Monday 17 October 2016

Bids, Please! - by Claudia

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our annual Halloween auction of the rare and the bizarre!

Today we are presenting an exquisite selection of rare magical and mystical antiques and our first item is this very old handmade "portable potions tome" from the early 18th century.
Opening bid are 160 GBP.

These book shaped potions boxes were quite common in the early 18th to the late 19th century and ranged from plain models for the small purse to real exquisite and elaborate ones for the renowned and wealthy witches. The style of the tome you are bidding on today indicates possession by a better-off middle-class witch.

Portable potions tomes were never signed - neither by the manufacturers nor by their owners - mainly due to fear of prosecution. They usually held a witch's most favourite potions and poisons to turn to and the content of this particular tome shows that it must have been in good use and so up until the late eightteenhundreds.

Preferably the tomes were done in plaque or tombstone shape and that gladly makes assigning them to specific manufactories quite easy.
This piece was made by the manufactory of the French twin sisters Blaire and Marie Malfaisant, who quite successfully overtook and ran the business from a long line of ancestors that can be dated back to the fifteenth century. The manufactory was located in Somnamblis, a village located south of the Ardennes. The region has always been known for its beautiful and huge oak trees so the manufactory's emblem shows two oak leaves flanking an acorn below three potions bottles in varying shapes.

The fainted green on the leaves tells that this specific tome has been made in the early half of the eightteenth century. From 1743 on these were done in an autumnal red which was retained until the manufactory's decline in the 1890s.

Witches used to customize their tomes by attaching charms and spells to the spine. Paper beads rolled from handwritten or typed protective spells were quite common, as well as twigs or roots from trees under which witches loved to have their gatherings. Driftwood was more common in regions that were known for healing wells. Each witch had her special healing stone - in this case it is a piece of amber. These stones could be touched or licked to release their healing power and helped with many different light states of indisposition.

Considering its age the item is in excellent condition. The flasks' and capsules' contents have dried out, but traces of poison hemlock, dried toadstool, pricklyburr tincture, nutmeg liniment, mandrake tonic and holly ointment could still be detected by our chemists.

These were all quite common and indicate that the last owner of this tome, Portia Primwick, was mainly into healing witchcraft for the wealthy customer. The Primwicks' line of ancestry in witchcraft is well documented and can be accessed in the library of the Town Museum of North Hogthrompton, where serveral generations of Primwicks had lived and been highly appreciated townspeople.

The portable potions tome had originally belonged to Portia's great-grandmother and was by tradition passed on from mother to daughter.
The cover shows traces of intense use, but is still intact, which proves the high quality of the materials used by the Malfaisants and their manufacturers' high level skills.

Leather strips and fabric on the book's spine still are the originals as are the label and the box with the laquer sealed lid. The craquelure is a typical sign of age and not of damage.

You are bidding on an item that was produced in a limited edition of twenty pieces only!!!
Ladies and gentlemen, we are awaiting your bids! 


Calico Craft Parts used: 

- Shaped Profile Greyboard Mixed Media Board - Style 17 
- Shaped ATC Wood Blank with Flourish Cut Out Frame
- Skull MDF Wood Shape
- Sheet of Mini MDF Label Holders Wood Shapes
- Sheet of Mini MDF Wood Apothecary Bottles
- Sheet of Mini MDF Acorns and Oak Leaves

And for those who managed to stay with me this far a very short how-to:

Cut the greyboard mixed media bord into three pieces to form the book's spine and covers. Cover with crumpled tissue paper on the outsides and designer paper on the insides. Dry brush with white DecoArt Gesso to tone it all down.

Use some wide fabric ribbon and heavy glue (like matte DecoArt Decou-Page) to fuse covers and spine. Leave a gap of about 3 to 4 mm between the parts. Once that has dried go in with different distress inks, spray inks, washes of DecoArt media fluid acrylic paints and some dry brushing with darker browns to add colour and depth to the crumpled covers.

Use DecoArt media white crackle paint, DecoArt media antiquing creams, spray stains, acrylic washes, inks, create the skull ATC plaque and to build up crackle and an aged look.

Use your favourite Halloween stamps to decorate your portable potions tome. Add splatters. Fix some old ribbon to front and back cover using a piece of fabric and DecoArt matte Decou-Page.

To create the label stamp a word, glue behind the label and seal with a layer of DecoArt Liquid Glass. Let air dry!

For the aged look on the cover and MDF parts add crackle paint and/or glaze by scraping it on with a palette knife. Tint with washes of DecoArt media acrylic paint and/or antiquing creams afterwards.

Once all is dry, use some matte spray varnish to prevent the inks from being reactivated by humidity or any liquids. Let dry.

Fill a cardboard box with small vials and/or bottles. If needed tone these in with alcohol inks for a stained and aged look. Glue the box to the inside of the back cover.

Decorate the box lid: glue on designer paper or stamped image. Seal with matte Decou-Page. Add DecoArt media clear Crackle Glaze. Let dry naturally. Then highlight cracks with black Antiquing Cream. You're done!

Thank you for stopping by today and for reading this far! I hope you have enjoyed your visit!
Have a lot of fun crafting for Halloween! Check out Calico Craft Parts' shop - there are loads of awesome Halloween craft parts to find!

Hugs and happy Halloween crafting!


  1. Fabulous detailed project and wonderful write up thank you. Love your make and the rust and crackle are fantastic. Tracy x

  2. Fantastic,Claudia!Love it! Your blog is great, the pictures are vivid,with clear instructions and i love the stories you weave in with each project!

    1. Thank you both so much, Tracy and Sylvia! Hugs! XXX

  3. Absolutely amazing Claudia!! I'm so in awe of the incredible texture you create!

  4. Claudia, you do tell a wonderful story and your Potion Box is just fabulous! Anne x

    1. Thank you, Cathy and Anne! So glad you like my box and the story! Happy Halloween! xx

  5. Brilliant Cludia! Love it to bits. Happy crafting, Angela xXx

    1. Thank you, Angela! Happy crafting to you too! xxx

  6. Claudia this is a brilliant Halloween make! I adore all the crackle and the whole project just oozes spooky character! xxx

  7. Wow, very cool Claudia! love the added lace piece and the wood- great make!!xx

    1. Thank you very much, Julie Ann and Jackie! I had so much fun creating my tome - so happy you like it! Mwah! XXX

  8. OH MY GRACIOUS CLAUDIA - you had me SPELL BOUND with your story of your high end antiquity. Wow - truly INCREDIBLE project. I am smiling BIG thinking of who might have owned this jewel and what type of folks it was used for. I am sure it will get many bids and go quite high because it is definitely a rare find. I have complete assurance that it was designed and created by a very talented person that loved what she did very much. Definitely heirloom quality. She thought of every little detail and made it just FABULOUSLY STUNNING tome. Thanks bunches for sharing this piece of history with us as well as your very astute ideas regarding it's design processes.:) Xj.

    1. Aw! Thank you so much, Joi!!!! I am so happy that you like the story and the project so much! Your kind words have just made my day and added that special topping to it! Mwah! XXX

  9. What a fabulous project!!! I really enjoyed the story that goes along with it, too. TFS this!

    1. Thank you very much, Barbara! And happy Halloween to you! xxx

  10. WOW what a fabulous creation!
    Wonderfully spooky and aged looking with such great details.

    1. Thank you very much, Patty! Happy Halloween! xxx

  11. Another magical spooky make - what a fabulous imagination, never mind the brilliant artistic techniques!
    Alison x

    1. Sorry I'm so late responding to your lovely comment, Alison! Thank you so much!!! Hugs! Claudia xxx