Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 : * Tentative *

I have had requests for my 2019 year course schedule since early December.
As with past years, there are a number of potential projects in the discussion stage, so at best this draft is only a rough outline :

click for expanded view
My original intent was :
- to set courses on the second and fourth weekends
- basic level the second, advanced / special the fourth
- block around the three regular iron smelt events
- block around annual conferences and demonstrations

Now, I have been contacted about three possible projects in Scotland. Most significantly, a return to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop for part three of 'Turf to Tools'. There are two international level iron smelting symposiums happening, the Furnace Festival in Galway Ireland (later August) and the Iron Smelting Days event in the Netherlands (later October). The Irish event is perhaps the most elegant, as past past projects in Scotland have run August through early September, and flights via Aer Lingus allow for a free stop over in Dublin.
So taken together, I am attempting to keep August through early September loose at this point.

I will be working to get the reservation / deposit mechanics in place on the main web site over the next couple of days.

just in!

There is a chance I may be involved in a potential iron smelting project in Iceland for early September. This only at the 'concept' stage, but there are good intentions. You can see how this could certainly mesh with the Irish and Scottish iron events!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Who ARE those Masked Men - America's Lost Vikings

Science Channel Exploring 'America's Lost Vikings' in New Series (Exclusive)

The show will explore evidence that the Vikings, who are among the most feared warriors in history, landed on the coast of North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Courtesy of Science Channel
Science Channel has greenlit a new series titled America's Lost Vikings.
The show will explore evidence that the Vikings, who are among the most feared warriors in history, landed on the coast of North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Beyond this, the trail goes cold. In the series, archaeologists and explorers Blue Nelson and Mike Arbuthnot will try to find out how far the Vikings explored into America.
To solve this mystery, Nelson and Arbuthnot will use "a combination of state-of-the-art science as well as gripping hands-on experimental archaeology." They begin their quest in L’Anse aux meadows in Newfoundland, on the northeast coast of Canada, in a settlement that offers proof that the Vikings were here around the year 1000.  But the purpose of the site is still unknown; Nelson and Arbuthnot aim to solve that mystery and discover where the Vikings explored next.
As they follow the trail of evidence south, they go to extreme lengths to discover how the Viking explorers survived. To put their theories to the test, they plunge themselves into freezing temperatures to test Viking clothing, row a specially constructed Norse boat through icy waters and learn to fight with Viking weapons.
The six-part series is set to premiere Feb. 10.
"The question of just how much of North America the Vikings explored hasn’t been investigated to this degree," said Marc Etkind, general manager of Science Channel. "The latest scientific technology may help us answer just how far they got, where they went and who they encountered."
Nelson is a historic archaeologist who focuses on artifact analysis, historical research, African-American archaeology and historic race relations, while Arbuthnot is a terrestrial and maritime archaeologist whose specialties include submerged prehistoric archaeology and Southeastern U.S. history.
America's Lost Vikings is produced by Arrow Media for Science Channel. Tom Brisley and Ash Potterton are executive producers for Arrow. Neil Laird is executive producer for Science Channel. 

stolen outright from : the Hollywood Reporter

I was involved in one of the episodes of America's Lost Vikings. Back in mid October (2018) the team from Arrow, with Blue and Mike, undertook a full bloomery iron smelt here. I had been asked by the Producers to more or less keep the content under wraps, until the series had been shot, edited and sold.

Breaking Charcoal : Mike / Blue / Me (behind the camera crew) image by Neil Peterson
I was assisted on the preparation and operation of the smelt by Neil Peterson and David Robertson.
In keeping with the requirements from Arrow, this is almost the only image I actually have of either Mike and Blue - or the actual filming taking place.

This episode revolves around a specific object. The mechanics of an iron smelt helps tie the episode back to the initial one - Vinland and the Norse, at L'Anse aux Meadows.  My part included not only the full smelt sequence, but also supplying some illustration and commentary on VA blacksmithing methods, along with some suggestions about the object under examination.

Of course, this activity will only form a short part of the overall episode!
Mike and Blue were great to work with - and got right into the dirt and fire of the smelt.
I also have to say I was extremely impressed with the production team from Arrow. Unlike certain US based companies I could name, everyone at Arrow (especially my contact researcher Lucy) actually did some background reading, and were consistently extremely professional to work with.

(As I don't have access to regular TV here, I'm hoping someone will record this episode for me? ie : I have not seen any of the actual footage itself. )
I may write more on this - including my assessment of the object under consideration, once this individual episode has aired...)

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.

Addition : February 1
I have been told that 'Tipping Point' has been accepted by the Elora Sculpture Project for the 2019 edition. Very pleased to be again selected to contribute. Although 'Last to See' is perhaps more 'serious' in intent, there is no doubt 'Tipping Point' will prove more interesting to the viewing public.

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.

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

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