This was, by far, one of my favourite creation so far. Back in 2017, Moti was invited to exhibit in one of Orkney’s newest venues, The Old Library, in the middle of Kirkwall. We decided upon the theme of Folklore, and each of us set about trying to create pieces to represent aspects or influences from Orkney (and generally island) folklore. I thought it would be a great opportunity to create a sort of ‘in-universe’ creation, something that felt almost as if it had fallen through a portal from other world and landed here with no explanation other than what could be decerned from the notes and clues in the case itself. What I created, in the end, was the travelling case of an agent of the ‘Scottish National Crypographical Labratory’, government agents in an alternate Scotland tasked with tracking down, investigating and ‘extirpating’ mythical beasts and supernatural forces.
The kit contains everything a field agent would need, from cameras to help document strange cases of the paranormal or unknown, to a library of resources, books and bibles (one of which mary actually bound for me herself) for reference in the field. There’s also an apothecary rack and bottles of ingredients, each with specific uses in countering various problem spells and creatures. I wanted it to feel both well used but also slightly improvised, with each agent being essentially independent and self-trained, often in the job due to family tradition and thus inheriting old equipment and having to hand everything needed to improvise when solving problems without help, in the remote and dangerous Scottish islands.
The main thing I’m trying to do is to not lean so heavily on more common ‘beasts and monsters’, but rather the odd folklore tales of the ‘everyman’- individual cases of witches and curses, investigating strange men who wait in rivers while people are trying to get home, stuff that really blurs the line of “is this supernatural? Or just the misunderstanding of superstitious locals? Or a sort of unnerving middle ground?”.
I built the kit from various pieces, but the main basis of it is the case is a relatively cheap kids toy toolbox. There was a lot of taking apart, snapping pieces off and general roughing up and reassembling to effectively age it up. The first stage was using tea, rusty water and coffee grounds to stain the wood, then oil and french polish to really darken and finish it. I also burnt and charred certain sections and distressed it in various ways using sandpaper and nails. I used laser-printed paper stencils to transfer some ink onto the wood to make it look like past logos and marking that have faded, as well as old sanded down nails and pins that would represent repairs made ‘in the field’. Generally speaking, you can’t do much wrong with this part of the process, any broken parts or mistakes made along the way just add to the overall story and character of it. You can see a quite extended ‘making-of’ below:
There are so many fun items in the case as well. the aforementioned miner’s lamp is one of my favourites because it’s actually a lamp that dates back to the Raasay Iron Mines over a century ago. While helping to renovate the (then) ruinous Raasay house, my Seanair found it and kept it as a souvenir. I personally can’t think of a better place to keep it safe than in this! The other interesting piece is the camera- an original German Agfa bellows camera, I bought it for only a few pounds as a broken prop and found it was still fully functioning! I also made a video going in depth about the camera and taking photos on it-
Probably my proudest achievement though was that when I tweeted about my project online, none other than Adam Savage actually retweeted it! I had tagged him in it because his instructional maker videos had been so handy during the process, and I was completely speechless when I saw he’d actually seen and retweeted my work. Very proud.