Above is a photo of the completed carving for the 1998 Form plaque. The photos below show details of the finished carving:
The center of the carving features the State House dome with the initials MLK in the tympanum. This represents the march from SPS to the State House on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (which was then called Civil Rights Day) to encourage the addition of MLK’s name to the New Hampshire State Holiday.
In the upper right corner features an open book with the initials CBA to represent the beginning of the Right Reverend Dr. Craig Barry Anderson’s term as Eleventh Rector of St. Paul’s School.
The upper left corner shows a trophy with the Roman numerals IV representing the four sports teams that won New England championships that school year – field hockey, wrestling, boys’ crew, and girls’ crew.
In the lower center portion of the plaque there is a carving of a shield featuring an element from the coat-of-arms from the Henley-on-Thames Town Hall. This represents the boy’s and girl’s crew teams trip to the Henley Regatta – the girls’ team winning the Peabody Cup.
The lower left and right sides of the plaque feature four carved feathers – each representing one of the Quad dorms that were renovated and re-dedicated on October 3, 1997. Each of the dorms has a stone carving representing a different bird – an owl for Manville, a pelican for Simpson, a rooster for Brewster, and an eagle for Ford – feathers are shown from each kind of bird.
Once the carving has been sealed with a linseed oil finish it will be ready for the painting process to begin.Check back in a few weeks for a sneak peek photo of the finished plaque.
The design stage is complete for the 1998 Form plaque. I worked with a representative of the Form of 1998 to come up with a list of events, and the following design elements were chosen:
1998 Form Plaque Design Elements
Plaque designs traditionally incorporate one world news event and three to five School events.
- Center: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – the march from SPS to State House to encourage the addition of MLK’s name to the State Holiday. This is shown as the State House dome with the initials MLK in the tympanum.
- Upper right: An open book with the initials CBA to represent the beginning of the Right Reverend Dr. Craig Barry Anderson term as Eleventh Rector of St. Paul’s School.
- Upper left: A trophy with the Roman numerals IV representing the four sports teams that won New England championships that school year – Field Hockey, Wrestling, Boys’ Crew, and Girls’ Crew.
- Lower center: A shield featuring an element from the coat-of-arms from the Henley-on-Thames Town Hall representing that the boy’s and girl’s crew teams went to the Henley Regatta – the girls’ team winning the Peabody cup.
- Lower left and right: Four feathers represent each of the Quad dorms that were renovated and re-dedicated on October 3, 1997. Each of the dorms has a stone carving representing a different bird – an owl for Manville, a pelican for Simpson, a rooster for Brewster, and an eagle for Ford – so feathers are shown from each kind of bird.
I will begin working on carving the plaque next and will post images of the carving as the work progresses.
Here is a photograph of the completed plaque for the Form of 2006. It is being dedicated on June 2, 2012 and hangs in the Middle Dining Hall of Coit (The Upper) above the panels that contain the names of all the members of the Form of 2006. Below the photo is the description of the elements incorporated in the plaque design.
The central motif to the plaque is an adaptation of the SPS Sesquicentennial logo with St. Paul in the center surrounded by the four shields depicted in the logo -pelican, book, sword, and Episcopal shield. A scroll ties them together horizontally in the center with the dates: 1856 – 2006. In the upper left of the plaque is an open book with the initials WRM which represents the beginning of Twelfth Rector William R. Matthews’ Rectorship. The book symbolizes the Rural Record, a journal of day-to-day life at SPS that was kept from 1857 up into the early 20th century. The upper right corner of the plaque is a carving of the spiral of the storm of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast just prior to the beginning of the School year. The bottom corners of the plaque are carved with spiral waves representing the damaging waters of the flood in May of 2006 that resulted in the School closing three weeks early.
The carving stage is now complete for the Form of 2006 plaque. Here are a few photos showing the finished carving:
In the center is St. Paul himself, with the elements of the School shield separated around him. The upper left corner has the open book, commemorating the beginning of Mr. Matthews’ tenure as Rector. The spiral form in the upper right represents Hurricane Katrina. The Sesquicentennial dates are shown in pencil on the ribbon behind St. Paul and will be painted in as part of the finish.
The detail above shows one of the waves created to represent the Mother’s Day flood of 2006. The Episcopal shield appears at the base as part of the Sesquicentennial logo.
The next stage of the process involves sealing the wood and adding the painted finish.
