This is Benamon’s 22nd article to his PictureBook column with us and it’s so full of creativity and imagery that it’s such a treat to not only publish here but also to read and enjoy.
The concept behind the PictureBook column is not just about capturing stories but creating them, the journey behind and the image we present. PictureBook draws on Images selected from Benamon’s own story series and also looks at the work of the other story tellers within the community’. Over to you Benamon (foreword by Joanne Carter)…
‘Lost Toys and Mermaid Dreams
‘Syster hauled the prone body over the lip of the jar, her lower arms anchoring her she leant over and poured him tail first into his new home. The tail twitched as it touched the water and sank towards the bottom of the jar. The body was stopped short by the guide ropes attached to the helmet she had given him, some small protection against rust.
The jar wobbled as she pulled away and her lower arms settled it down on the train carriage she had set it on, she still wasn’t entirely sure if he would be able to move it himself with the stick she had ready but if now she could at least move him out of the way herself.
Satisfied she made ready to find Babel to wake him up and glanced at the wet pile of broken glass and iron framework that had been the fish tank. Barnum had agreed to any price, he would soon see it.
‘The Cost of Curiosity’ – ©Benamon Tame
Barnum awoke with a longing in his cold china heart. At first he tried to fill it with Loki’s words but they were not enough so he left his court to explore and find the limits of the Toy Room, something to fill the emptiness. In Babels wake he delved into the Library wing, walking between soaring red towers of bound newspapers and annuals of the Empire and amongst them he found a scrapbook filled with adverts and cuttings of the wonders and curiosities of the world. Barnum read of the Feejee Mermaid and a seed within him was laid. Barnum wandered on and came at last to an aquarium and at the sight of it and the fish that moved within his seed found water.
Barnum returned to the centre a changed toy, the hole in his heart was filled with thoughts of the fish and that thought devoured the rest of him until it was all he could think about.
When Loki dropped the Maker Law Barnum went to Syster and convinced her to make his dream a reality. The construction of Barnum was the most complex Syster had attempted, blending the toy life with life, china with flesh, abet a flesh that had come through the Strangeness that had awoken the toys.
Barnum had gone to Syster with no thought of price or consequence but when he awoke he beheld both, Barnum had got his wish but Syster had used the tank and fish as parts.
Barnum woke to a new body and his vision filled with a half finished Murnab standing amid the wet ruins of the tank.
The shock was too much for Barnum and his mind collapsed.He exists now as a strange shadow, serving Syster and tending as best he can to his stranger brother Murnab.
‘The Cost of Curiosity. Sunken Mind remix’ – ©Benamon Tame
Like so many of the toys, Barnum struggled with his new life and sought to fill the gap he felt. Overcome by his obsession he was blind to the possible consequences and allowed himself to be fooled by the promises of Syster. Barnum is a warning to those who give in to obsession and the belief that the grass is always greener on the other side. In always looking for something else they become blind to what they do have and what it is costing them to look for something that will never live up to the vision in their minds’.
‘The Cost of Curiosity. Typewriter remix’ – ©Benamon Tame
Barnum was named after P.T.Barnum who was a 19th century American showman and who wowed the world with a series of spectacular shows, museums and traveling freak shows. One of the most famous was the Feejee Mermaid which was to be the mummified body of a mermaid, though in truth it was the top of a monkey sewn onto part of a fish. The connection works perfectly with the series but also with the time period as the room was closed during the reign of Queen Victoria. I am not sure if it is because of my love of history (which I studied up to degree level) but I have a clear chronology of events in the Lost Toy room and outside with the Thorn family and try to link them with contemporary events if only in passing.
‘Barnum Version 1’ – ©Benamon Tame
I reworked the image of Barnum as I felt it stuck out compared to the other images in the series and after completing Murnab I wanted the two of them to look closer. I reshot the props, the doll and jar and added the cart but also reused some elements like the open book from the original’.