Some ideas rattle around in my head for years, they may get made in one form or another when I feel brave enough, and sometimes as in this case they develop or merge in with other ideas. A couple of years ago I made What I now call my Alice shelves, these are simple oak bookshelves made with wooden carved pegs and an unusual curve as the shelves rise. As the shelves rise the books lean out slightly further at each level giving the impression of a curve from the side. It’s unusual to do this as shelves are theoretically impractical if they are not flat, but as the shelves are for books and not marbles then there is no problem. what we get from this little quirk is a familiar form of structure that is so often present in our natural structures, and I believe therefore we have an inherent appreciation for.
This picture shows the piece that developed from those initial shelves, there is more curve and a number of other changes….. The timber is one that is very special to me, infact I prize it over any other. It is locally grown Oak from Dartmoor and has been quarter cut for stability and figuring, and most importantly, it’s brown.
Brown Oak is rare, it is the result of a mushroom which grows around the roots of the trunk, it deposits an acid into the tree which finds its way up the timber slowly decaying it and in turn colouring it brown. The brown coloration and the variations that also come with it like black flecks are to me very beautiful, all the more so as they are the result of a defect, an affliction. The physical properties of the timber are also changed, it is easier to work and it finishes superbly. The boards I used for this were sister boards from the same tree so if you look closely the grain pattern will match both sides.
One coat of oil shows the richness of the timber.
As I alluded to earlier this was a piece that merged with other ideas that I have been thinking about. I have a love for lettering, light and shadow. I have a love for stories and where they can take you. Some stories resonate more than others, perhaps they happen to come by you at a receptive time of life, they could be hauntings from childhood or they could provide you with some sort of comfort; that you are not alone in struggling with an orderly world for example. Most people are familiar with the tales of Lewis Carroll, the panels in the bookcase have the first verse of the Jabberwocky carved into them. With a playful piece like this it is nice to have the freedom to be creative with the lettering, you can see that there are letters that share stems, there are letters that sit inside each other and there are letters that flourish into other characters on different lines, there is variation in cuts to suit what fits. All in reverse of course…..
Not quite satisfied yet….. The central section is a carved tree like section with an infinite tunnel inside. Look through the glass and you can see an infinite repetition of carved trees along side a chess board path.
I hope I have gone some way to explaining what can go into a piece of woodwork. The selection of the timber and the way it is cut, the conception of ideas, and the physical making, all of which have the heart and soul of the craftsman in them.
Pick a book and step through…..