Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Fall of Crete

So I picked up some leafs of papyrus from the British Museum a while back and have been intending to use them for ages. Well I say papyrus, I've heard modern ones tend to be made of banana leaves, but close enough. I also got a calligraphy set for Christmas complete with coloured inks, and have been studying Minoan Crete recently. So I decided to combine these things.

The first thing to do was decide what to put on it - which is when I remembered that in some of the latter periods the Minoans got really into drawing octopi. Then the Minoan civilisation mysteriously collapsed, and we're not entirely sure why. Since 'invaded by Mycenaeans' is boring I went with the obvious answer and put together this piece. The Cthulhu is - slightly loosely - based on some of the designs on Minoan pottery, though a bit less wavy (partly because I wasn't looking at the reference at the time), but I chopped off a pair of arms and enlarged the 'beak' bit, which I think makes the whole thing a bit more insect-like. Not quite what I intended but alien is good. I did actually include dots along the arms, though I made them less clear than the suckers you normally see. If you look closely you can see they're blue and green.

The bull is likewise based off pottery art, as are the shields, though I made up the colouration and the design of the middle shield.

The city and the ships was based off this Minoan wall painting, though the less detailed image of the ships was based on the sort seen in wax seals. I tried to have the side on the right be rubble but I'm not sure how clear it was.

Finally the writing is copied from tablets of Linear A, the written form of the Minoan language. fortunately its undecipherable, so you can't tell at a glance that its gibberish. 

Before writing on it I tried to stain the papyrus to make it a little less fresh looking. The colour utterly failed to take but wetting and then drying it did cause it to crinkle up and gave it a nicely distressed look - though it did make it somewhat harder to work with. I drew it all on in pencil first, then inked over it - though you can see from the bits at the top I was using too much ink at first. some of the colours - especially the green, are rather too bright to look three thousand years old - I'd try to fade it with sunlight but unfortunately I live in England. So I'll just say it was unusually well preserved. Which it would have to be anyway since as far as we know, Minoans didn't use Papyrus (if they DID it didn't survive the climate. Maybe this was sealed in a pot or something). Likewise the smudged bits are clearly an indication that it was transcribed in a hurry, or by someone of disturbed mental state.

The idea in my mind was to depict the fall of the Minoan civilisation as being a clash between two godlike beings - one bull headed the other the familiar octopus. However hopefully I made it abstract enough people can interpret it in different ways.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Glowstone Lantern

A bit of a cheat here as its not really a prop I made so much as a simple modification.

So for the last couple of events I've taken a rawhide candle lantern with me. It's gorgeous, but had two problems. The first is that it shines up and utterly ruins night vision if it's held anywhere in front of you or below your head, and carrying it high is a pain. The second is it requires being relit every time, a particular pain on the walk back from conclave with that pitch black ditch.

So, I picked up a cheap solar one from b&q which also I had two problems. The tacky looking black plastic top and the fact that it was a big empty space with a titchy led bulb at the top.

The first I solved by.... Painting it copper. simples.

The second, I was looking at various methods such as filling it with fairy lights (which would be a pain to turn off and on), sticking a real lump of quartz in it (fuss, also heavy), or diffusing it with tissue around the edges - which made it glow nicely but made it dim and useless.

Then I realised the solution was really simple and just a bit of scrunched up tissue paper gives a decent approximation of a big glowing crystal! The light still came out the sides but hit the 'rock' at the bottom and illuminated it nicely.

So here it is, with my rawhide lantern for comparison (and my burner I use for rituals)

Winter Staff

I also agreed to do a Winter Staff for another friend on commission, though these don't have a specific brief. But I figured a dead wood look would be good. So I wandered off into the local coppice and the first thing I found was this, lying in a ditch at the side. It had a nice crooked end but that made me think 'winter staff' but it shattered with a pull so it was clearly a bit rotten. The rest was strong, and nicely dry so I immediately nicked it and headed back.

The first thing I had to do was get rid of the dead bark. At first I tried whittling the old fashioned way. Then I decided that was a pain and I was on a time limit here so I used one of those rotary sandpaper things you stick in a drill. Which still took a couple of days to finish, and wore through the hole thing, but it revealed this interesting effect I'm told is called spalting, and a (harmless) result of fungus.

 Unfortunately the spalting all but disappeared with the first coat of dark oak wood stain. That did leave it a gorgeous golden brown but it wasn't the colour I wanted for a Winter Staff, so I gave it another three

Then I engraved the runes I was asked to put on it, polished it up and gave it the fabric wraps. The end result was gorgeous and I was really sad to let it go - especially at mate's rates! Hopefully I can find more sticks as good as this one.

Spring Staff

This Sanguine Staff (aligned to Spring) was made from an old stick I found years ago and I always intended to make into a staff. I say staff, I was quite small at the time. Its really more of a half-staff or a long cane maybe? Anyway, Sanguine staffs are "made of natural materials - the best sanguine staffs are created from living branches or even small saplings, kept alive and fruitful by the complex enchantments worked into them". So I went with the stick, some engraved Spring runes - which I coloured in Brass instead of Gold. Gives it a slightly greenish sheen that seemed more appropriate. I also have a hole load of this brown fabric that makes for very good hand wraps (and a truly horrible blanket, which for some reason it was intended as. The top wrap is useful when walking around, the lower one for waving dramatically while doing magic.

For the top I decided on a crystal ball - I found this in B&Q. Its a doorknob. I stuck it to the top of the stick and made sure it was incredibly secure, before wrapping the metal bit and in green thread to finish it off. I sold the staff to a friend and annoyingly the glass bit then fell off at the first knock - manufacturing flaw attatching it to the metal base (however I assume he's glued it back on). The whole thing is just under 50 inches.

Enigmatic Staff

This was the first of three staffs I made for the last Empire Larp. The first was for me, an 'Engimatic Staff' attuned to the realm of night. The description said 'These polished black staves often bear subtly scintillating runes of black upon black'. But black on black isn't especially interesting to look at (though I considered one of those slightly iridescent black paints) so I went with silver runes and silver vines going up it.

I did briefly attempt to give it a glow in the dark glaze over the runes but it was barely noticeable at night and dulled the silver during the day.

Its a simple bit of dowel that I engraved with a dremel. Which actually took ages, all the little ridges from the grain meant it took forever to get it smooth. After engraving I gave it a light sand, stained it ebony, and used some silver enamel paint for the vines and runes.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Jade Cthulhu Idol

Back again, various other things to show as soon as I get round to it. Here, however is my first attempt at an actual fimo sculpture, which worked out fairly well in my opinion.

It's a tin foil core, covered in a thin layer if emerald, followed by a thin layer of translucent green - the two layers were probably unnecessary but I didn't know how transparent that would be. Then I added the tentacles and tried to blend them in. The wings I was puzzled by how to do well before I settled on them being pulled in tight, though perhaps I should have added a little more thickness for the wing membranes.

After it was baked I added a black wash which dramatically improved it.

It's far from perfect, and there's a couple of annoying fingerprints on it, but I'm pretty happy with it. Works better as a static prop in my opinion as its so lightweight it instantly wrecks immersion when you pick it up.