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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Bringing back the Celtic Art

    A few people have known me long enough to know I used to draw all kinds of Celtic stuff, all the time. This was way back in the early 90's, when if you wanted something with Celtic art on it, you had to make it yourself. There were only a handful of good printed resources about the Celts and their varied art forms then.

    Not so anymore, in these modern internet times. Right now, in five minutes, I can gather nearly as much imagery as it took me ten years to amass, prior to the digital sharing of data. You kids today, with your celtic vinyl stickers, celtic stick-on tattoos, knotwork jewelry and t-shirts have it soooo easy. I used to have to paint my own jackets and draw on myself with sharpies and order expensive art books from Europe to make good celtic art. I even went to celtic art classes, which helped me to understand the mathematics behind the designs, so that I could create new ones that no one had ever seen.

    I took my new knowledge and volunteered many designs for the Institute for Celtic Studies in New England, created and showed paper celtic sculptures in an art gallery, designed many tattoos, a line of pewter jewelry, many scrolls in the SCA, and even some embossing stamps for a Renfair leather merchant. And none of them were copies of existing historical designs.

    I had stopped drawing celtic art years ago, because it took oodles of brainpower to mathematically construct some of these designs, and frankly, I got lazy and found drawing work that paid the bills and was much easier to do.

    Recently, the siren song of the spiral called me once again... but it was so hard to get my brain to to process the designs I wanted to draw! I may have eventually lost the ability to do this, if I hadn't been inspired by my man, who needed a set of armor in order to fight upon Outlands fields this summer. He'd gotten some blank leather bracers from a friend and wanted me to help design them. I looked around online for something cool to copy, but all of it was either the same stuff I've been seeing for 20 years, or tribalish modern celtic art. None were nice enough, so I got charged with creating a new design. So of course they had to look awesome. And you certainly can't buy awesome like this in a store.

    He requested it include ravens and horses. After days of research into early period British pre-Roman Celtic Art, I had a plan for a design that was not too complicated, but dynamic, as I also had his very beginner knowledge of leatherworking to consider. So I drew it, he tooled it, and I antiqued the lines. They still need to be cuirboiled, and I have no idea what color they will turn...

    If you want some thing done right, you really do have to just do it yourself. I guess I'll be exercising my celtic brain muscles a bunch more soon. There's a lot more armor to make.


    1. These are amazing. I wish you had some for sale, or that i could afford to commission you for awesomeness. <3 I would love to learn to do this.

    2. Thanks Lisa & Silere! We probably won't be doing any of these for sale, since they take soooo long to make. It's pretty easy to learn to do, though. Well, the leather working part is easy compared to the Celtic art part. Much of the detail was done with a flathead screwdriver, so it doesn't take super special tools. Wait 'til you see the shoulders...they have OWLS on them too!

    3. would like to know where you got the punchs and bevelers to do this. I am just starting out in leather. I just got through making a cuff for my son for a ren faire. this was tedious. I designed the celtic cross ok. and threw in some celtic twist to boot. the problem was I could not get a punch small enough to get into all the nooks and crannies. It's very hard to find any celtic tools in the states. if its not a western motif, your out of buisness.please advise

    4. I bought a set of punches on eBay. I have around 25 or so. They are all pre 1960s, most being from the 1930s. However, for the bracers I used only around 5 or so punches and a small screw driver because it was thinner than the punches for the basket weave pattern. Having a lot of punches give you the ability to get into those tight spots or even having the right sized roundish flat part etc. Part of what you need to learn is the limitations of what you can carve. Designs that are too detailed may not work. This design was not nearly as detailed as I wanted, but was limited by what I knew I could carve given the nature of leather working and the tools available to me. The tools are not Celtic, just regular leather working kind. You can get some at Tandy Leather working. I used no stamps at all, this was all done by hand. If you look closely you can see some imperfections in the pattern. A stamp can be too perfect, and have a manufactured look.


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