Just like I knew I wanted to carve a set of wings for my bride long before I met my wife, I always knew I wanted to carve a swan cradle for my firstborn.
So, when my wife and I found out the wonderful news that we were expecting our baby girl - Emma Jane- in May 2017, my hands started in on the long stirrings of my heart.
Emma Jane's swan took about 5 months in total to create from conception to completion. Some of my first concepts were done in modeling clay. I then moved to sketches and played with the idea of real life dimension. After deciding that I would carve the swan in basswood, I collected my supplies and set to work on one of my most treasured, most meaningful artworks I've ever created.
Blocks of basswood shaped in general form made up the initial stages of the cradle. Knowing what went where is the result of hours of subject study!
Once the swan took on true shape, the real fun began. I continued to uncover the swan in all of its elegance and beauty with broad strokes of the chisel until the finer details could come into play.
I could've gone into crazy amounts of detail with this project but my aim was to give the swan an overall smooth and graceful feel. One of my greatest inspirations for this look is based on the work of UK-based artist and sculptor Nick Bibby. I love how he captures movement and that is exactly what I wanted to illustrate with my swimming swan. To further express this idea of movement, I carved surrounding water in which this swan would swim. Taking this idea even one step further, I put this swan into literal rocking, hands-free motion. You can view the swan in action here.
The swan is finished with a white wash. This technique of painting allows some of the wood grain to show through, giving the swan an "antiqued" look. I gave my wife, Hannah, the special task of gilding the beak with 23 karat shell gold. We both thought this would bring an element of fairy-tale likeness to the swan.
Looking back, birds, wings, and feathers have woven themselves into our love story. Hannah and I fell in love through the art of letter writing and when our letters became more affectionate, Hannah would send a swan feather with each of hers. She claimed that putting the feathers beneath my pillow at night would ensure I would have sweet dreams of her. That they did! My affectionate name for Hannah has always been "Little Bird" as she is a messenger of hope and beauty. Ah, the romance! During our engagement, I carved her a pair of wings and gave them to her as a gift the night before our wedding. (You can read more about them here.)
My mother-in-law made the beautiful curtain that drapes all around the swan and water. Beneath it lies the rocking mechanism that was made possible by the help of an engineer friend. I can't thank you both enough for the time you took to complete this project alongside me!
And so the tradition of birds and their wings continue...The Swan is a symbol of timeless elegance and grace. It also represents eternal light and fidelity; of beholding beauty...and now this swan holds our beautiful little girl. Emma Jane arrived on May 13th, just in time for Hannah's first Mother's Day. Her birth is nothing short of God's perfect timing! We are amazed by her every coo and smile and, without a doubt, she puts every art piece I've ever made, or will make, to absolute shame!
This labor of love is only complete with our sweet baby and the first moment I got to place her on the back of this sleeping, swimming swan was pure magic.
My prayer is that these enveloping wings serve as a reminder of comfort, protection, and my undying love for you. Sleep deeply and dream sweetly, my little Emma Jane!
To see more progress images and videos of Emma's swan cradle, search #weidmannswan on Instagram, or click here.
Professional photography by Winsome + Wright.