As a trope, the ‘Fantasy Tavern’ has done particularly well for itself. From Fritz Leiber’s The Silver Eel to Tolkein’s Prancing Pony, and Star Wars’ Mos Eisely Cantina, whenever these establishments bring together rag-tag bands of adventurers in close proximity to alcohol, narrative is sure to follow. As a plot device, they’ve done a roaring trade in both fantasy literature and in the expanding platforms of the genre at large. Which self-respecting Dungeons and Dragons player hasn’t felt the icy stare of the amassed inhabitants of some quasi-medieval drinking hole? Considering this rich heritage, the Drum still takes some ‘beating’! It’s a place where watchmen and wizards converge, where foot-the-ball fans and fools congregate… where you can rub shoulders with barbarians and librarians. It’s the ideal setting for an illustration of life in the Big Wahoonie.
In its various guises, the Drum has been mentioned in over a third of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, playing host to countless scenes from the auspicious meeting of Twoflower and Rincewind, to the fateful debut of the Band With Rocks In and to the romantic rendezvous of Moist Von Lipwig and Adora-belle Dearheart. The Mended Drum is a real hub (apart from THE Hub of course) of the series and, with help from Emporium artist David Wyatt, we thought we’d honour the dubious charms of one of fantasy’s finest dens of iniquity with this stunning rendition for our latest jigsaw puzzle and art print…
The Drum is Disc-renowned as being a melting pot of Morpokian culture, so much so that since Twoflower’s first tourist visit, it has become a hot destination for those looking to sample the local nightlife and lowlife, and to satisfy their morbid curiosity for the finest quality bar fights and unreal ales. It was imperative therefore that we give onlookers to our scene a suitably authentic experience with all the thrills, literal spills and colours thereof.
We chose a multichromatic palette with rich warm hues to highlight the atypical candlelight of a fantasy tavern and to lead the eye around the Drum by picking out wizards’ robes and furnishings with rich reds and oranges. David used the same process as he did our Death’s Study and Unseen University jigsaw puzzles and prints, creating pencil sketches to establish composition and perspective, and working in sections with move-able elements before adding colour layers and washes.
The frantic movement in the scene is provided by a swinging cartwheel chandelier, centralised fighting and the abundant flying of barbarian and blue collar limbs (an Igor is on hand to lend a hand of course!). Colour, composition and movement come together to make this an authentically riotous rendition of Ankh-Morpork’s notorious tavern!
“Okay, it’s well past knuckles time, let’s say Gravy there has done his thing with the Bench Swipe, there’s a bit of knife play, we’ve done the whole Chandelier Swing number, blah blah blah, then Second Chair—that’s you, Bob—”
– Terry Pratchett, Going Postal.
The Drum has been a fixture of Discworld since the very beginning, and although it’s undergone one or two notable… renovations… it remains the tavern of choice for the Glod, the bad and the ugly of Morporkian society. From The Colour of Magic, when the Broken Drum had to hire Detritus as a splatter (like a bouncer, but trolls use more force) to its last appearance in Going Postal when a group of seasoned brawlers are seen discussing the finer points of fight choreography, the Drum has withstood time and narrative, its characterful clientele and their exploits remain just as fervent.
We wanted to cram in as many details and allusions as possible, spanning the depth and breadth of the Drum’s illustrious history. With that in mind, should you choose to avail yourself of this piece, we challenge you to spot the following familiar faces and devilish details from Ankh-Morpork’s favourite pub…
A Wizzard, CMOT Dibbler, Death, Cohen the Barbarian, Dotsie and Sadie the Agony Aunts, Sgt. Angua, The Librarian, The Dean, The Senior Wrangler, Adora Belle Dearheart, Foul Ole Ron, Lu-Tze the Sweeper Gaspode the Wonder Dog, The Luggage, Igor, Reg Shoe, The head of the Thieves’ Guild, A certain author’s black hat, A fool, An Assassin, A Vampire, Goblins, A Troll, Dwarfs, The Band With Rocks In poster, A Game of Thud, A Swamp Dragon, and advert for Vimes’ cigar of choice, An Iconograph, The Ankh-Morpork times, Someone who should ‘learn the words’, at least four Discworld beers…
In 2012 we had the privilege of working with Terry to create The Compleat Ankh-Morpork – the definitive guide and map to Discworld’s premier city. We thought it might be fun to include some of the advertisements for Ankh-Morpork’s distinguished spirits and brands from the book as signage and posters displayed inside the Drum.
