Dedicated to my Mom, Canasta Reliquary

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Project by Byron posted 12-19-2011 07:10 PM 2847 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Avodire, Ebony, and Brass

Completed November 2011 at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Dedicated to my mother “Canasta Reliquary” commemorates the influence my mother has had on me growing up.

The quidelines given for this project were to utilize a door and a drawer in the design and creation of a reliquary. Considering what I knew about a reliquary, I knew the direction I wanted to head towards was capturing an idea or tradition rather then an object. As a child I grew up with the strong support of my parents. Family time was important and my mother would teach me new games and try to play them with me as much as she could. Canasta was one of my favorite games and a very competitive rivalry grew between us. Every round of every emotional game made one of us furious or ecstatic, creating a strong division in our approaches towards the game.

Recently I have been investigating capturing emotions through the use of line, but as far as my designs go function is a very strong driving force. These two, seemingly opposite ideas, led to an interesting direction. My brother and I would always get the cards sticky, bent, and covered in food while playing, so my mother started to hide the decks of cards sometimes quite elaborately. This idea of not knowing where the cards were, as well as the idea of capturing the emotions of Canasta led to hiding the decks behind a visual narrative.

The outer carcass or shell of the reliquary is dovetailed by hand with a mitered front containing a floating panel that shows the carvings. There are gaps to allow for expansion and contraction ensuring heirloom quality. The drawers, which have a recess around them allowing access, are also hand dovetailed and slide smoothly in or out.

Every surface is hand finished with shellac and the outside is french polished.

Also I cover the process of how this is made in my blog, there are a few posts about it. Every surface is carved and shaped by hand. Unfortunately pictures do not do the carvings justice.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my work,

Byron Conn

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

6 comments so far

View Triumph1's profile


921 posts in 3280 days

#1 posted 12-19-2011 07:23 PM

Beautiful work Byron. I really like the design aspect of having a sold set of doors which open to more personal space that looks solid to the eye.

-- Jeff , Wisconsin Please...can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!

View sras's profile


4943 posts in 3330 days

#2 posted 12-19-2011 07:51 PM

Impressive project! The blog was very helpful in showing how much went into the piece.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3778 days

#3 posted 12-19-2011 08:41 PM

Wow that’s a cool piece ,super workmanship and finished project.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3548 days

#4 posted 12-19-2011 09:01 PM

Excellent work, Byron! I absolutely love the simplified elegance in the design of the reliquary (with doors closed). With opened doors it shows that a stunning amount of thought went into its creation. Opened I also visualize it working as a triptych, though the left and right panels are devoid of carved design.

The hidden drawer is a wonderful surprise… worth a lot of extra points (even considering it was part of the guidelines in the design). I would add that in this work, form wins over function, hands down… though not diminishing the power of the function.

I send an extra warm greetings (this coming from one who spent a number of years in your neighborhood while at N.Y. State College of Ceramics at Alfred U.). Been decades since I visited RIT (several times) but fondly remember the school and Rochester. Great School, Great Faculty!

-- Rick, south Sweden

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3237 days

#5 posted 12-19-2011 10:51 PM

Byron this is a first class piece. The craftsmanship excellent and the figure and finish on the Avodire make it almost shine from within. You should be rightly proud of this accomplishment. The perfect way to conjure up happy memories. I am in awe.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 2070 days

#6 posted 05-05-2013 03:29 PM

Stunning piece. Love that you dedicated it to your mother.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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