Incredibly Intricate Stone Carving Recreates Design From 9th-Century ‘Book of Kells’

Stone Carving by Finn McCallum

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Stone carving is an ancient tradition and one that lives on through artisans like Finn McCallum. The UK-based creative chips away at slate to unearth intricate designs that are awe-inspiring in their attention to detail. One of his most ambitious carvings features a design borrowed from the 9th-century manuscript known as the Book of Kells. The piece took him hundreds of hours to complete, and it’s easy to see why; its interlocking motifs boast an array of textures and tiny shapes.

There are a couple of reasons that compelled McCallum to recreate the historic design. “Being from Scotland,” he tells My Modern Met, “I have an affinity with the Celtic art forms including the artwork of the medieval manuscripts.”

Carving the Book of Kells was also an opportunity to stretch his artistic muscles. “I chose this particular design as the sheer complexity of it would enable me to really challenge myself and test my ability with the hammer and chisels,” McCallum shares. “The image may have had a different meaning to the monks who originally designed it some 1200 years ago but to me, it represents the interconnectedness of nature, the interweaving complexity of relations between animals, plants, and all life on our planet.”

There is an incredible skill to carving, and a piece like this is the culmination of practice and perseverance. McCallum began stone carving after taking a short weekend course on the traditional craft. He learned the basic methods and became hooked. “After a few years, I was able to leave my day job as a gardener and set out as a full-time stone carver and have since completed a wide range of public and private commissions from memorials and heraldic crests to large garden and public sculptures. Most recently, I have been building up a body of work of sculptures and relief carvings inspired largely by ancient art styles from Celtic to Mesopotamian.”

McCallum sells his work through his Etsy shop.

Stone carving artisan Finn McCallum recreated a design from the 9th-century manuscript known as the Book of Kells.

Stone Carving by Finn McCallum

The piece took him hundreds of hours to complete, and it’s easy to see why; its interlocking motifs boast an array of textures and tiny shapes.

Stone Carving by Finn McCallum

This isn't all of what McCallum has created.

Stone Carving by Finn McCallumStone Carving by Finn McCallum

McCallum began stone carving after taking a short weekend course on the traditional craft. He learned the basic methods and became hooked.

Stone Carving by Finn McCallumStone Carving by Finn McCallumStone Carving by Finn McCallum

“After a few years, I was able to leave my day job as a gardener and set out as a full-time stone carver,” he tells My Modern Met, “and have since completed a wide range of public and private commissions from memorials and heraldic crests to large garden and public sculptures.”

Stone Carving by Finn McCallumStone Carving by Finn McCallumFinn McCallum: Website | Instagram | Etsy | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Finn McCallum.

Related Articles:

Shining a Light on the Beautiful Illuminated Manuscripts of the Medieval Period

Celtic Knots: Discover the Meaning Behind These Intricate Designs

World’s Most Famous Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Now Viewable Online

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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