Those featured comprise ingredients for a traditional Morporkian night out such as Winkles Old Peculiar, Jolly Sailor Tobacco, Jimkin Bearhugger’s Whiskey, Turbot’s Really Odd Pale Ale and Sonky’s rubber goods. David created a draft collage of suitable adverts to work out their positioning and cleverly repainted them to blend in with in their new surroundings.
The crafty artist also verged on the meta with the inclusion of a clever miniature version of his own rendition of the Mended Drum, originally created for us many years ago as a postcard and print drawn from Bernard’ ‘ Unreal Estate’ figurine.
Even the best Discworld Jigsaw Puzzle designers make mistakes when they’ve had a skinful! That’ll teach us not to ‘method’ approach when tackling certain subjects lest realms of Creative Uncertainty be ventured into!
For instance, we almost forgot to signify Foul Ole Ron’s unique stench in the original sketch – BUGGRIT! During the colouring process we became aware that something stank.. or rather didn’t stink enough!! Foul ole Ron and Gaspode’s pong wasn’t evident, so David added whiff marks to highlight the veteran Beggar’s unique perfume.
Electric lighting in the Drum?! We obviously got carried away with the more recent advancements in Ankh-Morpork’s technology for a moment and forgot where we were! This sneaky little lamp was switched for a candelabra, and we added in some cracks and weathering to the patches of render after the retrofit!
Whenever one attempts the rigours of artistic endeavour, proper research is imperative to fully understand and express the chosen subject. Just as the great masters of the renaissance studied the mechanism and structure of anatomy to better capture the minutia of the human form, the Emporium team dedicated themselves, nobly and selflessly, to examination of our latest topic. It’s not enough to simply draw a pub, to do justice to the Mended Drum our team devoted countless hours to conducting tax-deductible fact-finding missions to many and varied hostelries here in Somersetshire, all the name of bringing you, dear reader, the highest quality illustration that you so richly deserve.
And lo, the latest instalment of our catchily-titled series ‘Meticulously-intricate-illustrations-of-some-of-Discworld’s-most-iconic-settings-with-lots-of-lovely-details-from-the-books’ is born!
We hope that our completed rendition of The Mended Drum will capture the ‘spirit’ of Discworld’s disreputable drinking hole. This raucous image is packed with hidden references and allusions to Terry Pratchett’s incredible books that will to keep any Discworld Disciple or plucky puzzler entertained for days. As a print (coming soon), it provides a home from home, a scene to raise a smile at and possibly a pint of Winkles Old Peculiar!
Some of the greatest things in life come ‘LATE’, especially as far as Death is concerned. Although we released our latest Discworld figurine back in October, Death proved so popular over the hectic Hogswatch season that we deferred blogging about him until we could be sure stocks were suitably replenished (we believe this is what young people might refer to as a ‘humble brag’). With that said, we hope you’ll enjoy this little ‘making of’ article…
Death. One of Discworld’s most ENDURING characters. From the Colour of Magic, to the Shepherd’s Crown, Death makes a personal appearance in nearly all of Terry Pratchett’s incredible Discworld books. His character has developed over 30 years with countless Discworld fans having grown up or grown old-er with Death as a constant companion. Throughout the series, Death conducts his duties in his own curious, unflappable and caring way – a not-so-Grim Reaper full of charm despite being up to his eye sockets in mortal demise.
