In May 2014 I began volunteering for Derby Museums as part of the Re:make project based in Derby’s Silk Mill where I assisted other volunteers and staff members with the production of furniture and fittings made on site using their workshop facility. It was here that I met many of the staff and other volunteers that I would go on to work with on future projects.
As that project came to a close, a new one began to emerge at Derby Museum’s sister site in the newly developing “nature” gallery at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. I sat down with project coordinator Andrea Hadley-Johnson and expressed an interest in contributing my drawing skills. After showing her some of the sketches I had been working on at the time, we had a brief discussion about the ethos behind the new gallery’s co-production style of development and how I could provide some illustrations for an upcoming activity.
Together we then met with Louise Dunning and Nottinghamshire poet Dave Wood and over a few meetings we developed an idea based a concept Dave had suggested for a riddle based card matching game for families that would accompany five of the bird exhibits that would be on display in the gallery. Dave developed the riddles for each bird while I would sketch out ideas for the character of each bird. We took inspiration from not just their natural habits, but also the symbology and traditions surrounding each creature in order to create more eye catching characterised versions for the card artwork.
Using existing photos of the exhibits as references, the drawings were sketched out in pencil then the details were filled in using black ink. I wanted the images to be bold and striking with each bird being unmistakable from the other even at a glance. I chose to keep some areas blocked in so the rougher marks could indicate the texture of feathers better.
Once we had both the riddles and the cards ready, the game was tested with museum visitors. We discovered that different age groups would find at least one of clues accessible on each card that would lead them to the right solutions, which was ideal when we would see people approach a solution from differing perspectives within the same family. There were a few adjustments needed though to balance the riddles, but these were only small changes that we made quickly based on our feedback afterwards. Once the difficulty became balanced, the final card designs were printed and prepared for the gallery launch.
Additionally, Dave had an idea for a jigsaw for those struggling with the game made a mock-up of a presentation box for the game and puzzle out of cardboard. I then went on to help to design and build a laser cut version with maker Graeme Smith that was later added to the gallery to protect the cards and jigsaw and make the game eye catching for future visitors.
The presentation box, with jigsaw and engraved instructions.
If you wish to see the gallery in person or take part in the activity, the full game of Riddlewings is on display with its presentation box as part of the Notice Nature Feel Joy gallery at Derby Museum and Art gallery.
Poetry and Riddles
Box Design and Woodworking