After showing you the dead whorls yesterday, it’s probably time to also show you the survivors – so here’s part of the yield, hanging out in a basket and feeling decorative:


By now, the whorls have all been weighed and are sorted in boxes – they range from below 8 g to almost 70 g in weight. The heavy ones are modeled after prehistoric whorl finds – and yes, it is astonishingly hard to match a given size and shape, as you can see here:

I find it really hard to make some shapes, among them the longish ones and the ones with a sort of T-profile. Roundish or double-conical is much easier for me, and I’m wondering if someone else would have a different experience, or if there’s some special technique to making these other shapes easily. You can see in the picture that I didn’t really match the original shape of whorl no. 14 – even though I tried really hard!

In some cases, with some shapes, I am quite happy with how close I got, though. Like with this one:

As a final note, it might amuse you that I managed to get only a few whorls within the weight range I was mostly aiming for – while I happened to (again) hit spot-on a few other ranges with a lot of whorls. If this continues, I might have to make a sale for these weight ranges!

Posted in all the gory details, spinning, textile techniques and tools, the market stall | 1 Comment

The spindle whorl firing is done – so now I have plenty of hand-formed spindle whorls again. This time around, there are some decorated ones, and quite a few of these are formed after actual examples from prehistoric finds. Though, of course, I cannot guarantee that their shapes and weights are close to the originals – especially their weight will probably be quite different even if the size and shape matches, as different materials and different amounts of water and temper make a huge difference in the density – and thus the weight at similar size.

This is one of the many reasons why making whorls and pit-firing them never gets un-exciting. It may be boring (forming whorl after whorl after whorl can be really mind-numbing), but there is always a good amount of insecurity left. Especially regarding firing.

Will they all get enough heat? How many of them will be completely black, or completely light? And most importantly:
How many of them will come out undamaged?

As the pit-firing procedure is only sort of controlled, some whorls in the batch usually come out more or less of damaged. The most common cause is probably a small air bubble that has gotten trapped inside, followed by adverse conditions when heating up, such as getting too much heat too quickly, or too much heat only on part of the piece. Or the clay being still a little bit too moist – even though I try to make sure that the whorls have enough time to really dry out.

Obviously, all these things are more probable on the really large whorls – and this batch, one of the big ones did die a spectacular death, giving out two very loud bangs right after I started the firing. It was accompanied in its venture to explode by two smaller ones… so a total loss of three whorls for the firing batch.

While this is, obviously, a total loss, there are always some whorls that only lose a little chip off their surface. They are otherwise still okay, and they can work just like undamaged ones – but of course they are not making their way into my for-sale stash of whorls.

I call these whorls “Salamander Snacks” because, as every reader of medieval bestiaries knows, the salamander can live in the fire unharmed. So obviously, the reason for how these whorls look is that a salamander living in the fire got a little peckish and took a nibble (or in some cases, a bite) out of a whorl.

While last time around, I had quite a few salamander snacks in the batch, this time it was only a single one – but the salamander has been quite hungry, it seems, as it took a large-ish bite:

I hope it enjoyed its snack!

Posted in all the gory details, spinning, textile techniques and tools, the market stall | 1 Comment

I’m on the hunt – on the hunt for suitable rooms for giving workshops, for all those lovely topics where my home is not large enough – such as tablet-weaving with more than two people.
Since tablet-weaving workshops have been requested again and again, and I’m also really psyched about giving them (as teaching tablet-weaving is utter fun, for me), I need a room for that… with enough good light and enough space to place tables and chairs for a convenient setup, and preferably not too far away from home.
By chance I discovered that Erlangen’s urban administration actually offers a “room search”, where you can search for rooms for all kinds of events and all kinds of group sizes. That actually helped me a lot to discover the possibilities – and now I’m waiting for answers.
If I can find a room, there will be a tablet-weaving workshop on the weekend August 31/September 1, similar to the one I gave in Belgium in January: Understanding how tablet-weaving works, so you can weave patterns without needing a pattern draft. Which, if you ask me, is the coolest and most exciting (and fun!) way to do tablet-weaving!

Posted in tablet weaving, workshops | 3 Comments

The annual meeting of EXAR, or, with its full name, the European Association for the Advancement of Archaeology by Experiment, will be taking place in Vienna/Austria this year, from September 26 to 29. Presentations will be held on September 27 and 28, with the rest of the conference days reserved for get-together and excursions.

An EXAR conference in Vienna was the first EXAR conference I’ve attended, and it was utterly wonderful – so I deeply regret that I won’t be able to go there this year, as I’ve already booked my booth spot for the Nadelkunst in Weikersheim, and that is on the very same weekend.

If you have no such date clash, however, this year’s conference will be focusing on “Experimental Archaeology in Science and Teaching”, and it will be presented in cooperation with the Natural History Museum Vienna. (Which is, all by itself, a gorgeous place to visit.) The Call for Papers for the conference is now open, and they are looking for presentations or posters, addressing the following topics:

  • methods of analysing finds and features which provide the basis for
    experiments
  • experiments and their results/reconstructions based on or used for
    experiments
  • science-based demonstrations and related museological teaching methods

Presentations are possible in either German or English, with the request to do the slides in the other language to make your presentation as widely accessible as possible to the audience (so German slides if you are talking in English, and vice versa). Presentation length should not be more than 20 minutes.

