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The various stages of producing an original carved Crest and Coat of Arms
A small sample of the wood and bronze Crests and Coat of Arms individually hand carved and then signed by Heraldic Sculptor Ian G Brennan which have been commissioned for private clients, corporations and the British Royal Household.
The origins of Heraldic Crests and Coat of Arms:
In the Middle Ages during the age of chivalry the crest and coat of arms were both practical and also served as a form of identification during Battle, pageants and tournaments, especially from a distance. In the confusion of battle the knight on horseback clad from head to toe in Armour with his Great War helm (helmet) covering his face, it was often difficult to distinguish between friend and foe and often in the confusion of battle their surcoats worn over their armour displaying their Arms were frequently torn off and subsequently it was then often only the crest placed upon their helm that would distinguish one Knight from another and if the Knight were dismounted these crests often came off, thus they became ‘crest fallen’.
Over the years identification of each individual Knight began to improve and records of the Knights Arms started to be kept during the Middle Ages by Heralds who set up the College of Arms in London Once the designs were registered they were painted onto the Knights shield and these symbols were also worked onto the light coloured surcoats worn over the Knights armour which protected the wearer from the elements; hence the term coat of arms. The Heralds original building was burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 but it was rebuilt and the Heraldry record keeping of coats of arms for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth continues today.
Ian’s carving of a Knight displaying his Crest on his helm along with his Arms on his shield
Heraldic sculptures are often seen as an exciting picture language using stunning images, vibrant design and visual colour, incorporating a glorious mêlée of signs and symbols which are frequently chosen not only to reflect the life but also the career of the person concerned. Although Heraldry is viewed by many today as an ancient art form, its images are as strong today as they were in the Middle Ages. All over the world Heraldic Arts traditional striking designs of realistic and fanciful creatures are frequently borrowed and turned into successful corporate trademarks and modern logos.
Examples of carved Coats of Arms shown with Supporters:
Examples of carved Coats of Arms shown without Supporters:
Examples of both wood and bronze Coats of Arms:
The original wood carving of the Arms with a replica cast in bronze along with on this example the clients carved Crest – painted wooden and bronze Arms – carved wooden Arms and smaller bronze replica.
Information about the Artist:
Ian G Brennan has been a professional artist, woodcarver and heraldic sculptor for thirty years and has been commissioned to create many carved coat of arms and crests not only for the College of Arms in London during the past twenty five years but also for both private and corporate clients and also for Nobility and Royalty from all over the World. In 1989 Ian was officially appointed the Sculptor to the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Most Honourable Order of the Bath and since that time spends an average of five months of each year on a wide variety of commissions in both wood and bronze for the British Royal Household.
The Heraldic commissions from the Royal Household include carving, painted and gilded all the royal crowns, coronets and knights crests for the Royal Knights, Ladies and Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, two of the highest and oldest Orders of Chivalry in the World with many of these commissions then being placed on display in Henry V11 Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey and in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Ian’s who’s commissions for the British Royal Family and also overseas Royal families have included creating the Royal crests for HM The Queen’s son’s Prince Andrew; The Duke of York and Prince Edward; The Earl of Wessex along with producing the Royal coronet for HM The Queen's daughter HRH Princess Anne; The Princess Royal and more recently Ian was commissioned to produce the Royal crest and sword for the Queen’s grandson HRH Prince William; The Duke of Cambridge.
These three similar carved and gilded royal crests shown below were for the most recent Royal Knights to be awarded one of the world’s highest and oldest Order of Chivalry; the Most Noble Order of the Garter. These almost identical crests along with the princess’s coronet recognises their seniority within the Royal family joining their mother, The Sovereign; HM Queen Elizabeth II, father Prince Philip; The Duke of Edinburgh, brother Prince Charles; The Prince of Wales and sister Princess Ann; The Princess Royal.
The Royal Crests for HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Andrew The Duke of York, HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH The Duke of Kent
Prince William’s; The Duke of Cambridge’s Royal Crest
and Sword being worked on in his studio now on display upon the Prince’s
helmet in St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle.
The Royal Crests for HRH Prince Charles; The Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Andrew; The Duke of York, HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH The Duke of Kent.
Typical Timbers used to carve Crests and Coats of Arms:
The timbers used to carve the Coat of Arms are mostly lime wood and occasionally mahogany, teak and oak.
The Lime tree which alternate names are Basswood and also known as a Linden tree in the USA. The lime tree produces a clear tall trunk and is a stately tree which grows in the deciduous forests of Europe, the British Isles, and the USA. It is the tallest broad-leaved tree in Britain. The 'common lime' can live up to 500 years and 'Avenues of lime trees are often found growing alongside the roadsides particularly in the UK. They were originally planted to provide shade in the summer and help prevent snowdrifts in the winter months.
