Trojan Horse Replica takes shape
at Norwell's handshouse Studio
By James Kukstis
Dozens of artisans descended on Norwell’s Handshouse Studio this past weekend to participate in a practical demonstration of their plan for a full-scale Trojan Horse replica.
Handshouse was contacted last year by the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., which was interested in the Bushnell Turtle recreation Rick and Laura Brown had completed in 2003, a Revolution-era wooden submarine. The Spy Museum asked the Browns if they were willing to loan, sell, or donate the submarine, but after hearing that the museum was aiming to expand an exhibit on the Trojan Horse in a new location and install a full-scale replica outside, the couple had a better idea.
The Browns offered to donate both the horse and the submarine to the museum, if the museum funded the Trojan Horse project. The Spy Museum agreed, and Handshouse set to work.
After spending a few semesters researching art of the Trojan Horse’s time period and crafting models out of clay, more than 30 individuals gathered at the Norwell studio this past weekend to craft a 50-percent scale model of the horse’s neck and head.
The group was composed of current MassArt students, alumni, and professionals from the field.
“The community of people that are here is always fantastic,” said Matt Jeffs, a 2011 MassArt graduate from Washington, D.C. “It’s always just a wonderful time. The setting is beautiful, the tools are sharp, and it’s an ideal workplace.”
The head and neck construction of the Trojan Horse is composed of 120 individual parts, which were shaped and cut by the artists out of eastern white pine. The weekend workshop was as much about crafting a product as it was fine-tuning the building process itself.
“We’ve learned a lot about the strategy and how to have a building system out of this,” Rick said. “This is an anthropological experiment. If you are building a conventional house in Boston and you ask a carpenter to build that, all carpenters are going to build the same thing. There are building conventions. What we’re trying to do is go back in time and analyze what they would have done and try to recapture the way they’d work.”
The individual pieces began to take shape together as the weekend progressed, an intricate puzzle of horizontal and vertical beams that were assembled and shaved into shape.
“This exact type of construction is not something that is typical,” Rick said. “We made a couple models like this, we’re trying to figure out a way to impart this information to people and create some sort of sequence of how we’re going to do them and also maintain control.”
Phoebe Scott, a senior at MassArt, has been working with the Browns on the horse since the beginning and will travel to Greece this summer to continue work on the project.
“I mostly work in figurative ceramics, which is very individual, but this is great,” she said. “You get to work in a group, you get to learn the history, and you get to work on something that’s larger than you’d be able to do on your own. It’s a great group of people.”
Kristin Lima first worked with the Browns in 2006 when she was a sophomore at MassArt, graduating in 2008. She later went back to the school to receive her Master’s Degree in Art Education in 2014.
Now a visual arts teacher at Apponequet Regional High School in Lakeville, she calls her continued involvement with Handshouse “contagious magic,” a magic which organically seeped its way into her classroom.
“I really owe a lot of my career to the Handshouse process and to Rick and Laura for being mentors to me,” Lima said. “Now, I’ve actually incorporated part of the Trojan Horse project into my curriculum.”
One of the earliest visual representations of horses in the Greek tradition, which Handshouse used as one reference point for their plan, for 6-inch tall sculptural votives, ritual offerings to gods. One hundred of Lima’s students worked to translate two-dimensional images of these horses into three-dimensional forms.
“I was really surprised by the knowledge that was gained really fast,” Lima said. “It just goes to show that our Handshouse motto of learn by doing is a real thing. It’s been really cool to see the understanding happening through my students’ eyes as a reflection of myself. I was at that point once with Handshouse.”
Scott said that learning together and understanding each other’s strengths is a vital part of the process.
“We’re able to come together as a group and break out into what is best for people’s skill sets,” she said. “You get to use and learn all the materials, but it’s a very important skill to be able to delineate tasks and work efficiently as a team.”
While the project is the work of many hands, each clearly recognized who the leaders are.
“We describe Rick and Laura as two people who basically spend years dragging a sled up a hill so people can ride it down with them,” Jeffs said. “They work tirelessly to open up a lot of opportunities for other people. They’re really fantastic people, very selfless.”