Crafts

Object Focus: Crafty Creations

Although I do enjoy visiting museums, I honestly just like staying home best (which is why, unlike many people, I am in no hurry for things to open back up), and one of my dreams has always been to acquire enough weird stuff to have my own museum (though I would have to severely restrict access, since I do not like visitors!). My very talented partner Marcus has assisted in this ambition by creating many marvellous things for me over the years (he’s very good at crafts, and I’m definitely not), and this week, I thought I’d do a mini tour of my own “home museum” (such as it is) and show you some of them (I also wanted to give myself a little break with something a bit lighter after finishing that EuroTrip series. I found writing about some of that surprisingly emotionally draining). If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen some of these things already, but I hope you don’t mind seeing them again!

I’m starting with Martha the magpie, who you can see at the start of the post. I love all birds in the crow family, but I’m especially partial to magpies. Those iridescent blue-green feathers are just so pretty! Although I’m certainly not averse to buying antique or ethically sourced taxidermy (in fact, I have a taxidermy jackdaw), and I’m not normally superstitious, something about buying a dead magpie just felt wrong and probably unlucky, so Marcus got around the problem by making me one out of paper and card, and I love her.

These are our clown eggs, which I feel require a bit of explanation. There is a thing called the Clown Egg Register at a church in Dalston, where professional clowns are represented by ceramic eggs showcasing their unique clown makeup designs, thereby trademarking their clown persona in the clown community. Even though they are undeniably creepy (as is the very idea of a clown community, if I’m honest), I’m fascinated by them, and I’ve always wanted to go see them but haven’t quite managed it yet, in part because their collection was temporarily on loan to a circus exhibition in Newcastle that Marcus visited without me when I was in the US visiting my family a few years back, which I’m still mildly salty about. To make amends, he bought me the Clown Egg Register book, which inspired us to sketch out clown personas for each other. Marcus’s is named Lembo (a play on his surname) and is a sad clown, hence the droopy flower in his hat, and my clown persona is named Waffles, because everybody likes waffles (which Waffles often says menacingly whilst performing), and I LOVE waffles (the food). I actually put on Waffles clown makeup one day to freak out Marcus, but I won’t show you here because I genuinely looked shit scary. Anyway, this whole thing led to Marcus creating clown eggs for us out of real eggshells, which is what you see above. Mine has my actual hair on it, which makes it even more creepy/amazing. When we moved house last year, I held the box on my lap the whole time in the moving van because I was so worried about breaking them, but they survived intact.

 

I also love Indiana Jones, as regular readers will know, so for our anniversary a few years ago, Marcus made me a replica of the Indiana Jones voodoo doll from Temple of Doom, as well as (most excitingly), doll versions of the two of us, with hand-carved wooden heads. He made the doll bodies and clothing as well – I’m wearing a chicken dress, and holding a book of ghost stories. He was secretly working on them for ages whilst I was at work, and I kept coming home to find him with all these cuts on his hands and couldn’t figure out what he was up to. He’s had to update mine every time I get a new tattoo, unless they’ve just been appearing on their own… I don’t think they actually work (I had to jab a pin through the hand of the Marcus doll to hold his phone on until I could sew it, since the thread had come loose, and he didn’t show any reaction (the actual Marcus, that is)), but that’s probably a good thing.

We discovered Bernard Moss pottery whilst watching Antiques Roadshow one night a while back, and I thought it was super charming, but also incredibly expensive. Marcus managed to find the bathtub from Good Clean Fun on eBay for a reasonable price because it was missing the little man and woman figures that are supposed to sit inside the tub. So he bought it, and made his own figures that look like us, which is better than the originals would have been anyway!

 

The piece de resistance is definitely my witch cabinet. I always wanted an arsenic green room (without the actual arsenic), so when we bought a house and could decorate any way we wanted to (after years of living in rented accommodation), Marcus painted one of the rooms arsenic green for me, and I sort of turned it into the goth room/library (well, all the rooms have gothy touches, but this is where it’s the most concentrated), and I definitely wanted a witch cabinet for it to display some of my weird stuff. He managed to find a used china hutch online that was already delightfully black and gothy looking (I think it might be haunted, or else just our house generally is), and I filled it up with some of my best stuff, including the skeleton rag doll he made me (named Roger), the glass pumpkin I made at the Corning Glass Museum, and some specimens in jars. We already had preserved pig hearts that we made at a workshop at St. Bart’s many years ago, and we also had our fake specimens from a Halloween late at the Hunterian Museum (you can see Marcus’s fetus above). Marcus also made me a jar full of moles, which you can also (murkily) see above.

 

As if this wasn’t enough, for Valentine’s Day this year, he surprised me by transforming the inside of the cabinet (the door at the front opens up, and I never bothered to look inside because I hadn’t put anything in there, so he was able to work on it when I wasn’t home without my noticing) into a truly witchy delight. He stenciled on a Ouija board, and filled the shelves with all kinds of good stuff like charms, protection kits against werewolves and vampires (all homemade), and my personal favourite, cryptozoological specimens that reference some of my favourite films, like a werewolf paw print from the Yorkshire Moors (American Werewolf in London) and a Sumatran rat monkey ear (Braindead). It obviously couldn’t be more perfect, and I know I’m super lucky to have someone that lovingly creates all these things that cater to my strange interests.

