Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fun With Heiroglyphics: Name Cartouche

Ahhh, Summer. Weeks and weeks of heat that eventually force children to play inside. This is the week that it is officially "too hot" for the boys to play outside for very long. 
Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs used to make personalized name plaques.

The other day I had 6 children running around inside & outside during the afternoon (my four and two friends). I pushed the ice water & juice boxes. I handed out freeze pops, but eventually they came inside to cool down and recharge. They weren't super-crazy about the toys on hand, so I whipped up a bunch of salt dough and brought out my newest find: a book and stamp kit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art written by Catharine Roehrig. The title of the kit: "Fun With Hieroglyphs."

I found this great little kit at a discount store near me and snapped it up even though I won't be covering that time period with my art class again for a couple of years. The kit has 24 rubber stamps, an ink pad and a full-color book explaining TONS about the development of writing in ancient Egypt. The pictures are engaging, the text easy-to-read and understand. Roehrig gradually introduces readers to the "rules" of using hieroglyphs and gives many examples, easy-to-use charts and games so that readers can become familiar with the symbols. It's a wonderful resource, and would be a great gift for a child who is maybe 7-12 years old.

I am not a huge fan of stamping (ink and my boys don't mix all that well just yet), but I thought they could use the stamps in dough to make a more permanent decoration for their rooms.

If you do not have this kit, you can still have fun with hierogylphs--see if your local library can get this book on loan for you or if you can get another book about hieroglyphs to use. Roehrig explains that the the system of writing used by ancient Egyptians used 24 symbols, so any resource that would show those 24 symbols along with their meanings (sounds) would allow you to do a project like this.

You can draw or stamp the symbols of your name on paper (maybe make notecards or a bookmark). Or, if tracking down a source of hieroglyphs is just too much work for the summer, whip up a batch of salt dough and make something else that strikes your fancy! ENJOY!

Clay Name Cartouche

Supplies Needed:
  • 1 batch of salt dough (Make about 6 cartouche plaques, each 2" x 6" or so), recipe to follow
  • Foil or parchment paper for work surface
  • Toothpick or skewer to make a hole to hang the piece by
  • Hieroglyph stamps
  • Rolling pin
  • Watercolor, tempera, or acrylic paints
  • Water & water bowl
  • Paint brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper to protect your work surface
  • Acrylic spray varnish, optional

1. Mix up a batch of salt dough right before you are going to do the project. Here's the recipe I use:

Salt dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup (or so) of water

Mix the flour and salt together and gradually add the water until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes. If the dough is too wet or sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle it with a few drops of water. Keep excess dough covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.

2. Chose the symbols you will need for your name. The Egyptians based their writing on the sounds of a word, so you may have to make some adjustments to the spelling of your name. For example, the name "SUSAN" sounds like "SOOZIN" and so we'd be looking for hieroglyphs that captured those sounds.

3. Cover your workspace with foil or parchment. It is easier to work directly on foil then to try to remove your clay piece from table to cookie sheet once it is done. Take a portion of the dough and roll it into a log shape. Gradually flatten it, using the rolling pin, so that a flattened oblong shape is created. I chose that shape because it is the shape of a cartouche--a symbol that shows readers that a group of hieroglyphs should be read together. Make sure all of your hieroglyphs will fit on the dough piece you have created. If not, simply create a larger plaque using more dough.

4. Stamp your hieroglyphs into the dough. I stamped my symbols in a column, but you can arrange your hieroglyphs horizontally or vertically within the cartouche shape or fit them together so that they look nice (Egyptians took great care in the arrangement of the hieroglyphs within a cartouche).

Adding the clay border around the hieroglyphs.
5. Once all of the hieroglyphs in your name are stamped into the clay, you can create the border of the cartouche. That is an oval around the hieroglyphs that looks a little like a rope. Take a bit of clay and roll it into a long rope. Gently lay it onto the plague as a frame or border around the hieroglyphs. Take a shorter piece and place it onto your plaque horizontally, using the photos as a reference. I then took the side of a toothpick and pressed lines into the dough to make the little lines that appeared in the cartouche pictures I was using as a reference.
Ready to go in the oven.

6. If you'd like to hang the cartouche, use the toothpick to gently make a hole at the top of the piece.

7. Bake the piece in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes per 1/4" of thickness. The dough should be light browned when done. Allow the baked plaque to cool slightly, remove the foil, if necessary, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

8. Once the piece is completely cooled, gather your supplies for painting. I used liquid acrylics in bottles. They are inexpensive and easy to work with. However, while they are water soluable while wet and will wash off your skin, they will stain clothes and wood. Cover your work surface with paper and wear an apron or old clothes. Younger children may want to use tempera paints or watercolors.

9. Using images of wall paintings from Egyptian times, paint your cartouche. Egyptian wall paintings usually have bright, natural colors and the images don't have much detail (they are stylized). Let the paint dry thoroughly. Once dry, you can spray the plaque with acrylic varnish to protect the paint, but it is not necessary.

10. When your cartouche is done, thread a ribbon through the hole to hang the piece or hang it directly on a nail in your room. Now everyone will now whose room it is by the ancient hieroglyphs in your own personal cartouche! Enjoy!

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