Catherine Crowe
Imago Corvi
78 Bond St., Lindsay, ON K9V 3R4

Catherine has been enamelling for 18 years. She is essentially self taught, but has recently been taking workshops to expand her technical range. Her inspiration has always come from historical sources, especially from the Celtic culture.

"Ancient artefacts often evoke a mysterious sense of hidden truths, now long forgotten. As a modern artist I try to uncover that truth for myself, or at least shed a little light on it, in the hopes that it will reveal something about ourselves and our present day situation. It is the timeless nature of enamel that first drew me to it, but I also revel in the metaphor of transformation by fire which enamel evokes."

Champlevé enamel on copper

The crow in Celtic folklore is similar to the crow/raven in native myth, in the sense that it is the oldest and wisest of the animals, and somewhat mischievous. In Celtic folklore it also plays the role of a bird of omen: " One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told." The crow is the form taken by the Morrigan of Irish mythology when she prophesies battle.


Champlevé enamel on copper

The rabbit or hare was one of the many animals that could lead the hunt, and in so doing lead you to other worlds. Lewis Carroll borrowed this idea when Alice followed the white rabbit to Wonderland. The colour he chose is also significant. In Celtic folklore whiteness was the emblem of otherworldly animals.


Champlevé enamel on copper

This piece is based on a Celtic artefact from Hungary and is probably a raven or crow. The stylization is reminiscent of native art, hinting at a similar aesthetic. Birds had special significance in most cultures, but for the Celts they were used by the Druids in augury (divination by watching the flight of birds), and were thought to be symbols of the air element, and the spirit or soul.


Champlevé enamel on copper with 24k gold foils

One night Oengus had a dream of a beautiful woman. He fell in love with her and swore that he would never marry anyone else. She was finally found: the lovely Caer, daughter of a prince of Connaght. She was a swan maiden, a swan by day, and a woman by night. On November first (Samhain) Oengus went and told Caer of his love for her. She changed him into a swan and they flew away together singing a song. Anyone who heard the song slept for three days because it was so sweet.


Champlevé enamel on copper

The motif of the salmon as the oldest and wisest of animals is common all over

Europe. In the Irish story there was a sacred well in Ireland, and over this well grew a hazel tree. Every nine years the hazel tree would produce red berries which fell into the well; berries that contained all the wisdom of the world. There were salmon living in the well that were as old as the world itself. As the hazel berries fell into the well the salmon would eat them. From these berries they gained wisdom, and their characteristic pink colour. These salmon come into later hero tales where they are caught and accidentally eaten by various warrior heroes such as Cuchullain and Finn MacCumhail.


Champlevé enamel on copper

The period of Celtic art that covers roughly 300 BC to 400 AD is called "La Tene" because of an important archaeological find at La Tene in Switzerland. This was before the advent of interlacing when many designs were very abstract. A characteristic of this type of design is that the negative space is as important to the design as the positive space. This piece is based on an actual piece of Celtic enamelling from about 50 BC (the time of the Iceni uprising led by Boudica against the Romans invaders of Britain). The meaning is obscure, but some people see bird heads, elemental signs or vestiges of the human face.

Champlevé enamel on copper with bas taille detail

This piece is based on a bronze snaffle bit from 600AD Ireland. The birds in the original piece are abstracted, but I have made them more obvious. I have also taken a three-dimensional design and made it two-dimensional (to suit the medium) Birds have been a common motif in Celtic art since 800BC and are thought to symbolize the spirit or soul.


Champlevé enamel on copper

The triple spiral is one of the oldest Celtic designs. It was in use from the 7th century BC right up to the present. It is fashionable now to associate it with the womanly triad of maiden, mother, crone, but in ancient Ireland there were many triads, e.g. "Three fair things that hide ugliness: good manners in the ill-favoured, skill in a serf, wisdom in the misshapen."


Champlevé enamel on copper, niobium earwires

"Three slender things that hold up the world: the slender stream of milk from a cow's teat, the slender blade of corn as it breaks the ground, and the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman."


Champlevé enamel on copper with FS foil

It is thought that the early Celts held trees in special esteem. The Alder was the tree of Bran and as such was associated with rebirth because of the spiral growth of its buds. It was thought to have protective qualities associated with cattle, and for this reason was used to make milk pails. It could be used to make three dyes: red from its bark (fire) green from its flowers (water) and brown from its twigs (earth)


Champlevé enamel on copper

This design is a classic rendition of Odin's horse, based on a piece from Lindholm. Sleipnir was the eight-legged horse that was known throughout Sweden. It is a good example of how pagan symbols were often carried over into the Christian period,

since early churches in Sweden have Odin's horse on the cornerstone, as a symbol of strength.


Champlevé enamel on copper with cloisonné inclusions

Eagles in many cultures were venerated as the 'king of birds'. In Celtic culture the wren superseded it, but there are still remnants of supernatural qualities in some old folk tales. Legend has it that eagles guard King Arthur's sleeping place. In Norse mythology the eagle is said to shelter the hero with his wings. It was believed that the eagle flew towards the sun with its eyes open, thus getting its power of vision from the fire of the sun. My eagle design comes from approximately 7th century AD and depicts this flight.


Champlevé enamel on copper

When the Celts borrowed an idea from another tradition they always added their own unique character and made it their own. Today the Celts are renowned over the world for interlacing, but in fact the Vikings introduced this motif. It is found in many

different cultures, though not to the same extent. It can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was a stylization of running water. In a circle it probably indicates a well.


Chmplevé enamel on copper


Champlevé enamel on copper


Champlevé enamel on copper with cloisonne details and 24K gold foil

The Scythians were the horse-riding peoples from the Steppes of Russia whose animal art bears striking similarities to Celtic animal art. Archaeologists have never been able to prove that there was an actual link between the two cultures, but the similarities in form are strong, and enough to interest me in their design concepts. They were contemprary with the Iron Age Celts, and were a nomadic

people whose culture and livelihood revolved around the horse. The animals they chose to illustrate were often the same as the Celts: deer, bulls, boars - but this cat or panther is an uncommon subject for the Celts


Champlevé enamel on copper


Champlevé enamel on copper


Champlevé enamel on copper with FS foils and FS cloisonné wire


Champlevé enamel on copper with cloisonné detail


Champlevé enamel on copper with gold foils


Champlevé enamel on copper with gold foils


All text and photographs © the individual artists.
'Virtual Tour' photographs © 2003 Darrell Markewitz, the Wareham Forge.