From here forward the project will go undercover: The completed plaque – with painted finish and mounted in its frame – will be kept a secret until it can be unveiled during the 2012 Anniversary Weekend celebration in June of 2012. Details to follow as we get closer to the date.
I will now begin working on the 2001 and 1996 plaques, with plans to complete them both in time for Anniversary 2012. Progress on those plaques will be documented here as with the 2006 plaque, so check back often to see how things are progressing.
On October 1st during the SPS Alumni Volunteer Weekend I set up a display of the progress on the plaque project. The display was in the Upper Dining Hall and took place during the Saturday luncheon.
I displayed the completed carving for the 2011 Form Plaque (below, center) and the progress of the 2006 Form plaque, shown on the right. To the left is a rough carving blank – the form of the basswood when I start the carving process. On display in the front of the plaques in this photo is the design drawing for the 2011 plaque, and my design sketchbook open to the page of the 2/3rd scale concept drawing.
The second half of the display featured other examples of my carving work, including a carved bear with a Celtic knot motif, the SPS pelican shield, and the Spanish cedar carving in progress of a pelican on her nest.
The luncheon event provided me with the opportunity to meet a number of representatives from the Forms in need of plaques and to introduce them to the process. I had a great time talking with everyone and answering questions about Form plaques past, present, and future.
This year I will work with the Student Council officers from the Form of 2012 to design and carve their plaque and to continue the Form plaue project forward. Additionally, there are twenty years of Form plaques that have not been carved preceding the recently completed 2011 plaque. The first of the missing plaques to be carved is for the Form of 2006, and following that will be the Form of 1996 plaque.
Four design elements were chosen by representatives from the Form of 2006 to be incorporated into their Form plaque design: The Sesquicentennial, the Mother’s Day flood, the beginning of Bill Matthews’s Rectorship, and Hurricane Katrina. The final design sketch is shown below:
Here is a description of the design elements:
- Central Motif: I have adapted the SPS Sesquicentennial logo design with St. Paul in the center surrounded by the four shields depicted in the logo (pelican, book, sword, Episcopal shield). A scroll ties them together horizontally in the center with the dates: 1856 – 2006.
- Upper Left: The book symbol represents the Rural Record, a diary of day-to-day School life that was kept from 1857 into the early twentieth century. William Matthews’s initials are incorporated on the pages of the open book, symbolizing the beginning of his Rectorship and representing the recording of the event of the change in leadership into School history.
- Upper Right: The satellite view of the spiral of the storm – representing Hurricane Katrina
- Lower Left and Right: The flood waters of the Mother’s Day flood of 2006
Following is a series of photos documenting the beginning carving process:
This first photo shows the plaque after the background level has be cleaned out using a router. You can still see the rough edges that are left from the router bit.
This view shows the background after it has been cleaned up. The edges between the elements are trimmed closely using a variety of shapes of carving tools and the background levels have been further defined. The spiral shape of the Hurricane Katrina symbol has been added.
In this picture the scrolls are beginning to take shape, and the spirals of the water element are starting to emerge. The shield shapes have been brought down to their levels and are ready to have the emblems carved into them.
There will be more photos to follow as I progress – stay tuned!
As part of the preparation for making the plaque for the Form of 2011 I have created a small carving featuring the pelican emblem from the SPS shield. My plan for the 2011 plaque is to do a painted finish on the carving, and I wanted to have an example to show students so that they would have an easier time imagining how their design ideas will translate into the finished product. It is necessary to wait until the Sixth Form year is complete before finalizing the design for the Form of 2011 plaque, to be sure to allow for any significant events to occur right up through graduation. For this reason, most of the design process and all of the carving will be done after the students have graduated. This small plaque will serve as a visual representative of the process that I will be completing after the Form of 2011 graduates.
Over the past few weeks I designed the pelican shield plaque and completed the carving. My initial idea for the shield design came from the logo that was designed for the School’s 150th anniversary in 2006. This logo deconstructs the School shield, pulling each element into its own individual shield – the book, the crossed swords, and the pelican. I started with the idea of the pelican symbol alone on the shield (see the small shield emblem at the top of the cross in the logo at the left) and developed the design, adapting the pelican symbol to more closely reflect its origins in medieval bestiaries. Once completed the design was transferred onto the wood – American basswood – the same type of wood I will use to create the 2011 plaque. I cut the shape of the shield out using a scroll saw, and filed the edges smooth. The carving was done by hand using a variety sizes and styles of carving tools – starting out with larger profiles and working down to very small ones for the fine details.
