Tonight (6 June), both the Cardiff National Eisteddfod’s Crown and Chair are presented to the festival’s Executive Committee, at a special ceremony.
The Crown is donated by Cardiff University, and the financial prize is presented by Manon Rhys and Jim Parc Nest. The Crown is presented for a free verse poem of no more than 250 lines, titled Olion (Traces). The adjudicators are Christine James, Ifor ap Glyn and Damian Walford Davies.
The Crown was designed and created by Laura Thomas, Neath. Laura has put in more than 400 hours of work to produce a unique Crown that is modern yet respectful of the Eisteddfod’s traditions.
Her inspiration for the design was derived from her signature technique, parquetry, where she inlays wood veneer into sterling silver. The Crown features more than 600 hexagonal inlays, all added by hand.
Laura’s love of working with wood came from her grandfather Jack Owen, who used to make small carved animals from solid wood and plywood. Laura said, “I’ve always really enjoyed working with wood and I'm fascinated with the different grains and contrasting colours. For the Crown, I’ve inlayed five types of precision cut wood veneers by hand into geometrically structured silver and then assembled to create the structure.
“The use of sustainable veneers echoes the ongoing development of sustainable technologies surrounding Cardiff, such as biomass-based power generation, which is something I wanted the Crown to reflect.”
Following a competition led by Cardiff University, Laura was chosen ahead of several high-quality designers. The University was keen to offer its expertise to support Laura in the process of creating the Crown. Parts of the geometrical patterns on the Crown were specially created within the University.
Laura said, “It's been a pleasure to meet members of staff at the Welsh School of Architecture and the School of Engineering, and especially the School of Chemistry, who have provided me with the unique geometries to include in the design of the Crown.”
The Eisteddfod Chair will also be presented to the Executive Committee on Wednesday. This year, the Chair will be presented for a poem in more than one of the traditional poetic measures of no more than 250 lines, and is sponsored by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of St Fagans National Museum of History. The subject is Porth (Gateway or Entrance) and the adjudicators are Ceri Wyn Jones, Emyr Davies and Rhys Iorwerth.
The Museum was keen to see a connection with St Fagans in the design, and this was the challenge for sculptor Chris Williams, who lives in Pentre and works in Ynyshir, Rhondda. He was inspired by the form of the stick chairs in the Museum collection, in particular one chair that was made in Trealaw, only a few miles from Chris’s workshop.
He said, “My design is inspired by a number of different chairs I have researched in the St Fagans collection. I have designed a modern chair which nods to the traditional yet has the presence of a ceremonial chair. This is achieved through a number of design elements including wide heavy seat, open arms and high back.”
Chris chose to make the chair seat and back from elm, and ash for the legs and arms. The seat and back is lightly engraved with a traditional wool pattern that is based on a carthen in the collection of St Fagans, woven at Esgair Moel Woollen Mill, one of the first buildings to have been re-erected at St Fagans in 1952.
Chris has successfully combined traditional elements with new technology within his design. Many of the pieces were created by hand using traditional tools while the pattern on the seat and back were engraved using a laser-cutting machine.
Elements of the chair were made at St Fagans National Museum of History in a purpose built building, Gweithdy. This is a brand new sustainable building celebrating the skills of makers past and present where visitors of all ages can experience traditional craft skills first-hand. At Gweithdy, Chris demonstrated and shared the process of making the chair with visitors – a first in the history of making the National Eisteddfod chair.
The financial prize is presented by Gaynor and John Walter Jones in memory of their daughter, Beca.
Speaking as he accepted both the Crown and the Chair on behalf of the local committee, Ashok Ahir, said, "It is a great pleasure to be here tonight to accept the Crown and the Chair on behalf of this year’s Eisteddfod.
“The ceremonies are two of the week’s highlights, and we sincerely hope that we will have two worthy winners for the Crown and Chair in a few weeks’ time
“We are delighted to have two local sponsors for the Crown and Chair this year, and are grateful to Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales for their generosity. We also thank Manon Rhys and Jim Parc Nest for the financial prize for the Crown, and Gaynor and John Walter Jones for donating the financial prize for the Chair.
“Thank you very much on behalf of the Committee, the Eisteddfod and everyone who has worked so hard here in Cardiff for the past two years.”
Monday’s ceremony and the day’s activities on the Maes are sponsored by top 100 UK law firm, Hugh James.
The Crowning ceremony takes place on Monday 6 August at 16.30, and Chairing ceremony on Friday 10 August at 16:30. Both ceremonies are held in the Pavilion which is housed in the Donald Gordon Theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre.
Both the Chair and the Crown will be exhibited at National Museum Cardiff from 12 June until 2 August.
Visitors will need to purchase wristbands for day activities in the Pavilion in the Donald Gordon Theatre and the smaller pavilions dotted around the Wales Millennium Centre.
These can be ordered beforehand or bought on the day, and the aim is to enable us to control the number of people in the Centre at any one time, in line with their health and safety requirements. Entry to the other areas on the Maes, including the other permanent buildings will be free of charge.
Go to www.eisteddfod.wales for more information.