Mud bricks

Camp Virtus has already seen the rise and fall of one clay oven - with the second one in the making. One of the things we have decided to change is the structure of the oven itself, not made of clay according to the wattle-and-daub technique, but out of clay bricks. What we did not know was how difficult it is to make clay bricks. Though the term mud brick suggests that very soft clay is used, such a technique proved impossible to implement as the "bricks" lost all shape when forced out of the mold. Using harder clay mix is on the other hand hard work, especially to push out from the mold. The last resort option was the make the bricks by hand - not so compact and not so large, but hopefully usable. We shall see this week how they have dried...

Mixing clay by feet with sand and dried grass

Preparing the clay base of the oven
Empirical projection of the clay brick oven

Brick molding


Facebook page header advice

For all those running small, retail businesses through / with the help of a Facebook page, here is my advice: common users have no idea how to use "about" sections, follow links, prompts to actions such as the "contact box". They want all essential data LARGE, visible at all times, plain and simple. So my advice is to create a header image (828 x 315 pixels) containing the following elements: logo, website, contact email, contact phone and an image of the most successful / representative product. Here is what I did for my company and it works (at least there are less comments of the "how can I buy this?" type :) Atelierul de istorie produces and sells objects inspired by the Dacian, Roman and Celtic civilizations, but most customers are interested, for patriotic reasons, of the less known ancestors of the Romanians, the mysterious Dacians. Thus the best sold product is the Dacian hat and the logo is inspired by the ancient Draco, the mythical half wolf half dragon war standard of the Dacians.



Hundertwasser as inspiration for linos

Continuing the gilded linocut prints experiment, I have used one of my older house front designs applying gold leaf as accents for smaller elements (door, windows, roofs, or narrow houses). The effects are completed by the color of the paper, reminding me of Hundertwasser's beautiful works, both on paper and in architecture.



Handmade leather bracelets

Atelierul de istorie and The Proper Leather Studio started the preparations for the end of year activity by creating new cuff bracelets. According to popular models, the decorative motifs selected for the new lot consist of the Dacian war standard, the so-called Draco, Celtic knots and Celtic triquetra. All bracelets are entirely handmade, through a succession of carefully executed steps: cutting, model transfer, incision, tooling, dyeing, finishing. The sides and back are also treated with special substances (creams) that make them comfortable and more resistant to moist. Made of natural vegetable tanned, full grain leather. Dimensions: 17 – 20 cm in length, ca. 3.5 cm. in width. The closing system of choice is with leather lace as it allows for a good fitting on almost all wrist sizes.



Probably my last Etsy treasury

As Etsy has announced that treasuries can no longer be created and old treasuries can no longer be edited from October 5 (you can sign a petition against this HERE), I've decided to end this pastime with something fun: kinky leather. I was innocently searching Etsy for leather toys and I discovered several nice adult toys, the names of some of which I didn't even know. So, check out the Kinky Leather treasury to learn about dragon tongues, cage bras, special riding crops and, naturally, spanking paddles!



Lapis pumicis (pumice stone)

Pumice stone is one of the natural ingredients employed by the apothecaries and doctors of old. Pumex or Lapis Pumicis is a porous volcanic rock with low density and light color. It was sometimes called, erroneously, Sea foam (in fact sepiolite). Basaltic scoria is another vitreous volcanic stone, dark in color, denser and with larger vesicles, used more rarely in apothecary context.
Lapis pumicis

Pumice powder was used as ingredient (mechanical abrasive cleaning agent) in tooth powders (dentifrices), in medicine against ulcers (of the skin and cornea) and as scar removal. The entire stone was sometimes employed by pharmacists as a kind of file, to scrape other materials. Together with other ingredients (antimony, distilled water, walnut shells etc.) it was boiled into concoctions for diet (Decoctum Lusitanicum) or urinary problems.
The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj presents the ingredient in its FOCUS display for the month of October 2016. The tematic display includes actual pumice and scoria stones and one 19th-century wooden jar from the “Unicorn” Pharmacy in Cluj, with the signature Pulv. Pumicis Lap. As the Latin abbreviated inscription indicates, the jar was used for the storage of powdered pumice stone. Another relevant objects in the collection is a valuable 17th century closet from the Officina, once used in the “Black Eagle” Pharmacy in Sibiu. One of its drawers of the  is also inscribed Lap. Pumicis. (pumice stone). More recent still, a similar inscription - Pulv. Lap. Pumic. - is to be found on a 20th century closet from the Hintz Pharmacy which houses the museum.