Terry Pratchett’s Death is one of the few Grim Reapers in fiction that we welcome, and enjoy encountering a real literary phenomenon. At times he’s the lead, implacably driving the story with purpose and pace, at other times his cameos provide objective reflection and a little light relief after a death scene. No-one does ‘deadpan’ like a 9ft skeleton. From the outside, Death might seem like an unlikely hero. But why is it that the Reaper Man should be grim? Why should someone privy to the combined wisdom of the multiverse not wonder at the little things in life? He’s at once unfathomable and utterly relatable.
For our latest figurative piece, we wanted to capture Death in a decidedly Discworld depiction. The trouble with Death is however, that Death is universal. It’s difficult to create ‘Him’ in a way that sets him apart from the death one may encounter in any old generic gothic sculpture or Halloween trinket. A skeletal figure with a black robe and scythe is a bit… expected. It was essential to capture what makes Terry’s anthropomorphic personification of the ultimate reality, utterly unique.
We wanted to show the ‘human element’ of the immortal representation of death. We decided to show Death face to face with another of the most powerful supreme beings of the multiverse… a fluffy kitten. Capturing this moment with the kitten we share a moment of interaction, that reflects death’s ability to be ‘human’ …and his famous fondness for cats. This furry feline immediately sets our Death firmly on the Discworld and gives focus to the piece, the fixed gaze adds so much expression to the figure.
In the novels, Death is remarkably expressive for someone lacking in the facial features department. This is all well and good in prose, where special effects are cheap and convincing, but in sculpting wax it’s much trickier to achieve! We had to work hard to instil a little expression into an inanimate skull. We wanted to keep him looking relatively natural, rather Instead of a melodramatic, ominous stance atypical of generic representations of Death.
This necessitated the understated curiosity you see in the final piece. Giving Death something to consider in what we like to call the ‘poor Yorick’ pose, added so much to the figurine. Although his scythe has been replaced with something far fluffier, Death still wears his distinctive sword, utilised for the reaping of royal souls, complete with with skull pommel and cross guard detailing, to show that he very much mean business when it comes to the figurative end of the line and that he is, kitten aside, the ‘”Assassin against whom no lock would hold” – Terry Pratchett, Mort.
With the basic design laid out we could progress to the maquette stage. Once again, we called upon the capable soul of Rich Kingston to face Death and bring him to or ‘skeleton’ if you will, that he could pose whilst keeping the anatomy of Death in proportion. Once posed, Rich began pressing wax onto this base, building up Death’s form slowly. This meant that when it came time to add the robe, there were already substantial skeletal shapes over which to drape it giving a much more convincing finish to the elegant lines of the robe, allowing the effect of pointy shoulder and elbows to shine through.
It was (excuse the pun) ‘vitally’ important to convey that Death is a skeleton, but also to give enough mass for him to appear strong and imposing as opposed to wizened and weak. Rich achieved this in the delft draping of the robes gathered at the waist and proud positioning of the upper torso and ribs. The addition of a cloak billowing from Death’s shoulders gave us chance to create some elegant gothic lines and elevation to the piece. A bend at the knee and hips remind us of all that is (or isn’t) under the robes.
With the adding of the skull, robe, cloak, sword and omega embellishments the piece finally came to fruition, culimating in the placing of the tiny kitten in Death’s gentle bony hand.
With all this fine, flowing drapery, and delicate out-stretched arm, we were really pushing the limits of batch resin casting, but the piece demanded it. Again, we relied on the expertise of our dedicated casting team, based only a few miles from our shop here in Somerset. Which enables us to deliver the finished wax sculptures and oversee the production of our pieces in person (and say hello to our other Discworld figurines already in production!). The master mould-makers, casters and finishers at Carter Technical Castings once again helped us bring out the very best in the design. A simple, elegant ‘cold-cast’ bronze finish is achieved by casting real powdered bronze, bonded with resin, to give a surface that can be burnished, stained and hand-polished to give a shine, depth and weight that you simply couldn’t achieve with a painted finish.
We really hope you like our Death with Kitten figurine. As with all the things we make, we’re proud of this piece. With the help of some superb craftspeople, we’re able to offer something of real quality for less than a day’s minimum wage… which, excepting acts of cat, should last a lifetime.
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