Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Making of Raedwald

Raedwald Anglo Saxon hand sculpted metal and oak wall plaque

Long have I loved the Sutton Hoo helmet and the story behind the excavation of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial that must rank as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

(This is an older version of this article, and of this design. You can see the new designs and a new version of the article here.)

Raedwald (Old English: Raedwald, 'power in counsel,') is generally considered to be the most favoured candidate for the occupant of the burial, although other theories have been advanced. He was a 7th century king of East Anglia and, from about 616, was the most powerful of the English kings south of the River Humber, being referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as a bretwalda (an Old English term meaning 'Britain-ruler' or 'wide-ruler.)

Source Wikipedia
The helmet has become an iconic image and one used often to illustrate books, magazines,
articles etc. about the 'Dark Ages,' times that are, at last, beginning to be seen as anything but dark. As such, it is a rare person who does not recognise this beautiful image.

What I didn't know, until recently, was that when it was originally restored in 1947, it looked completely different, and no where near as beautiful. In 1968 it was painstakingly taken apart and reassembled. There were more than 500 fragments and over a year's work to rebuild what we now see.

Unlike many others, I much prefer the reconstructed original to the still undeniably beautiful 'recreated' helmets that I have seen in reenactor circles and at the British Museum. I know this is a little romantic of me, as it is not the helmet that the owner knew and wore, but I suppose this is the same argument as whether you prefer ancient ruins or reconstructed buildings. I do believe that there is a place for both...but that is another story....

Every single one of the plaques that I make is entirely hand made by myself, including the wooden 'backing/frame,' and although this plaque is not large, it takes quite a lot of work to ensure that the detail is just right. With such a recognisable image, the slightest mistake can easily make it seem 'wrong' to even the most casual glance. Having said that, I still employ, and claim, a degree of artistic licence. This is a design based on the Sutton Hoo helmet, I have not tried to make a museum replica...

When I had made the first prototype, I felt it needed something 'more,' and decided to add a small runic inscription at top and bottom of the plaque.

Kirkheaton runic stone
Inscribed stone from Kirkheaton Church
I love local museums, as they always surprise me with their collections, which are often more fascinating and absorbing with the intimacy of their local connections, than some of the larger exhibitions in the big museums.

When I was making Raedwald, I had recently visited the splendid Tolson Museum in Huddersfield, which houses a stone found in the restoration of Kirkheaton Church in 1886 dating to about AD875-925.
This stone has inscribed on it in Anglian runes, "Eoh woro htae" - Eoh wrought (this.)

Perfect, I thought, for my latest piece! So, for those of you who may have wondered....the runic inscription on 'Readwald' is: 'bod wrought this' or 'bod woro htae.'

Overall I loved making Raedwald, and weaving various bits of story into him from my travels and researches. I wanted him to be evocative of a time and a notion. A time that we have, until recently, much maligned. A time of warriors and honour. A time of integrity and values. A time of artistic beauty and bold undertakings. A time that has left us with a rich legacy of stories with, hopefully, many more rich discoveries yet to come......

I hope you like Raedwald and the values that he embodies.

Thanks for reading


Justbod Team

A range of Raedwald wall plaques is normally available 
to buy from our  'Warriors' Collection.

See Collections for all of bod’s currently available works. 

Justbod Celtic Viking and Mythical sculptures and carvings

You might also be interested in: Behold the Specklebeast...
- another of bod's Anglo-Saxon inspired designs

Celtic Art Beast Sculpture Wall Plaque
Visit the Specklebeast

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Sources and further information:

British Museum: Restoring the Sutton Hoo Helmet
Sutton Hoo helmet on Wikipedia 
Tolson Museum Leaflet on the Kirkheaton Stone 
West Yorkshire Archaeology Leaflet on Kirkheaton Church including the stones 
Raedwald on Wikipedia

Friday, 13 June 2014

Ancient Ways - Rapes Highway and Eastergate Bridge

Eastergate Bridge, Marsden
Eastergate Bridge
I absolutely love ancient routes and highways. There is something very connecting and almost magical about walking a route that you know has been walked for hundreds or thousands of years, and by millions of feet. It combines several of my biggest loves in life, history, nature and walking.

Rapes Highway
Rapes Highway
I love to wander on these ways, imagining what might have gone before. In many instances, this is fueled by little evidences along the way, or a route that I know has changed little over the millennia.

Packhouse routes, roman roads, ancient trackways, footpaths to another time and place....

In the North of England, we are blessed not only with great scenery, but a multitude of these tracks, particularly the Packhouse Trails, legacy of a system of transport that was familiar for hundreds of years, but is now largely forgotten.

One of my favourites is Rapes Highway, which was a route that used to run between Marsden and Rochdale and which has as one of its highlights the beautiful Eastergate Bridge.

Marsden Moor

The bridge is named on maps as Close Gate Bridge but thought to have become known as Eastergate after the landlady, Esther Schofield of the Packhorse Inn, which was demolished in 1830. The bridge is now a scheduled ancient monument. Close gate Bridge means 'the road to the cloughs,' (steep valleys/ravines.)

In 1908 there was a famous court case where Sir Joseph Radcliffe, the Lord of the Manor, tried to stop people from using the route after the Local Council had made some repairs to it. He lost the case and the route became established as an offical public right of way.

