News Story

Stay Busk Token from the Pinto Collection

Have you ever wondered what stories await behind the objects within the Birmingham Museum archive?

I know I have.

My name is Mads Washbrook, I am a Birmingham-based artist, and this is the question on top of my mind throughout my Whitworth Wallis Fellowship with Birmingham Museums Trust and Birmingham School of Art for the past six months. My practice works across drawing, painting, performance film, and immersive technologies, and explores themes and ideas of Celtic heritage, folklore, preservation of history, and the politics of stories. I generally bring these together through multi-layered and rhizomatic narratives to play with the distortion of storytelling across time. I immediately stuck my nose into the archive during the four visits to the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre for the Fellowship and I grew and obsessional love for the Celtic and Pinto Collection. However, I was stuck on the best way to respond to these objects until…

I embarked on a project called ‘Lovers' Lost’ with BOM (Birmingham Open Media) in December 2023 as a part of their Immersive Arts Bootcamp which helps creatives gain Unreal Engine and Blender skills to a pursue immersive arts careers or opportunities. Through this bootcamp, I started a project using Unreal Engine 5 and Blender where I can bring the objects I have been handling and researching into the digital sphere through sculpting them digitally. This way, the objects can be experienced outside of the collection centre within a fictional environment and narrative directly inspired by their contexts. The game is a first-person immersive experience, and you start on an island with a Carpenter’s house and a Lumberjack’s house. At the centre of the story are two lovers, the Carpenter and Lumberjack’s daughter, who were mysteriously sent away by the Faeries to the Underworld when they trespassed on Faerie land. All that physically remains are the places they lived and the artefacts of their love.

Love Spoon from the Pinto Collection

I am primarily taking objects from the Pinto collection, which is an expansive wooden Folk collection by collectors Edward and Eva Pinto. It tells an impressive story of eccentric domesticity, as I like to call it, and wooden bygones but it obviously doesn’t tell a full story of Folk art because that was never the intention. Its preservation of Folk culture is almost incidental in its focus on social history as they didn’t always know what exactly what they were collecting. It was originally held at the Pinto’s home for the public to view but the Pintos wanted it to be owned by the public before they died, and it also outgrew their home, so it ended up at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as they were the first bidders. However, they are currently in storage at the Collection Centre.

Blender model of the Stay Busk Love Token
Blender model of the Love Spoon.

Through my project, I hope to spark a public interest in this collection. By transforming the objects into the digital, they can be interacted with by an audience in a way they never have before. This quirky collection of such random eccentric items has captivated me so much over these past six months and my intention is to teach the history of this collection through an interact, fun experience. I aim to continue remaking these objects for the digital space going forward and plan to make more historically accurate projects. I will be posting updates on the development of this project and when it will be publicly accessible on both my Instagram and website.

By Mads Washbrook, Artist in Residence (Whitworth Wallis Fellowship)