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Celtic Traditions, Original Designs, Beautiful Jewelry: All In a Day’s Work

Celtic Traditions, Original Designs, Beautiful Jewelry: All In a Day’s Work

I’m really proud to announce that Celtic Knot Works will be featured in the upcoming Spirit of Ireland magazine. Part of that process involved talking about what goes into the creation of our Celtic knot work jewelry, and so, for this article, I’m going to draw back the curtain and share a bit about my design process.

This type of thing always goes better when you have a specific example, so I’m going to talk about one of my very favorite pieces, the Celtic Owl. Here it is, as a pendant. (we need a pic of the pendant here) The size of the final, finished pendant is roughly 7/8ths of an inch wide by 1 5/8ths of an inch tall – a nice size for wearing, neither too big nor too small.

But our owl started out quite a bit larger.

The very first step in the process, once I knew we needed an owl, was to look at pictures of owls in the wild. I can’t tell you exactly how many pictures I looked at, but it was quite a few. My goal with this process was to understand exactly what visual elements make an owl distinct from any other creature – including other types of birds. For the owl, these essential visual elements included the eyes, beak, and wings – all of which needed to be rendered beautifully inside a distinctive silhouette that is clearly the shape of an owl.

My initial design sketches are always quite large. To be totally honest, the first sketches aren’t exactly impressive - they’re scratchy line drawings that find my way to the finished form. Sometimes I work on paper, and sometimes I use digital drawing tools – this is a question of mood and convenience, rather than a professional preference.

It turned out that I needed 3 distinct design motifs to successful evoke an owl: the face, including the eyes and beak; the wings, and the chest area. This all had to be accomplished using a single line – at this point, I’m working on the computer, which ensures all of the lines are the right weight. It also makes making changes, erasing mistakes, and filling in areas much easier and faster.

And of course, that single line has to include multiple Celtic knots in the necessary configuration. My work includes many traditional Celtic knot elements as well as my own original twists. Fitting them into the design – without breaking the single line – is the most fun and challenging part of the process.

I can’t reveal all of my secrets, but I can tell you that every design is reviewed by multiple people who either love it as it is or send me back to the drawing board. The amount of time spent developing each design varies. Sometimes I can capture exactly what I wanted in only a few days; there are designs that took several weeks to reach their final form.

Part of my process is subconscious. When a knot just doesn’t want to work the way I need it to, sometimes the only route forward is to walk away. While I’m working on other things, a solution can develop almost of its own accord – when I return to the workshop, suddenly the knots that didn’t want to work now fit seamlessly into place. It’s almost magical, and a part of creative work that I truly enjoy.

And that, minus some breaks for lunch and the occasional bit of grumbling, is how you go from inspiration to reality. The final design is first prototyped, and then, if it is everything we’d hoped it would be, it’s time to start creating them for our customers. We knew the Celtic Owl was going to be a winner as soon as we saw it – it’s just got a great sense of calm majesty that appeals to men and women alike.

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