This is an amusing extract from a letter to the Huddersfield Examiner at the time of the Council improvements:

Rapes Highway
P.H.ROAD post on Rapes Highway

' of the most commendable features of the undertaking, and at the same time the one that is most open to criticism, is that the Council has ordered nearly a dozen stone posts on which are hewn the following hieroglyphics, "P.H. ROAD." To the average wayfarer this post may suggest something connected with a prison or he may conclude that the road leads to Halifax or some other undesirable place....'

The route is now a bridleway, part of a beautiful walk across the moors.....(see links below.)

Thanks for reading!


Justbod Team

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Tree of Life wall plaque in bronze & oak
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Sources and further reading:

Marsden Places of Interest 
South Peninnes Packhorse Trails Trust
Rapes Highway Court Case - Marsden History Group
Packhorse Inn
Circular Walk including Rapes Highway
Another One


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ever Increasing Circles - the making of Specklebeast and Friends

Hand burnt wooden plaques by Justbod

I love pyrography (the art of burning designs into wood) and have been slightly obsessed with finding different ways to present my designs, as well as different ways to utilise the techniques. 

Although any type of wood can be used as the base to burn designs into, some are much better than others. Firstly because of the texture of the wood: for example, oak burns unevenly, creating unsightly 'blobs,' and also the colouring of the wood. Lighter woods create more strongly-defined designs.

Because of these limitations, much of the pyrographed artwork available is presented on very pale wood, and many designs are produced on the same 'blanks' as the artist is quite often not a woodworker as well. Although there are some stunning artists out there in the pyrography world, I also see a lot of 'sameness' leading out of these initial factors.

I am much fonder of darker woods, particularly oak, which, as I've said, does not mix well with a love of pyrography.

Uffington pyrographed design by bod
I digress. My aim has been to combine a darker frame, with a pyrographed design on a paler wood. My first attempts were to inlay the wood. Technically this is very challenging (certainly to me!) and although I managed it, the results were not exactly what I wanted, and also the time involved unfortunately made the price I wanted to set the pieces at, extremely disporportionate to the time I had spent making them.

Since then my brain has worked ferverishly on the subject, but very much in the back ground, as I have been working on so many other projects. Eventually an idea to effectively 'frame,' rather than inlay, the paler wood came to me (quite obvious now I think of it!) I decided that I would like to create a solid 'frame' from a single piece of wood, and have the central design circular.

circles in bod's workshop

Thus ensued a whole week of work perfecting this frame. A circle may seem an easy shape, but I learnt that I needed accuracy to a fraction of a millimetre when it came to creating the templates for the various circles that I needed for the multiple routing operations that I needed to perform. The eye can also easily discern a mistake in a circle, especially one within a square!  

The process involved many calculations, a lot of failed prototypes, and an increasingly addled brain!

Pretty soon the workshop began to resemble what I imagine Edison's looked like during his quest for the perfect lightbulb (obviously substitute failed wooden circles for failed lightbulbs!)

Horns of Odin hand burnt design by bod
Horns of Odin

Ancestors hand burnt plaque by bod

It took me nearly a week to finally get a frame that I was happy with! Then the bit I was really looking forward to....creating and then burning the designs.  

I started with designs I had already done, Tree, then Coriel, then Ancestors. Each held different challenges, particularly Ancestors.

Tree of Life hand burnt design
Tree of Life

Finally, I created three new designs: Specklebeast, Runestone and Triskele.

Triskele pyrographed design by bod

Overall I really enjoyed it, and I love the new designs. However, I now have lots of slightly different sized circles, begging for some use....

Runestone pyrographed design by bod

Specklebeast pyrographed design by bod

I plan to create some more designs in this series at some point in the future, but, for now, I'm moving onto something else for a change, I don't think I can look at any more circles for a while......

Thanks for reading!



for all of bod's currently available works
~ inspired by a love of nature and history ~

Sculpted wooden tealight holders

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Money Doesn't Grow on Trees....does it?

Money Tree Bolton Abbey grounds
Several times when we've been out on a Justbod field trip, we've come across old tree trunks with coins hammered into them.

Fascinated, we did a bit of research and apparently there are old felled tree trunks all over the UK sporting the same thing, where passers-by have hammered coins into them using a handy rock or stone, as a wish for good fortune.

The tradition of making offerings to spirits/deities at wishing trees dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years, but we could not find any information on how or where this version of it started. The best we could come up with was a report of a felled tree in Scotland with a florin dating from the 1700s in it.

It also seem related to throwing coins into a pond for good luck.

Does anyone know any more about it, do you have any pictures of a similar tree trunk near to you, or that you have photographed on your travels?

The pictures here are of a tree in Bolton Abbey grounds (Yorkshire,) which, obviously, now contains a couple of coins from us!


Here's to our soon-to-be-manifesting 
good fortune!

Thanks for reading


Justbod Team

See Collections for all of bod’s currently available works.

Or visit the Justbod Website for Celtic, Viking & Mythical wood carvings, sculptures and artwork by the Yorkshire artist bod. 

Justbod Celtic Viking and Mythical sculptures and carvings
 Original article on the Justbod Facebook Page.


Daily Mail Article 13 Sept 2011