Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bird Blunts, Awl and Balls

Isn't there a joke about a panda who does something like that?

Actually its just a list of the most recent pieces I finished for the Western Arctic contract: a Bird Blunt, a Copper Awl, and Stone Balls. Here's some photos from yesterday's visit to The Rooms and brief descriptions of the artifacts and reproductions.

Bird Blunt, Ivvavik National Park: This is a heavy, blunt tip for an arrow designed to stun a bird and knock it out of the air. The legs are rounded and form part of a fishtail splice that would be tied onto an arrowshaft. I used whalebone for the reproduction because it gave me a good match for the dense dorsal surface of the blunt as well as the porous belly. The original may have been made from whalebone, or just as likely caribou antler. If it is caribou antler, then the dense outer layer of antler is much thicker than most of the caribou antler that I have available to work, whalebone was really my only choice from the materials that I have readily available. A bit of tea-staining for the colour and I'm pleased with the match.

The upper photo shows the dorsal surface, with the artifact in between the two reproductions. The lower photo shows the porous ventral surface - the artifact is in the middle again. I'm tempted to trim a millimetre or two off of one or two of the legs after seeing these photos.

Copper Awl, Tuktut Nogait National Park: This is one of the first pieces that I started, and I made 3 or 4 attempts at it before I figured out how to fold and hammer the copper correctly to get a strong core, but still give the piece the hammered, flakey appearance of the original. This last reproduction is a different attempt than the one that I showed in an earlier post. For the colour match I went with red wine vinegar, sea salt, and miracle grow. On a recent trip to the lab at the Signal Hill Archaeology dig I mentioned to the conservator, Danielle, that red wine vinegar is supposed to give better patina results. She thought that it might have something to do with the sulfates in red wine -- that sounds good to me! I got the final look by burning the bright new verdigris off the awl with a blow torch. I'm happy with the end result - the reproduction awl looks every bit as old as the original.

In the photo the artifact is on right, my fingers are in the blue gloves in the background for scale.

Stone Ball, Ivvavik National Park: It took a little fiddling with stone dust, carpenters glue, red ochre, the blow torch and finally a dusting of charcoal to get a close colour and texture match to the original stone ball. I seem to use a blow torch a lot for antiquing. There's a randomness to scorched patterns that makes things look real and it helps darken and complicate a fresh new surface. There are many, many fine layers building up the artificial cortex on these stone balls, so I think they will wear nicely as they are handled.

The original is the one in the middle.

Photo Credits:
Top: cover scan of the hebrew version of "Don't Cry, Big Bird" found on the muppet wiki.
The Rest: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top: Big Bird Crying.
The Rest: Photos of recently completed artifact reproductions.

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