I have many more unusual things in my house, but I thought it would be nice to specifically draw attention to all the lovely things Marcus has created this week (and probably inadvertently embarrass him a little), and maybe talk about some more of my non-homemade possessions in a future post, if you didn’t find this one too boring (since I don’t think I’ll be museuming in person for a while, at least I can show you some of my own artefacts!). Marcus’s next project is recreating Book from Hocus Pocus (which we’re meant to be working on together), so I’ll let you know how that goes when we finish. Hope you enjoyed a peek at some of my decor!

Ely, Cambridgeshire: The Stained Glass Museum

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By rights, my write-up of the Stained Glass Museum should be mainly a picture post, to show off the fabulous collection of glass-work housed within the upper reaches of Ely Cathedral.  However, the museum is one of those with a firm no-pictures policy (and no large bags, guess they don’t want you clumsily bashing into the glass!), so you’ll have to make do with photos of the cathedral (which is perfectly attractive, it’s just not entirely reflective (ha!) of the surprisingly largely secular museum collection).

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The entrance to the Stained Glass Museum is up a steep spiral staircase to the right of the main doors of this superb 12th century cathedral.  Ely Cathedral itself is free to enter, but admission to the museum will set you back £4.  The gift shop and admissions desk are inside a circular room, which leads off into a long gallery from which you can look down on the centre of the church below, with the stained glass arranged along the walls in two rows.  Evensong was taking place when we were there, which lent an appropriate atmosphere to proceedings.

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Along the balcony, you’ll find a series of doll-house sized dioramas demonstrating various stages in the glass-making process, from drawing the cartoon (basically a stencil to arrange the pieces of glass on), to cutting the glass, cranking out lead strips to go in between, and soldering the lead.  In case you couldn’t get the idea from the adorable dioramas, there’s also a video at the end of a man making a window, so you can see precisely how it’s done (always handy, as I sometimes have a hard time visualising the mechanics of things).

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Of course, the real meat(s?) of the museum are the stained glasses themselves.  The inner row progressed chronologically, with a detailed sign between each section describing the changes in technology and religion in that time period, and the resulting stylistic changes.  As you might expect, the earlier pieces were largely religious in nature, though there were a quite a few that weren’t, from the “Labours of the Month” depicting hog-slaughtering time, to the ever-popular (amongst the French) Reynard the Fox.  The medieval windows, in addition to being the oldest, are also some of the most beautiful, as stained glass became largely a forgotten art in England following the Reformation, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that glaziers again learned how to replicate the quality and range of colours of the earlier glass.

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The 18th century saw a change in the glass-making process, when a new technique for simply painting over a large pane of glass was introduced, eliminating the need for lead strips, and allowing for a more cohesive picture (but sacrificing the nuances and personality of earlier works), as evidenced by a large portrait of George III done using this technique. The Georgians and Victorians also seemed to favour portraying saints with the faces of members of the Royal Family, hence a portrait of the notorious Victorian Prince Eddy in the guise of St. George.

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The outer row contained modern glass pieces, which were often quite whimsical, like “Sure Enough the Duck,” which was of course, a picture of a duck.  Some of my favourite pieces were ones that were new interpretations of older themes, like the modern re-creation of “Labours of the Month,” a medieval-style fight with hammer and tongs from 1920, and a cartoon style panel of the Prodigal Son which was straight-up hilarious if you’ve had enough of a religious background (and are a dork) to know the original story (this version ends with the line, “But his elder brother was not pleased.  Neither was the fatted calf.”).  My favourite older pieces were, perhaps predictably, the ones with monkeys in them doing human stuff like drinking and smoking, and of course, Reynard the Fox, but I think the prettiest pieces of glass were a pair of angels done by Morris and Co. (who were largely behind the drive for improved glass-making techniques) in which the detail on the wings was exquisite.

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The majority of the stained glass on display (with the exception of the modern pieces) has been saved from churches and other buildings, and preserved within the back-lit interior of the museum.  I, for one, am quite glad it is being looked after, and I really enjoyed my visit here.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of non-religious art, and fascinated by the glass-making procedure (I think I might take a class on stained glass, though I totally lack artistic talent, and have terrible fine motor skills, so I’m fairly sure it will be a disaster. Cutting my nails is enough of a struggle.).  3.5/5.

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As a final note, after leaving the cathedral, I learned that one of Oliver Cromwell’s houses was in Ely, just down the street, but as it was already nearly 5 at this point, I was too late to go inside (damn shame, that; one of the bedrooms is rumoured to be haunted!).  Still managed to snag a photo with Ollie (and Mrs. Cromwell) out front (although he was almost unrecognisable without his warts)!

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