Friday, October 14, 2011

Inspired woodworking.

While travelling, I can't help but notice wonderful woodwork everywhere. Here's some examples of some found in two different locations, inspired by the spiritual and created by talented craftsmen a very long time ago.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul.
This beautiful building was built for the Sultan Ahmed, and was completed in 1616. Inside this very impressive building are 200 stained glass windows the inner surfaces of the domes and walls are covered with over 22,000 ceramic tiles.

In this place of worship the architecture, colours and details are fantastic. Of course, my eye is always drawn to any woodwork around the place. With so much carved stone and tiles, there was not a huge amount of joinery visible in the area that the thousands of tourists like myself can get to. However there were two pairs of beautiful doors at the back of the rear area that I was able to get near. Identical pairs, I managed to capture some pics of them with my trusty iphone4, despite the low light conditions.

Apparently the tiles have faded significantly over the last 400 years. It must have been totally stunning when it was first built.

One of the two identical pairs of doors at the rear of the mosque.
Closer view of the beautiful carved and inlaid panels in the doors.
Construction details : pegged mortice and tenon joints. Note the border stringing in the frame. Nice.
Frame and panel construction has been around for centuries as a very successful way of building joinery that happily accommodates the movement of timber.  I really wanted to open the doors to check out the panels from the rear to see how they were done... but of course that would have been a no-no...
Exit door hardware.
 On my way out the exit door to the mosque, I noticed the hardware on the massive timber doors. I couldn't get a pic of the doors, but I did snap a shot of the hardware. Love these old handles, locks and fittings. They all tell stories of the life of the doors and the millions of people who have passed through them over the centuries.
While I did not find a lot of woodwork that I could get near in the Blue Mosque, those two pairs of doors were very beautiful and oozed of very serious craftsmanship. They were definitely worth a mention.

The Cathedral, Zagreb.
Like a lot of these ancient European buildings, this huge building has a long history of re-builds and renovations, due to destruction by invading hordes, earthquakes, warfare, and periods of repair. The original cathedral was built in the 11th century. Wrecked by the Tartars in 1242, it was re-built and later had fortified walls built around it to protect it from the Ottoman Empire attacks. In 1880, a huge earthquake significantly damaged sections of it, so it had another major re-build. It is currently undergoing significant repairs on the two spires, as the carved stone is very corroded. The implication of this interesting history is that buildings like these are an interesting mix of styles and artwork. Unless you are an expert in such things, it means that the age of the woodwork inside will vary considerably and that knowledge is sadly not something I possess. However, it sure is fascinating!

A view of the inside of one part of the cathedral
The detail in the carved stonework is fantastic! One part of the entrance way.
Inside the huge pair of outer doors are these four oak inner entry doors.
The carved oak panels in the lower sections of the inner entry doors are wonderful.
These booths were exquisitely made, with linenfold panels, carvings and complex finials. Stunning.
More carved oak panels in furniture with complex inlaid details in both the panels and the frames.
Seriously solid pews throughout, heavily carved - each with the essential huge radiator underneath!
This pic's for my Dad, who has done a lot of organ building. Beautiful woodwork hiding way up there!
One of the things I love about well made functional wooden furniture is the patina and wear from use. The tops of the pew ends had serious wear from countless hands holding them as people went in and out of the pews over so many years. You run your hand on those places and join with those people in a sense of connectedness.  The pew seats are worn from thousands of people sliding their bodies off and on the kneelers in front. I love all that wear and the stories that it tells!

Over the years I have been commissioned to make and repair a range of furniture for places of worship. While I always seek to create the best level of craftsmanship in all that I make, when making these commissions I feel a heightened sense of responsability to do it right.

I am sure that all the craftsmen over the centuries who have participated in the creation of these amazing buildings and their furnishings have also felt the same...
... I reckon there's something in there about giving back to the One who gave us the trees, the beautiful woods that are derrived from them, and the joy of making things of great beauty and function with our hands.