Category: Art and Craft

Weekly Twitter Round Up for The Aethelflaed Quest (by )

It is 1100 yrs since Warrior Queen Aethelflaed was buried in Gloucester - one of the new minsters she founded, Gloucester is therefore having an epic festival to highlight this forgotten woman of history - I have somehow ended up involved - I am very excited and have even designed and with my parents made a new puppet and workshop materials for Cuddly Science/Cuddly History.

Here is the week in tweets about my adventures πŸ™‚

The Festival itself has it's own twitter handle Aethelflaed2018.

Papier Mache Anglo-Saxon Broaches (by )

dry paper mache former waiting to be decorated

One of the things I do for Cuddly Science workshops and sometimes for various themed events is make paper mache stuff. This started with things like props for Jean to take to pre-school for World Book Day and kind of escalated. By her forth birthday I was making paper mache "blanks" for the kids to decorate themselves at her parties (volcanos) but I got carried away and made too many so I took the remainder to various events and based activities on them - I have since had to make more volcanoes! Often with the kids!

extinction workshop at SmashFest Gloucester Library CuddlyScience

When designing my Fantastic Fossils workshops I found some silicon moulds which I used to form mulch or mashed up paper mache - this was a good way to turn old newspapers and office scrap into little fossil replicas that the kids could decorate and take home with them.

So it seemed only natural to do exactly the same for my Aethelflaed Quest. Initially I thought I would have to build the objects out of polymer clay or carve them and then make silicon moulds but I found a lovely mould online though it doesn't have the chunky base of my fossil ones so I can't just flop the finished product out to dry but then it is the same shape repeated so that doesn't matter as much.

tissue mache mush

I delved a little bit into art history for this as well as I was getting a little confused between things we call "Celtic", viking and anglo-saxon not to mention stuff I think of as contemporary Irish! Part of the reason for this is that vikings were not a distinct group as such but rather those who lived in Northern Europe who had decided to become pirates (due to land and resource shortages due to rising seas - present time governance might want to take heed of this!).

Here a couple of books I've been ploughing my way through in research! (A lot of online reading and chatting to people about it all has been happen too!)

So the up shot of this is that there were actually lots of overlapping cultures that had the same sorts of designed both pre and post Roman Britain and though minor things in it change like weather there are people or animals and weather they are whole or dismembered abstractions changes but over all its all got the same feel. I spent ages reading up on various anglo-saxons things and pouring over photographs of finds and artworks showing fashions of the time (and when I say time here were are talking hundreds of years and each region tended to have it's own little arty/fashion thing that then got traded just to make the stories even harder to work out - ie Syrian glass in Britain whilst our cloaks went to Rome). In some aspects our clothing hasn't changed that much since the Iron Age - we are still wearing the plaids/tartan designs or at least buying blankets styled on the same!

mould in Celtic swirls

Anyway with all this taken into account I chose a three lobed swirl to be the base of cloak pins/broaches that the kids can decorate during my workshops. The style was in general for two such fasteners to hold the cloaks in place.

setting up the paper mache

So I got busy with PVA glue, tissue and hot water - I am making a batch from pulverised newspaper as well to be stone replicas but I wanted a specific look for the ones to be decorated.

filled moulds

I squidgy the mush into the moulds and then press down with a towel to remove any excess water - it quickly became apparent that the whole thing would be easier if the shapes weren't in a big sheet so I had to cut my new mould up! This is always a nerve wracking thing to do... what if it doesn't work and you've just destroyed the thing you need?

cut up and stacked Celtic twirl moulds

But it did work and soon I was popping them in the oven on the lowest heat - much to the bewilderment of our poor builders - who have had to put up with me stopping them working so that I could extract clay from the trench they were building.

filled paper mache mould on baking tray

Once the shapes are sufficiently dry I pop them out of the moulds and leave them to fully Harden whilst I start a fresh batch - I often do a bit of paper mache each day when I am at home anyway - funny thing with this lot though... the shape of the moulds means that when I am squeezing the water out it has a tendency to jet outwards! Messy over gear has had to come into play! i.e. my nans' old housecoats, that they used to use for housework. I actually also have one of my own that Al's then work colleague got me when he got Alaric his metal working apron.

