seen all too often. Maybe a clipper ship would be more common in older designs. The best representation for a water compartment would be the one of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, which shows the back of it with a cut stone wall and the front of it with white and blue wavy lines for the water. When this is represented without color it would be quite an amazing design with horizontal lines cut up to show how the water has waves in it. Water is not used so much in a compartment, but when used well it will improve the overall look of the achievement.
Other remarkable compartments may contain a single type of flower, maybe a state, province or country’s flower. This single flower may be all by itself or there could be many of the same within the compartment. To be more daring, one could put in a variety of flowers, but this would detract from the presence of the coat of arms above it.
Maybe you have a state tree. That could be used instead, but it would have to be drawn awfully small to not be so overbearing with the rest of the achievement. Maybe you would want your state tree on either side of the shield as not only part of the compartment, but also as the supporters for the shield. That would look awesome if your state tree is the wisteria! Maybe yours is the Douglas fir. When designing a new achievement for your coat of arms the possibilities are endless. A tree would be something to think about in your coat of arms.
Are you from Hawaii or someplace where there are volcanoes? That would make an interesting look for your achievement’s compartment. Maybe two volcanoes on either side would more suit your fancy. You could have the Phoenix rising out of a single one in the middle and it could be the overall design in your shield.
Here is an idea. You could have stripes that are diminish in perspective to the design, and have a pillow on either side of the shield to make it look like a bed. You could then place a person on both sides laying down on the bed and angles hovering over them with wings touching in the center part of the top of the shield.
As I stated earlier, you can come up with all sorts of designs for a compartment. To have a crisp clean design, try not to get too carried away with your compartment. Remember that when it is all done this achievement will be representing whatever you designed it for so be careful what you choose to put in it. An achievement can be a wonderful work of art if done correctly and with much thought put into it. Take pride the compartment criteria you choose and it will reflect in your new coat of arms.