Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Love Reliquary Complete!

I now consider my Love Reliquary complete. Last summer I took part in my first arts festival and the variety of work on show plus a BBC documentary about medieval reliquaries inspired me to make my own reliquary. I wanted to do so as much for the technical challenge as anything else; I knew it would be a learning experience.

The doors caused the greatest problem at first. How to make a very symmetrical arch that matched exactly. There were many options and I did lots of experiments but in the end settled on plaster arches reinforced with epoxy casting resin. The inner edges were covered with veneer and I had to work out how to flatten that too. The side strips (which you can't really see) are aluminium which I decorated with shellac ink and then etched using copper sulphate. Everything was stuck together. Then came the front doors...

They involved plaster sheets, very delicate pieces and caused me the greatest hardship! So often did the plaster leak but in the end I worked out how to make a mould using glass parts and aluminium struts and latex to plug any gaps. After lots of failures I managed to cast a few large sheets that were smooth as glass on both sides. Once dry those had more plaster on top and air dried clay. They were then reinforced with epoxy, carved and stuck onto the doors. Then the cabinet was varnished

The last stage was the gilding and that was probably the most difficult. There are over 100 sheets of 24ct gold on there. Gilding requires a lot of skill. The size (the "glue", that is) has to have just the right level of tack or it won't dry, and handling gold leaf isn't easy. In the end I had to apply two layers, which covered the object well but left the surface wrinkled, unfortunately obscuring many fine details like the etched decoration and the poem on the front. If I had a second chance I'd do this part better.

The paintings were the easiest part for me, and were on panels cut to fit the cabinet. The last object was the silver jewel object which is held in place with a magnet. Here are some close-ups...

The object tells the story of a relationship from start to finish. The left panel is the man as an angel. The right is the woman as Rapunzel in her tower (the heart shaped hole reveals the jewel inside). The central panel shows the lovers, cracked and overgrown like a memory, but still beautiful and eternal. The object is then love preserved, an emotional relic.

I'd like to make this again, or something like it. I know that if I made another it would come out better. Such is the way with skills. Overall this took about 6 months to make. It's about 30x50cm and weighs a lot! I've made a custom stand for it, and will have to make a case for transportation. What to do with it now? I've not decided. I'll enter it into a competition as a sculpture, I imagine. For now I'm focused on the next job; plans for the ordinary paintings of 2012.

There is more information about the paintings in the gallery section of my website, and some more pictures of the cabinet in the sculpture section.

7 comments :

John Salmon said...

Brilliant achievement Mark. It looks fantastic and I'm sure really needs to be seen in person.

I remember only too well the angst and problems this caused you. It has turned out superbly though.

Andrew Williams said...

It's been a long time in the making - but definitely worth the wait!

-Don said...

You suffered through some major obstacles and came out with a beautiful piece of art. I would love to see this in person, because I know the photos just can't do something so complex the justice it deserves. Congratulations on a job well done!

-Don

Eva said...

Wow! This is absolutely wonderful. Along with being an amazing painter, your craftsmanship is fantastic. I tired to use gold leaf a few times and it is a challenge. It appears that you mastered it. Bravo!

Mark Sheeky said...

Thanks Eva. It's tricky thing that gold. I wouldn't say I've mastered it by any stretch but it's at least covered in gold without staying sticky afterwards!

Sharon Wright said...

Fabulous work, makes me wonder why I content myself with just painting! I am awed!

Mark Sheeky said...

Thanks Sharon, I'm pleased I've inspired someone :) I'm sure you're inspired by new things... I became inspired by new techniques to the point where painting wasn't enough... but there are times where I just ache to quietly paint!