If you have been to Europe, you have probably had several opportunities to make a brass rubbing. The first one I made was at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, London, where there are several brasses from which to choose. My friend, Diane (who is editor of the blog), was the person who introduced me to brass rubbings in 1999.
If you are unfamiliar, a brass rubbing is created when you rub a colored piece of wax over a sheet of paper that is sitting atop a 3-D piece of brass (or resin/plastic/metal). It started in Europe as a means of copying brass plaques located in church floors, creating a souvenir of the visit. Because there is a gradual smoothing of the original brass overtime, these days most rubbings are made with replicas of the original designs.
Today, there are several places across Europe where you can make your own brass rubbing. Some churches and interactive museums are the most likely sources. As I recall, there is an entire room devoted to brass rubbings at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. I believe they call it the Brass Rubbing Centre, and you can make brass rubbings for a fee.
While in Dublin, Ireland, I made a free brass rubbing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There were eight or more brasses permanently affixed to a counter. Wax crayons and white paper were available for any visitor to make a rubbing. Although there was no mandatory fee, a donation was encouraged.
At the Dublinia museum in Dublin, there were two small brasses on which one could make a rubbing. Of course, I could not pass it by.
Not only are rubbings a fun craft to do with your children, they also make nice wall hangings. When my nephew was ten years old, he made a rubbing at St. Martin-in-the-Fields for my sister. She had it framed, and it has hung in her home ever since. I made a couple of lions, which I had framed about ten years ago. They hang in my home.
There are brass rubbing kits that you may purchase online. I have found some on eBay.com. I did not see any kits or supplies on Amazon.com, but there were several books on the topic. Although I have not ordered from Clare’s Celtic Cornucopia located in Washington, it does offer several brass rubbing kits online for $9.95 to $10.95 each, plus a small shipping fee. They have all the supplies you need for making and hanging your brass rubbing artwork. To learn more click here.
The website for Clare’s Celtic Cornucopia provides tips for making a brass rubbing. From my experience, I find that running off the brass with the wax stick is a common mishap which results in an errant mark, or worse, a tear in the paper. The mark can be removed with an eraser and any tear can be camouflaged when framed. If not framing, just put a small piece of acid free tape on the back.
The other common problem results from allowing the paper to move while making the rubbing. At rubbing centers, I have seen tape used as well as frames on a hinge which are supposed to clamp down the paper. Both techniques allow for some movement. The best thing I have found is to keep a firm grip on the paper with one hand as I rub the wax stick with the other.
To learn more about the history of brass rubbings, visit St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ website by clicking here.
Brass rubbings are a fun craft to make with your children. They can also be a great way to learn more about another culture or historical figure.