Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Faking It

If you want to create faux artifacts and items that look real you need to duplicate the look of the genuine article.  Luckily, we're able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of an entire profession dedicated to that very thing.  I'm speaking, of course, of forgers.

As usual when I bring this subject up I'll point at that forgery is a scourge in the world of art and artifact collecting.  That said, the people cranking out all those fakes have developed an incredible amount of technology and expertise that propmakers can draw on.  Unfortunately, they're notoriously close-lipped about exactly how they accomplish their work  The next best thing to consulting them directly is getting tips from the experts that help identify fakes. 

Australian collector Louis McWhinnie has been kind enough to share some of his advice at his website.  It's a good general introduction to the subject of artifact forgery and has some great insights.  The first reaction to a lot of it will surely be "Authentic drill holes?  Isn't that a bit over the top for a prop?"  In most cases, yes, there's no doubt it's excessive.  But it's also an incredibly immersive way to to demonstrate what that high-level Archeology skill is good for in a tabletop or live-action game:  "Your examination reveals that the hole in the jade amulet has an odd hourglass shape, characteristic of being drilled with a friction drill in primitive conditions."

5 comments:

David Kirkby said...

Thats a very interesting link and some of those tips are quite useful especially the bronze ones.

One of my old art tutors (who was totally insane) would say that if you want something to look like a material, you should use that material. He was talking to someone who was doing an art installation that was going to feature fake blood (yes, he wanted her to use real blood) but what he said stuck with me, which is why I like using metal powders in my castings.

Don Simpson said...

My stone carvings have hourglass-shaped holes made with motor-driven diamond tools and carefully de-toolmarked; not to fool people, but because I thank that it looks better.

A local importer has Chinese-made African and Native American artifacts. And I own some beautiful cheap Chinese copies of fine Japanese netsuke. Probably the biggest problem with the Chinese fake industry, though, is the flood of counterfeit electronic components.

Propnomicon said...

@ David Kirkby

I totally agree, with the caveat that real blood is a biohazard. Not just blood, but any body part from a human or animal. I'd want to make sure they were stabilized before incorporating them into a piece.

@ Don Simpson

Not to get all fanboyish, but at your level I'm not surprised that small details like that are part of the process. I'd be happy with just a tenth of your talent.


Anonymous said...

I alawys thought art forgery was an interesting topic because it brings up the question of the actual value of art. A few years ago in a house in Long Island where Jackson Pollock stayed they found something that was either a missing Pollock, or an imitation of a Pollock, and they said that it was either worth about five million dollars or ~nothing~, depending. Why the big difference in value based on who painted it? Because it has some of Pollock's "mana" if it's real? Because real Pollocks are "limited edition", and fake Pollocks aren't? Or just because someone is willing to pay that much, and that's the only real measure of value?

CoastConFan said...

There is a continual battle between collectors and forgers. Nobody minds a nice reproduction, especially if it something that you could never afford yourself (like the Mona Lisa) and is clearly a masterful copy. But those that labor to deceive a buyer are criminal.

Thanks for the nice link on spotting fakes, I really liked the author’s attitude and humor. I myself go for just such a gestalt approach to collecting and spotting fakes. That and lots of research into not only the object, but how it was constructed, what tools were made it’s historical mileau as well as the physical attributes of the object itself. That is why I get such a kick out of old time gaffs. They look really good for something tossed together (often artfully) and their purpose is to amaze or simulate, fooling they eye just like a magician.

A really good prop, used the way it was intended is a joy to behold and fun for everybody. Go with your gut, it may not always be right, but that little voice in your head, isn’t often wrong.