UK Handmade portfolio member bod of Justbod talks about the influences, inspirations and ideas behind his original design: 'Lovers,' and the process behind making it into a hand-sculpted metal and oak wall plaque.
This has been one of my favourite pieces to make so far.
I have long wanted to make a 'romantic' piece with a couple as the theme, and started work on this early in January with the idea of creating something in time for Valentine's Day. As ever, the process took far longer than anticipated!
The Influences & Inspirations
The starting point was the insular art of the illuminated manuscripts, particularly the Book of Kells, which has several illustrations depicting entwined men pulling each other’s beards! Apparently, although there are several theories, no one knows exactly what this symbolises. It's possible that it has its roots in Islamic Art, where a beard symbolises the male, and beard pulling, conflict.
Obviously this wasn't the mood I was trying to convey, but the entwined men was a good point to start and formed the basis for my early sketches, which evolved to be a couple, drinking from each other’s cups.
'Cross-cupped wine' (aka crossed glass drinking, crossed arm drinking) is a tradition in China in the bridal suite before consummating, and the idea of crossing arms to drink is quite universal. However, I adapted this as I liked the idea of them drinking from each other's cup, as it seemed even more romantic.
At this point I had to start thinking about the shape of the plaque. I didn't want something as obvious as a heart, but still wanted something similar that evoked the same feeling-tone.
Last year I created a piece called 'From Time to Time' the outside of which was in the shape of the mathematical symbol for infinity – the ‘lemniscate’ or Infinity loop (basically a figure of eight on its side.) I loved the shape made by the inside of this loop, and that became the basis for the plaque. Quite coincidental, as the concept of infinity is also a beautiful one as far as love and lovers are concerned.
The shape of the plaque decided, this then defined my next set of sketches, where I also added two Celtic knotwork triple knots. The symbology of 'Celtic' symbols is not well known, but much speculated upon, however, quite universal is the concept of the knot symbolising eternity, another good theme for the piece.
The cups, or chalices at the bottom of the design continue the drinking and romantic themes, and they are also a reference to the Tarot and the suit of Cups. The element of the cups is water, and the meanings of the cards include issues of emotion, love, relationships and matters of the heart. The suit of hearts in our modern day playing cards were derived from the suit of cups in tarot.
The two of cups shows the power when two come together, and the card is usually portrayed with a couple staring into each other’s eyes, obviously powerfully attracted to one another.
The final influence, although it was more of a persistent thought, was the traditional Irish song 'Here's a health to the company' - made most famous by The Chieftains who included the song on their 1989 album A Chieftains Celebration. This song was going around in my head a lot of the time that I was working on the plaque.
This is one of the verses:
"Here's a health to the wee lass that I love so well
For style and for beauty there's none can excel
There's a smile on her countenance as she sits upon my knee
There is no man in this wide world as happy as me"
Ah, the transformative power of love!
Creating the Plaque
After finishing the preliminary sketches, I then translated them as closely as possible into metal, and created an oak plaque to hold them. This is quite an involved process.
The oak plaque itself needed four templates of differing sizes making, to create the desired shape and effect, each one of which had to be relationally accurate. The inlay, profiles and shape of the plaques are created with a hand-held router, and each plaque is then hand sanded and polished.
The metal inserts are individually created from a master design by shaping, smoothing and bending the sheet metal by hand to create the finished design, which is then enhanced by adding a black, background finish.
All the processes are done by me by hand, each plaque taking several hours to complete.
I really enjoyed originating and making this piece and I hope it gives you at least half as much pleasure as it has given me!
Thanks for reading!
‘Lovers’ is currently available to buy from the main website www.justbod.co.uk.
Or to browse bod’s other available work click here.
The Chieftains, 'Here's a health to the company'.
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