Sunday, 31 January 2016

Here's a Health to the Lovers

Celtic Lovers hand sculpted metal & oak plaque by bod

A wee article about the influences, inspirations and ideas behind bod's orginal 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 others cups.

Celtic Lovers wall plaque
Visit our Lovers page
'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.

The mathematical symbol for infinity
The mathematical symbol for infinity (aka lemniscate)

Last year I created a piece called 'From Time to Time' the outside of which was in the shape of the Infinity loop. 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, to which I 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. 

Two of Cups Rider-Waite Tarot deck 1909
Two of Cups Rider-Waite Tarot deck 1909

The two of cups shows the power when two come together, and the card is usually portrayed with a couple staring into each others 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 plaque itself needed four templates of differing sizes making, to create the desired shape and effect, each 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

Every process is done by me, by hand, with several hours of work involved in the creation of each individual plaque.

Celtic lovers wall plaque in copper & oak
Also available in hand-sculpted copper

Celtic Lovers Bronze & Oak Wall Plaque
And now in bronze

I really enjoyed originating and making this piece, I hope it gives you at least half as much pleasure as it has given me!

Thanks for reading!

Justbod Team

Artwork, carvings and sculptures
~ inspired by history and nature ~

You also might be interested in:

  A magical wolf, a riddle of faces, a Celtic horse & the 'Battle Crow' - bod's ancient British Coins


Ancient bog oak & a Dark Guardian

For updates on new products, articles & offers:  


Sources and further information:

Beard Pullers: 

Book of Kells:

Tarot & The Suit of Cups: 

Infinity Symbol: 

Cross Cupped Wine:

Triple Knot:

Here's a Health To The Company:


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Fossil Hunting & the Snakestones of Whitby

Fossil Hunting & the Snakestones of Whitby

The Yorkshire Coast, sometimes known as the Fossil Coast, the Jurassic Yorkshire Coast or, Dinosaur Coast, is the second most popular location in the country for fossil hunting. One of the most popular locations on this coast is the beautiful and historic seaside port of Whitby, North Yorkshire, home of the snakestones....

As a young child I once went on an outdoor pursuit holiday to the North York Moors. As part of the holiday, we spent a day hunting for fossils around the cliffs, and on the beaches around Whitby. I loved it, finding all sorts of fossilised ancient creatures that, to me, were the most amazing treasure.
As an added bonus, in the last few moments, I also found a lump of Whitby Jet - a type of fossilised tree, similar to the modern day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree. The finest, and most intensely black jet, is found around Whitby, and has been prized for thousands of years as a commodity to carve into exquisite jewellery and ornaments, particularly popular in Victorian times through the patronage of Queen Victoria after she started wearing jet jewellery in remembrance of her beloved Albert, who died in 1851.

Whitby Harbour Mouth
The entrance to Whitby from the sea. Cliffs to the left of the picture hold many treasures...

Ammonite impression in rock at Whitby
Ammonite impression in a rock near Whitby

The experiences that I gained from this day, were just a few of many that embedded in me a great love that I still have: that of searching and hunting for treasures in the landscape. I find it almost impossible to walk anywhere in the great outdoors without a constantly scanning eye!

Washed up tree trunk on beach near Whitby
Sadly, some 'treasures' are too large to take home!

Ammonite seating in Whitby town
Ammonite seating in Whitby town

Whitby is a premier destination for fossil hunters, and it is possible for anyone to find something, even without any equipment or knowledge, simply by spending some time searching amongst the rocks, and on the beaches. The most common finds are ammonites which are abundant, although visit Whitby Museum's Fossils & Geology section to see just what can be found.

Whitby Abbey from Pannett Park
Whitby Abbey from Pannett Park, where the Museum is located

A replica of a Gharial crocodile, in Pannett Park Whitby
  A replica of a Gharial crocodile, in Pannett Park: the earliest example of a complete marine crocodile: found in 1824 at Saltwick near Whitby.

Nowadays, the study of fossils is part of the science of paleontology, and much is known about them. This was not always the case, and, in times gone by, people created many different explanations for fossil finds. Tales were told to explain these curious oddities, and, in Whitby, where ammonites regularly turned up on the beach, it was believed the area had once been infested with snakes, until St Hilda, the Saxon Abbess of Whitby, turned them into stones through diligent prayer.

St Hilda memorial Whitby By Wilson44691 [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons
St Hilda memorial Whitby
By Wilson44691 [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Traders in Whitby saw an opportunity and began carving snakes heads into the end of the fossilised ammonites and selling them - these became known as Whitby Snakestones.

Snakestone Ammonite: Photo credit James St John under Creative Commons Wikimedia

I still search for fossils whenever I visit Whitby. I am not a fossil enthusiast or expert, but I still love finding something that fires my imagination with its impossible age. The ancient creatures that I find also help to expand my mind and perceptions, providing as they do, the tangible evidence that the world was not always as I see it now, and that change is one of the immutable certainities of life.

Fossils sculpted wall plaque by Justbod

 'Ammonite' & 'Fossils' are two pieces I created to honour those many delightful hours I've spent (and will continue to spend,) poking around under stones with the wind in my hair and the smell of sea salt in my nostrils. Very many, happy hours!

Ammonite sculpted wall plaque from Justbod

 Both plaques are comprised of hand-shaped metal inlaid into handcrafted 16 cm square oak frames. Every stage of the process was done by me, by hand.

Pop over to our main shop/website to find them.

If you haven't already visited Whitby, and you get the chance, please do take it!

Thanks for reading!

Justbod Team 

~ Justbod ~

Artwork, carvings and sculptures
~ inspired by history and nature ~

Celtic, Viking & Mythical Wall Plaques from Justbod

Other articles you might also be interested in:

  A Brief History of Whitby Abbey

A Tale of Two Lovers, and a Bridge


Tree Of Life Wall Plaque from Justbod
Tree Of Life

For regular updates on new products, articles & offers:  


Sources and further information:

Whitby Jet: Wikipedia
More About Whitby Jet: W.Hamond of Whitby
Whitby Museum: Fossils & Geology of Whitby
Hilda of Whitby: Wikipedia
Whitby Snakestones: A Natural History of Britain