Another adaptation of the hugely successful tv series Game of Thrones is out. Embroiderers at the Ulster Museum and the Ulster Folk Museum produced a 77-meter long textile in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry.
Originally the embroidery depicted events, locations, and story from seasons 1 through 7, but in June 2019 further panels depicting season 8 were due to be added.
While we loved the production values for the show and the intricacy of the writing, we stopped watching after season 3 due to the upsetting amount of violence. I do confess, however, that this project really tickles the textile history geek part of my brain!
We all know looks can be deceiving, right? That’s definitely the case with this item. It’s a German 16th-century ring that turns into an astronomical sphere:
It’s a brilliant example of the possibilities of miniaturization technologies. I’m immediately thinking of a fantasy or alternate history world where a (rich!) scholar takes this with them when traveling for work.
The range and design of shapes is truly impressive. Below are just some of the examples.
I wasn’t familiar with the concept of rain wands (image below) before. They were planted in the earth with the intention of drawing the life force of the Earth up toward the heavens in order to bring down rain.
Various kinds of sound instruments are also displayed, including lamellophones.
And, since it’s ironworking, there are weapons.
I’m especially struck by the multiple elaborate curls of the ceremonial knives and the rain wand in the shape of a three-headed snake. Simply stunning.
The exhibition runs until October 20, 2019.
Found via NPR—make sure to visit the article for more photos!
Images: Ceremonial knives by Olivia Sun for NPR (Democratic Republic of the Congo; 19th century; iron). Rain wands by Olivia Sun for NPR (Nigeria; iron). Lamellophone (chisanji) via Smithsonian (Chokwe artist, Angola; late 19th century; wood and iron). Double-bladed dagger by Olivia Sun for NPR (late 19th-century Sudan; iron, bone, and crocodile skin).
Like the Stone Age twig horse I blogged about a few years ago, this ivory horse is rather magnificent:
Found in the Vogelherd cave in south-western Germany, it’s carved from woolly mammoth ivory with flint tools in the Aurignacian period, from 40,000 to 28,000 BCE.
Like other animal figurines found in the same layers, the horse appears astonighingly lively and graceful. I’ve done a little bit of wood carving in my life, and—like all sculpting—it definitely takes not just skill but also pre-planning. I can’t imagine what carving ivory with flint would be like, but I’ve no doubt there are quite a few tricks that go into it.
Whatever the use of the Vogelherd horse was, it’s clear that the maker(s) invested time and significant effort into making their art—a good indication that the creativity, dedication, and determination of the modern human do have deep roots.
The city of El Alto in Bolivia, high up in the Andes, is the country’s second largest city and right next to the third largest one, La Paz. Something that El Alto beats its richer neighbor in is unique eye candy right on the building facades.
That’s because an architect, Freddy Mamani Silvestre, is slowly working bright colors into El Alto’s red-brick and concrete scenery.
Silvestri draws on traditional shapes and colors in his designs. Some of the detailing reminds me of jugend (I believe the phrase art deco is used in the U.S. instead), but Silvestri’s work is clearly not derivative of it.
If the exteriors seem colorful and detailed, just wait until you see the interiors!
Wow! His style has been described as Neo-Andean, new Andean, space-ship architecture or, plainly, kitch. However you may want to describe it, the word colorful will have to be there!
Four Master’s students from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, London, UK, have created a bioplastic from chitin combined with vinegar. This sustainable plastic can be manipulated to produce items of varying stiffness, flexibility, thickness, and translucence by adjusting the ratios of the base ingredients.
Apparently, the material can also be turned back into the original bioplastic solution.
Shellworks is Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar, and Andrew Edwards. Their work is still at prototype stage, but it sounds like there is a potential for increasingly (if not utterly and entirely) recyclable, non-toxic plastic here. Sounds awesome!
I recently came across Endangered Alphabets, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization engaged in “preserving endangered cultures by using their writing systems to create artwork and educational materials”.
