Friday, October 23, 2009

Fort Garry Tobacco Tin and Quartzite, Again, Finally

I ate about six pounds of jujubes, gummy worms, and gum balls yesterday so it must have been a good birthday. Lori also topped up my chocolate covered espresso beans to help me wake up in the mornings, which is good because six pounds of jellied sugar rolling around your guts sure doesn't make you want to pop out of bed the next day. I also got a bunch of new clothes including this shirt.

I had hoped that yesterday would be the last day working on the Parks contract, but after comparing the final reproductions to the artifacts and talking to a conservator friend who works at The Rooms, I realized that almost everything was missing an important brown colour. Its all done, but the last set of artifacts could really use some more Burnt Umber, so on the way home I stopped at MF Kelly and picked up some pastel and charcoal sticks to grind up and dust on. I have one more trip today to confirm that Burnt Umber made them good and then thats it. It'll just be packing and shipping after that.

Fort Garry Tobacco Tin: Aulavik National Park. The reproduction is above the original in both photos. This was a new sort of reproduction for me so it had a bit of a learning curve. I've talked a little about the history of the tin and my approach to reproducing it in previous posts. The words that you can't quite read say "FORT GARRY SMOKING TOBACCO". Aging the paint and adding the rust were the most challenging aspects of this project. I wound up using white washes over areas of the paint to create the sun bleached look of the paint. Without the white wash the paint colours and contrast were a little too sharp. The rust/paint boundaries were still a little sharp. In the artifact there is a kind of rusty halo that creaps out around the exposed rusted metal into the adjacent paint. On my reproduction the paint/metal boundaries were too sharp until I added a final red ochre wash around the rust patches to create the fuzzy boundaries and depth that I needed.

It was possible to have a lot more control over the rust than I'd imagined. The paint did its job and prevented the muriatic acid from rusting anywhere that it touched. To guide the shape fo the rust pattern all Ihad to do was scrape off the paint in the areas that I wanted to rust. Once the muriatic acid had rusted an area I could tweak the colour by adding water, sunlight and a quick drying environment to give me brighter reds and oranges. Dabbing a bit of tea on the rust would turn it black from the tannins. The piece was constantly evolving and responding to the temperature and air around it, on dry days it would be more orange and on damp days it would be more black. To try and stabilize it at the point I wanted it, I sprayed on a clear varnish. I needed that clear finish to match the gloss of the original tin and blocking out the air should prevent future changes in the rust colour.

Quartzite Scraper: Tuktut Nogait National Park. The artifact is on the left and the reproduction is on the right. This is the last piece of quartzite in this contract. I don't know how many versions of this piece I made over the summer, but I destroyed most of the quartzite that Jack Cresson gave me trying to get this piece out. Basically, its a very short hard hammer flake removed from the dish shaped flake scar of a previous hard hammer flake. Its part of a cone made on the negative space made by a cone. Its another one of those really simple and really difficult pieces to make. The original artifact would have taken less than 20 seconds to make by hitting one rock with another rock twice. But trying to match those exact conditions a few hundred years later is like trying to copy a snowflake. Like I said on Wednesday, the simpler something is the harder it is to reproduce.

Photo Credits:
Top: Lori White
Second-Fourth: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top: Comparing Fort Gary Smoking Tobacco Tins in my birthday shirt
Second: Fort Garry Tobacco Tin (bottom) and reproduction (top)
Third: Back of the Fort Garry Tobacco Tin (bottom) and reproduction (top)
Fourth: Quartzite flake scraper (left) and Reproduction (right)


  1. Amazing tin work Tim! It must have been fun, if not a little scary to work outside your normal area of expertise.

  2. Happy birthday!

    Mmmm, gummy worms...


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