Octavius wrote:I'm interested in documentation of what their different processes might be, what the difference in their materials might be, and what the difference in the styles/appearance of their products might be. Those things are what is going to be best implemented.
That's the interesting thing about "magic" in Tolkien's world. There is a difference between "magic" and what the Elves or Dwarves do. Here's a quote from Tolkien's letter 131 where he describes it:
Tolkien wrote: I have not used 'magic' consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves. I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion). But the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference. Their 'magic' is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation. The 'Elves' are 'immortal', at least as far as this world goes: and hence are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death. The Enemy in successive forms is always 'naturally' concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others* - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive.
I think the best sentence describing it in that passage is "product, and vision in unflawed correspondence." The way I read it Octavius is that there is no inherent difference in process. There is no need to chant or perform the making in any particular way. It's simply that, through their own internal gifts, the Elves (and Dwarves to a lesser extent) are able to take the product of their imagination and bring it to complete, effortless fruition simply because that's how they do it.
I don't think they could -not- do it if they wished to; it's their essential nature, the reason that they were put into the world, as is illuminated in this passage from further in Letter 131:
Tolkien wrote:These are the First-born, the Elves; and the Followers Men. The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when ‘slain’, but returning - and yet, when the Followers come, to teach them, and make way for them, to ‘fade’ as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which both proceed.
Their expression of craft is the intent of Illuvatar, to bring the world to it's utmost of delicacy and perfection. It isn't magic, it's something they do just by existing. It's only when they, or anyone, try to exceed their natural gifts and limitations, to speed up the expression of their will, or to coerce or change the natural laws of nature, that you have "magic". In this respect, the Rings, created by the Elves, were an act of magic, and inherently dangerous and in many ways evil.
As respects materials and style, for materials I imagine they would use the same materials as anyone else. It's just that, in measure to the inborn talent and gifts of the maker, when they make a dinner fork it is the utmost expression of what a dinner fork can be. It's tines are equally long and equally spaced. They have an architecture where what is pierced with them never slides off unbidden. It never loses its luster and never needs polishing and is exceptionally difficult to scratch or bend. Whatever the artisan elf has in mind for that fork, whatever he imagines it should be, that is what it will be, in measure to his inner gifts.
With that said any stylistic choices would be informed by the culture of the elf, and for our purposes, it's just a matter of choosing what we think it should look like, and then creating it. Tolkien doesn't give a lot of specific examples of elven crafts, or any detailed descriptions. There are a few, here and there, but they're fairly minimal. The artists of the LOTR movies were making it up in accordance with what they felt was appropriate for instance, and we could do the same.