The Dragon Chest, created for my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday, includes my interpretation of many stories that try to include some of my granddaughter’s heritage. Because her ancestry is so diverse, she is indeed the epitome of the American Melting Pot, I was forced to limit it to two. I went with Chinese and Norse/Celtic. As I make and will be making, God willing, chests for each grandchild I want each chest to be unique as a part of this new family tradition.
The first chest, for my first granddaughter, was made out of red cedar from her own back yard and petrified wood from the abundant fossil fields of Las Vegas so this one needed to be as different as one child is from another. I was struggling trying to decide on a path for this chest, a vision all its own if you will. I just couldn’t come up with a plan. This problem persisted for months. Then I had a dream and there was the chest with a Chinese pagoda roof style lid and a Viking ship base. I told about it Grammie that morning. “Good News!” I had a place to start.
The Chinese Influence
Since my granddaughter was born in the year of the water dragon, 2012, and because of the dream, I decided to put dragons on the “roof.” I started with ones on the top and the 4 on the corners plus the water dragon holding a crystal on the front for a total of seven. That was changed to 9 dragons by Grandma Jean. There are 2 dragons on the ridge, 4, one on each corner, 1 one each end and of course the main dragon, holding a crystal, on the front. The main dragon was inspired from a 2012 Chinese calendar.
The dragons on the top and corners are straight out of my dream.
The dragons on the sides were inspired by Chinese parade dragons kind of peeking over the edge. And also inspired by the wood I had that I thought looked an awful lot like dragon eyes. The yellow tongue is naturally cracked and came from a Mulberry tree.
The angry dragon?
The happy dragon?
The sides of the roof have slats instead of individual shingles like the front and back. The front has a pattern with the shingles whereas the back was strictly random. This was inspired by the Chinese concept of yin-yang with opposites being intertwined and interdependent.
The rocks (all collected by Rock Hounds Grammie and Papa, in the Las Vegas valley and were individually selected from our large selection) combined with the wood (also collect From the Streets of Las Vegas) were used for their individual beauty and to also follow this same yin-yang philosophy. Yin-yang was also followed by using yellow rocks on the sides while the front and back are a mixture…opposites. I did not include the Chinese yin, opposite of the yang dragon, the Chinese phoenix, because this about dragons and not their opposites.
I may have this all wrong but that was what led my reasoning.
The Chinese influence does not end with the exterior on the top. On the inside is our granddaughter’s name in Mandarin Chinese. The interior is made from 1/2 inch ply-wood that was recovered from Jimmy John’s restaurant by my good friend, Al Popp and donated. It was their menu that had become out of date.
The color purple (the royal color for our little princess) is (currently) her favorite color.
The Viking Dragon Chest
Both Grammie and Papa have Viking blood so this ancestry was an easy choice. But there was another reason: DRAGONS.
Both Chinese and Nordic history have a strong dragon influence. Why such distant cultures have the same (ALLEGEDLY) mythological creatures of legend is yet to be discovered. Did dragons once fill the skies, swim in the seas and walk upon the lands of both Europe and Asia while men marveled? is as yet and unsettled question.
Many Viking ships were decorated with dragons, from the ship’s figureheads on the bows to intricate intertwined dragons on the sides of their ships.
The front of the chest is adorned with intertwined dragons inspired by the Oseberg burial ship of Queen Asa of Norway Circa 830 AD.
The dragon on the left side of the chest is a replica of a Viking figurehead from Oslo, Norway. The handle of the left side has a fork like a dragon’s tongue.
I placed a Viking ship with sails full of wind and a dragon figurehead on the right side of the chest just below a handle that represents a lighting bolt:
Weeping Willow was used for the body because of its beautiful dark lines and to give it an aged appearance. No stain was used on any of the chest. All the coloring is natural with only a Clear Coat finish. The trim on each corner was left with “live” edges to mimic Viking clinker built ships.
On the interior I included a dragon I made in 80s that once graced the front of a shield originally carried into battle by my granddaughter’s father. These battles raged on the streets and backyards of Reno, Nevada. It even has original battle damage on the fire plume, chipped by a swords (I also made) in the heat of battle. Many lives were pretended to be lost on those bloodless fields and much glory gained.
Just above the dragon is a naturally heart shaped cut of Red Cedar to represent the love that went into the construction of this chest.
The lid supports are a combination of rope, for the Viking ship’s sails, and chain to hold anchors so the she may always remember to stay anchored to the love of her family, the extended family joined together by these supports. But to also keep her dreams in the wind so she may follow where her heart leads.
The floor of the chest is framed in pine, cut from the family’s 2013 AD Christmas tree. The floor also has the finial dragon. A naturally formed stone Grammie and I found while rock hounding. The Red Cedar came from a tree cut down and loaded into a trailer to be hauled to the local dump that I rescued last year and inlaid with stones and crystals. One of the small pieces on the floor has what appears to be a “flux capacitor” created by three small branches coming out of another small branch. I laughed when I found this as this chest is its own time machine.
As the finishing touch and for practicality I needed a handle. I couldn’t find one I liked until I went to an antique shop and found this one. It was perfect.
I have been asked many times how long it took to build this chest and the honest answer is that I do not know. There was well over 100 hours expended on the wood and rock work. I have over 16 hours just in sanding. But how many hours were spent rock hounding? How much time designing the chest and the dragons. How much time went into to collecting the many different types of wood from all over the valley that other people thought was only fit for the dump? I guess it took somewhere around 250 hours but that is a guess at best and does not include the time I took considering the possibilities nor having the dream that made it a reality. Does sleep time count?
And so the story ends and a new project beings.