“I can tell you’re a boatbuilder because of all the varnish” the chap told me as he helped me lift the sign into place.
It got me thinking about all the different possible signs that could have been made had other people been asked to make them, and perhaps ,other possibilities made by myself had I made any number of alternate decisions along the way. Whatever changes I would have made another time though, I think the result would still be; made by a boatbuilder. I was surprised when I though about it, I have an aversion to making anything obviously “boaty” that isn’t actually part of a boat. I think the give away though is the particular mix of materials choice, joinery style, and finishing technique; boatbuilder is written all over it.
The old sign was pretty tired and not a job that would suit me to replace as it was, I could however offer what was in my opinion a better way to replace the woodwork and lettering. Though a more expensive way, the result is something that can and should last indefinitely, and also have a more intangible quality, one that comes from the love of making and the intimate act of imparting oneself into ones work. When coupled with time served experience, this is when I believe something special is made.
The Timber used was a mix of recycled mahogany from a dismantled balcony and a full width board of African mahogany a friend of mine had stored in my workshop and kindly allowed me to use some. Clean largely quarter cut boards of this width are rare in one piece so we were privileged to have this to use.
The font used for the letter cutting was Trajan, this is a respectful ,relatively fine font with plenty of air around the letters and is used in capitals only. The origins for the font are old Roman and can be found at the base of the Trajan column in Rome.
After the main sign was cut I started on the “across the road sign”. The letters were chopped in and the line for the arrow cut, I had drawn on the arrow ends and was just about to whack my chisel in when I noticed I had drawn the arrow in the direction of the writing as per the main sign, but as this was the “across the road sign” the arrow needed to be reversed. I corrected just in time but was very close to pointing people towards the local pub rather than the church….
The cross changed the way I thought about the whole job. So far I was working with my workshop, my customer and the corner of the road where this was all going to be. The commission was undertaken and completed by quote. I had allowed a enough time to carve a simple crucifix at the top of the main sign, when the time came however it seemed sensible to have a quick peek inside the church as there may be a cross design that is somehow connected to this particular place…….
I can honestly say I was speechless when I saw it. The screen. It’s a sort of series wooden windows which separate the congregation from the alter area. It’s made of Oak made in the 1400’s and carved with incredible skill. Buttresses overhang the main section and become increasingly elaborately carved….
I couldn’t simply cut a simple crucifix for my sign now. I went into the church to find a connection for the crucifix and although I used the triple budded cross which was found on the chalice, the real connection for me was to at least try and give a nod to the carving of the screen and the craftsmen that made it.
I like to look at Gold not as a symbol of wealth or opulence, but as a material in and of itself. When appreciated from this perspective it is a wonderful material that will keep it’s shine no matter the environment. This has symbolic references when used in the manner of a crucifix of course, but from my makers perspective it is the right material for working with the light and shade of carved lettering, it will catch light on one surface whilst contrasting it richly on the other and won’t tarnish outside in the manner that other materials will. The gold I use is so thin you have to hold your breath whilst working with it and can only be picked up by using static electricity on a brush tip. Gold will even throw a light reflection onto cardboard as in the pic below.
It was an honour to be entrusted to make these three pieces for St Nicholas & St Cyriac, and a great honour that they point you in the direction of something truly special, if you happen to see the signs in South Poole, do follow them and go and see that screen……