Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wood Carving - The Tibetan Dragon Bed

When I started my artist carreer so many years ago I was very uncertain of myself as probably most people  feel when they start with something new in life. What seems to be so important at the beginning to consider becomes totally meaningless during the progress - the definition of what one IS - a real artist or only an artisan and craftsperson. Yes - this discussion is actually held again and again.

All those discussions I have participated in with real people and which cost so much wasted energy about the ifs and whens and overalls were, what I just said, wasted energy. The classification of certain works and people into something like a caste system (as in India) is so very much off the real sense that lies behind everything you do – learning. So why not talk about all the steps it took to make me what I am. There is nothing to hide. And perhaps it may help someone else who has difficulties to see the achievements in her/his own life.
People who sniff at a style, a medium or simply at a person who does not follow the trends, simply miss something very important: authenticity and soul. And this is all I want to say about this now. Today I am what I am - a professional artist, an artisan and a craftsperson and I am totally proud of it.

How I got into wood carving had some practical aspect simply - I needed a sturdy desk but did not have the money to buy a new one, especially not one custom made. So I started with construction plans and went ahead (a different story to tell). The next project was soon to arrive - a new bed. The old one was more than ready to go - but what to do now?

So I let the juices of my inspiration flow and went to design something completely new and different from everything I had done so far. What about a Tibetan/Nepalese dragon bed? I have always been fascinated by Tibetan and Nepalese Tankhas (mostly religious silk scroll paintings mounted on brocade) with vivid images of gods, demons and the whole pantheon of the Buddhist world.

The form of the head piece should be simple, the motif 2 dragons – which are a lucky symbol in all Asian countries. I love dragons. And so I decided to carve 2 facing dragons on this head piece of the bed together with some ornaments and some magic signs for long life, safety and peace etc.:

I decided to use the same wood that I used for the desk. It was heavy but very solid and sturdy and exactly the right material to carry the carvings I had in my mind. Also I wanted to design the headpiece in an open work as you can see in the photos. This was only possible with a laminated wood (not plywood but at least 11 layers of wood glued upon one another). The open pattern was sawed with a scroll saw.

In order to give the headpiece more depth I constructed a kind of box shape - which you can see in the image below - this did not add much weight but stability to the open work.


All other parts were supposed to be very low so that the whole was only a kind of frame for the tatamis and the futon (as you can see in the photos below).
Additionally I wanted the complete construction to be de-mountable again for very practical reasons. The tatamis were supposed to lie on a simple wooden panel exactly fitting the size of the 2 tatamis. The 3 side pieces were connected by simple brass hinges.

The working process was simple: first the drawing was transferred to the wood, then the bas-relief carved with an electric chisel. Finally the wood was sanded, varnished, treated with a finish on the basis of beeswax and polished with pure beeswax in order to achieve a velvety shimmer and a very smooth surface.

In order to connect head piece, the side pieces and the foot piece I mounted brass hinges. This way the whole bed could be taken apart in a couple of seconds.

In the image above you can see the detailed relief carvings, the stylized flower elements that are repeated in the sidepieces.


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