By Mary May
Backpacking across Europe as a college student, I experienced the awe-inspiring splendor of magnificent cathedrals and castles. I took every opportunity I could to visit these buildings, and I was afraid to blink for fear of missing some intricate and important detail; I just could not get enough. Without realizing it, this was the start of my passion and love for the art of woodcarving.
The walls in these splendid buildings were often covered in carved oak panels with a flowing drapery design that are referred to as “linenfold panels” or “parchment folds.” This design fascinated me as I studied how the delicately carved ends gave the appearance of cloth that gently twisted and folded over itself. Even without experience in carving, I appreciated the challenge in creating this flowing illusion in wood.
The linenfold panel imitates draped altar cloths and was introduced in panel decoration during the last quarter of the 15th century in the early Gothic period; it’s often seen combined as multiples in larger, paneled walls or in doors. Individual panels sometimes have their edges tapered to fit into grooves in furniture, walls or door frames.
The process of creating the linenfold shape offers many challenges. It is an excellent project that teaches how to give the illusion of perspective in shallow relief.
Work in Large Scale
One suggestion as you learn to carve this design is to make a small section of the design on a larger scale. Carving the S-curve section helps you figure out some of the common problems that come up. It can be a real brain tease, but once you figure out how to achieve the illusion of flowing and twisting cloth, linenfold is a wonderful and satisfying accomplishment.
Who knows – you may get so encouraged, you’ll decorate your own walls with it! If you do, call me… I’ll give you some pointers.
Pattern: Download a free, full-size pattern of the linenfold design the author used to carve the panel in this article: Linen Pattern
Web Site: Visit Mary May’s site for information on classes and to view a gallery of her work.
Blog: Learn more about linenfold carving as you watch the author work on her panel.
To Buy: Master the techniques to make 17th-century New England S-scroll carvings.
In Our Store: DVDs and online classes in carving detailed acanthus leaf and shell carvings with master carver Mary May – Coming Soon.
From the August 2013 issue #205
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