Like many carvers, I had a difficult time early in my career figuring out how to quickly, easily and accurately layout carving designs on curved surfaces. Cabriole legs for chairs were the worst because you always had so many knees to match up. Carvings on flat surfaces we much easier. All you had to do was get a piece of cardboard or construction paper, sketch out the design and cut out a pattern. Cabriole legs and table pedestals are a completely different animal, however.
In this week’s article for 360 subscribers, I show the method I’ve used for about 30 years for creating flexible carving patterns quickly and easily. And while I don’t want to dwell on how to make the patterns here (As a subscriber, you can read how to do that here. You are a subscriber, aren’t you?), I do want to cover a little bit about the carvings themselves (This post is sounding strangely like a Design in Practice post…).
Throughout the Queen Anne and Chippendale periods, the prevailing design sense was one of symmetry. You can see it in the structure of the pieces as well as the individual elements. And that’s particularly intriguing during the mid to latter part of the Chippendale period because the movement was toward nature and naturally occurring things. Rococo carvings and ornamentation reigned supreme.
In all my years as a Scout, I never once recall seeing much that was symmetrical in nature. As humans we’re just driven to balance things in our minds and eyes. We like geometric shapes with straight line and fair curves. We like order, and those that were educated in the period liked it most of all. Even though the rococo movement was all about adding “realistic” vegetation to pieces as ornamentation, cabinetmakers knew that adding lifelike imitations to their pieces would go against human nature. In the end, they opted to stylize the vegetation and go for symmetry because, even though we all appreciate the random beauty of nature, no one wants it overrunning their home.
Oh, and those patterns I’ve been creating and using for the last three decades (more or less), the final photo in this post shows just a few.