‘A what?’ was my response to the designer Owen Power when he approached me to do some work for his latest film. When he explained what it was, I was delighted with the challenge. Owen sent me an initial concept sketch which I drew up in CAD and sent back for him to sign off. He gave me a lot of latitude with the design. This is sometime a blessing sometimes a curse. In this case it was a necessity. The 3 versions of the reliquary need to be produced in two and a half weeks.
This is the stunt version!
I worked of several references from real reliquaries of the period. They have a lovely dimensional quality to the surfaces. It made sense to break down the surface to separate layers and reassemble to give a depth and interest to the design.
Using the CAD files I began cutting layers on the cnc.
This is v-carved in a thin slab of fastcast resin. It cuts very nicely and can hold great detail. With v-carving the depth very critical. So it is nessasary to mill the full surfacce off the resin slab before the detail is cut into the surface.
Once all the elements were cut, I began making bezels and granulation details.
All these elements were carefully assembled and moulds made of the 4 different panels. This allowed 6 casting of each panel to be made for the production of the 3 copies of the box.
The lid sections were interesting as they were cast flat and curved retrospectively.That is one of the nice properties of some polyurethane resins, they soften with a small amount of heating. The panels warmed and curved over a two plywood formers of the correct sections to give the lid panels close seam.
The panels were nailed to an 18mm MDF structural box. I finished the edges with dremel to get rid of the saw cut edge and to give the look of a hand tooled timber. It was then stained with some dark oak water based varnish.
All the seams were finished with copper pipe, car breakline infact. It was pulled through a half round drawplate to give us a flat back and this made attachment much tidier because it wouldn’t stand too proud on the edge. This was drilled and nailed on.
In reality these were just a base coat for the real finish which I think gave the reliquaries a lovely glint. The trick was a product called transfer leaf. It is used in the printing industry. You can see it used for book binding, business cards, wine labels and other high end printed matter. It is usually applied with heat but some varieties also work with adhesive alone.The results are wonderful on flat surfaces. I applied photomount adhesive, working surface by surface, and pressed the transfer leaf over as much area as possible.
What was that relic? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!