2015 was a busy year for me. I got to meet some interesting people and was asked to undertake some interesting commissions throughout the year, the first of which came from the University of Nottingham’s CSVA (Centre for Study of the Viking Age) with an enquiry about some objects for their ‘Vikings for Schools‘ programme. As with most of the commissions I get, I spent some time with them, working out what sort of things they may need, and what they would need them for. As they are working with school children they needed to be very safe, and as robust as possible for frequent handling. In addition, there was a little working out of what sort of things might be useful, or possible, and working out a budget.
In the end we came up with a list of Viking-age objects that I produced and delivered to the University Campus. Quite a lot of the creative and construction process I shared on my Twitter account: @eblueaxe and can still be seen there if you look back at my feed and images. Below are the finished objects; including ice skates, a reproduction of the Lincoln runic comb and case, and the Scar viking boat burial comb, a knife with a wooden carved handle (based on a handle fragment from York), and a ‘carved’ leather scabbard. There was also a blowing horn and strap, four arm-rings based on finds from the Cuerdale and Silverdale hoards, and an early-eleventh century axe with an Ashwood haft and brass punched collar inspired by an example from the River Thames.
Here is a picture of it all together, also including some of the bone Thor’s hammers and glass bead necklaces I made them.
Last but by no means least, there was the small challenge of making an interpretation of a ships head with a dragon or beast on it. What size to make it, how to prop it up, and what to base it on were somewhat of a challenge as there is very little evidence as to what ship heads may have looked like, and a full size one or three dimensional version would be unwieldy and likely too expensive to produce, but it needed to maintain some of its scale and grandeur to impress the children.
As a result, I decided to make it as a flat oak board that would be detachable from the front of the ship as suggested by some sources. For the design I chose to base it on one of the Gokstad ship burial objects carvings, as whilst it wasn’t a ship head, it was from a ship burial from the period, and was carved on a flat plank like this, and also importantly depicts some form of Horse, or Dragon, or other beast (notoriously viking snakes and dragons can have ears like horses which makes interpretation difficult!). Finally, a simple timber stand was constructed to hold the shiphead up higher and at the angle of the front of the ship.
Finally here are a couple of pictures of the objects being used in anger, courtesy of the CSVA!