Showing posts with label Woodcarving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Woodcarving. Show all posts

My Other Half's Art 3: More Woodcarving

 Here's some more of Alan's woodcarving. Including the Gorilla that had to travel to Kelburn Country Park by yacht. 

Some of these pieces, including the chess set, are for sale, and again, you'll find them in our Etsy store. Some of them, like the gorilla, are long gone to very good homes!

Here are a few more images of the spectacular Hapsburg/Ottoman chess set.

The reverse of the board

And some of the work that went into it!

And the Last Supper - a beautiful lockdown project

Finally, a sciapod. This was a commission for a very special anniversary, and it a copy of a Mediaeval 'bench end' from an old church. Who doesn't love a creature whose foot is so big that he can use it as an umbrella or a sunshade? 

If you want to read and see more of Alan's work, go to his website: Alan Lees Artist

My Other Half's Art 2: The Celtic Guitar

Today's artwork is an entirely hand carved celtic design electric guitar. It really is extraordinarily beautiful. You can see more of it here.

It is not strung and never has been, although stringing - and therefore playing - would be possible. But it is also a collectible, and very unusual, sculpture in wood.

It measures 105cm long by 31 cm at its widest.
It was made in the 1980s when Alan Lees was working as one of Scotland's foremost wood carvers. Examples of his work can be seen throughout Scotland, many in outdoor settings, but he also produced fine indoor pieces such as this one. As he himself says, he cannot now remember what wood this is made from, but it is an exotic hardwood that was recommended for its resonance by musician colleagues. It was also a very beautiful wood for carving.

If you would like to read and see more about Alan's work, you can go to his website 

My Other Half's Art: End of Shift

 I'm going to spend a bit of time this week showcasing some of my artist husband's beautiful work. Alan Lees is, if we want to categorise, an 'outsider artist' although sometimes he's labelled a 'folk artist'. He has had more than one snobby comment over the years, but lots of admiration too. Some of his work, including some of his extraordinary woodcarving, is available for sale in our Etsy Store, the 200 Year Old House

I won't waste too much time talking about this, or attempting the usual analysis of his intentions, but will just show you some pictures so that you can make up your own minds. He's currently working on a new, enormous and wonderful canvas, which is pretty much a companion picture to this one, titled End of Shift, one of his most popular images. The original of this sold long ago, but good prints are still available. 

End of Shift

And here's a detail:

I can't show you the new one yet, since he's downstairs working on it, even as I type this!  If you want to see more of his work, go to his website Alan Lees Artist. 

My Husband's Extraordinary Hand Carved Chess Set - and the insect bite that nearly cost him his life.


My husband, artist Alan Lees, used to be one of Scotland's foremost woodcarvers, making everything from huge outdoor carvings to gorgeous sculptural rocking horses. Then along came serious arthritis, and even more serious mobility problems. He turned his hand to painting in acrylics, which he could do while he was sitting down, and he has had some success with his work in his unique 'outsider art' style. In fact his work has been described as a cross between Lowry and Bruegel.

But that wasn't the only problem. 

Somewhere in the middle of his arthritis treatment, he was in the garden, when he was bitten on the finger by a horsefly, or cleg as they are called in Scotland. At first we thought it was just an insect bite, but within an hour or two, his finger had swollen and he was in excruciating pain. Not only that, but by bed-time he was running a temperature, shivering and shaking. An on-call doctor came out, looked scathingly at his finger and said 'I don't think you're going to die from an insect bite.'

He almost did. 

By the following morning, it was clear that he was very ill indeed. Another doctor arrived and - fortunately - called for an ambulance immediately. That small bite had turned into full blown sepsis. The speed with which all this happened was horrific. 

There followed a nightmare few months. First of all the wound was drained and he was pumped full of antibiotics. By Friday of that week, though, a consultant breezed into the ward and told him he could go home, before breezing out again. I glanced at the finger and thought that it certainly didn't look too good to me. Alan was still in a lot of pain. The junior doctor who came along to do the discharge paperwork also looked at the finger, pursed his lips, looked embarrassed but was clearly much too scared of summoning the consultant from whatever he was doing on a Friday evening. With hindsight, of course, I should have insisted. 

There followed another horrible night of pain and fever. In the morning, I contacted a friend along the road who had trained as a midwife. She came in, took one look at finger and patient and said 'A & E, right now.' You could actually see the infection tracking through his system from the finger. 

Back at the hospital, he was triaged by a hugely competent and sympathetic senior nurse, whisked through almost immediately and again attached to mega antibiotics. 

Mid chess project 

There followed six operations on the offending finger. A very fine surgeon, a specialist in hand surgery, was determined to save it, although even she almost gave up and suggested amputation. The problem was that the cleg had injected something particularly nasty into him. The hospital had to do some kind of culture to find out which antibiotics might work. Eventually, there had to be skin grafts to try to restore the finger that had been practically eaten away by the bug and really didn't want to heal. For a time, there were daily visits to the surgeon's clinic so that the special dressing could be changed and eventually, weeks and weeks later, it began to heal.

