Wood Carvings by Mark Sheridan

Religious Figures – Chalice Box

For some time I’ve wanted to try my hand at carving a religious figure.  As a boy , I probably spent more time studying the carved figures at our church than I did paying attention to the sermons!   I suppose that’s just being a boy and doesn’t have much to do with someday becoming a wood carver.

The figures at our neighbourhood church were painstakingly carved and sanded smooth without a hint of showing any of the knife and chisel marks.  Some were lightly stained, but a few had only hints of colour added to highlight and deepen the shadow effect in flowing robes and garments.  Although I would never have been close enough or had enough nerve to touch one of the carvings,  I know now that they were constructed of fairly soft materials like pine, but mostly basswood.  I hesitated to say that they were constructed of fairly soft wood because basswood for all of it’s “carve-ability” is actually a hardwood.

Anyways, some fifty years later, here I am fortunate enough to have been asked to design a chalice box and to carve a number of religious figures into each of its four sides.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-2-42-07-pmThe box, itself, was rather simple in construction and was more likely to include painted sides, as in the example, here.  Although the chalice is within the box, it actually protrudes through the top of the box and many of the boxes have a split top with hinged sides so that the chalice can be lifted easily from the box.

The box that I will make and carve will be about 12″ tall and 11″ wide to accommodate a chalice that is 13″ tall.  The top will have an opening and also be hinged as I’ve described.  The four sides will have relief carvings of a single figure per side and I plan to chip-carve some traditional designs along the edges of the box.


I’ve done a fairly quick sketch of one of the figures based on a variety of traditional depictions of Mary with Jesus.  I’ll use this concept sketch only to create a clay model of the relief that I’ll base my carving on.  I fully expect once I start the clay model that the depiction will change slightly.

As the sides of the box are large, the figure will be quite large and I’m picturing it to be framed within a carved arch.  As the basswood will be naturally light in colour, as I’m finishing the project I may add some colour to the figures as well as a bit of darkening with brown tones to give it an older and more traditional feel.

I think that this is going to be an interesting project that will take me some time to complete and I hope you’ll enjoy it.   Your feedback and ideas are always appreciated.


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2 thoughts on “Religious Figures – Chalice Box

  1. Looking forward to seeing this piece take shape,you will do justice to this piece,as you do with all your carvings.


  2. Thanks Lynne. This is something that is completely different from what I normally carve but something that I’ve wanted to try, so I’m looking forward to getting started.


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