Behind the scenes: the making of Labyrinth

"In a labyrinth, one does not lose oneself. In a labyrinth, one finds oneself. In a labyrinth, one does not encounter the Minotaur. In a labyrinth, one encounters oneself."

Although at first glance this structure may appear to be a maze, it is not. A maze is a puzzle to be solved: it has multiple paths, including twists, turns and dead-ends.

This is a labyrinth: a highly complex pattern which begins at the perimeter and leads you inevitably to the centre. However, the path is incredibly circuitous and torturous. It’s not meant to be easy.

 At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

Researching the Labyrinth

There is nothing original about labyrinths. They are ancient patterns, and there are many labyrinth designs of archaeological significance scattered throughout the Old World. However, I desired to reinterpret the labyrinth through a contemporary filter. After studying dozens of labyrinth designs dating from the Stone Age to the European Renaissance, I grasped the essence of a labyrinth: that is, a single path which runs in only one direction in the most circuitous way possible, beginning at the perimeter of the pattern, and terminating at the centre.



The design which you see above is known as the St Omer labyrinth, which decorates the tiled floor of the St Omer Cathedral,  France. This design became a dominant motif in my layout. In order to give my design a "contemporary" feel, I had to find something let-of-field, something unusual. My creative instincts led me for some reason to the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, which had a catastrophic melt down in 1986. 

Trawling through Google image search, I was fascinated by this image of the reactor floor. One may observe a mosaic of steel squares which together form a gigantic circle, girded by rectangular plates and again more squares. This, I decided, would form the backbone of my design: the path of my labyrinth would follow the regular grid-form of the reactor floor. 

A grid was carefully drawn onto a board of marine grade plywood and the torturous path was mapped out from beginning to end. This was the beginning of a painstaking process. The bulk of my labyrinth would be constructed from tiny block of dressed Tasmanian Oak, each measuring 12 x 12mm. The labyrinth is "stepped" - there are 7 levels beginning at the outermost perimeter, and leading inwards and upwards to the final resting place, "the Portal". 


Each block of wood had to be cut and sanded to a specified size, and then joined to 2 or more blocks in order to make block-sections, which could be located exactly to its corresponding place on the grid. This was an incredibly laborious and painstaking process. Once each block-section had been located on the grid, each part was glued down carefully and methodically. A separate component featuring the Portal was crafted and inserted into the middle of the board. Finally, the blue tape, which designated the path of the labyrinth, was carefully removed. Any gaps in the walls were filled with wood veneer and cut down to size.



The Labyrinth is a metaphor for the life journey. We are all on the path, exactly where we need to be. Keep walking.