Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Workbench

Where the magic happens

Bookmark and SharePeople often want to see my 'studio' and I think have a vision in their heads of a romantic wood panelled space where perhaps a coal fire glows merrily in the corner and a lazy cat lays on a blanket snoozing peacefully as the wood chips drift gently to the floor.

Alas, it isn't at all like that!  While I certainly have a space I am more than happy with.  It mostly all happens at this little table.  Its always a catastrophic mess and there's always too much piled on there, but it works for me.  Carving purists would no doubt be appalled at my lack of organization with tools strewn willy-nilly from breakfast to teacup, but as I say...it works for me!

The machine shop
I do a LOT of complicated Celtic knotwork and as much as I would love to sit and do it all by knife, I would never get any actually finished!  To deal with that issue, I step over to the 'machine shop' where my trusty Delta Q3 scroll saw takes a merciless and quite relentless beating for hours every day.  While I have access to some big gear like a table saw, jointer and bandsaw left over from my cabinetmaking days, I rarely use them and the old Q3 pulls most of the weight.
The finishing shop
The finishing shop resides on the counter right next to my carving table.  An old router table, it now is encrusted with a half-inch layer of dried penetrating oil, bits of dissolved sandpaper and a couple of batten sticks that are glogged down and will have to be pried of with a crow bar if I ever want to move them.  My finishing regimen is pretty basic, involving a couple of coats of oil, some wet and dry sanding, more oil and then a vigorous buffing followed by a nice finish coat of beeswax polish.  Simple but delightfully elegant....just like me!

The bench in action
Although it appears pretty haphazard and shockingly 'amateur', this is the workspace of a dedicated professional!!  Although it looks like the tools are chucked around willy-nilly, I take great care to make sure they never collide 'tip to tip' and I seldom have to do much repair work on damaged cutting edges.  I do tend to let things pile up a bit though and I probably should vacuum off the chips a bit more often than I do, but when I get my head down, housework is the last thing on my mind.

Anyway, that's the studio.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Lovespoon Carver's Craft at St Fagans

Come and meet two of the finest lovespoon carvers currently promoting the craft across Wales and beyond. Siôn Llewellyn of Bridgend and David Western, originally from Cardiff and now living in Canada, are both passionate about their art and ensuring that an age-old tradition remains fresh and vibrant in modern-day life.

Siôn was recently commissioned by the Museum to create exact replicas of a number of spoons in the collections and these will be on sale during the event. David will be promoting his recent books, History of Lovespoons and Fine Art of Carving Lovespoonswhich prominently feature many of the spoons housed at St Fagans.
Call in to the Museum Shop to see them at work between 11-1 and 2-4pm at the National History Museum of Wales at St Fagans. (near Cardiff, Wales)

I'm VERY excited to be appearing with fellow carver Siôn Llewellyn at the museum which is home to one of the finest collections of lovespoons in the world, and I hope that if you are in the area on May 26th, you'll stop in to say hello!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Here Be Dragons

The Welsh Flag
I love the Welsh flag.  As national flags go, the Driag Goch (Red Dragon) much certainly rate as one of the most eye-catching on the planet.  Combine it with the beautifully poignant and melodious national anthem "Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" and the Welsh are blessed with a bounty of epic national symbols!
But I confess that on lovespoons, the poor old flag dragon has been done to death.  All the mass production and tourist type spoons which feature a dragon inevitably have the flag dragon tacked onto the design and looking awkward and out of place.   
There are other, much more expressive, beautiful and unique ways to feature the Driag Goch and to make the most of his symbolic power as the mascot of Cymru.
So here are a couple of dragons which I think still promote Welshness and Welsh pride but without the cliche of looking exactly like every other dragon that's ever been carved on a spoon!
Sino-Celtic Wedding spoon
Like the Welsh, the Chinese recognize the symbolic power of the dragon.  This wedding spoon unites the two very different dragons around a ming dynasty knot pattern.  The flowing dragons with their sinuous tails give the spoon movement, vibrancy and great 'life'.  The very different design styles compliment each other very nicely too!
Here's a dragon which is much more traditional in its form although it looks quite stylized.  It's a very simple rendering which emphasizes the simple wings, tail and the long tongue, but it is still a powerful image (as a dragon should be!).
This dragon is much more Nordic in appearance.  Carved for a spoon celebrating Odinist and Wiccan beliefs, this spoon has a very 'Viking' feel about it.  The long neck and shield-like wings of the dragon evoke the image of a Viking longship's prow...the merging of a variety of art styles harks back to the time when Viking and Celtic art forms met for the first time.
These stylish and very romantic dragons were created from ancient Celtic zoomorphic forms.  Originally, they lacked the wings and the knotwork tongues and probably weren't intended as dragons at all.  But their lizard-like faces, long necks and sinuous bodies were perfect models for this modern update of very ancient images.  
Bookmark and ShareThese last two images show a dragon that I have been developing over the last couple of years.  I've used him several times on a variety of spoons and am very fond of him!   I'll probably continue experimenting with him a few more times until I think I've used up my ideas...then I will come up with something else.   He's a lovely dragon though.  Neither overly aggressive or too passive, he makes a perfect crown for a spoon design and the knot his head and neck enfold can be kept as a 'closed' eternal knot, or it can be run from his tongue to form a Celtic knot style 'flame' or tongue.

There are no doubt more dragon designs yet to be discovered than I have time to carve in my lifetime, so I very much doubt that I will ever need to resort to the flag dragon to get my message of Welsh pride out!!