Thursday, 31 December 2009

Kate's Crow - the design

My sister, Kate, has a big birthday coming up in Spring 2011, and has asked me to make something for it. This might seem like a long way off, but there's a bit of work in what I'm going to do, plus it's to be part of a fire screen, which will also have to be made, so best to allow plenty of time.

Kate's asked for something similar to the Moon picture I mentioned last time, but with a crow rather than a hare.

Way back in our teenage years, two LPs we listened to a lot were Phantasmagoria by The Damned and The Raven by The Stranglers.

I knew there was a reason I'd kept my old vinyl records! The picture of the raven is pretty easy to spot, but if you look closely at the other cover, there's a small pink silhouette of a bird in the bottom right corner. I'm not sure what it is, to be honest, but it could be a crow; whatever it is, I still like the moody imagery on both album covers, and would like to capture something of that atmosphere in this piece.

Similar to Moon, there is a background of Celtic spirals forming a stylised moon design. A silhouette of a crow is overlaid on this, though is this case it's going to remain as a silhouette, with only the eye within the outline. Again, it'll all be worked in Gütermann no. 41 silver metallic thread, on a silk matka background, but this time in black.

This is rather larger than Moon, so needed a new spiral background design. I drew a circle 26cm (a little over 10") in diameter, then drew a basic plan of circles inside it.

I'm not much of a sketcher - I'm always happiest drawing things with a ruler, protractor and a compass!

I then needed to add the spiral designs themselves. Two very useful sources of both inspiration and the mechanics of drawing the spirals are Celtic design: spiral patterns by Aidan Meehan and Celtic art: the methods of construction by George Bain. Both are excellent on the technicalities, though at one rather tricky point, Mr Bain does rather throw in the towel and says: "The actual completion must be by hand and eye". Gee, thanks George! Still, he's right - I got fed up trying to work out the geometry, and other than the construction lines and the larger circles, I drew everything else freehand.

This rather scruffy drawing still shows the working out, as it were, but I'll lose that in the final version.

Working from photographs, I also drew up the crow outline; here they are together:

The crow's too small here and needs to be blown up a bit, but that's what scanners and printers are for!

The final stage was done on tracing paper: I traced the crow first, overlaid that on the spiral drawing, and traced that other than the bits falling within the crow outline.

And so we have the final design:

That should keep me busy for a while!


  1. Your sister is going to be one VERY LUCKY girl. WOW.

    Well, I stopped by for wishing you a great start of 2010 and hope that all your wishes may come true in the new year.

  2. I knew there was a reason I liked you! You used to listen to The Damned!
    (fond memories)

    Great design! I shall be following with the utmost of interest. And you're right (me with my illuminator's hat on here) about those being the best books. Interestingly, George's son also has a book out on Celtic Geometric Construction and he uses slightly different methods.

  3. I still listen to The Damned now! 'Phantasmagoria' went from vinyl to CD and is now on my iPod, while 'Eloise' is still one of my favourite tracks. Fond memories indeed.

    I'd seen Mr Bain Jnr's book, but I'm afraid I just assumed it was a rehash of his dad's and didn't look any further. Now I know better, I should get hold of a copy and compare their approaches. Thanks for the tip!