John Sunderland

The curated works of the author & artist

The Vikings of York and How I Met Them

Design Sketch of the Vikings of York at the original Jorvik Viking Centre
A Concept Sketch for a section of the original Jorvik Viking Centre by John Sunderland, circa 1981

Bringing the Vikings of York to life at the original Jorvik Viking Centre was part of a most wonderful career in multi-media design.

When I got the job back in 1981 to Project Design the very first Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England, there was nothing like it in the world. The mission was to bring the archaeological data dug up from the Vikings in York to life in a manner that the average person could relate to it. That was my goal, and that’s what we did.

Welcome to my website

Welcome to my updated website, which presents my book On My Way to Jorvik, 2nd edition. It’s about a creative journey and the creation of the first Jorvik Viking Centre. Since being published in 2014, readers said the cover gave the impression the story was formal and boring, when actually it’s funny and heart-warming. We re-presented the book showing it as a humorous, inspirational story with a magical ending. Look for the old Viking of York on the cover, flies and all. (Can’t you just smell the herring in the sack over his shoulder?)

I had been drawing and designing since leaving art college in 1974. Drawing has always been a way for me to think in pictures. But until Jorvik, I never realised just how important writing was to my work. Surprising that because when it came down to it, whatever the technique was being used in the telling, there was always the spine of a story, and that story had to be written. The story at Jorvik was a captured moment in time on a regular afternoon in the life of the common Vikings of York.

The creative story behind the Jorvik Viking Centre

This website presents On My Way to Jorvik, my first ‘proper’ stand-alone book revised in its second edition. Since being published in 2014, readers said the cover gave the effect the story was formal and boring. The original cover didn’t give the right impression of what it is as a read—funny and heart-warming. 2021 was the 40th anniversary of when I started the design of the Jorvik Viking Centre. And so, it was time to re-wrap the tome showing what the book’s about, a humorous true and inspirational story with a magical ending. Now there’s a real Viking of York on the cover too, flies and all. (And can’t you just smell the herring in the sack thrown over his shoulder?)

Inspired by . . .

Before Jorvik, I was making films and animation based on narratives, stories. It was through the stories that the characters became alive.

I got to work with some characters in my career, like Dr Bone Jones, the York Archaeological Trust Paleoscatologist. I was inspired by Bone, a natural communicator and popularist. There’s an amusing video interview of him talking about the coprolite (poo) they dug up at the Coppergate Dig, among other things. It’s in a post on The History Blog. That massive lump of Viking poo was a popular attraction in the exhibit! Creating the smell was a unique idea–and it worked. You can read more about it at The Viking Herald.

The Story is the thing

My book is the tale of an extraordinary life journey in design, which unknown to me was leading to the Vikings of York. I had been drawing and designing since leaving art college in 1974. Drawing has always been a way for me to think and express ideas. But until Jorvik, I never realised how important writing was to my work as well. Surprising that, for when it came down to it, whatever the technique was being used in the telling, there was always the story.

And now meet Pascualet, the last shepherd’s dog

I hope you enjoy reading On My Way to Jorvik and my other work on the website. You can buy the book there from your favourite bookseller. Whilst there, grab a copy of a free ebook of the first four chapters of my next book, Tàrbena Times, by subscribing to my newsletter (don’t worry, I’ll not be sending that many). It’s a collection of stories I posted on Facebook since 2017. They’re about life in the Spanish Mountain village where we moved to from New York City (Bushwick in Northern Brooklyn to be exact). Life in Spain has been an extraordinary episode in our lives. Especially adopting Pascualet, the sheep- and goat-herding dog who had belonged to the last shepherd of Tàrbena. 

Rummage around the website. It’s a bit like a museum in itself. I hope you’ll find something that tickles you and inspires your own ideas.


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Little Quiet Achievements

I have just read that a ‘Bio’ should speak of one’s achievements. Ok here goes. I was born wearing glasses. I got into Wakefield Cathedral

Next Book

6 June 2014 Things are going well with On My Way to Jorvik, it’s selling steadily, and people are loving it, all my Amazon reviews

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