A couple years ago I started a small woodcarving based on the Black Cat story by Edgar Allen Poe. My intention was to gift the piece to someone on a certain, special occasion. Circumstances beyond my control prevented the timely completion of the piece and it sat in my workshop unfinished. This weekend I decided to dig in and get it done..
It feels great to have another forgotten project off the dusty workshop shelf and now presented on a non-dusty living room shelf. I have a “Santa” patiently waiting in the workshop for his turn on the carving vice. Inspired by completing the Black Cat, I hope to keep the momentum and have Mr Claus in the living room by Christmas.
On a side note, Amy and I participated in the first annual Watsessing Park Fall Clean Up on Sunday November 1st 2015. We had a fun time exploring the park and scavenging around for bits of trash to pick up. Everyone was there, Bloomfield High School sports teams and cheerleaders and even the Bloomfield Fire Department was there to lend a hand. We look forward to volunteering next year.
This past weekend I presented a table at the North Jersey Woodcarvers’ 31st Annual Wood Carving and Art Show and Sale. As usual there are many things made by talented craftspeople to spark imagination and inspire.
My carvings were on display through the NJ Woodcarvers in previous years, but this is the first year with my own table. My time-lapse carving videos displayed on a monitor including some never before seen projects. Also, a selection of my carvings and woodworking were on display and whirligig parts were available for sale.
It was fun sharing a weekend with old friends as well as making new friends. I purchased art from artist Anthony Santella who also gifted a few old clockworks (I’ll do something with these someday). I carved a bunch of stars as well as practicing carving wooden pliers. One of my pliers attempts concluded abruptly with a nice cut on my thumb. Luckily Amy reminded me to pack Band-aids.
Today, Friday, Sept 4 2015 kicks off the Longs Park Arts and Crafts festival in Lancaster PA. The event showcases over 200 artists and craftspeople from across the country. On Sunday Sept 6 I will attend the festival to explore and also lend a hand to my woodworking friends at JD Lohr Arts & Crafts Furniture & Woodworking School. In other words, I’ll be helping pack up at the end of the event.
I’ve been fortunate to attend three woodworking courses the JD Lohr School of Woodworking offers and I consider Jeffry and instructors family. In the near future I plan on returning to the school to retake the Advanced Joinery class to make another nightstand. Can’t I make another nightstand at home? Yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a week at the school. Time shared at the school is a wonderful vacation.
Robert Spiece is an instructor and “second in command” at the school. I have the extreme privilege of owning a few pieces of his custom furniture. Beautiful work. Because Rob was thoughtful enough to share a free ticket to the festival and I had some time on my hands, I carved a representation of Rob as a token of thanks. Thanks Rob for the ticket, thanks for trusting me to load the truck, thanks for the beautiful furniture and thanks for making woodworking fun.
I had the awesome opportunity to attend F5 Fest located at Terminal 5 in New York City on April 17 -18. The fun and inspiring festival provides an opportunity to relax, rub elbows with designer/animators and enjoy motion graphics, the on-location bar provided much liquid inspiration.
Admission to the F5 Fest included tickets to experience Fuerza Bruta Wayra. If you haven’t attended this off-Broadway production drop what you’re doing and go. Spoiler Alert: some action takes place above your head. This wood carving was inspired by an inverted man wearing a neck tie. The distortion of perspective (and a day of fun) created an unforgettable memory.
The basswood carving required about seven hours to complete. The time-lapse video is seven minutes long, each minute roughly representing an hour of carving time. Carving this piece was just as fun as the inspiration. Now I want to carve more!
Working in a creative industry provides me an opportunity to work with many talented people. My department held a Secret Santa recently and my recipient was my co-worker Doug. Doug writes children’s stories about a character Olifant who forages for berries in Central Park.
It only made sense for Secret Santa to carve a wooden Olifant sculpture. It took about five hours to carve over a few evenings. It was a blast to carve. I almost didn’t want to give it away. The design of the character provided fun shapes, curves and volumes to bring the form to life.
While preparing for my Colorado River vacation I needed to decide what creative distractions to bring. My previous blog post made clear I brought some watercolor sketching supplies. I also brought a sharp carving knife and a few pieces of basswood. One of the basswood pieces was a rough-out I prepared to carve a 12-crossing Brunnian link.
