Runes, Looms and Three-legged Stools at Denman Market
Jamie Prowse’s colourful Denman Island Farmers’ Market stall offers a multi-faceted experience: It’s local, and global; it’s now, and it’s then; it’s pragmatic, and it’s fanciful.
Jamie sells potted and dried herbs, toys, games, runes, weaving tools, small wooden furniture and household items, and fabric arts. She’s inspired in part by her Denman Island home and the things that grow there, and equally by her lifelong interest in European history, especially the medieval era.
Jamie has spent decades visiting medieval fairs and festivals, studying, teaching, vending, and having fun. Many of the things she makes have a “medieval-ish” spin to them, she says.
“A lot of them are based on extant finds from archeological digs,” says Jamie. “For instance, I’ve got a little wooden horse and rider that is a replica from the 1200s, and I have a sea monster and another horse with little wheels from 500 AD Egypt. My three-legged stools are based on the Lund find in Norway.”
Every item has a story.
“People who come to my booth get a little history lesson and demonstration about how the things on display work, because they’ve never seen them before and they look interesting,” says Jamie. “It’s a fun experience just to look around, even if you aren’t going to buy anything.”
Jamie’s journey as a craftsperson dates back to an aha moment she had at a festival years ago.
“I was attending a medieval tournament and there were these kids dressed all up in their medieval finery and their poufy princess dresses, and they were playing with plastic toys. It seemed so incongruous. So I started making wooden medieval toys—little horses and mini-marshmallow-shooting crossbows and other fun things that kids could enjoy while they were at the tournaments with their parents.”
Runes and games
Jamie also makes wooden runes (Northern European divination tokens) and two-sided board games. One side has Nine Man Morris (also known as Merelles) a two-person strategy game that dates back to Ancient Rome; and the other side has Hnefatafl (also known as Viking Chess or Tafl), another strategy game that is mentioned in several Norse sagas (and also makes an appearance in a tavern in the contemporary video game, Assassin’s Creed).
These strategy games originally weren’t just about having fun, Jamie explains. People played them to learn military and political strategy—how to block or capture opponents, protect one’s king, surround the enemy’s king, second-guess your opponent, and other key skills needed in medieval times.
These days people play for enjoyment, but the games still train the mind. As well, the wooden gameboard and player pieces are aesthetically pleasurable—usable works of art made out of local wood.
While Jamie’s head might be in a 14th century Norwegian tavern, her hands are here on Denman, in her Greenhill Road workshop, where she is mindful of the environmental impact of her work.
“I am very conscious of not wasting wood. My runes are from branches of trees that had been pruned. I want everything I use to be sustainably harvested,” she says
Jamie has lived on Denman Island for 25 years. She worked on the ferry for years, has been a member of the fire department for over two decades, and has served on the ambulance. She was born in Comox and grew up the area.
“I am a truly local person,” she says.
This is her first year at the Denman Island Farmers Market. “I love it,” she says. “It’s welcoming and fun. People are having a good experience. The vendors help each other and talk and joke together.”
Find Jamie and over 25 other vendors at the Denman Island Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9:30 – 12:30 on the Old School field.
Written by Laura Busheikin
Published in The Islands Grapevine, July 2021