It’s been a busy time since the Last Post of 2016. A report on the hidden shoes from Aungier Street and an article for Archaeology Ireland on the Mill Street finds. Now for some fun making things again. Or, in this case finishing off the Mary Rose costrel which has been waiting patiently on the shelf since December. So a quick recap to begin.
Anyway, here it is, a second attempt at a Mary Rose type costrel. I took scale measurements from the find 81A5749 drawings in the book (p. 454) and reproduced them full size on a sheet of suitably thick leather. I then cut out the 3 parts and began the assembly.
I wanted to replicate the raised ridges of the original without using a mould or wooden former. Instead I laid the softened leather on a bed of folded woolen blanket which was placed on a board surface. Then with the rounded end of a length of wood I pressed a groove into the flesh side of the leather which produced a raised band on the grain side. The ridges held their shape as the leather dried.
The bottle ends have an almost Gothic arch shape which made closing them slightly challenging. Instead of pre-punching the stitch holes I took it a stitch at a time as I shaped the damp leather to fit. I will admit it is not my best effort at stitching which made me appreciate the skills of the original bottle-makers.
And there I left it until today. The next stage involved filling the costrel with water and then standing it in a wooden bucket until it was thoroughly soaked. I couldn’t help noticing that the stitches were fairly watertight even at this point. Once the leather was soft I emptied the water and began the next stage of filling the costrel with sand and packing it in with a stick. I decided to try a funnel shaped from leather and am glad to say, it worked.
The bottle begins to take a rounded shape as the sand fills it. I was a bit concerned as to whether the ridges would hold or would they flatten out. Some definition was lost but the shape held and could be re-defined once the packing was complete. When the shaping was complete I then set about the decoration following the design on the original. As with the previous costrel, the sand packing makes a perfect base for working on the leather and the impressed lines take on the curve of the original ones. The design is very random and uneven with different numbers of oblique lines in each panel – nothing precise, symmetrical or modern about it.
The raised ridges stood out better when defined by the decoration. I was drawn to this bottle by the harp motif. The harp was first used as a symbol of Ireland in 1543, during the reign of Henry VIII and has remained so ever since. Could the harp on the Mary Rose bottle indicate an Irishman among the crew once owned it? When the decoration was finished the drying process began and, after several hours, the leather had hardened nicely.
The leather has taken on a lovely russet finish which I am reluctant to blacken. However, the reluctance was quickly overcome once the shoulder strap was finished. All in all the experiment with a dry sand filling and ridges raised on a soft work surface seems to have worked.
Et maintenant, c’est fini pour aujourd’hui. Je suis en train d’écouter a Francis Cabrel pendant que je travail – et c’est la raison pour les quelques mots de français. Bonne nuit et bonne chance……………………………