Martin Wenham

October 12, 2014

I would just like to mention my mentor and friend Martin Wenham.  We don’t see Martin’s work up here in Scotland as he mostly exhibits at the Goldmark Gallery in Rutland.  Last year Goldmark  produced a short film on YouTube about his work which I recommend if you want to hear more about the process of letter carving in wood and Martin’s approach to his work.

“Silent Voices”

Martin talks about lettering in a very articulate way and if you want to learn more I would also recommend the interview in Forum magazine No 23 with the editor John Neilson, available from Letter Exchange.

Martin taught lettercarving at West Dean College in Sussex for 19 yrs and we first met in on his five day course in 2003.  Through his teaching and his imaginative approach to letter design I discovered my passion for lettercarving and design in wood.


Ref Time

October 12, 2014

AYE is for what might have been or may still happen in the future.

aye but-1B

Would they really have allowed us to keep our oil and whisky revenues and remove Trident from Scotland ? The process has been described by Russian observers as “badly flawed ……..not meeting international standards”.


work from 2014

October 12, 2014

I think these words should be carved in letters 600mm high on a certain building at Gogar on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A daily reminder for bankers going to work.


Scottish cherry and hornbeam (with blue veneer)


I was asked to carve names and dates on an Angus Clyne sycamore bowl, about 600mm in diameter.  This presented quite a holding challenge.  I happened to have two large low profile Ferrari tyres in the garden which made the perfect support.    We have used old tyres for growing veg, but these were not suitable because of being unable to remove the reinforced sidewall.

bowl support

finished bowl-1B


I have carved the phrase I AM THAT I AM on several works before. This piece came about because of hearing the Radio 4 program Soul Music, where the selected song was IS THAT ALL THERE IS ? made famous by Peggy Lee.  The work combines ash and some rather strange elm as a frame.



A friend mentioned that she was teaching her daughter to meditate and knowing that I used to make mediation stools, asked me to make one.  This is my original Seiza folding stool that was exhibited in Japan at the Nagaoka Design Fair in 1994, now modified for a 9yr old. The stool is oak with a new yew insert and red veneer.

stool for nuala-B


This commission was to celebrate a 70th birthday.  I was given words and phrases and asked to use a slice of a tree.  Luckily I just happened to have this piece of elm burr.  A different way of working which was fun to explore.



I like the idea of using a single flower in a holder for celebration.

This was for a Polish friend Anna, who also calls herself Ania.


more 2013

January 27, 2014

This is another example of having an unusual piece of wood that worked well with the commission, which was to carve  Xing Yi Quan, the name of a martial art, working with the Chinese calligrapher Chi Zhang.  The piece of cleft-riven oak was given to me by the furniture maker Adrian McCurdy and had sat in my workshop for several years waiting for the right words.

Featured image


May 31, 2013


Doing design work in a shared studio didn’t work for me at Coburg House so I’m back designing and carving at home.   I miss the place and the company, but not the travelling.

This is another collaboration with Susie Leiper.     A house sign for the gate of a French property in oak and left unfinished.

le chene-2B

A sign for Michaela Huber’s workshop at Newbattle Abbey.


Propinquity – proximity, nearness in space

Another example matching words and wood


A prototype for a product and a collaboration with Bryony Knox (metalsmith) and Susie Leiper (calligrapher).

Letters carved on oak and painted, with ash and burr elm.

wee sleekit prototype 2B

Summer 2012

August 23, 2012

After working at home for 8 years, I have now joined Coburg House Arts Studios in Leith, mainly as a place to do design work and I willcontinue to carve at home. Great to be part of such a creative community.           I completed three new works for the recent open weekend.

the last lines from Chamber Music by the poet Mary Mackey




KUN – the chinese symbol from the I-Ching representing earth / woman.

book matched yew, oak, acrylic paint


I was pleased to be able to use an idea for the first time on a recent commission for a wedding gift – a hardwood bench. Woo’d, wed an’ a ‘ is the abbreviated form of a folk song from the NE of Scotland. The words tell the whole story.  The song title in full is woo’d an’ married an’ a’.


2012 is the completion date of the recent conversion of a farm building to a house in East Lothian.


May 13, 2012

This commission was to commemorate the time spent in a German organisation by three people who were leaving at the same time. Three plaques, all with the same words.

Our discussions regarding content moved from a poem to the latin gratia and finally to gratitude.  The commission presented the opportunity of combining identical and different elements with different Scottish woods : ripple sycamore, cherry, ebonised oak and burry oak. Different sized plaques but all with approximately the same area, finished with an organic oil and beeswax.




Finding a home for an exhibition piece

March 26, 2012

This piece is a collaboration with Susie Leiper, which was originally exhibited in the Wych Elm exhibition in 2009 at the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. All the works in this exhibition used elm from an old tree felled in the Botanics in 2003.
In 2011 I was approached by the minister at Morningside United Church at Holy Corner, Edinburgh with a very open brief to design a carved lettering work to make a contribution to the life of that very busy part of the Southside. The words of the poem by Glasgow poet Larry Butler felt so appropriate that I suggested we use this piece.
The work was reshaped, recarved and mounted horizontally on a metal frame that just sits in the space without fixings.


October 10, 2011

This commission in the Borders was physically quite demanding but very satisfying because the poem was so appropriate for the location, written by a man who had lived with this garden for many years.

Over the village Falls the last ray of sunset And I follow its trail forever


This Scottish oak memorial bench is in the same garden.



The other side of the bench continues the quotation


July 31, 2011

Before letter carving I used to make furniture.

This is a folding meditation stool for sitting in the Japanese seiza position. This was exhibited in Japan in the Shinanogawa Technopolis International Design Competition ’94

Ebonised quarter sawn Scottish oak and solid brass hinges.        Pyjamas from Habitat !


This is my interpretation of a traditional Go board made from a 3.5″ plank of ripple sycamore. Solid drawers still require finishing.  These “stones” are ceramic.  The best stones are made from slate and shell.

Go is a beautiful game which has been described as five games of chess on the same board.