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Finding project inspiration in Museums

I have been having a lot of fun traveling all over America. And travel, in itself is rewarding. But I have been taking it to another level by finding inspiration in the travel. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.

My over-arching goal for this trip around America is to see castles; to research them and understand how they were built. That’s one thing. But, as I traveled the thought occurred to me that I could also take this same approach on a smaller scale.

I have been seeing all these wonderful things in museums and thinking “Hey, I could make something like that.”

And that is what I have been doing. I have been finding inspiration in museums and making my own projects based on the inspirations.  Here are a few examples.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) has this beautiful marble statue of Perseus slaying Medusa. And the focus here is on the sword. I took a whole bunch of pictures of that sword from various angles.

Then I went ahead and made it, with an included tutorial so you can make it.  If you want to make this sword the tutorial is here: Make the Sword of Perseus

Let me give you another example.

At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore Maryland they have a wonderful exhibition called “A Chamber of Wonders” It was a popular thing during the 17th century Flemish Renaissance.

 

It’s a wonderful thing. I thought that it would be perfect for a diorama project. So, I turned it into a paper diorama (Tatebanko) project.

And it is a full tutorial with everything you need. Download the pdf, print it up and make it.

That project is here:
Chamber of Wonders Tatebanko

Traveling all over America has been a wonderful experience for me. But it has gone beyond just experience. It has also been a journey where I have learned things and improved my skills at making things.

So, in your travels and trips to museums, or even other places give some thought to using what you see as a learning experience and a way to improve your crafting skills. Can you  make it? Is the big question to always ask yourself. And me….. I ask myself that exact question every time I visit a castle.

The Things I am learning from Visiting Castles

You may already know but I have the goal of building my own castle. It is part of the reason why I have been adventuring around America. I am visiting lots of castles and learning a lot about them, why they were built, how they were built, and what makes each of them unique.

It has been a wonderful learning process for me. And I have learned a lot. Let me give you an example.

Here is Grey Towers Castle in Pennsylvania. It’s a wonderful 100 year old castle. Yet pretty standard stuff when it comes to the castles in America.

But, I did discover something about this castle and gained a wonderful insight. You see, this castle is a bit unique, a little bit different than many of the other castles I have visited.

 

 

 

This castle has a wonderful network of narrow paths and secret areas around back. You can go for a walk in a charming wooded area just outside the castle. And in this area is a group of secret and intimate little spots like a covered gazebo a small fish fountain and some little buildings. It is just wonderful!! So, when I build my castle I am going to have an area just outside the castle like this. It is perfect for having intimate little gatherings of friends, maybe have dinner outside or a barbeque and drinks.

Want to learn more about Grey Towers Castle?   

Here are some pictures of intimate little areas around the castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascending into the Cloisters

There is only one museum in America devoted specifically to the Medieval Period. It is “The Cloisters” in New York City. And it is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This museum was designed from the ground up with the Medieval period in mind.  And that is a big thing. Even the architecture is medieval inspired.  This was very carefully thought out by the architects. So, not only does it house medieval works of art the building itself is a medieval work of art.

Some of the structure was actually purchased from medieval buildings in Europe, shipped across the ocean and incorporated into the cloisters.

So, to the point of my blogpost. “Ascending into the Cloisters”.

 

 

In the Medieval period the Catholic religion was very strong. It was the basis and inspiration for much of the building and much of the art.  The Church was a powerful and wealthy organization going through strong growth.  This growth and strength manifested itself in various arts including illuminated manuscripts, stained glass windows, enamels and of course architecture.

And in the cloisters I want to discuss one very important piece of it: “The entrance”.  You see that nothing in a building is by happen stance or by chance. Everything is carefully designed and for a reason. And that’s why the entrance is so unique.

To get into the museum proper you  have to go up this long and quiet corridor. You ascend quietly into the museum. And there is a spiritual aspect to this. You are transitioning from the outside world to the quiet, religious and contemplative world of a cloister.

 

It’s really quite a remarkable thing and as you are climbing these stairs you feel different. There is an ambiance and feeling to this length of corridor.

It works and it is a testament to the brilliance of the architects for really getting the feel of the medieval period.

Want to see more of the cloisters? I have pictures on my website right here: The Cloisters

While browsing around an old bookstore in New Orleans

I am on a journey around America. I am visiting all 48 states and seeing a whole lot of sights. And while in New Orleans I found an old bookstore. It was a great little place with a lot of old books. And I discovered this set of three books:

 

 

 

 

 

I almost didn’t pull them down off a high shelf. There is no telling how long they were sitting there. And the spines were damaged so the title of the books is missing. It was simply a look to see. I figured nobody would bother to look at them. The title pages are missing on the inside so it’s almost impossible to know the titles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And much to my surprise they were wonderful books! Just my kind of thing. And one of the books has a yellow post it note inside:

 

So, I am guessing that the name of the book is Decorative Antiquities to illustrate a variety of design details.  And in three volumes.

