A knotty plaque

This looks rather like a work in progress or an experimental piece. It doesn’t seem to be quite finished. The design is quite complex for such a small carving and must have been difficult to produce. It’s fascinating working out how two apparent circles have been linked to make the oval shape.

It’s a shame that we don’t know who created the plaque, or when. Perhaps it was one of Bain’s school pupils, or a member of his family.

A guid new year

This intriguing piece came with a collection of other small items in a finely decorated box. All were donated by the family of George Bain. It is a small wooden block, onto which has been screwed an engraved metal plate.

The cut corner, jagged lower edge and damaged decorative swirl suggest to me that it was once larger. Perhaps it was originally part of a printing block for one of Bain’s commercially produced Celtic greetings cards.

From the Book of Kells

From the Book of Kells, hand-carved in wood. George Bain illustrates this in his book Celtic Art, Methods of Construction on page 104. He notes that the early medieval scribe drew the original  with a maximum dimension of only 3.7cm.

Knotwork extraordinary

It’s only when you look closely at the engraved designs that their forms come to life. The tan-painted lino border is decorated with 16 single strands of interlace. Twelve of them are copies of each other. But the flow of each corner strand is different – they’re so accomplished. The pattern is brought to life by painting it yellow. This is emphasised by the original colour of the lino, which defines the edges of the strands.

The central, dark brown, knotwork panel is not a design that appears in Bain’s Methods of Construction. Its complexity reflects Bain’s mastery of Pictish knotwork and his wish to create new forms.

Interlace designs in wood

These three closely connected sections of wood each have different knotwork designs engraved into them. They give the appearance of being more complex as the eye moves down. The textured effect is created by punching dots into the spaces between the strands.

The panel was displayed by Claire Bain, George’s daughter, in her home. But it isn’t known who created it. Intriguingly, the knotwork designs have not been taken directly from Celtic Art, Methods of Construction. Adaptations have been made, but the engraving isn’t as perfect as any of Bain’s drawings.