Museum replicas… and chocolate??

A guest post from Tess Machling

I’m an archaeologist and Roland is a Museum replica maker. Roland and I usually work together on museum replica projects and also we research Iron Age gold torcs. Roland makes the most amazing replicas for many of the biggest and best museums in Britain, and his work has recently featured in the Celts exhibition at the British Museum. He works in a variety of media including metal, wood, bone and cloth and makes all manner of things from swords to brooches to bone combs. And if he makes something that needs casting, he makes a model of that thing first, so it can be moulded and cast… And that’s where the chocolate comes in!!

If you have a model, you can as easily mould it and use that mould to make chocolate, in the same way as you would make a metal replica! And that’s where the whole chocolate replicas thing started…..

Over the last few years, I have been taking some of Roland’s models and replicas (along with some of the rather marvellous teaching collection from St Albans Museum) covering them with food-grade silicon putty and making moulds of them, which I then fill with chocolate!

So far, I’ve made handaxes, axes, torcs, arrowheads, coins, combs, brooches and various other bits and bobs. My only rule for what I make is that it has to be 100% edible: no props, inner strengthening material or tricks of the eye. And so when it came to make them as good as the original replicas or artefacts, it was really important to me to keep up that one rule. But how to make them look good, and also be edible?

Well, it turns out you can buy edible paint, the sort of thing sold in craft shops to decorate cakes and icing. So then I started painting them, and below you can see the result. Everything you see is 100% edible…..

Roland and I are now running workshops to talk about how I make chocolate, and how Roland makes his amazing museum replicas. At each workshop we bring a large number of Roland’s replicas for people to handle (and yes…swords!), also many of my completed choccy versions. At the workshop you can also paint some chocolate replicas (all materials are provided) and take them home with you! We hope to see you at one of our events. The next is at the gorgeous new St Albans Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday 8th December: do book for it. We guarantee it will be interesting and fun!

P.S. And for those not of an entirely archaeological bent, I also provide a number of non-archaeological objects to paint, including chocolate tiles, flowers, shells and cats!