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Icelandic Magical Staves Carved Into Boats by Florence Italy Art Students

Updated: May 15

Submitted by Patrizia Pastorelli, teacher, artist and currently a student of Art Academy in Florence


After requesting Float Your Boat boats, the University of Washington team shipped boats to us in Italy. Once the package arrived in Italy, it was stopped by customs officials who checked the goods and requested further useful documentation for the release. After describing the purpose of the project, the goods has been cleared through customs and delivered to us.


The project was described and proposed to the students of the course of the Academy's multimedia design studio of Fine Arts of Florence. After having explained the Arctic Ocean, the ice layer and the FYB project, making students aware of the issues of global warming and the importance of ice for the planet, we had to choose how to decorate the boats so that, even after years, they could be noticed and not overcome by seawater corrosion.


To choose the decorations to apply on the boats, we did a lot of research because we were trying to transform the decorative operation by giving it a strong value that would allow us to develop a reflection and that could be combined with the possible geographical location where they will presumably be shipwrecked on the beach.


It was interesting to discover that in Iceland there is a paper manuscript of the second half of the nineteenth century, preserved at the National Library of Iceland. The code IB 383 4to, known as Huld, is a collection of ciphers for writing coded messages. The last section includes a series of symbols with captions illustrating its powers, which they range from that of dreaming what you want, to that of defeating an enemy, to that of protection against evil spirits, thus creating a correlation between color and data. These symbols were engraved mainly on wood and worn as amulets.

The 30 Galdrastafir pictured in the second part of Huld code (on page 11 of the pdf linked above), they have been catalogued for characteristics associated with a color, chosen depending on its symbolism and its complementary:

  • Divinatory - red/green

  • Propitiatory- yellow/purple

  • Protection - blue/orange

  • Sorcery - brown/red,yellow.

  • Following the philosophy of FYB, we decided to decorate the boats, using natural pigments.


After numerous attempts to contact producers of natural colors, we got feedback from the company SIOF SPA that provided us with a sample of them. We engraved the symbols on the boats with the pyrograph and then colored them with tempera and sealed them with beeswax mixed with extra virgin olive oil.


This project was led by Patrizia Pastorelli and Maria Letizia Dionisio, for the course by Professor Maria Grazia Pontorno.






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