Thursday, January 10, 2019

ALHFAM Conference 2019

The Association for Living History, Farms, and Agricultural Museums, is a large North American organization. As might be guessed, the bulk of it's membership is based in the USA.
Every once in a rare while, it holds it's annual conference in Canada. Over June 8 - 12 in 2019, the location is Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons, Pennetanguishine, ON. (So - about 45 minutes from home base in Wareham!).

This is the paper / presentation I have submitted to deliver at the conference :

Experiencing Experiment 

Using Experimental Archaeology in public demonstration

As Historic Interpreters, we daily demonstrate What was done in the past. Increasingly, the How becomes more difficult for us to learn, and further removed from the daily lives of our visitors. The Why we know these things also seems more and more mysterious to visitors. All of this is compounded for sites further back in history.
Eventually written documents become vague (if even existing at all). The chain of ‘traditional’ skills is fractured. The object itself becomes artifact, and even with careful examination may only yield hints to how it was produced.
Experimental Archaeology seeks to fill this gap. Presented as public demonstration, this exercise can not only enrich visitor experience, but illustrate the problems of accurately envisioning the distant past. These elements in combination forge a new connection between the visitors and the subject matter.
Examples will be drawn from demonstrations and experimentation based on Parks Canada’s L’Anse aux Meadows NHSC, and two effectively ‘lost’ skill sets represented there : glass bead making and bloomery iron smelting.

Along with DARC, I will be mounting a Viking Age living history demonstration at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg ON - over June 7 - 10. My contribution (above a huge logistical element) will be Norse metalworking (either blacksmithing or bronze casting). I have asked that should the paper be accepted for ALHFAM, the delivery be on the last day of the conference (Wednesday 12th).

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

'Tipping Point' - Elora Sculpture Project #2

I have been very pleased to have had works chosen for inclusion in the Elora Sculpture Project each year since 2013. This is the second of the two designs submitted for 2019.

'Tipping Point'

From Chaos, through the possibilities of DNA, arises Humanity, the self appointed Pinnacle of Creation. Technology may be seen to lift us ever higher, but beware how a rapid change in Environment can result in a sudden fall.

‘Tipping Point’ consists of three major elements, stacked on a central supporting core. Although fairly simple in line, it will attract attention through motion of each of these elements.

At the bottom is the Chaos of Creation. Here represented by two sets of six, spiral shaped arms, each set curving in opposite directions. Each disk is mounted to a central hub, which allows the disks to both spin under the action of the wind, but also to rotate around the core rod based on wind direction. As the arms are rotating, a complex set of shapes will be generated.

Above Chaos is Order - imposed by DNA. A pair of triangular strips are wound around each other, tapering upwards and inwards. Ideally this element will also rotate under the wind, set to counter direction to the element above.

Humanity and Technology is represented by the topmost set of elements. History has proven that even gradual seeming Environmental Change is often marked by sharp (and often disastrous) ‘failing points’.
Driving force here is supplied by a set of tear drop shaped, dished, paddles. These also move a spiral shaped ‘ramp’ above.
Individual human figures are set on the end of pivoted rods. This mechanism allows each figure to move up and down, as the spiral ramp circles below. Each will rise upwards in turn, only to suddenly fall, as its individual wheel meets the top height of the ramp.
Although simple profile cut outs, the arms and legs of the figures will be set on loose pins. This will allow them to articulate, so to ‘jerk’ as each drops. (A much earlier piece ‘Dancer’ illustrates the general idea)
'the Dancing Boy' - 1982 (!)
'Tipping Point' continues my earlier ‘Windbile’ series, as exampled by the 2016 Barrel Turbine and 2017 ‘Hello / Goodbye. Also my concern with ‘Human Impact on the Environment’ as seen in the 2018 Legacy. (Another approach to this overall theme is my alternate submission this year Last to See.)


