Sunday, September 13, 2015

A New Carving Commission

When I was young, my favourite style of ornament was the flamboyant rococo style of the 18th century. All the swirls, tendrils, and leaves were the epitome of carving perfection in my juvenile mind. When I studied interior design in college, it was at times quite depressing to me, because everything my instructors wanted me to do was so modern and plain; the complete opposite of what I wanted to create. Although my passions have since shifted much more toward the medieval period, (I also liked the Middle Ages, even when I thought rococo was the perfect art form) I have always maintained my love for the style of Louis XIV and XV, and the forms of decoration that were produced in Germany and Italy after that taste. I never expected, after coming to America, however, to land a job carving this type of work, as most Americans tend to have much more conservative tastes, but my fortunes took a lucky turn this summer, and now I am doing just that; carving rococo ornament.

My design for one of the wall borders which I will be carving

A run of Louis XV style border moulding for a passageway;
I will be producing 13 'panels' like this

The job is to produce some carved appliques and mouldings to create bordered panels for the walls of the passageway of my clients house in Bethesda, Maryland. There will be 10 of the narrow panels and 3 of the wide ones. It is all to be painted in an antique white with antique gold accent to it.

One of two niches and the entryway arch to the foyer

In addition, there are two niches and an arched entryway which also need my carving skills to bring them to life; I will be producing these applied column and arch panel mouldings as well.

One element of the design drawn out life size, and then glued onto the timber

The timber is then re-sawn, the shape cut out, and re-glued to the
remaining part of the timber. This gives a means of holding the piece
whilst carving it.
In doing the first piece, I was not smart enough to think about turning it over
and tracing the outline on the timber to produce the mirror image of the part,
but I was for this piece. Most of the design is symmetrical and therefore
has matching left and right components.

Since all of this moulding is to be painted, I am using linden wood; it is a rather boring, nondescript looking wood, but has been used for painted and gilded carving work for millennia. Below is the first piece I did; it is the lower centre segment for one of the narrow panels. I had never carved this wood before, and after carving so much cherry, walnut, and my latest elm and hickory, I really had to ease off on the accelerator when it came to carving this stuff. I can see why people such as Tilman Riemenschneider and Gringling Gibons liked to carve with it, but the funny thing is, it will take some adjusting to, for me to be able to carve it well.

The first segment finished, only ...heck, it is too early to even think about
counting how many more are left to do.

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