Icon of the Great Bear

This original wood carving is inspired by the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. I designed this piece to reflect a feeling of reverence for the sacredness of nature, a religious icon if you will, to the vast beauty of the night sky, and a celebration of the patterns that we find there. In star lore the Great Bear is a fearless mother to Ursa Minor, and her familiar ladle-shaped pattern is among the first constellations that we learn to recognize as children. She watches over us from the heavens, just as she does her own Little Bear.

In designing this carving I started with a traditional Gothic arched frame to evoke a feeling of spiritual art from an earlier time. The border features stars interspersed with runes that spell out a secret prayer to the stars above. The runes I use are not historic runes, but ones I invented to use in my artwork, as a way to invoke the feeling of an ancient and forgotten language. They have true meaning, but it remains hidden, to allow the viewer to ascribe their own experience and meaning to the work.

The photos in the gallery below document the process of creating this carving. I started with a 1″ thick piece of butternut wood sourced locally, and used a band saw to cut out the Gothic arched shape of the outline, which measures 9″ wide by 15.75″ high. I used a router to take down the background levels, and the roughed out carving at this stage is shown in the first photo. From this stage forward, all the carving work is done using hand tools – files, various gouges and carving knives. This carving is finished from the tool, without using sandpaper, so the individual cuts from the sharp carving tools leave a subtly rippled texture to the wood. I sealed the wood with linseed oil and then painted it using oil paints, using glazes to allow the wood grain to show through the colors around the frame. Gold and silver metallic effects were painted on and then it was given a coating of beeswax to finish the piece.

I feel that as humans we need to be constantly reminded of the sacredness of nature, and reawakened to the spiritual mysteries that can be found there. We are not meant to be spiritually separate from these experiences, but our culture and civilization have divided us from this essential aspect of our humanity. I created this piece to remind myself and others that the stars can be our church and all of nature our religion if we let ourselves remember how we felt as children when we gazed at the night sky.

The Icon of the Great Bear wood carving is available for purchase in the Ninth Wave Designs Etsy store – click HERE to see more information.





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