The Great Hall

The Great Hall and other assorted details. I let the castle sit for some time and finally came back to it this last winter with three different lines of thought.

First, I created a rough miniature representation of the castle. It’s about 4″ tall and I created it out of stoneware clay. It’s only a roughed out version of what will be (which turned out to be glaringly wrong in a number of ways), but I was starting to get a little tired of the looks I was getting. I see the castle in my head. I found that when I was describing to people what was going to be made in the future I was usually holding an invisible version in my hands and pointing to the different rooms. People started to take sharp objects out of my reach, so I thought it best to make a version normal people could see.

That done, I started to make the Great Hall, which is where people would congregate. The walls for the great hall are made out of very sturdy plywood covered with painted polymer clay formed in the shape of rock walls. Note the difference here. In my first rooms, I used plaster for the walls.  Polymer clay is definitely more expensive and possibly heavier, but it has decided advantages. It stays soft for as long as you need it to do so, it doesn’t rip your hands up and it doesn’t warp the board either. My original experiment included cooking the clay on the board in my friends’ stove. Bad. The weird factor aside, I ended up having to take it all off and glue it back on anyhow. I ended up making it on aluminum foil fitted to the boards and firing sections separately.

The doors are bass wood and the front door is the only working door in the castle (though the church would end up with one as well.) It has a large wooden bar that slides across it, to fend off attackers. The entrances are as follows, 3 openings to stairways (only one visible from Great Hall) and 3 doors; front entrance, cloisters entrance and kitchen on first floor and sitting room on second.

At one end of the Great Hall, there is a wooden screen made of bass wood and various dollhouse wooden trims and findings. This makes it kind of ornate looking and does a lovely job of giving me an entrance to the sitting room as well as hiding one of the stairways. The ceiling is also wood, plain and with beams across it.

Then, there was the floor. I learned to hate this floor. Tedious and never ending it was. The sad thing is that this is not the first thing people notice when the see this room. (What they do notice is the soot marks I made over the torches. ‘It looks sooooo cool.’ Took me about 4 minutes.) Back to the floor from hell. I knew that medieval castle rooms were often brightly painted. The main colors for this room would be represented in the tiled floor made out of modeling clay. Piece by piece, forever and ever.

I had seen tiled floors throughout the British Isles, some in castles and some preserved in museums. I decided to pattern mine after that. I also used a book from a series called Medieval Craftsmen by John Cherry called Tiling. They have a number of good books on a variety of subjects ranging from stitchery to goldsmithing. This I used to create my basic pattern. I used mostly jewel tones and darker shades of them. I actually achieved an interesting effect by accident. I burned some off white tiles and gave it a very cool marbled sort of look. Within the tiled pattern, I set seals of different families and names. I was going to try to make them with a mosaic style, I decided instead to have a life again in the near future and just paint each one. The eerie thing is how much like POGs they looked before being glued into the floor. (This was a collectable fad from the early 90’s.)  I chose Scottish, Irish, SCA and Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz for these seals.

A few details left on the Great Hall. Fire was a fun thing to invent for the Great Hall. First of all, I wanted some kind of heat source, but I wanted to go to an earlier method than your basic fancy fireplace. I decided on a fire basket in the middle of the room. I saw a similar one at Bunratty castle in Ireland and have seen numerous drawings since then. It’s made of polymer clay to look like wrought iron over a painted wood base. Unlike the real ones, mine had to be drilled to accommodate wiring. After adding the flame bulbs, I covered it with melted plastic covered with glued on ashes and burned wood pieces.

Next came torches. These were made from chair legs and filigree both painted black; they were also drilled to accommodate wiring. I set these into the walls. I then spent a few minutes with a candle burning soot marks above the stupid things. The reason I sound disgusted is that this simple, moronic activity impresses more people than any gazillion-houred activity in the whole castle. Go figure.