I always know when an oak tree is nearby, I can feel the distinctive energy calling me. I can recognise a few other tree species by their energy, but if I am feeling at all low or tired it is oak that I turn to. I was on a bit of an emotional journey that day and had gone deeply into some issues of my past, and it was oak that gave me what I needed to carry on forwards with renewed strength. It was then that I conceived the idea for making something I could wear out of oak, to keep with me or use when I felt the need for something extra. A pendant in the shape of an oak leaf. And meanwhile put an acorn in my pocket to help me, something I used to do often but hadn’t for a while.
I looked online to find a pendant like I had imagined, but saw nothing even similar. I started to consider if I could have a go making one myself, and started to work out how I might do it – the greatest difficulty in woodcarving is usually how to hold the thing, but carving or whittling for something so small and green? (I used a combination.) Did I already have any suitable timber, or where might I get some and be sure it was from exactly the right sort of tree?
Returning from holiday, there seem to have been some bad storms in my area. I was shocked to see a favourite nearby oak tree had lost a large branch covering most of one side of the tree. It already had dead wood on that side, now it was totally lopsided. A beautiful base with its roots forming a seat all the way round and cows grazing and rubbing themselves on it, it was a joy to greet. Now I worry about its stability. I would like to think of the branch rotting down naturally and feeding the tree, but farmers around here don’t tend to leave debris in their fields like that. However, I wondered if I could use it for carving.Then a walk in the other direction, to my ‘journeying tree’ which has a hollow large enough for me to stand inside. An even bigger shock, as it had suffered an almost identical fate with a large branch lying on the ground. Almost identical but not quite, as this tree has actually been left more balanced rather than less. The tree was entirely in favour of me taking a small piece of wood to carve.
Not thinking things through adequately, I had to return the next day to take a few leaves since I realised it would be daft not to use the exact shape of leaf from my tree. I also took a few unripe acorns in the hope they might be far enough along to be planted and grow in our woodland, although when put in a bowl of water later most of them floated. If I really want acorns from that tree, I shall have to collect some ripe ones in a few weeks.
I drew round the smallest leaves on a piece of paper to use as my carving template, marking off high and low points. I liked this one for its interesting curve that I was able to approximately align to the curve of the piece of wood I had. The variety of radii that each lobe made created a small but enjoyable carving challenge with my limited range of chisels not matching it easily! While not an exact copy of the leaf, I tried to keep the bowl feel of the original as oak leaves are rarely flat and often have a hollow in the leaf – this picked up some grain that I wasn’t expecting and was tricky to carve, but gives it a strong feminine, holding quality I hadn’t anticipated. I made the stalk slightly longer to be sure of attaching my cord okay. The back is flat with the edges rounded off.
So I now have a piece of jewellery made from the tree that is my axis mundi, my world tree, my centre of everything when journeying, made from its wood, in the shape of its leaf, given with its blessing. It is not a perfect piece of carving, but I have some wood left and will have a second go – which is why I am happy to show a picture of the first.