Custom Icon Boards
Shown above are three my custom size, handmade icon panels. The wood substrate is covered in a fine cloth, coated repeatedly with rabbit skin glue gesso, and then, finally polished smooth. This is is a tedious yet rewarding process as the prepared panels are fresh and beautiful to behold. For this blog I am writing briefly about making panels for icons, however the same process can be used for other artworks, though the spiritual dimension would no longer apply.
Panels Vs Boards
An icon panel consists of individual pieces of wood tightly bonded together with glue. I purchase standard unfinished, factory-made panels which are then cut to size. Thinner panels are subject to warp or are even warped at the time of sale so carefully select thicker grade panels for all projects. An icon board is made from one piece of wood and is subject to bowing and bending too, particularly the larger sizes. Boards might include a back brace to prevent warping.
Working on Panel Pieces
You see that I have added built-in frames (the affixed wood slats), to this lot of gessoed panels. As it requires extra time and expertise the price for a framed panel or board is more. Icons not receiving a raised "frame" will generally have a traditional, "painted on" frame.
Reason for the “Frame” . A Simple Overview.
This “frame” detail, which separates the inside from the outside, is called a polya in the Russian language or border (or margin) in English. From a practical perspective, any raised surface, beyond the icon painting, will protect the figure and overall surface from dent and scratch, as does a riza (Russian: риза, "robe") or oklad (оклад, "covered"), or "revetment"cover. "In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis
is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church.
The inside is called a kovtcheg or kovcheg and is described as the the ark or tabernacle in English. It represents the Ark of Noah and later the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem. Symbolically, the raised border creates a space inside where the gospel can now be “written” in paint. Raised borders can be presented simply like here or with more detail.
“Since the end of the 17th century, many icons were made without a kovcheg. In this case, polya were separated from the image by color, and in the place of the luzga [inside edges of the polya], a single (or sometimes double) line was drawn of another color (usually red) thus creating the illusion of a classical icon...” as explained in one source.
Certainly you can find out much more about icon framing traditions and symbolism in books or online. Upcoming "Monthly Posts" will show two of the icon panels complete with images as well as other projects.