A scarlet envelope containing a shrieking message. Ignore at your own peril.
Howlers made their first appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after Molly Weasley got word of her youngest son’s “borrowing” their flying Ford Anglia. Hermione received them from gossip-hungry bullies and readers of Rita Skeeter’s column. The Ministry of Magic was flooded with them filling the lax security at the Quidditch World Cup. Perhaps the most amusing instance of a howler was when Albus Dumbledore used one to remind Aunt Petunia of her obligation to let Harry live at Number Four, Privet Drive.
Howlers are sent to scold, criticize, and complain to a recipient. Once opened, the message is read in a loud, magically amplified voice, and explodes at its conclusion. Most magic-users would experience a stomach drop reaction to receiving a howler, but we were thrilled. All the way from the United Kingdom, an owl delivered us a replica Howler from our friend Ross Nicholson, an artist, sculptor, and propmaker.
If we had to describe Ross’s artistic capabilities, it might be simpler to ask if there’s anything he can’t do. No matter the medium or task, he is masterful.
Ross has made a precise, screen accurate replica of Newt Scamander’s case from the 2016 film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, including the muggle-worthy interior featured in the first scene when the famed magizoologist disembarks at Ellis Island. It was through Instagram that we first found his art, which has impressed us more and more as we discovered his range of works. He sculpted his own potted mandrakes. His dazzling, transparent “glass” memory vials, belonging to Albus Dumbledore, he made from turned acrylic. He improved The Noble Collection’s Bellatrix Lestrange mask with a realistic repaint. His embroidered handkerchief of Percival Graves, he stitched by hand. My personal favorite is his one-of-a-kind “Tales of Beedle the Bard”, with its gilded cover. Ross went so far as to research book binding in order to make an actual book. All are so impressively good that they appear to be plucked straight out of our favorite franchises.
We asked Ross about the project that was the most challenging to undertake, his Newt Scamander replica suitcase. “I basically had to learn how to make a suitcase. “I had to understand how suitcases are made. I researched forming leather, for the corner pieces, and how the stitching was done.”
The process of building it relied on careful measurements to ensure a lid that would fit, accurately placed rivets, and an structure that would allow it to be packed, making it a working suitcase. He didn’t stop at the exterior, though— Ross went above and beyond to replicate the muggle-worthy contents. “I got the fabric the pyjama top is made from and sewed it by hand. I couldn’t find any gloves that looked the same, so I bought some that were the same shape and coloured and aged them.”
Set decorator Anna Pinnock has an impossibly good eye for props and the films of Fantastic Beasts display her talents. Working on these major motion pictures grants access to resources we fans could only dream of, so creating exact replicas requires some luck, but mostly a great deal of work to achieve the right look. Ross explained that he couldn’t buy an exact match of Newt’s alarm clock, likely due to the scarce availability of certain vintage finds. Not that it stopped him— determined, he found another clock and changed the face. Spot on.
We are stunned by Ross, who is just one of the many incredible, diverse creatives we've come to meet through the “Pottergram”, and urge you to admire his art for yourself.