Wood Carving, Wood Carving Process

Elemental Celtic Cross

Earlier this year I completed a carving in mahogany wood of an equal-armed Celtic cross – photos of the carving process are shown in the gallery below. This project brought me back to my roots in traditional Celtic design when my creative work was exclusively painting on paper – you can see a gallery of my earlier work HERE. The inspiration for my paintings originated with the manuscript artwork of early medieval Ireland, in the richly illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Kells, Book of Durrow, and the Lindisfarne Gospels. These ancient manuscripts were themselves inspired by metalwork techniques from designs rendered in relief, so the process of translating my designs from paper to wood carving has been a very natural progression, bringing me back to the original process of the source.

When I began this design I wanted to create something that was both traditional in its form – the ringed Celtic cross shape – but also contemporary in its content. I decided to represent the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water – along with the fifth element, the quintessence, using traditional themes rendered into new designs. The resulting design uses (clockwise from the top arm): spirals to represent water; tree-of-life trefoils to represent earth; spiraling flames to represent fire; and swirling trumpets to represent air. All four elements are joined in the center into a quadruple spiral to represent the fifth element, the quintessence. The spiral braid in the ring represents the bounds of our world, consisting of all these natural elements joined together.

I selected a fine grained piece of mahogany wood for this carving, one that would hold the details of this design, and provide a radiant warm color to the finished piece. I was pleased and amazed when I oiled this carving to find hidden within the grain a dramatic dark wave of color that runs through the fire element, making it look as if the fire itself has scorched the wood.

This carving is available for purchase through the Ninth Wave Designs Etsy shop. I am also very excited to have begun the process of translating this original design into a sterling silver pendant, that will also be available in the upcoming weeks. I will post an update when they becomes available.

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