Wikipedia explains, “In knot theory, a branch of topology, a Brunnian link is a nontrivial link that becomes a set of trivial unlinked circles if any one component is removed. In other words, cutting any loop frees all the other loops (so that no two loops can be directly linked).” An astute reader of my blog will recall me bringing a non-successful carving project with me to the Taste of Country music festival. The project I intended to make at the festival was the 12-crossing Brunnian link. I took a cube of black walnut with me and hardly made a dent in it.
I was determined to complete this project on vacation, without success. The image above shows the rough-out I packed for the trip, how far along I got with the project on vacation and the finished project. When I brought home the unfinished project I wanted to chuck it into the chiminea bin. Instead, this weekend I rolled up my sleeves, dug my heels in and refused to look up until the project was complete. All in all I thought the project was going to be a relaxing walk in the park; as with many things those little links demanded a little more focus and dedication to get the job done.
A great time was had this past weekend at the American Woodcarving School with guest artist Vic Hood. The instruction method Vic employs is fun, informative and practical. The three day seminar focused on woodcarving the human head and face. Everything (proportionally) technical to carve a head was clearly explained in six minutes. Vic used the remainder of the three days to tell jokes and reinforce human proportions through demonstration and individual tutoring. For many students, including me, it was the first time carving freshly felled wet wood.
My artistic ambitions directed me to carve a female bust (image right); the other students chose to carve men of various backgrounds. The unhurried and supportive environment provided an easy fun feel well suited for long days of carving. Although our carvings were unfinished after three days, each carving was nicely roughed out with important features in place. I won the raffle for Vic’s demonstration carving (image left) by being the very last name drawn from the bowl, “the biggest loser wins”. The irony of the only student to carve a female bust winning the male demonstration bust was noted by many. I won the piece, by losing, fair and square.
The female bust will wait in queue with several other half completed projects. Perhaps she will persuade me to cut to the front of the line.
It’s official! Saturday, April 5, 2014 I am presenting an exhibit titled “Urban Lumberjack” at the Greater Newark (NJ) Maker Faire. Urbandictionary defines “Urban Lumberjack” as, “A city dweller who makes a habit of wearing plaids and flannel although he or she has little to no outdoor experience.” This flavor of Urban Lumberjack does not interest me.
Unlike the hipster variety, real Urban Lumberjacks utilize natural, raw materials from their urban environment. Storm damaged trees and curbside trash provides a bounty of supplies to a person with knowhow and willingness to work. Items I created from such treasures will include a side table cut from a curbside tree stump and a sculpture of Adventure Time BMO (Beemo) carved from a section of fallen forest oak tree. See you there!
One of the not-so-great aspects of carving away from home is the portability of one’s tools. I have an old suitcase to throw my rolls of gouges and knives in which works okay. I also built a wood case for my power carver / wood burner with compartments to hold the accessories. The problem with burrs for rotary tools is their variety of size and shape. The readily available cases are simply holes drilled into something with some sort of lid. This works if the case stays stationary; as soon as the storage tips sideways all the burrs fall out of their holes. It’s a mess.
After a few unsuccessful attempts and making a custom case I came up with the idea of using magnets. I purchased one of those magnetic tool holding strips that magnetizes to the side of a tool chest – and magnetically holds wrenches and screwdrivers. I cracked open the cosmetic plastic body and found six strongly magnetized strips inside. I mounted four of these magnet strips to some plywood cut to fit into the compartment of my power carving case. This works great! My only regret is making the bit compartment of my case so small; it would be nice to have a little more real estate to spread the burrs out away from each other.
Several years ago a Bloomfield, NJ watering hole experienced major renovations and emerged as The Orange Squirrel restaurant. My wife and I witnessed the transformation while out and about with our standard poodle Fleur on our daily walks. After learning the restaurant was to be named The Orange Squirrel I carved a squirrel grasping a mug. I presented the carving to the Executive Chef Francesco Palmieri on opening night.
While enjoying drinks and outrageously delicious food at “The Squirrel” my wife and I hunt for our squirrel perched among the menagerie of squirrels in various locations about the establishment.
It’s exciting to hear about the various ways Chef Palmieri finds his way into the spotlight: “He’s on the TODAY show!”, “He’s on FOOD Network!…” It was to my surprise to learn our little carved squirrel found its way into Chef Palmieri’s spotlight. Our squirrel is in a photograph along the chef in Birk O’Halloran & Daniel Luke Holton’s new book Eat Ink! Way to go little guy. Nice work.