The painted finish is done by building up multiple layers of paint and then adding translucent layers of colors over these base colors. This glazing effect adds richness to the base colors and accents the depth of the relief of the carving, making the imagery easier to ‘read’ from a distance. Although this plaque has a very simple color scheme, following the original design of the School shield, the form plaques will be painted in a full color range to accent and enhance the design of the carving.
The next stage in the carving process involves roughing out the pattern and removing the larger areas of wood so that the form begins to emerge. In this photo you can see that the basic shape of the head and neck are in place, and I have begun to work on the curve of the wing. A few of the feathers leading from the body into the wing have been roughed out to help define the flow of the transition into the curve of the wing.
In this image you can see the rough shape of the nest and the begining of the outline of the pelican chicks. The opposite wing still need to be roughed out, and once I have the inside curve of both wings completed I will work from the back to finish giving the wings their shape.
Roughing out is usually done with larger carving tool profiles using a mallet. I started with large gouges to remove the greatest portion of the wood, and then work down to smaller profiles to smooth it to the finished rough form. The roughing out stage can be a little awkward as you transition from the clean outline of the pattern to the rough form of the carving. It can be hard to resist the urge to begin refining areas as you get them to a good roughed out point, but it is important to rough the entire form out to the same degree before beginning on the detail.
As I mentioned earlier, this particular piece of wood came from a selection of wood that has been stored in barns at SPS going as far back as the early years of the 20th century. Although it is impossible to know how long this piece of wood has been at the school, I did find out a little more information about it. After an informative tour of the boat house and the workshop, Mr. Bailey (who maintains and restores the crew boats at SPS) showed me the collection of wood stored there for use in repairing and restoring the crew boats. This wood is a type of mahogany called Spanish cedar. This is a deceptive name, since it isn’t from Spain, and it isn’t a type of cedar, but this resinous wood has a wonderful aroma, and is highly resistant to rotting in water. Spanish cedar has been long used to make cigar boxes and for the lining of humidors, as well as for making boats. So the piece of Spanish cedar I am using for this carving was very likely purchased by the school at some point for use in building and repairing the rowing boats – a tradition at SPS that goes back to the 1870s.
The first step in the carving process is creating a pattern of the carving design. The photo below shows the design adapted from the original stone carving in the first Carving Process post. I used a photograph that I took of the pelican carving from the SPS cemetery as a reference and drew the design to fit the size of the piece of mahogany I selected for the carving. The pattern is first roughly sketched and then a finished drawing is done on graph paper at full size.
A photocopy of the pattern, shown at the very bottom of the photo, is used to transfer the design onto the wood. I trace the outline of the pattern onto the wood and then use graphite paper to add the interior details. I re-draw the design on the wood with a soft dark pencil. This lovely piece of mahogany is ready to be cut out using a scroll saw.
The photo below shows the piece after carefully cutting the outline shape using the scroll saw. Here I am using a hand-held router to rough out the background area surrounding the pelican’s head. This will clear the wood out from that background area and leave it the same depth, which simplifies the roughing out process greatly.
The wonderful thing about working with mahogany is the smell – cutting, sanding and carving the wood gives off a rich spicy aroma. After the routing is finished the edges of the carving are smoothed using rasps and wood files. Then the piece is ready for the next step in the carving process: roughing out.
Historically, the Form plaques of SPS have depicted a combination of School and world events occurring during the specific Form’s senior year. When planning the Form plaque project I took into consideration that before I can begin carving the plaque, the Form of 2011 has to experience most if not all of the final year at SPS in order to choose events to have depicted on their plaque. There will be a few steps that can be taken along the way, but in the mean time I thought it would be good to document the carving process another way.
I have begun working on a carving of a pelican, the symbol of SPS. This carving is based on a motif that is carved on a decorative stone in the School cemetery (top image above). A similar carving also appears above the main entrance into the New Chapel (bottom image above), and may be more familiar to those associated with the School. I have adapted the design to work with a lovely piece of mahogany that has possibly been a part of the School since the days of the Boys’ Workshop, once located where the Hargate art center is now. I will document the process from start to finish here on the FPP blog to help give an idea of what will be involved when the time comes to carve the Form of 2011 plaque. Look for more photos of the process soon.