"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Fairy Money, Snake Stones, Devil’s Fingers…and Bertie.

I am continuing my explorations of the fossils that can be found here at Grafham. So far I have found Gryphaea, Belemnites, bits of Ammonites but as yet no sections of Crinoid stems. They are a common find but I need to take some more time to look as they are tiny..but unexpectedly very beautiful.

Some are simple and circular in sections and some are star shaped.

'Star stones' columnals from crinoid stems

Photograph from the British Geological Survey website.

If you are lucky enough to find a more complete fossil it would be rather like this.

Photo from the University of Bristol’s Paleofiles 

 fish

These elegant creatures visualised in a Crinoid Meadow diorama from Illinois State Museum.

Fossil Folklore

Crinoids
In folklore these beautiful slender columns were thought to have stretched from earth up into the heavens, occurring at times of storms and were known individually as star stones. The simple discs with a handy central hole were thought to be fairy money or “St Cuthbert’s Beads

St Cuthbert's Beads showing isolated columnals (right) and a group strung together as a necklace or rosary

Image from the Natural History Museum again.
The Natural History Museum site have a whole section of very good, concise info on the Folklore of Fossils, covering different countries and different uses for and superstitions about fossils. It’s fascinating, and a good starting point for more research.

Ammonites
Ammonites are particularly interesting with their beautifully coiled shape. It’s not surprising that they were known as snake stones. But I am fond of snakes so was dismayed to discover that they were thought to be the remains of snakes, cursed and turned to stone by St Hilda. And then to add insult to injury they were subject to a beheading curse by St Cuthbert. All this to account for these curious curled and apparently headless things found in abundance near Whitby. I have written about this snaky connotations over at Printdaily. See Ammonite:The Curious Snake Stone.

Ammonites occurring in architectural stone are quite common but it is thought that this ammonite imprinted stone was specially selected for the entrance to Stony Littleton’s Neolithic Chambered Long Barrow. From Chris Collyer’s completely fascinating Stone Circles UK website.

Stoney Littleton - Ammonite Cast

Belemnites

I wrote about my splendid Belemnite find in my last post  and as with the Devils Toenails these bullet shaped things had devillish associations, being known as Devil’s fingers or Thunderbolts occurring after thunderstorms. It’s interesting that many of the legends relate to storm activity, I guess heavy rains would have revealed the fossils leading to an understandable connection. ______________________________________________________________


It’s all very inspiring for an artist (especially one with leaning towards the dark side) but for the meanwhile here are a couple more of my simple fossil inspired experiments for this week’s Beautiful Beasts work.

Ammonite

ammonite-fragment-and-print

Roughs and the block

am 1 bg

Lino 4 x 6 overprinted with fronds

amm-1-copy

With added type.. For more info see Printdaily

Belemnite

I had made three different possible background plates, fronds, wavy lines and a circle and then the lino was a 2 colour reduction.

belemnite-bg

Frond background and first printing.

bertie-bg

Circle background, first lino print was rotated and reprinted. Then second colour added.

Chris said “what are you calling it?” “Bertie the Belemnite.” I said.

Oh dear, it just slipped out. I am supposed to be a serious artist but I guess it will stick, as these things have a tendency to do.

And one last print.

wbk2-bg 
With wavy background and two colours. I will post more of the process  on Printdaily soon.

And to end, a glorious bunch of Berties on the Bench.

berties-on-the-bench-bg

Well, its been that sort of day … more fossils next week…

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