Until now I’ve only made large outdoor portals. But for sometime a good friend of mine asked me to make a much smaller gate. One that could sit on his desktop. With my existing tooling and by temperament I’m not inclined to making small objects. However, when I finished my last commission this summer and no others were on the immediate horizon, I wondered what to do next. It was quite obvious a miniature Elven Gate.

My initial concept was to use the form of the Moon Gate-miniaturize it and add a door.. It would look like a doorway to a Hobbit house. I took my Moon Gate drawings and scaled them to 1/12 of the original or to the common scale of a dollhouse. It would be about 9 inches tall. The size was larger than I wanted but not so much as to be unworkable. But how would I make an operable door? There are dollhouse hinges but not for round doors. So, I was a bit stuck and I had a deadline because I would be visiting my friend early in August.

I was in a quandary. And though I checked in with my muse, nothing ‘visionary’ showed up. I have a particular place on our land (we have 9 acres in the foothills of the Oregon Cascades) where I go to meditate and find that creative place within. I don’t do anything special. I just stand quietly, often visualizing the project that I’m working on. On this particular afternoon an entirely new picture formed in my mind. It was of an upright circle of wood with another smaller circle perpendicular to it that formed the base. In the center of the larger circle there was a brass spiral that could turn on a central axis instead of a door with hinges.

From my description it sounds like presto a 3-D image suddenly formed before me. That’s not how the process works for me. I move into a field of energy and my imagination becomes more fluid. But this muse energy is collaborative with my imagination and images flicker in and out as I ‘tune’ the energy until the ‘draft’ shape of the form emerges. Often there are blanks spots. For those I need to develop a more focused visualization and often drawings done in a 3-dimensional computer drafting program.

Thus begins the perspiration after the inspiration. If the image is fairly clear, and in this case it was, I need to put dimensions to the visions. My starting point was a brass spiral (I will be writing more about it in a future blog). I had a spiral that 2 ⅞ inches in diameter. What size should the wood circle be? I like to get visual feedback so I work with a 3-D drafting program called SketchUp. There’s a free version and it’s relatively easy to learn.

I tend to use a multiple of the Golden Ratio or phi Φ to assist me in determining the size relationship between the various elements of my piece. Phi and its variants are often found in nature. It’s a good reference but I’m not rigid in how I apply it. So, I drew several circles with different dimensions until one of them felt right to me. Now I was able to develop a quick visual model in SketchUp. That provided me with shop drawings so I could start fabrication.