Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010





wood matching words

December 31, 2010

Most lettercarvers and calligraphers probably “collect” words, poems, parts of poems etc waiting for the the right time make them part of a piece of work.

There is a poem by the American poet Mary Mackey “The Kama Sutra of Kindness Position No 2” which contains the beautiful words   love comes from years of breathing, skin to skin, tangled in each other’s dreams.     Mary gave me permission to use these words using an amazing hawthorn branch which grew in a spiral form which had begun to split. I was able to separate the two parts to form a matching pair and carved the lettering on inside and out.  Exhibited at the SLA Stacy Marks exhibition in 2007.
This is how it was presented for the exhibition but I now present it in a different way, so the the two parts can be handled (difficult in an exhibition situation).  I also have a section of the trunk of this tree with the same spiral, which has separated even more perfectly, probably to be carved with the same words but in a different way.


December 31, 2010

I like to explore how letters and wood can represent information and ideas in different ways. Sometimes things happen by chance.
An ongoing project is to represent the first 5 bars of  Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I made a start on this but realised that my approach wasn’t working.   I had carved twelve  letter “G”s on some oak.    In order to reuse the wood, I bandsawed off the face leaving me with a thin sheet of perforated “G”s, of differing sizes, destined for the rubbish bin.   Later in the day I was listening to Radio 4 – a program about numbers talking about the value of the strength of the gravitational force G and how this particular value is so significant and has allowed life to happen on this planet.
At the time I was producing work for an SLA exhibition at the Stacy Marks gallery in Perthshire, hence “Perfectly Tuned For Life” – which sold !




Leven Cut Bridge handrail

December 30, 2010

This project was commissioned by an organisation called TRACKS who are responsible for the cycling path around Loch Leven. They wanted to convey the history of the changes to the loch back in the 19C, in an interesting way.   Michael Hamish Glen wrote the words and I collaborated with Susie Leiper on the lettering. Originally oiled, the oak is now weathering to a nice grey.

languid LEVEN lOCH lowered for working water

where I work

December 30, 2010

One of the reasons I enjoy lettercarving is that one can choose to work almost entirely with hand tools and, as I work at home, the project often determines where I work.

Holding the work is often a challenge as in the image below.  See images of recent work for the finished piece.

Some of the oak handrails for the Loch Leven job were 5m long and were carved in the front room,  coming in through the ground floor window.

The storytellers chair required 2 Workmate benches and the use of the front room again.

Working on site can be a challenge but also a great pleasure. I spent 4 days on my knees carving a poem on the top rail of this oak bench for the Falkland Centre for Stewardship. The sound of running water and the rustling of leaves.

On this job, the sound of buzzards and distant chainsaws (and rain drops)

Sometimes I take my tools on holiday.

One of the advantages of lettercarving is that the carving work doesn’t produce dust and that relatively little material is removed. For work preparation and finishing there is a wonderful new abrasive product by Abranet which allows dust extracted hand sanding – much appreciated now that I have asthma after years in dusty workshops (and nearly 30 years of cycling in the city)

In the summer I sometimes work outside.


Some lettering commissions since Oct 2008

December 29, 2010


For an exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Jan 2009, with calligraphy by Susie Leiper carved on the wide rim of an African hardwood bowl.

For the Wych Elm exhibition at the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.   The elm board was on the top of the pile whilst air drying and weathered to a beautiful grey.  I retained this for the shape of the tree, which was in the shape of the grain.  The lettering was from an idea by my mentor Martin Wenham.

A house sign in unfinished oak.

Another sign for a house in Italy – the abbreviated form of Casa Giovanna


A Bengali quotation, part of the same commission.

The above two works were commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival for a quiet garden at Dalry Primary School.  A collaboration with the calligrapher Susie Leiper.

A commemorative bowl for the Borders Forest Trust.

My first plaque for a royal opening, for a new building near Gartocharn.  Another collaboration with Susie Leiper.

A celebration of 50 years of marriage  for two friends who have spent much of their time outdoors, whether gardening, working, walking or just enjoying.     A John Muir quotation.

A memory marker in oak for a woodland burial, with carved letters on all four sides.

Finally, my largest commission so far.  I was honoured by being asked to carve a memorial panel for the Loretto School Chapel.  This chapel contains a considerable amount of work of the highest quality, commemorating staff and pupils who died in the 1st World War.  The lettering on my panel is both painted and gilded.