experimental archaeology/mucking about

•July 17, 2014 • 16 Comments

I’m doing some Roman storytelling at Aldborough near Boroughbridge on Sunday. A few months ago I did a site visit and was introduced to a very nice gentleman called Aiden, who showed me some stuff he dug up from his garden, including this
aidens aldborough snakey

It’s bronze, and Aiden says brooch. It does have part of a broochy type fitting on the back, but all along I’ve been wondering if it might also have been some sort belt or harness adornment. Cavalry horses were even more lavishly bedecked than the average My Little Pony.

Aiden was joking that he keeps looking for the stone that goes with it every time he digs his vegetable patch, but I think he’s unlikely to find it for several reasons (apart from the obvious one of blind chance)

- The original artefact is bronze. People generally don’t mount precious stones in bronze, they use gold or silver. The best you could really hope for with this would be a low value stone like agate, or even glass.

-The more I think about it, the more I think the original “stone” may well have been organic. The snake is an amuletic symbol, and has strong apotrophaic value on it’s own, but that value could have been reinforced by setting a stone of percieved magical value, such as a toadstone or coral. Such a stone could easily have decayed in the ground, or the amulet have been discarded when the stone fell out because it lost some of it’s power.

-I think the orginal artefact was probably discarded, rather than lost per se, because the stone was missing. Once the stone was gone the bronze would have minimal value to it’s wealthy owner (ongoing research by the University of Cambridge is showing that Roman Aldborough was just as posh as it’s modern counterpart, if not more so). The stone in that case could well be miles away.

- Alternately, the artefactmight have been discarded because the pin was broken, in which case a stone of any value would have been prised out for re use elsewhere.

I will now stop thinking like an archaeologist (who knew any of that training had sunk in) because my brain hurts, and proceed with the pretty.

I asked Aiden’s permission to make a replica because I thought it wowuld be fun to wear to the event. Not having any toadstones to hand I’ve used some replica roman glass millifiori gaming counters. I bought them years ago from Mark and David - my very small art collection also contains two of thier replica millifiori dishes, aren’t they pretty?

Alas, due to the presence of the little cat of ultimate violence, they’re living in the cupboard at the moment, but I take them out and admire them from time to time. I keep telling Gareth I want a glass shelf in the kitchen window where I can display my prettiest glass.

Anyway, I don’t have any bronze, so I made mine out of silver. The first one wasn’t quite right (bending this thick wire is tricky)
aidenssnake eye

I honestly thought this brooch was going to be another installment in my series of jewels that are ugly but kind of interesting, but I have to admit I quite like both of these. It’s odd because snakes are really not my thing, I think with this first one I really like the eyeball in the middle.

However, I have just noticed there’s a little spot that needs taking off with a water of ayre stone (a problem because I was looking for those earlier today and can’t find them) because barreling often highlights minor faults.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to barrel polish these as I’ve nver set glass before. Su from tillermans beads said that at worst the glass would get an opaque sheen like seaglass. However her theory that Mark and David use harder glass proved true, because as you can see the glass is still shiny after an hour and a half.

I must admit to cheating though. I really wasn’t confident about that sunray stone setting, so I did dab a little bit of completely inauthentic epoxy resin to hold the glass in better. I think there’s possiblya design flaw behind the original piece’s lack of stone.

The second attempt came out much better in terms of faithfulness to the original
aidens blue eye

There really wasn’t a lot of room on the back to put any sort of spring into the pin, so both have ended up with a fairly primitive bent pin instead. I had to touch solder the backs, and I have to admit touch soldering terrifies me because when I was learning silversmithing I burned myself rather badly touch soldering something – I concentrated so hard on getting the solder part right I didn’t realise the blow torch flame was centred on my thumb.

I will wear the blue one on Sunday, but eyeball snake is going to need a new home.

My main achievement working on these was actaully the simple act of changing the cd in my workshop stereo. I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I just press play without thinking. I’ve been listening to the same Pink cd for almost 18 months. Ok, so I changed one PInk cd for another PInk cd, but at least I changed it.

Note to self – stop eating Fabs whislt typing. the bobbly bits fall off and get lodged under the keys…

petrus christus gown

•July 16, 2014 • 27 Comments

Ok, so I give in. Gareth and I are never going to get round to taking another picture of the Petrus Christus dress, and it’s been in the local press already sooo…

(the reason I put it off was that although gareth loved the photo, we had to drive to the church and the front of the dress is slightly twisted)


for those of you new round here, this was a major project last year, based mainly on a Petrus Christus painting.
There was the headress

the gown belt

the necklace

and a placket

there’s also a gorgeous silk kirtle, but I can’t find the post about that


•July 11, 2014 • 59 Comments

Sorry I haven’t got a picture for you. I meant to take one of my stand at the imc yesterday, which looked fab, but forgot about it until I was all but packed away.

I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a stitch along here. I was thinking week one, stitch lesson and the first ( small) picture. Week two, second picture. Week three, braids and tassels, and week four, putting them together to make a medieval purse.

It would be free to participate ( so you could use whatever you wanted/had lying around)and I will figure out how to make a PDF to make the pattern easily accessible, but I would also offer a kit with fabric marked with the design, a lining, and veg dyed wools for sewing and decorations.


Would anyone like to play?

Would anyone want the kit?

What interval between posts- a week, two weeks, or monthly? ( bear in mind the projects will be small and easily achievable)

When would be a good time to start- I was thinking maybe September because people get so busy over summer


•July 5, 2014 • 8 Comments

I went for the nice oak frames with simple cream mounts again
I was a bit lazy and didn’t bother remounting griffin, so he is the only one not monogrammed, but I did sign the back.

Baby is very flattered that so many of you wanted to give home to his little baby siblings


And the cows arse bishop is feeling smug because he already has a new home. Of course he always feels smug anyway because he has god on his side…


And the politician beast feels smug because his frame is bigger than anyone else’s. He needs a bigger frame to accommodate his enormous ego.


And I took a better picture of the little face mounted up. I’m pleased with how he came out on the velvet

image And then there’s this trio of misfits. Poor bunny had to do without a mount because some idiot ordered the wrong sized frame.

Courses, kits, and cards

•July 3, 2014 • 4 Comments

Ok, se we finally have live link for booking e oxford courses

Bookings online can now be made at http://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/ticketsoxford by phone on 01865 305305 and in person at the Oxford Playhouse box office.

And I’ve spent the day making baby leaf tailed dragon kits, and everyone who wanted one should have received a paypal invoice, so speak up if you didn’t get that because ipad keeps capitalising email addresses and I’m not sure if that affects the sending.

There is a spare kit listed at my folksy shop


And I listed the new cards as well, if anyone would like them.

Am going to have a glass of zoider now, I’ve been running around all day

New cards

•July 2, 2014 • 15 Comments


I like this set far better than the last, I think the bigger images work better, and the photo quality is superior.

If anyone would like a set speak up, five quid for three plus postage, same as last time – although post will be free if you’re having a baby dragon as well.

needlesketch/hilarious medeival joke no2

•July 1, 2014 • 8 Comments

rabbit hunting.

geddit – rabbit. Hunting

rabbit hunting

I’m not sure I like his stripes. I know rabbits aren’t striped, but the original marginal illustration showed a striped rabbit. I’m presuming he had stripes because he’s hunting and striped animals are assumed to be predatory (when zebras were first described to europeans they were assumed to be carniverous because of thier stripes), but I’m just not so sure…also not sure if maybe the doggy needs more light brown round his paws?


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