Segmented Turnings
September 24, 2006
Entry Details

# 380
Michael Foster
Springfield, VT
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   9
  Height:   10
  Depth:   9
Materials:   Curly Maple, Claro Walnut
I went to the coast of Maine for week long sail on the schooner Timberwind.  We sailed out of Rockport Harbor, and while browsing the local shops I saw some jewelry featuring St. Brendan’s Cross.  The image and idea captivated me.  When I returned home I did some research, and found that the story behind the design was even more fascinating.  I’ve always loved sculptures of sea mammals and have long been trying to devise a way to combine the flowing lines of dolphins and whales with a turning.  This piece is the result.


I decided to keep the segmentation on this piece fairly plain to emphasize the form and keep the focus on the carving.  I originally had a more elaborate base, with more walnut, but decided it threw the balance of the piece off so I removed it and made this simpler pedestal.

St. Brendan was an Irish monk who lived from 484 to 577 AD in western Ireland.  He was a charismatic leader who was well known for his ocean voyages through northwest Europe spreading the Christian faith and founding several monasteries.  The most intriguing of his travels was the account of a seven-year voyage that is chronicled in the “The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot” otherwise known at the “Naviagatio” (written in the 10th century).  The legend tells that St. Brendan had heard of the “Land of Promise” and set sail to find it with a number of other monks in a curragh (a hide covered wood framed boat with sails).  He reported reaching several island, one whose description suggests the volcanoes of Iceland.  He eventually reached “The Land of Saints” which many people believe was North America.  Whether the tale is true or not, the account as written in the Navigatio was widely believed, and when Columbus set out to find a western route he had a map that featured a large land mass labeled St. Brendan’s Island in the middle of the Atlantic.

Many scholars have sought proof that St. Brendan reached America, however the voyage remains a matter of speculation and myth.  An adventurer named Severin recreated the voyage in 1976 ala Kon Tiki.  He built a curragh faithful to what is known of the original design, and set sail with a crew to see if he could recreate a voyage to America.  They sailed from Irelend to Scotland, the Hebrides, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland and eventually Labrador.  It was a wild ride, but they proved that the voyage was possible.

St. Brendan’s cross is a Celtic cross that is specifically associated with the monk.  All Celtic crosses have four arms with a circle surrounding them.  There are many interpretations of the symbolism of each element.  St. Brendan’s cross is a circle of four dolphins whose tails meet in the center to form a cross.
Base of piece with another cross carved in one of Malcom's floating plugs.

Judges Comments
JIm : Wow!. I love the symplicity of the segmentation and the great carving. Foot is well done.
Malcolm : I like this piece very much. Great joinery using curly maple is never easy. The carved St. Brendan’s Cross, which appears to be very well done, draws the viewer's eye and demands a closer look, and the wave design of the vessel lid continues the theme. The addition of the small carving on the underside is a nice surprise (viewer's always seem to look at the bottom).
Mark : I like this piece very much. The excecution of the segmenting is well done, and simple - not detracting from the wonderful fantastic carving. The base is used to good effect, though this piece would work just a well without the large base. Well done.

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