 

And the books are full of illustrations. Simply that, lots of illustrations.

 

There are towers, cartouches, cariatides, columns, caissons and much more… wood carvings, candelabras, stairways, human figures, statues and much much more. It is a wonderful set of reference books. And perfect for me considering the fact that I am building a castle!

One of the wonderful things about traveling is that you run into unexpected little surprises of every type, food, entertainment, interesting people, new scenery and even mysterious little book stores. Yup, good to see America still has mysterious little book stores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

America Does Have Castles

 

 

Nobody really gives it any thought, or any weight, but America does have castles….. a whole lot of them. A whole lot of them.

Once I started really delving into my research for my trip across the country I was a bit astonished by this fact.

Singer Casttle, on an island in Alexandria Bay NY

Part of this misunderstanding comes from the timeline and the definition of what a castle is. If we stay true to the definition we have to include the idea that a castle is fortified. It is a fortress, A building of strong defense. And this philosophy held true right up until the period of time when gunpowder (and cannons) came into prominence.

The ability to take down any thickness stone wall with repeated barrages of cannons pretty much killed that old style of Fortress Castle.

From there castles changed to more of architectural artwork and ostentatious displays of wealth . The rich built them and lived in them. They were more palace than fortress.

An interesting thing did happen in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Searles Castle in Great Barrington Mass.

Wealthy people really took to the European concepts of castles and palaces. The wealthy and maybe a bit eccentric titans of industry started building their own castles.  Not so much to defend against enemies, more as a place to live and a place to display their wealth.

America is dotted all over with these castle-fortresses. And they are magnificent.

So while we don’t actually have any castles that are a thousand years old we do have plenty of castles! And on my trip around America I am visiting some of them – well actually a lot of them. The count today as of May 31, 2018 is twelve of them. And I am still on the Eastern seaboard.

Would you like to follow along in the adventure as I travel America discovering and visiting all sorts of medieval things like castles, blacksmiths, meaderies, museums and more? It’s all happening on my youtube channel right here: Will’s Journey across Medieval America. 

 

Medieval America – Will is traveling all around the USA visiting medieval sites

Quick Summary: I have sold my house and I am taking the Summer of 2018 to travel all over the United States from East Coast to West Coast. My goal is to build a castle. And during this trip I will be visiting all kinds of medieval sites like Castles, Meaderies, Blacksmiths, Stone Masons, Museums and much more. It all started on April 27th, 2018. And it continues.

I have done a fair amount of international travel. And I love that. But, for one reason or another I never did much travel in the USA. Well…. now I am doing it. And I am shooting videos, and writing all about it. And you can follow along.

Follow along with me through my youtube channel right here. Epic Fantasy and Medieval America

Or if you prefer the written work I am keeping a daily log of the places I visit and the things I see on my website right here: Medieval America

And what have I done so far? Well… Ten Castles, Five Meaderies, Three Museums, two blacksmiths, and a whole lot more. Want to see a slice of america? Follow along on my website or my youtube channel.

The Mysterious Suit of Armor – Is it real?

I got an email from the proprietor of a shop in Florida who acquired a suit of armor from the Higgins Armory. She is very sure that it actually was in the Higgins. And if that is the case then we are looking at a real suit of armor. Which is rather cool – particularly because it is for sale.

I advised her to not sell it or break up the set until we can gather more information about it. I really want to get an assessment of it. If it is real then it could be worth thousands of dollars. Heck, I might even buy it.  I mean after all, an actual, and real suit of armor! Who knows, maybe it even saw battle!!! Wow!

Well, for now the shop owner is going to take it apart and see if there are any maker marks on the inside of it. That would be quite wonderful.  And it would prove the authenticity.

The only thing that bothers me about this suit is the mismatch  between head and armor. The head just seems to big for the rest of it. The neck , too long. I think that helmet at one time belonged with a larger suit of armor.  Anyway, I have more pictures of this suit of armor on my website right here: The Mysterious suit of armor.

If you can lend some insight or know about this particular suit then send me an email!!!

Here’s a picture. (More pics on the webpage)

Will’s Guest appearance on the Weekly Space Hangout Youtube Channel

The Weekly Space Hangout is a show that discusses science and technology news. They focus on the science and regularly have high profile scientists and experts. It’s all about Science and Space Exploration News. I appeared on the latest episode to talk about amateur astronomy, telescopes and my book (See it With a Small telescope). It was fun!  And I am very grateful that they had me on the show. You can watch the episode right here.

 

 

Will’s Upcoming Book Signing Event

The Astronomical Society of Southern New England will be hosting my presentation and book signing event. I will be talking about the process of writing and publishing a book and afterward will be signing books.

The ASSNE is a vibrant organization with an active membership involved in amateur astronomy.  I am honored that they will be hosting the event.

 

 

 

 

 

It is at the Carpenter Museum on 4 Locust Avenue in Rehoboth Mass.

The date is February 10 at 7pm.