Sunday, 31 January 2016

Here's a Health to the Lovers

The influences behind our Celtic 'Lovers' wall plaque | Justbod

A short 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...

Celtic Lovers hand sculpted metal & oak plaque by bod

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 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 I 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 oustdie of which was in the shape of an 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 link to the idea of infinite love and the infinite nature of personal connection.

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 with a powerful attraction 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 band The Chieftains, who included the song on their 1989 album: 'A Chieftains Celebration.' The 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

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

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

Celtic Lovers Bronze & Oak Wall Plaque
And now in bronze

I really enjoyed originating and making this piece, in all its different versions. 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

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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:


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