The field of Celtic arts and crafts encompasses a range of styles and traditions. Some themes are specific to individual nations - think Welsh dragons, Irish shamrocks and Scottish thistles – but most are found across all the regions.
The Celtic style is very different to that of other western art forms and is characterised by geometric shapes and designs rather than figurative subjects. It is highly ornamental and symbolic, emphasising balance and characterised by repeating patterns that express ideas about the order of the universe.
Knot work designs are especially iconic and were used extensively in decorative art. They also appear in Celtic Christian manuscripts – including the famous Book of Kells – and in the stone crosses scattered throughout the six nations. There are many different variations. The triquetra or Trinity knot is the most famous and is used widely in Celtic jewellery. Spiral knots stand for eternal life and are believed to be one of the oldest Celtic designs, while the Celtic love knot, featuring an interlaced design, represents the love between two people. The Celts exchanged these knots in the same way as we exchange rings today.
The designs that have come down to us through the carving, sculpture and metalwork of our ancestors continue to exert a powerful influence on Celtic crafts today. The market for items with Celtic designs is enormous and includes jewellery, textiles, ceramics and glass, wooden objects and paintings.
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