The core support is a length of mild steel pipe, with bracing flanges that mate to the standard base.
All the individual pieces are cut from 20 gage stainless steel sheet (and so will effectively resist weathering).  Overall, this is a tall sculpture, intended to be about 2 metres, but in fact will be fairly light weight. For installation, the intent is to have each of the three main visual elements simply drop down on to the core support.
As illustrated, the two lower circular ‘wheels’ consist of pieces that taper to their ends, which are rounded.  If the jury feels these spinning pieces represent a safety problem, they could be enclosed in a circular strip - like a bicycle wheel (rim and spokes) - indicated on the illustration by a dotted line.
The final shapes are only suggestive. I expect some adjustments may be required to ensure the correct wind propulsion as desired. Ideally I would like to have the central helix element free to rotate, but this may take some experimentation to achieve.
The most vague part of this submission is the detail lacking on the exact mechanics of the moving human figures on the top element. Some prototyping is going to be required to get the right configuration to provide the exact action as described (I consider this just ‘fiddly bits).
This sculpture is fully three dimensional in terms of viewing. The motion of the lower element especially will prove quite eye catching. Each of these wheels is 100 cm in diameter, so in action needs to be able to sweep out that space safely. It is suggested that one of the locations set inside flower bed strips would be best. (The often used location at the south end of the bridge might be ideal?)

Of the two submissions, I consider this to be visually the most effective. The range of motion here will certainly prove eye catching. The major fiddle factor is working out exactly how the mechanism at the top is going to be constructed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

'Last to See' - Elora Sculpture Project # 1

I have been very pleased to have had works chosen for inclusion in the Elora Sculpture Project each year since 2013. This is one of the two designs submitted for 2019.

'Last to See'

Life on Earth has been throttled by a series of ‘Mass Extinction’ events. The fossil record indicates six major times the slate of animal life has virtually been wiped clean :
2.4 Billion years ago - ‘Great Oxidation Event’ = 99+ %
440 Million years ago - Ordovician / Silurian = 86 %
365 Million years ago - Late Devonian = 75 %
250 Million years ago - Permian / Triassic = 96 %
200 Million years ago - Triassic / Jurassic = 76 %
65 Million years ago - Cretaceous / Palaeocene = 75 %

And now the current, human generated - Holocene = 80 % (and rising!)

‘Last to See’ represents these events through a stack of stone slabs, (concrete, each roughly 30 x 60 cm x 7 cm thick). Embedded in each are forged steel ‘fossils’ - shapes suggestive of the creatures most significantly died off in each individual event. Individual slabs are roughly proportional to the percentage of species lost. Moving from top downwards, the slabs gradually tilt ever flatter, suggesting geological compression.
The bottom (ground) level consists of a set of small, irregular sized natural limestone blocks, set in a circle about 100 cm diameter. Between these (and covering the mounting base) is spread a layer of black sand, with a scattering of rusted metal fragment ’dust’. Taken together this symbolizes the ‘Great Oxidation Event’, when earlier anaerobic  bacteria was virtually eliminated by oxygen using and producing types we know today.
The top most slab has imbedded in it plastic figures of ‘modern’ wild animals, types either recently eliminated, or close to extinction. Mounted to the top of this slab is a life-sized human hand, pushing downwards.

This piece can be considered an outgrowth of my ‘Hallucigenia’ series (sculptures based on the Burgess Shale).
I had also had created a number of smaller plaques using the technique of mounting forged pieces into cast concrete mix.
One of the 'Mecha' series - 2015
This submission is more of a ‘concept’, than a final illustration of the specific slabs. A large number of individual forged elements will need to be made, then positioned / modified to best fit inside the frames of the individual slabs. These forged elements will be left ‘rough forged’ - both to preserve textures and to allow them to naturally rust over time (again, suggestive of fossils and the effects of time).


Because a fairly rigid support frame will be necessary to hold the individual slabs (each about 30 kg), this work has a specific viewing orientation. (Unlike most of my earlier contributions, which were fully 360 degree viewing.) The main structural frame will be of welded 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 3/16 angle, with secondary support members of 1 x 1 x 1/8. Individual slabs will both be supported from underneath and bolted from the back to the supporting framework.
The ground under the stone blocks will be covered with standard landscape cloth, to prevent any plant growth into the sand spacing. This will also assist in ease of dismantling the sculpture. Note however that because of this ground layer, any grass in this area is sure to be effected.
It is hoped that these two factors will be taken into account when considering placement.
The total height would be about 180 cm, width of the main sculpture about 60 cm, with the stone base circle about 100 cm.
The frame would comprise the major sized element to transport to the installation area, but not overly heavy (a bit awkward, but can be carried by one person). Individual slabs are moved separately, then bolted to the frame after the frame is attached to the existing ground mount.