Atelierul de istorie, a handmade company specialized in objects inspired by the Dacian and Roman civilization, has several novelties in the category of pendants. They are made of various materials (clay, leather, gems, bone) and render representations of Decebal (the portrait of the Dacian king as seen on Trajan's Column) and the Dacian draco (half wolf, half snake, employed by the ancient Dacians as their war standard). Others are inspired by Roman jewelry items made of precious stones or are made of exotic materials such as camel bone.
The clay pendants are mold-pressed and the leather pendant is stamped and dyed by hand.


Cordial waters and alchemy

One of the highlights of the "Gold and gems" temporary exhibition currently on show at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca is the recreation of cordials and a discussion on how they were produced. 

Cordial waters were based on the idea of the alchemists’ Aurum potabile, pure gold liquefied according to secret methods, considered universal medicine (panaceum) and a true Elixir of Life. Alchemists believed gold to be a pure substance, thus its consumption could only benefit the body. Still, some 15th-16th c. texts mention intoxications with gold and even deaths.

Cordial waters imitated the properties of that noble metal. Their golden color was obtained with saffron (Crocus sativus, the most expensive of spices, as each flower only has three stigmata), but the most expensive variants also contained flecks of gold.

Recreation of cordial water containing saffron and gold flecks

Crocus sativus flower,
Another connection to alchemy is that cordials contained alcohol, obtained through distillation in the alembic and the retort, two of the typical instruments of the alchemists. The alembic had three parts: the curcubit, the heated still pot containing the liquid to be distilled, the ambic, which fits over the mouth of the cucurbit to receive the vapors, with an attached downward-sloping "tube" and the receiving kabila. Retorts have the ambic and the cucurbit made into one.
Alembic and retort in the reconstructed laboratory of the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca


Works and days at Camp Virtus

As promised, we started working on the new bread clay oven at Camp Virtus, as the first attempt had failed due to errors in design (it was too tall and required too much fire wood), improper technical solutions (the wattle structure that prevented clay from shrinking evenly, leading to cracks) and the order of operations (the oven was built before the roof, thus exposing it to both rain and too strong sun).
Last Saturday we thus proceeded with destroying the old oven and building the timber structure of the roof. There was also an attempt at making clay bricks, for the base and part of the clay structure, but this proved a rather difficult task in itself, from clay extraction, mixing, shaping, pressing into molds and then removing the bricks from the wooden molds. We only managed to make eight viable bricks and we still don't know how they will dry by the next work session. Which will be soon :)

the burning of the first oven
clay modelingg fun

preparing the bench and the timber posts

clay brick molding

clay bricks


hard team work

the posts in place before sunset

the roof structure after nightfall


Gilded pills - an apothecary tradition

Covering pills in gold and silver was practiced in Europe between the 17th and 20th century, erroneously attributed to Avicenna. The procedure was meant to make pills easier to swallow, coating their bad taste/smell and preventing them from disintegrating. Though Avicenna did talk about the properties of precious metals, in cauterizing, heart and lungs afflictions and bad breath, the first mention of pill gilding dates from 1626.

The procedure included the following steps: producing hard pills, coating them in syrup of Gum Arabic, placing them together with gold leaf inside a scatula deauratoria (two hemispheres made of wood or horn) and shaking well.

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca includes several jars for Gum Arabic, a natural gum made of the hardened sap of various species of the acacia tree. One such jar, made of wood during the eighteenth century and used in an apothecary shop from Târgu Mureş is exhibited in the "Gold and gems" temporary exhibition that can be visited until the end of this year.
18th c apothecary jar with painted cartouche and the signature PULV G: ARAB

Gum Arabic pieces and powder, by Simon A. Eugster - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.orgb/w/index.php?curid=48712562

Modern pills, gilded pills and gold leaf in the "Gold and gems" temporary exhibition in Cluj-Napoca



Music madness

A couple of prints after my "Orchestra" lino plate have gone imperfect due to improperly stored printing paper so I ended up with decoupages of musical instruments. Starting from my previous decorative box created using such elements, I have started a new small canvas entitled "music madness". It turn to the same effect of monoblock color background (saffron yellow) and collage of individual linocut print elements, in this case musical instruments and one stylized sun from the Transylvanian frame of the Goddess Gruia plate. After drying there will be shadows and highlight, but not much, and then the final vernis that makes it shine. There you go. Madness :)
See more of the masterpieces in my 2014 catalogue HERE



Gilded linocut prints

Goddess Gruia had been busy today in her Sancta Sanctorum gilding linocut prints (contact relics). The project was a first for her, as she has applied gold foil to acrylic paintings and canvas, but never on paper, on simple linocuts. The experiment envisaged several combinations of motifs in Transylvanian cartouche printed on white paper, the result being rather Baroque (the combination of white and gold), but also one try, the best in her opinion, on black paper. It does go better on black, right?