An article in Colossal pulled several examples from the Endangered database. The most striking of them, I thought, was Mandombe. It was created about 40 years ago by David Wabeladio Payi. His work was influenced by the look of a brick wall and a wish to connect the direction a shape pointed with pronunciation.
Apparently, Mandombe is based on consonant and vowel graphemes, but they are organized into syllabic blocks (like written Korean) instead of word-length units.
Today, Mandombe is taught in Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, and Brussels.
Isn’t it fascinating?
P.S. Did you know that the United Nations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) in order to raise awareness of the thousands of languages that are in danger of disappearing? Also, go ahead and visit the gallery or atlas at Endangered Alphabets for even more eye candy!
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest and perhaps the most magnificent find from Anglo-Saxon England. The hoard dates from the 7th century and comes from the Kingdom of Mercia. It was found in 2009 by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector, and is now owned by Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils on behalf of the nation.
The vast majority of items in the hoard are war gear, especially sword fittings. Among the items, all of which are of exceptionally high quality, is a helmet. Two copies of a reconstruction completed in 2018 are now available for public viewing, one in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham, England) and the other in The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England).
And it’s utterly breathtaking!
The so-called Staffordshire Helmet is very rare—only five other Anglo-Saxon helmets are known—and looks exquisite: the gold filigree with red accents make an arresting combination, and the dyed crest adds to the wearer’s height.
As Erik pointed out, ancient Greeks and Romans portrayed northwestern barbarians as violent, ignorant, savage, and lacking in technology and social organization. On the basis of the Staffordshire Hoard alone, whatever else they were, there’s absolutely no basis in calling Anglo-Saxons technologically unskilled!
As usual, some days ago while doing something quite different I found an intriguing detail I wanted to look into. Finally I had the time to chase it down.
So: I was struck by this scene from an English illuminated manuscript.
The way the woman in the image is holding a distaff under one arm while she feeds chickens from a bowl feels incredibly authentic. I may not have to spin my own yarn nor feed chickens in 2018, but I have often held a thing under my arm momentarily while taking care of a small, short task. Such a lovely, realistic detail.
I do have one question for the artist, though: what on earth is that chick doing, standing on top of the hen and pecking her? (“Mom, look, I’m up here! Mom? Mom? Mooom!”) LOL!
The manuscript is from England and known as The Luttrell Psalter. Fortunately for us, British Library has digitized the whole manuscript. In addition to the chicken-feeding one above, the illuminations include a slew of other everyday scenes, like a miller in his windmill, bear-baiting(!), a wattle pen full of sheep, and various stages of tending fields and preparing food.
Being a textile nerd, I enjoyed the image of two women preparing fibers into yarn: one is using a spinning wheel, the other is carding.
The coloring is quite lovely. I do wonder, however, what’s with the awkward poses. The chicken-feeding image felt much more natural in that respect, too.
After months of working on it, we opened up Dark Iron Dwarves last week. Yay! I’ve been leveling my new DI paladin a bit, getting a sense of the new-to-me racial abilities. They include Mole Machine, a way to quickly change locations by tunneling through the earth.
We’ve been rewatcing and rating Murdoch Mysteries for our project for a while now. A seventh-season episode, “Journey to the Centre of Toronto”, has a burrowing or boring machine that should look very familiar to World of Warcraft players.
It’s a mole machine, right? Right!?!
The episode doesn’t actually ever call the device mole machine, but some of the characters do talk about hypothetical mole people who live underground. I wonder whether there are any WoWers in the writers’ room? 😀
In any case, even though the series seems to otherwise strive towards reasonable accuracy, now and then they definitely veer into SSFnal or steampunk-ish. I love the tongue-firmly-in-cheek attitude!
Images: screenshot from the tv series Murdoch Mysteries, season 7, episode 11, “Journey to the Centre of Toronto”. World of Warcraft screencap with Dark Iron Dwarf mole machine in Westfall.
In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.