The little stock of these is steadily building up and I have gold paint and sticky gems for the kids - they will be having their first outing at the big Aethelflaed Festival in Gloucester this summer πŸ™‚

papier mache bases for anglo Saxon cloak broaches

Tweets of Aethelflaed (by )

Lots of bits about my Aethelflaed Quest are ending up on social media but are being a bit slower to get onto the blog and also I pick up bits and bobs that others are saying - so I am collecting the tweets together in a kind of weekly round up thing and I have started using the hashtag #AethelfleadQuest πŸ™‚

Lyra the Lyre (by )

Lyra and the Lyre

Lyra the Lyre would by lying if she said she was Anglo-Saxon but she knows how she is different and is very similar - so she will do.

Basically she is 10 strings and modern built "Celtic" style and the Saxon era ones were 5-8 strings. However culturally the music and things would be close to the Danes/viking stuff were they range from 2 strings (or t least this is my understanding form all the readingI've been doing). The style of harp/lyre used is basically the same as that used in Israel and the Middle East - stretching way back in time. Anglo-Saxon harps are rare finds though and we are lucky to have found the fragments at Sutton Hoo. Gaps in our knowledge are filled in from other parts of Europe - ie places in and around Germany where the Angles and other associated tribes came from.

Finding myself falling down a lovely rabbit whole of music history - and finding myself trying to understand music theory when I can't read music!

So... pentatonic scales are kinds of an ancient thing hidden in British music especially the folk stuff - this is not the 8 note thingy we are taught at school and kind of explains why folk stuff from other places sounds so hauntingly familiar to me. I struggle a bit with the restrictions of conventional music that tries to tell me sounds I can hear don't exist or can't sound good. These I've found are called Demi-tones - but that is another tale and arches back to the end of the nineties and my choir master being awesome in explaining stuff and encouraging people to experiment with music.

Anyway obv. Lyra has the wrong number and type of strings and has a key for turning the pegs for tuning but she is still really really similar to the harps the anglo-saxons used.

I have a book on Lyre history, making and tuning coming - for now I just sort of tightened the strings until they sounded ok to me. At some point I will be making a Sutton Hoo replica but not before the summer festival for Queen Aethelflaed!

Here are some fun links!

Viking Guitar

Guide To Playing a Six String Lyre

This one is an absolutely beautiful blog on The Saxon Hearpe - here is the lady in a vid about it too πŸ™‚

The Quest for Aethelflaed Hots Up!!! (by )

This year is the 1100 yr anniversary of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia and Warrior Queen's death - living in the city she was buried in means that of course I have become involved with the celebrations to mark the occasion!

Here. is a little summary - though it does not yet mention everything that is happening πŸ™‚

There is so much AWESOME going on for this event - I'm taking Cuddly Science's Histories to the event and have been researching and amassing much stuff for workshops including metallurgy, textiles, music, a new puppet, mud squishing, art history, wood work and more!

I have been privileged to work with the people at the Museum of Gloucester and have been pestering historians everywhere - I might also have high jacked the family holiday and various story telling gigs to slip in some extra research. I've reached the stage of trying to track down copies of various Chronicles (in translation) and have revived my interest in Viking/Saxon et al poetry.

Last year I decided it was time to move Cuddly Science onto phase 2 - Cuddly Histories and so found myself at the Archaeology Festival and even at some digs <3 Being a geologist by training this reminded me of my love for archaeology and history - I went on to take part in the History festival with a talk on Cave Art and so on...

I'd already decided to make the Aethelflaed puppet for this year when the chance of being involved in the festival came up and so my Quest for Aethelflaed and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon started - I have taken photos of rocks and statues and medallions and fallen down rabbit holes of Norse language roots, I am using my science, technology, art, and craft skills, I am researching and learning and this makes me very happy - I am also meeting lots of interesting people on the way.

I am also learning so much about the city I live in - things I just didn't know.

With only about a month or so to go before the festival it's time to turn the heat up on my Quest - can you work out what I am up to with this little piece of kit?

Silicon mould

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