Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Story Box Update

I am back! My commission piece is finished and the client is really pleased with it (YAY!!). I thought, before I start work on my next project, I would pop back here and give you an update on how the Story Box project went.

It was absolutely fascinating! There were 9 of us...some were writers, others were theatre directors and some of us, like me, were visual artists. We started off by looking at writing materials and methods and got to examine parchment and medieval documents that has been re-used to cover court books. One of them was just amazing...multi layered...writing over writing over writing over red illustrations that could only just be seen! It was utterly beautiful! Then we looked at a map of Stockton which had been drawn onto the skin of a sheep (lasts longer than paper!)...when it was spread out you could actually make out the shape of the animal! Incredible! We then had the opportunity of learning about the history of wax seals...some were HUGE and really ornate with family crests etc but my favourites were the ones of the 'commoners' which featured things like scissors (for the sheep shearer) and a knife (for the local butcher). The larger ones hung from the documents but the smaller were actually stitched in!

We then looked at how the archives reveal, in amazing detail, how our ancestors lived and the customs and practices they took for granted...which, I have to say, where rather alien to my modern eyes. We saw a map that depicted which parishes were responsible for which parts of a local road. It was drawn up so each parish knew who was responsible for repairs to the road and that was dependent on who owned the land...it looked extremely complicated and apparently caused a lot of consternation as you had one long stretch belonging to one with a wee square right in the middle of it which belonged to another!

We read an extract from a will which really fascinated me....basically the woman had three sons...she left everything to the third son who was told to give each of the other two a weekly allowance. She referred to her two other sons as useless layabouts who would just squander their inheritance and who couldn't be trusted. Wonder what they did! Must have been bad for her to actually put that in writing!

We got to flip through a 'letter book' which was from 1704 and contained draft letters from Edmund Estcourt of Burton Hill, Malmesbury. There were all sorts in there...letters asking for money, letters about life to his sister, letters placing an order at the butchers...fascinating! We also read a number of 'Pauper' letters which were mostly written phonetically asking various local parishes for help...one woman had been left with five children to feed after her husband had vanished and she was writing to the Parish where she was born (not the one she lived in...that wasn't how it worked) asking for them to send money...she wrote that it would be cheaper for them to just send her money rather than have her move back to the Parish. The amount of information was just mind blowing and we only touched on a fragment of it!

The afternoon was spent browsing and I did a few drawings which I plan to play about with! I got kind of fascinated by the crinkles made by the folding of the maps...the number of hands the maps must have passed through over the years...the folds looked like a map of their own and I spent a very happy afternoon doodling.

I also met some fabulous people! Two that I particularly connected with...one is a lecturer at Swindon art college and the other was actually one of her students. I will definitely be seeing them again :-)

Anyway, here are some pics that I took on the day

The Road Map (am going to do some painting based on this)

This is the map drawn on the back of the sheep. 
Can't really see the sheep in the pic :-( but the map itself is still beautiful!


Signatures from the 1600's


Sue Guiney said...

Ooh. Fascinating!

TALON said...

Congrats, Carol! I'm just heading out on an assignment, but I look forward to reading this, feet up, cup of tea in hand, when I get back later today. :)

D..J. Kirkby said...

Sounds like such an interesting and worthwhile day. Wish I could have been there.

TALON said...

Fascinating, Carol. I laughed out loud at the lazy layabouts - that sounds like something my mother would have done! I like that she was honest about it and,yes, it leaves us with more questions than answers. So glad you've made new friends. Always such a wonderful bonus when you embark on those types of journeys (for lack of a better word).

Carol said...

Sue - It really was! This is the first in a series of workshops that they are running and they are all funded so it was free to go along. Most of the people attending were from London! I'll give you a shout when I get more info through about the other ones.

DJ - It was incredible! There is just so much information...and things to look at! I was in my element (although did find it slightly overwhelming). Like Sue, I will give you a shout when I get more info on the other ones.

Talon - Hope the assignment went well. I laughed too...and my imagination just ran riot!

What I did find interesting was what had and, more importantly, hadn't been kept. There were a lot of official documents and letters as well as a hell of a lot from local wealthy families which got me thinking about who deems what should and shouldn't be kept. The pauper letters told us much more about how the majority lived and it would have been interesting to have had more stuff like that. It led us onto a discussion about Oral history and I found out that the Center are running another workshop on the 2nd of May all about how to record oral history which I am going to go along to. I loved every second of it.

Meeting lovely like-minded people too was a bonus :-)

C x

Mel said...

Oh yeah...I'd hate to be the guy with the long stretch of road, do all the work to keep it up and have some useless layabout not tend to their itty bitty piece. :-/
Wow those kids sure pissed off their mom! LOL Who says you can't control from the grave?! ;-)

All this STUFF is amazing--and that they kept more of the wealthy folks 'stuff' kinda accentuates what he-who-lived-in-the-dark-ages tells me....it's a "class" society. NOT that we don't have that, cuz we do. But we were putting up dividers on trains for 'coloured folk'--says a whole lot about what this society was about for a while. *sigh*
Ohhhh..but what gems you got to look at and photograph and doodle about. And you get to do it again?! Seriously? 1704....the only thing we have from 1704 are rocks. LOLOL TRUE.
How amazing. And LOOK at those awesome signatures! Back when penmanship MATTERED.

Just looking and listening--I'm on sensory overload!!!

Judith Logan-Farías said...

You have indeed been as busy as a bee, lately!!! I love your tree of life drawing! very original!

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