“Cyneweard”, which means “Royal Guard”, the dragon who was slain by Eward, King of the East, during his coronation feast. Thrya, Queen of the East was represented in the 2 dozen tiny little arrows throughout the dragon’s body. This was the brain child of Mistress Aife ingen Chonchobair in Derthaige. Her idea was to have a team of folk to work together on bringing her subtlety idea to life. She assembled Mistress Eleanore MacCarthaigh, Master Toki Redbeard, Lady Olivia Bakere, Lord Harvey Wynegode, Lord Joel of Vestfell and myself. I dragged Lady Creatura Christi of Oakes and Lady Barry the White to the party to help with assembly the day of the event (and Lady Creature was the honored driver of getting Cyneweard to the event. Yay drivers!). Master Toki Redbeard ushered in the presentation, with a fine tale. It got every one into the spirit of the “grand reveal.”
This does not journal all the parts of the project. Other project stakeholders may journal their own parts separately. The main focus is to document my part of the project and the things that I was responsible for making sure were completed.
Armed with artwork by Mistress Eleanore we set off to bring our fire breathing dragon into being.
Under the covers:
There was both a lot and not much going on behind the scenes. The structure was lightweight, transportable, and pretty durable. And at the heart of it all was the flange and support structure that held everything in place and allowed Cyneweard to breath fire. And we introduced the concept of a “kill zone.” This was the part that you could actually (in theory) cut to get to the tasty inside.
The structure of the dragon is a combination of wire mesh, paper mache and in targeted areas, plaster. The edible portion was made from structural gingerbread (made without leaveners) and covered with royal icing (egg white and sugar). The head has a flange wired into it to provide a platform to secure the cup that will hold the jigger of camphor. The dragon structure was made in Philadelphia and then transported up to Albany. The dragon was not pre-assembled, as the base/walls and floor were built in Albany by Lady Olivia. Once on site, it was secured to the base, joined and covered in sugar.
There was a bit of hurry up and wait. We needed to let the plaster of Paris, used to hide the join of the head and fore-body, dry thoroughly before adding the sugar. More was added to expand the haunches and fore-arms, as there was much more room on the board than originally planed for. It probably grew lengthwise by 4″. This expansion threw the scale off and was corrected (as much as could be) on site. What you can’t see is under the middle section of the dragon. Mistress Aife created a pastry filled with stuffed figs. It was part of the “Big Reveal”.
The dragon was covered in about 300 individually cut blue scales. Lady Barry was a work horse. We ended up using about 6 lbs of blue gum paste in total. Lady Creature helped us get the head and neck covered and made all of the fierce (but tasty) teeth and claws.
The final dining room presentation
King Edward is shown holding sword and buckler in a classic long sword pose. His base is wooden art manikin covered in paper mache. The tiny little arrows were fletched by Lord Harvey to have the same coloring as Queen Thrya’s personal arrows. If you look closely, the arrows are actually functional as well as decorative. Arrows are on either side of the sword of state, and on either side of both feet. This kept our sugar king from falling off of the dragon.
In the second photo you get a good sense of scale. The over all piece was just over 3 feet long, 18″ wide and 2 feet tall at the head and neck. The wings are made out of the same rigid food grade building material as the center piece and covered in dark blue royal icing. You can also see the torch and eerie tree that were added to the final piece (constructed by Lady Olivia).
This is probably the best photo that shows off the over painting that Lady Olivia did. There is an all over shimmer of gold luster paint that had been air brushed over the entire dragon, with concentrated areas of darker gold. The flame was created with food grade camphor. It was hot enough to just singe the outer layer of the sugar teeth. And burning period sugar paste, smells like marshmallows
What was learned:
I learned that I do not work well with a team when we are separated by a distance of 5 hours. This is not to say anything negative about the members of our team. They were all wonderful and very communicative /responsive with email. And once everyone was together, things really came together. But I felt rushed. There are a great many details of the dragon that felt rushed. I would have like to have more details on the head completed, which would have made him more “real”. I would have like to work on the proportions of the haunches and arms. I would have liked the back ridge to be taller and more pronounced. But these are details that would have required the whole body be assembled in one spot over a longer period of time. Since the head had the support flange, which needed to be secured to the base, and the base was being worked on in Albany (and the head was in Philly) things needed to wait. This is more of a frustration with my performance as an artis. Sometimes, I am a bad team player and I definitely felt like the weak link. this is a good lesson to remember for the next time.
At the end of the day, it all came together. The King and Queen were ecstatic. The audience was wowed. And Aife was happy.
And that is all that really matters in the end.
Photography credits: Lord Joel of Vestfell and Seigneur Godewyn, Apprenti de Magestra Alisay de Falaise