Ancient Art to New -- From Rock Art to Wood Art in a Segmented Bowl

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Project by BrentH posted 07-29-2017 04:11 PM 2578 views 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s been a couple of years (life is way too busy) since my last segmented bowl projects, a Southwest style bowl, and my Ugliest Bowl – which I made to link the past with the present.

Since then, I’ve been seeking inspiration for a new project, and I found it in an unusual place. It too combines old and new.

Near our Southern Utah home are many ancient petroglyphs, considered to be quite old (probably well over a thousand years) as measured by the “desert varnish” that coats them.

Petroglyphs, or “rock art” are common to many parts of the USA. Some believe them to be just primitive “scratchings” of no particular significance beyond artistic expression. Others believe them to be a symbolic expression of a sign language universal among the many Native American tribes, that allowed a form of communication despite their having totally different spoken languages. I favor the latter view, which I believe explains the similarity of petroglyphs in many widely separated locations.

I thought perhaps I could incorporate some of these designs into a bowl, as a way of honoring the ancient artists who made them, and also allowing me to try out some inlay techniques I’d been reading about.

I took photographs of several of the petroglyphs and attempted to duplicate the design as accurately as possible by using my computer to create a black image of the petroglyph from the photo, which then became my pattern for engraving the design into wood.

Instead of gluing up the segment blocks, turning the ring, and then engraving the designs (which one would normally do), I actually created the radius of the design ring segments using my bandsaw. Having never engraved anything before, I was afraid if I created the entire ring first, I might ruin the whole thing if I made a mistake on any one of the engravings. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. So after engraving, filling, and sanding the design pieces, I glued up the ring.

Here is each design and the petroglyph it was taken from:

The Chief:

Bow & Arrow:

Medicine Man:

The Sun?

Mountain Sheep:

Solstice Marker – which may be an equinox oriented lunar-solar calendar record:

“Manasseh”. This is the most fascinating of all. Compare the petroglyph to the word “Manasseh” in Hebrew and consider the implications. You be the judge!

Spiral: Meant to call attention to something or indicate direction.

Lastly, I made the bottom to represent a nearby “Medicine Wheel”, which “has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life.”

My segmented bowl projects would be easier if I could see the end from the beginning, but seldom do they turn out the way I originally envision them,—which is for the better, I think. Originally I planned to add additional top rings and taper the bowl at the top, but as this progressed, it began to remind me of a Native American drum, or “tom-tom”, so I decided to leave it like that as one more symbol of their culture.

This has been an interesting project. I hope it doesn’t take me two years to get to the next one!

-- Brent H. --"This retirement stuff is hard work. I need to go get a job so I can get some rest!"

8 comments so far

View John's profile


1862 posts in 2127 days

#1 posted 07-29-2017 04:46 PM

Great idea, this should generate a lot of conversation when people see it!

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

View michelletwo's profile


2786 posts in 3873 days

#2 posted 07-29-2017 05:58 PM

I really like your concept here. How wonderful to see the orignal artwork, and then be able to make the bowl . I love the choices you made.Terrific piece.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3724 days

#3 posted 07-29-2017 06:01 PM

Wow! this is such a beautiful piece and I love the art.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View BobWemm's profile


2880 posts in 2783 days

#4 posted 07-30-2017 02:05 AM

I love the idea and “story” . I’m glad you decided to leave the walls straight, don’t know why but it just seems the right result.
Congratulations on a great piece.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View Redoak49's profile


4883 posts in 2846 days

#5 posted 07-30-2017 11:35 AM

Very interesting project and well done. I really enjoyed see the petroglyphs and then your use of it.

View PaulDoug's profile


2394 posts in 2561 days

#6 posted 07-30-2017 02:11 PM

That is a beautiful bowl. I also think you did the shape just right. Too fancy of a shape would not have fit the simplicity of the Native art. Wonderful job.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1116 posts in 3169 days

#7 posted 07-30-2017 03:47 PM

Great piece of work much enhanced by the accompanying narrative.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View ralbuck's profile


6580 posts in 3123 days

#8 posted 07-30-2017 07:52 PM

Superior imagination + Superior workmanship = AAA+++

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

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