This summer I made quite a lot of stuff for Castle Kalmar, which is a stately 16th century fortress (begun in the 12th century). It's one of the big tourist attractions in the south of Sweden and all sorts of arrangements for kids are going on there. This summer they needed some new stuff, which they wanted me to produce for them. Here's some of the stuff I did:
They needed about ten fake rats to be handled by storytellers dressed up as "forgotten prisoners" in the castle's dungeons. As always, they were first sculpted in clay.
They were then cast in latex, filled with soft polyurethane foam and had jointed feet and black button eyes added. The tail was also made in latex. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of them with fur added, but they were actually quite effective when used. A costume-making lady at the castle did the fur-adding job.
I did eight fake bats in the same way, though I added the fur myself. The toes worked as small grappling hooks, so the bats could be hanged around the castle.
They also needed a bunch of fake herrings that could lie in a wooden barrel all summer without going smelly. The fake herrings were foam-filled latex fish.
I also made a latex character mask for one of the storytellers telling ghost tales about the castle.
The nicest thing I did was probably an oversized version of "Five in a Row", using only three pieces per player. Kids could challenge the black knight of the castle to a game of wits. The knight used the black pieces and the kids the smaller white ones. The game pieces were cast in plastic and reinforced with metal bars inside.
Apart from the aforementioned stuff I also made three decapitated heads, with hair, and a bunch of rubber swords. At the beginning of my dealings with the castle, I was only supposed to do the rats and the swords, but as summer went along the crew at the castle came up with more and more stuff. However, I soon realized they didn't have that much money to spend. The things I made for them eventually wound up costing $700, which is not much to begin with. I don't have a registered company, which means that when I do work for, say, a stage show I get paid by buying stuff for the amount I've quoted for doing the job. The stage people take care of the bills and everybody's happy. This time the castle wanted to pay me and needed a proper company to go through. I contacted a billing company to take care of the business. It's run by a friend's friend and they charge 6% of the payment for their services. But after all the taxes and fees that you have to pay in Sweden for running a company were finally paid, I only ended up with $240. This has deterred me forever from doing more of the same work. This is what it's like having your own business in Sweden, ladies and gents. I've never been very interested in politics, but the more work I get, the more I see how much a part of business-making politics is. For a few decades the Social Democratic Labour Party has been in power in Sweden, and they simply don't like small businesses. They rather have workers lined up inside factories and weighed the solitary business-owners down with loads of costly taxes. The last four years the Swedish government has consisted of a coalition of four centre-right, liberal conservative political parties, which have done whatever they can to lighten up things for the small-time business-maker. And things have brightened up a bit. It's actually election day today in Sweden, and I hope they get another four years. Maybe I'll get enough guts to start my own official business eventually.