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.

Engraved box

This design is not well executed. It’s even difficult to tell if it’s meant to be a spiral or knotwork as the strands are so had to read. But the technique is similar to the wooden wall hanging. Perhaps both objects were engraved by pupils at Kirkcaldy High School, where Bain taught.

The design is lightly engraved and coloured black. Around it are sets of three punched dots forming triangles. The triple dots pattern is repeated around the lower sides of the box.

Knotwork box

This small but satisfying design was painted by a pupil at Kirkcaldy High School. It’s one of very few pieces in the collection that can be directly linked to Bain’s school teaching. Across the top of the lid is a knotwork design. In contrast, the sides of the lid are decorated with a key pattern.

The top is painted very cleverly, making it look like the design has been set at a lower level. This gives the impression of a frame. The choice of colours also enhances the knotwork and helps to lead the eye around the strands easily.

The design is similar to that on the back of the Nigg Stone, a cross-slab in the church at Nigg, Easter Ross. Instructions for drawing it are shown in Bain’s Methods of Construction.