A typical avenue of lime trees
Lime wood timber when seasoned is white to pale yellow and has a smooth, uniform texture with a soft close grain. It is a light wood with no distinction between sapwood and heartwood. It is strong, stable and resistance to splitting and worm damage. It is an excellent wood for making electric guitar bodies and model building and also for the excellent detail which can be obtained in intricate carving. Lime wood also glues well and polishes to a good natural or stained finish.
uses also include wood turning, toys, broom handles, hat blocks, the
sounding boards and keys for pianos as well as artist's charcoal. They
called the wood lignum sacrum, or sacred wood and during the middle Ages statues
of the Virgin Mary were carved from lime wood. In Germany the tree was
thought to bring fertility and prosperity, and was considered a sacred tree, the
guardian of life and goddess of fortune, love and truth, therefore the lime tree
were considered a tree of peace and it often formed the central meeting place of
many villages and rural communities.
Common uses also include wood turning, toys, broom handles, hat blocks, the sounding boards and keys for pianos as well as artist's charcoal. They called the wood lignum sacrum, or sacred wood and during the middle Ages statues of the Virgin Mary were carved from lime wood. In Germany the tree was thought to bring fertility and prosperity, and was considered a sacred tree, the guardian of life and goddess of fortune, love and truth, therefore the lime tree were considered a tree of peace and it often formed the central meeting place of many villages and rural communities.
The timber is first cut into assorted boards and seasoned outside with 1 inch wooden battens evenly placed between each board. The top of the timber stack is then covered to protect the wood from the rain and sun. Seasoning over the years is the controlled process of reducing the moisture content of the timber so air could freely circulate between each board to slowly dry the timber naturally. Once the moisture content of the wood has been reduced to around 15%, the boards are then re-stacked inside to allow them to reduce the moisture content still further.
The Typical various stages of carving a Coat of Arms both with and without supporters:
Lime wood 30 inches high
Suitable pieces of selected seasoned timber usually lime wood or mahogany is prepared and when appropriate the separate board are glued together. The outline of the basic design of the Coat of Arms is then lightly sketched upon the face of the timber and using a jigsaw or band saw the outline of the Arms is then produced which is then allowed to settle in room temperature for several weeks before the actual carving process begins.
The boards are sanded smooth to enable any imperfections in a particular piece of timber that might be found, to be replaced. Over the coming weeks the high point of the carving are left untouched with the remainder being carefully carving away with various carving chisels to the desired depth. Once all the fine detail of the carving has been completed the coat of arms is then sanded smooth and prepared for finishing.
Usually at this stage a photograph of the completed carving is sent to the client via email for approval and once the client is happy with the carving so far a small metal plate for hanging purposes is screwed onto the back.
The carving is then carefully sanding down once again and several coats of a wood sealant and then wax polish is applied. If the Arms are to be painted the sealant and polish is replaced with several coats of either enamel or acrylic paint. Once all the finish has been applied photographs are again email to the client for final approval. Once approval for the completed Arms has been received they are ready for packing and shipping.
First two Arms carved from solid oak and then polished – third Arms stained lime wood
Carving a Coat of Arms - without supporters:-
The same process for producing a Coat of Arms without supporters shown above is applied to the Arms shown below which was carved from Teak.
Teak - 15 inches high
Completed Arms - 15 inches high
Producing a Coat of Arms cast in bronze (hot metal) marble or stone resin:
It is also possible to produce a bas-relief casting of the clients coat of arms cast in marble or stone resin mixture which can then also be painted. Firstly the original drawing of the design would be carved in bas-relief directly various materials including clay, plaster or wood and once completed this original 'master copy' can then be replicated by producing a rubber and plaster mould using this original carving which could then be cast in stone or marble resin which is both strong and durable which can then be painted in the appropriate colours.
Alternatively from this mould a wax version can also be cast from which a bronze can be produced in the art foundry. If the original carving was carved from wooden this original woodcarving ‘master copy’ can then retained and painted or stained and polished. Once the original mould has been made it is then possible to make several replicas.
The process in producing a bronze (hot metal) version is shown further down the page in ‘Casting a bronze shield.
The Queen Victoria Crest and modern Cunard Logo commissioned for the Grand Lobby of the Cunard Liner Queen Victoria.
marble/resin - 40 inches x 58 inches high - 40 inches wide x 35 inches high.
For further details and stage photographs showing how both these Cunard bas relief sculptures were produced; please click appropriate photographs.