The finger is intact, and still works, albeit it's thinner than it was, and less capable. And it responds painfully to anything but the hottest temperatures, so he has to wear a modified glove, covering it most of the time. For a while, he thought he would never carve again. 

But over lockdown, he set up a small workbench at a slight angle, so that he could sit down to carve and work for a few hours each day at smaller, and less stressful items. He mostly worked indoors, until with the warmer weather he could take it outside for a little while. First of all he completed a spectacular high relief carving of the Last Supper. It took many months, but he finished it.

Last Supper, in lime.

Then he designed and made this chess set: the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans, focusing on the battle at the gates of Vienna, in which the Polish Winged Hussars played a key role in the defeat of the Ottoman army. 

Six months later, you can see the finished item. 

It is stunningly beautiful, intricate, detailed - amazing. The Ottoman side is carved in American black walnut - a lovely hardwood. Alan  found a piece in his workshop that he had been hoarding for almost 30 years! The Hapsburg side is in lime. 

The board is hand painted, and the reverse of the board is also decorated. 

It's a wonderful piece (or many pieces) of highly original work and although we're a bit reluctant to let it go, if you have a passion for chess and deep pockets, do contact us. One or two people have questioned whether you could play with such intricate pieces - but because it's made of wood, it is actually pretty robust. Nevertheless - I reckon it's as much a precious, one off artwork as an everyday set. 

Inspired by this chess set, and how much he loved making it, I think Alan is going to carve more chess sets in the future but realistically, he can only make one or two in a year, these will be very rare items, and will be priced accordingly. 

If you'd like to see more pictures, and discover more of Alan's work for sale, including the Last Supper carving, you can go to our Etsy store, the 200 Year Old House. 

My Husband's Amazing Pandemic Woodcarving

Early on in the Covid 19 lockdown, we decided to seize the opportunity of clearing out our garden sheds and - more importantly - Alan's woodcarving workshop at the bottom of the garden. Because Alan suffers with severe and debilitating forms of arthritis, he had spent some years painting, and had hardly used the workshop at all, except as a place to store tools, and occasionally to cut up a piece of wood for framing his pictures. The result was that it had become extremely cluttered. We took our time, and I did most of the heavy lifting and all of the trundling up and down the garden. Good exercise for me. I don't think we had realised just how miserably neglected the place had become. 

If you'd like to see more of Alan's artwork and carving, you'll find his website here.

Buried under a large pile of miscellaneous stuff, we found a huge and beautiful block of lime wood. Many years ago, Alan had been asked by an American customer to carve him a depiction of the Last Supper, and Alan had drawn out the design and started to carve it, before the customer decided that he didn't want it after all. So he had shelved it and got on with other things. Back then, he was making sculptural rocking horses, and doing all kinds of huge outdoor carvings so he wasn't short of work. 

Cue forward all these years - it was early summer, and we gazed at the solid piece of wood - some 30 by 15 inches by 4 inches deep. 'Why don't you finish it?' I asked. So he did. 

Halfway through.

 It has taken him many months but yesterday, he completed it. It was very difficult, because the arthritis affects his hands too, so he could only work for a limited time each day. The other problem is that he can't stand for more than a few moments at a time, so he had to find a way of working that meant he could sit down to do it.   

Fortunately, our clear-out had also uncovered a useful folding workbench, with a tilting facility, that was exactly the right size   for the carving, and that could be set at the right angle. This meant   that he could sit in his comfortable lightweight folding wheelchair, and work away, getting a little fresh air as he did so.

The year and the carving moved on. It took a whole lot longer than he thought it would. This is a highly detailed high relief carving.

Autumn came and with it the usual, west of Scotland wet, chilly   weather. I suggested that he move indoors, so he commandeered  the conservatory, where he could work in warmth and light. And now, in early November, he has just sealed and finished it with some layers of good shellac. 

It is a thing of great beauty. The disciples look as though they are having quite a good time! People keep asking us what we are going to do with it next. Of course, we are hoping to sell it - we need the money - but the price will have to be right. No crafter is ever fully reimbursed for the hours spent on a piece of work, but I'd rather keep this than let it go without Alan being suitably rewarded, especially given his health challenges. And if I'm honest, perhaps because of the subject matter, I for one would rather it went to somewhere like a church, or a museum or a collection where it could be appreciated by lots of people for the minor miracle of craftsmanship that it so obviously is. A friend suggested that it would be good to find an Italian home for it, and I can see what she means. They love and appreciate woodcarving in Italy as perhaps it's never quite valued here.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying it. But all suggestions for its future home, as well as for a woodcarving aficionado with reasonably deep pockets gratefully received! 

If you'd like to see more pictures, you can have a look at it on the Love Antiques site.