There were occasions when we couldn’t find a traditional storytelling artefact that would give us a handling object to kinaesthetically demonstrate the structure of certain sorts of stories. This was the case when we were working with ‘three bothers / three sisters tales; I’m sure you know the sort, three siblings each get set the same task, the older two fail miserably, whereas the younger one succeeds.

So we set out on a quest to create just such an artefact for the museum and its outreach work with young storytellers. For this particular story archetype we decided to work with nested boxes; we made a prototype with three card boxes with opening lids, one large, one medium sized and one small so they could be placed one inside the other and an item could be placed at their heart inside the smallest box. We then storyboarded “The Three Little Pigs” (a simple ‘three bothers / three sisters tale) to fit on the six sides of the cubed boxes and we put a little pile of ashes inside the smallest box for the denouement of the story (“and all that was left of the wolf was ashes.”)

For instructions, teachers’ notes, sample story (“Kotura, Lord of the Winds”) and box templates to make your own nested boxes go to:-

This prototype would show the idea but it wouldn’t make the grade as a museum exhibit. So with the support of Lottery funding from Arts Council England we commissioned an artist/craftsman, John Grayson to make an enamel nested box for the museum telling the story of “Kotura Lord of the Winds”. And like all our commissions we wanted to involve our users in the design and creation of the new exhibit, so we asked John to work with “The Mythstories Home-Ed Group” who met regularly at University Centre Shrewsbury.

This is how the process evolved…

The May 2019 meeting of the Home-Ed Group began with Dez telling ‘The Three Pigs’ with the prototype nested-box.
John Grayson introduced himself and the enameling process to the Group.
Dez told the story and John told the Group about the Nenet people of Siberia who feature in the story and how they lived and set them drawing pictures of the characters in the story.
Then John got the ink roller ready to help the Group make mono prints from their pictures.
original and mono-print.
The mono prints would be made into transfers to decorate the nested-box. This print of the youngest sister appeared on the third box.
Meanwhile other members of the group were using lining paper and a limited palette of colours to make story friezes.
A story frieze of an episode from the story.
The friezes were stuck around the walls and Dez used them to recap the story.

John took away the artwork as design sketches and began work on making in his studio before returning to present the finished box to the Home-Ed Group’s meeting in October 2019.

John had kept a fold out process diary and before unveiling the artwork he shared the work that had been involved with the group. Above are the first few pages or the diary.
The next few pages as the design evolves.
And the final design emerges…
…before things get technical. John is showing the group some of the transfers.
A closer look at the the firing times and temperature calculations. Art can involve massive amounts of science and mathematics, a lesson for us all.
a closer look at the construction inside box 1.
John shows the group the card and paper maquette he made to check the design worked with the telling of the story.
and told the story to the group. If you look closely you can see pink highlighter arrows which are an aide memoir so John can know which direction to turn the box for the next story scene.
And then John revealed the finished enamel nested box.
The outer box first…
…and then box 2 and box three and its contents were laid out.
The work is signed by the designer and all his co-creators…
…who were given a good length of time to look at the design in detail close up and had their original artwork returned.
And the Kotura Enamel Nested-Box went on display in the reception of University Centre Shrewsbury.

The Kotura Enamel Nested-Box is now part of the Grosvenor Park Academy mini storytelling museum in Chester.