The Ballad of Spiffy George

Having written about pay in the creative sector, tolerance/acceptance and how we shape our cultural space, I thought it was time to return to yer actual hands-on stuff. Not my professional art-and-craft on this occasion, but a small personal project I had a lot of fun with. You know how sometimes you see an object that speaks to you so you have no choice but to take it away with you? Well, this happened in a shop in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire a few months ago. Browsing the various antiques and curios, I was drawn by a rather battered mask hanging by the till, and a bit of haggling later it became mine for a few quid. I wasn’t even sure what it represented, let alone when it was from, but it had the look of folk art about it and I named it ‘Spiffy George’.


As you can see, he’s got whiskers and the tattered remains of a mane, so is presumably a lion. It turns out the previous owner had left him outside which is not a good idea for something made of card and papier-mache, hence the rather serious cleft palate and near-baldness… Anyhow, when I got him home I did some research and although I couldn’t find anything exactly the same (unsurprising for folk art as each is likely to be unique), he appears to be from India, presumably for use in a play. If George had simply been a bit worn, I’d have left him that way, but in this condition, I decided to try restoration. I’ve never made anything like this before (not since papier-mache over a balloon in junior school as far as I recall), so it was going to be a challenge. This is how it went.

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