The Call for Papers will be open until June 15, 2019, and is possible via the website www.exar.org. Conference registration will be open until August 31, and conference fees for non-speakers are between 12,50 € and 40 €.

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My plan to fire the spindle whorls this week has been foiled, even though I was so looking forward to this – but somehow, things came together in a conspiratorial way to keep me from it.

First of all, there was urgent post-fair stuff to be taken care of. Then I had a (very minor) surgery done on Tuesday. That went well, but even though it’s just a very small thing, it did slow me down much more than expected – and having heavy rains also did not invite the firing action. So that’s something to still look forward to… maybe later today, if the weather permits it.

The whorls are waiting, after all. There’s enough wood waiting to be turned into ash, there’s plenty of kindling and wood shavings, it’s not raining at the moment and the sky is blue. Most importantly, though, I am moving again at almost normal speed, and I am still very excited to find out how the whorls will turn out!

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Books. Aren’t they always nice to have? To leaf through? Can one have too many books? Well, the obvious answer to this is both yes and no. So in case you are currently tending more towards the no, here are two books that might be interesting for you:

If you’re interested in braiding, Noemi Speiser’s book “Manual of Braiding” has been reprinted last year and is available via Haupt Verlag. It costs 39.90 € in Germany for the hardcover book. If you follow the link, the “Leseprobe” tag lets you have a look into the book.

If you are interested in medieval metalworking, there’s a new book out, published in French, on copper and copper-alloy workplaces discovered in Saint-Julien in Douai. The book is called “Travailler le cuivre à Douai au XIIIe siècle. Histoire et archéologie d’un atelier de proximité”, by Lise Saussus (dir.), together with Nicolas Thomas, Marisa Pirson and Benjamin Jagou. Douai et Louvain-la-Neuve, 2019. Here’s the abstract, in French and English:

De 1983 à 1987, une fouille archéologique rue Saint-Julien à Douai révèle un atelier et ses quelques milliers de déchets témoignant d’un travail du cuivre et de ses alliages au XIIIe siècle. Cette publication examine l’unité de production à la lumière des sources archéologiques, mais aussi de sources écrites et archéométriques. Elle présente le cadre de la découverte à l’échelle de la ville jusqu’à celle de la parcelle en s’intéressant à l’intégration des métiers du cuivre dans le tissu urbain. L’étude de la stratigraphie et des structures composant cet atelier dans un vaste espace de près de 1 000 m² précède l’analyse du mobilier métallurgique, des techniques variées, en particulier celles des réparations de vaisselle, mais aussi des alliages mis en œuvre. Enrichie par l’examen du travail du fer, associé à celui du cuivre, et d’une partie de la vaisselle en céramique consommée sur le site, l’étude illustre un de ces ateliers de proximité qui ont subsisté à côté des grands centres de production tels ceux de la vallée de la Meuse. Voué à l’entretien des vaisselles, enclin à répondre à des commandes variées, ce type d’ateliers actifs aux échelles locales, celles de la ville et de ses alentours, profite de la circulation des productions de masse mises sur le marché à une échelle globale.

From 1983 to 1987, an archaeological excavation along the rue Saint-Julien in Douai revealed a workshop and its several thousand pieces of waste, testifying to the work of copper and its alloys during the 13th century. In this book, the workplace is examined in the light of archaeological sources, but also of written and archaeometric sources. It presents the framework of the discovery from the global scale of the city to the particular plot by focusing on the integration of the metalworking professions into the urban fabric. The study of the stratigraphy and structures composing this workshop in a vast space of nearly 1,000 m² precedes the analysis of the metallurgical finds, of the various techniques, in particular those of cooking and table utensil’s repairs, but also of the alloys used. Enriched by the examination of the ironwork associated with the copperwork, and part of the ceramic tableware consumed on the site, the study illustrates one of these local workshops that have survived alongside major production centres, such as those in the Meuse valley. Dedicated to the maintenance of crockery, inclined to respond to various demands, this type of workshop, active at the local level of the city and its surroundings, benefits from the circulation of mass productions placed on the market on a global scale.

The book has 277 pages and costs 30€ plus shipping costs; you can order it (and inquire about shipping costs) at either craneditions@uclouvain.be or anim.archeo@douaisis-agglo.com.

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I’m back from the fair, which was – as usual – both fun and exhausting. We had a slightly different setup in our booth this year, which made things a bit more interesting as well. New layouts always mean spending a little more time on setup and decoration, as things need to be figured out anew. We both arrived early enough on setup day, though, to do this in a fairly relaxed way. No car calamities this time – and not even a traffic jam or similar thing that would have held me up!

As always after a fair, I took it easy for a day to relax and unwind a little, and also as always, I now have homework to do: Update stuff on the shop page, write emails, look up things, and so on.

There’s also some other stuff here waiting for me to have some time… exciting little bits of stuff. Now where’s that extra day between Saturday and Sunday, reserved only for fun things? Can somebody invent that, please?

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