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Aaron Wiliamson goes in pursuit of the Affligare / 6 March 2010

After posting the last blog I went to visit the Bristol Foundry to talk with Mike Brett about smelting and recasting my 2kg meteorite into a bowl purportedly used for begging by a tribe of medieval crips (‘The Affligare’ – see previous post).

It sounded even to me like a bizarre proposition and Mike wasn’t at all sure that the whole meteorite iron might not just evaporate back into the ether it came out of, since he’d never worked with – or even seen – the stuff before.

I reassured him that the responsibility was mine and that I was really interested in the idea of artistic failure anyhow so please would he at least attempt the cast.

After perusing the very complicated chemical spec that came with the ‘letter of authenticity’ from Argentina, drawing a couple of diagrams, doing some maths and phoning a friend, Mike said he’d have a crack at it a week hence. And so as we ambled along the aptly-named Ironmould Lane together on the outskirts of Bristol in the early spring sunshine I started to get a tingle of excitement.

The bowl – a porringer actually, which is a bowl with a handle and which is also a livelier word – could surely mark some sort of social if not aesthetic achievement in terms of the realpolitik of disability art. If I’d have been born at the time of my invented tribe, then my career options as a deaf person would have been limited to say, carpentry – for which I’ve never really discovered any temperament aptitude at all, (I failed my CSE Woodwork) – or, much more likely, begging.

And so, skip forward 500 years from the fictional setting for this ‘Meteorite Porringer of the Affligare Tribe’ as it is to be known, and I am a disabled person, who has sustained a living for 25 years now as a writer and artist to reach a point where I can realise a fairly abstruse premise for such an object. Not just any old crappy ‘cripples begging bowl’, but a kind of Holy Grail of the genre cast from a rock which flew through space to land on earth in 1576.

It was agreed then that I would return to Mike a week later with a ‘pattern’ – a model of the porringer in any material from which a mould can be made for the smelted iron to be poured into. I am attributing the tribe with a curious cosmology and cosmogony, central to which is the idea that worshipping meteorites will also make coins fall ‘from the sky’ into their begging bowls with much denser frequency.

And so, quite by chance, while rummaging in a junk shop in Bristol I discovered a wooden bowl with a design that looked to be Masonic and I thought it might be suitable since that cult/tribe also combines a worship of money with curious mystical beliefs (but at the opposite end of the social spectrum from disabled people obviously).

This design was a system of interlocking A’s (for Affligare naturally) which looked at one way numbers three, but in another way six. Adding a handle to create a porringer I very soon had the pattern ready then.