Straight from the imagination – "The Aphonomantes’ Box"

Gathering inspiration

I have been working on the first project for the second year of my City and Guilds Craft and design course. I am working to a deadline – it has to be finished by the end of November at the latest, and wow that pushes my buttons!

Usually if my inspiration gets low, or I run up against an unanswered ‘how to’ issue, I just stop and put the project to one side until I know what to do next! This time I am having to just push on through any hard places, and I have gone from the first wonderful “Oh what a beautiful idea!” all the way through “I can’t do this!”(scream) and on into “I will, I shall, I can!!!”

beginning the first draft

playing with ideas

It’s interesting to experience the stages of creativity so intensely, and to discover that it’s possible to hunt out inspiration and push my way through resistance, confusion and the “can’t do it” phase. I am now finally getting to the stage of really enjoying the process and feeling exhilarated and excited as it all begins to gel.

 For this project, I wanted to make a box belonging to a collector of silent songs and wordless stories. I am endlessly inspired by folklore and stories of all sorts, and have always felt that things have stories to tell if only I could listen well enough, perhaps with my eyes or my heart rather than the ears. It’s this sense of unheard story that is what I want to attempt to convey with this piece.

The first big problem I ran up against was just how to depict this! What on earth is a silent song? How do you read a wordless story? I looked at Runes and Ogham, as although they are a form of writing, each individual character has a story embedded in it. From there I began to think about the Runic writing of things like a flight of birds, ripples on the water, twigs on a bare tree…

Wild Geese on the wing

 The next issue was what to call it, who is this strange person the I am making a collector’s box for? I needed a word that doesn’t exist… So I talked with a dear friend who is a qualified teacher of ancient Greek. Between us we came up with a new word that encapsulates the qualities that I feel belong to one who can collect and hear the silent and wordless songs and stories. She must be slightly, well, mad I guess. Perhaps she shares some of the qualities of a seer. She is one who listens so well that she can hear the Silent Songs of the World. She reads the story written by the graceful lines of age on the face of an Elder; the scribbled message left by a sand hopper when the tide is out; the long slow song of stone caressed by time and wind and water.

After a long hunt through my dear friends memory and dictionary she came up with this:

“So, I knew there was a cool Greek word for seer: it’s mantes – mantes aphonos would be the seer without sound, but if you combine it to aphonomantes, which I think is better, you have the double meaning again: the seer of the soundless and the soundless seer.”
And that was it. Love at first hearing!
After a bit more reserch I found that most translations of the Greek word Aphonos are “voiceless” whereas “speechless” is from the Greek “Alalos”. However, I still feel that this is an appropriate meaning.
Mantes literally translated is “diviner”or more popularly “prophet” as is in the name given to the insect “Praying Mantis” (praying prophet). One definition of the word Mantes said it was “akin to the Greek word Mainesthai” which literally translates as “mad” (Mania). Perfect I think!

Painting the box parts a base colour.

 I certainly feel like I am going mad some of the time, I even work on this dratted, sorry, lovely box in my dreams! Perhaps next time I post I will be able to show you a real advance, and I won’t feel quite so bats!

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