This is the concept I certainly put the most background research into. Visually, it is far more static than my recent submissions, and may prove a bit to 'dense' for the average viewer? Much of the effect will rely on the many forged 'fossil' pieces, details yet to be determined.  The intent here is to make pieces suggested of the dominant species extinction within each of the 'events' - Trillobites for the Ordovician / Silurian slab for example.

Friday, December 28, 2018

About a Phone (part 1)

"  The site doesn’t scale to mobile. Unfortunately with over 50% of internet users moving to phones and tablets, google feels like it is priority number 1 to have a website built for mobile.  "
from a recent e-mail - name withheld

Well, maybe not.
And from the look of it, certainly not those seriously interested in the Wareham Forge (or reading this right now, for that matter).

First Statistic : Population of Canada
December 2017 = 36.7 million (1)

Reported number of ‘mobile device internet users’ (so smart phones and tablets)
December 2017 = 24.4 million
December 2018 = 25.7 million (2)

Something to watch here.
1) The number of ‘subscriptions’ is reported at over 30 million.
Other reports indicated that Canada has one of the highest mobile device ownership world wide. But indicated at roughly ‘3 out of 4 people’. Which would put the number of ‘unique owners’ at closer to 27.5 million.
2) A good percentage of these would actually own more than one device - but would count twice here. (I own both a cell phone and a tablet, for example.)
3) A significant number of those would children or teens. The teens clearly show as major users, and warp some of the numbers as this goes along.

But just what are those ‘users’ actually doing?
By the data at :
  • text message / e-mail
  • watching videos
  • finding locations (maps)
  • games
  • mobile banking
You can see general information searching on the internet does not even make up one of the top five uses. (Appears to be less than 1/3 of 'user time')

Ok - and quite importantly here - just what machines are Canadians using to actually ‘surf the web’?
As it turns out, still primarily using actual computer screens :
January 2018 = 55%

The table indicates that only 33 % of unique users are using the internet on small smart phone screens.

Combine that with the reduced fraction (not indicated, but obviously some amount less than 38%) who would be attempting general internet searches.
That makes at best roughly 1/3 of 1/3 of all web site views =
11 % of all viewers.

A double check off my own main web site portals. Stats for operating systems accessing :
’Hammered Out Bits’ - my blog / month of December (2018)
  • Android = 14%
  • iPhone = 4%
‘the Wareham Forge - main web site / month of December
  • Google Android = 3.8% (3)
full site on an iPad mini *
full site on an iPhone *
Now, I had created a separate ‘mobile’ version of the Wareham Forge web site (about a year ago) :
  • (should) automatically load when a mobile device is used
  • sized to fit the smaller iPhone screen
  • stripped to single images and limited text
  • links back to the main web site if viewers want any details
view direct at

mobile version on iPad mini *
mobile version on iPhone *
Over the entire Wareham Forge web site however / month of December :
Total page views = 24,908
‘Mobile’ page views = 646 (2.5%)
These two sets of numbers seem to work against each other. I may be incorrect on either end :
  • Android operating system may not just be on phones ?
  • Some mobile users may not be moved to the special mobile versions as intended.

Over the past year especially, from younger (less than 30 year old) people specifically, I have had many suggest I should re-work the entire Wareham Forge web site (!!) so it views 'easier' on those tiny smart phone screens.

(Next : 'Viewing the Universe through a Tiny Hole' )

* Made with use of the Mobile Phone Emulator (by COWEMO)
I made an attempt to match these images to the actual sizes of the devices indicated. I suspect the size of these images will be altered by your own viewing screen.
  • iPhone : continues to increase in size, older ones = 13 cm (diagonal)
  • iPad mini : (mine is iPad 2) = 20 cm (diagonal)
These also show the vertical arrangement, which is what the mobile site version of the Wareham Forge was designed for. The images used there actually are a size that fills a horizontal view on the iPhone screen.

1) Statistics Canada
An estimate of the current (end December 2018) = 37.1 million

2) Statista

3) The separate statistics sheets for these two sites record and track different information.
The main Wareham Forge site does not track  macOSi  individually

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

COPYRIGHT NOTICE - All posted text and images @ Darrell Markewitz.
No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE