Trout Carving in High Relief

Inspired by a painting done of me and for me by my good friend and artist, Len Schmidt, a while back I carved a trout out of pine, in high relief. The idea was to test out several artistic concepts. I wanted it to be a minimalist type of carving – no scales, just a hint at the eyes and gills – but I also wanted it to give the impression of a fish that is half-in and half-out of the water, and one that clearly has some movement going on. It hang on my wall straight up and down for about a year, and I wasn’t happy with it.

Then, recently I thought about grouping some of the art I have on my office walls, and I decided to put this carving next the painting that inspired it. I also decided to hang it at an angle to create more visual interest. The twist of the tail and the curve of the tail fin show so much more like this. I like it a lot better!

I’m still not particularly happy with the carving overall, but I’ll chalk it up to experimentation and learning. As a result, it’s not for sale. Someday I’ll redo it and resolve the issues I have with it and then I’ll consider selling it. Until then, I hope you can enjoy it for what it is.


Cherry Bread Plate

The demand for my hand-carved cherry bread plates is growing. 

Bread Plate 2016

A word about the finish and care of these plates is in order. They are not intended to be cutting boards – they are intended to be serving trays. They are finished with a food safe oil & wax (natural linseed oil which comes from flax, and beeswax). If you cut with a knife on this plate, it will scratch. If you put the plate in the dishwasher, you will destroy it. Instead, just wipe it off with a cloth or paper towel and put it back on your display rack (you do have a display rack for this, right?!?). I recommend that maybe once a year you grab a soft cotton cloth and give the plate a quick buff to restore the luster. My mom has one of these that I carved in oak at least 10 years ago. The last time I was home, I simply rubbed a cotton rag over it to buff it up and the glow returned to the plate. 

If you would like one of these, please contact me at

Richmond Carving Show, 2016

This past weekend, I had the privilege of being in the Richmond Carvers Society annual wood carving show. It was held at the Steveston Community Centre on Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29. It is a high quality, juried show. This year, there were three judges. All the carvings had to be entered by 9:00 on Saturday morning, and by 12:00 noon, all the judging was completed and the show was open to the public.

As I was dropping off my carvings, I saw the quality of what was already in view and I was amazed. I sent a note to some friends that I didn’t think I stood much chance against the stiff competition. Here’s a sample:

Display Table

As you can see in the background of that photo, there are many tables with a lot of carvings on them. I estimate that there were 250 to 300 carvings entered in the show! Around the outside were vendor tables with representatives from Lee Valley, Chipping Away, and others selling everything from carving tools and wood, stone, jewelry, and even soap (why is handmade soap such a “thing”?). Our club had one of these tables for the purpose of supporting the Richmond club, but also to hopefully attract new members.

Club Table with President Joany
Club Table with President Joany
Our club President Joany carved all the carvings on the table in the picture above, with the exception of the sign, which is (I’m told) about 25 years old and was made by Jordan Straker.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of being tutored by an older, very experienced carver and judge on how to be a judge at a show. He told me that most judges are not good at recognizing their own biases. For example, he said that most of the carvings that win first place or Best of Show are large. The small carvings tend to get overlooked, even though they may be technically better and more artistic. In fact, sometimes the small carvings are significantly more difficult, yet judges heads are turned by large carvings. Second, he said most of the carvings that win first place are ones that are sanded and have a glossy finish.

In the end, my entries did ok. I won a first place in my division (Advanced) for the horse, and two second places for the ear and pear.

Horse Bust
Horse Bust
Note that this carving won a first place in a the Advanced category, and it is large and sanded smooth with a glossy finish.

Wormy Pear
Wormy Pear
Note that this pear carving won a second place, and it is not large, nor is it sanded smooth and doesn’t have a glossy finish…

Ear Selfie
Ear Selfie
This carving was very technically challenging, yet it is small and a matte finish. I wonder whether it would have done better if I carved it three times larger and sprayed it with a shiny lacquer?

Here are a few more photos:

Display Table 2
Display Table 2

Water Birds
Water Birds
Note that these two birds, which are as perfect as can be, did not win a ribbon. They are small, not sanded smooth, and not shiny…

Ken Fotheringham's Bust
Ken Fotheringham’s Bust
This carving, by Ken Fotheringham is spectacular! The two horses beside it didn’t even win a ribbon, yet they are also some of the best and most difficult carvings in the show, in my opinion.

This was beautiful, and artistic, with a couple of tiny issues (that adipose fin and the size of the head in relation to the body), but they are not substantive in my opinion. But the base – with the half-buried reel – awesome! The fins, scales, and the teeth and paint job are all top-drawer! It may have been on the display table, which is possibly why it didn’t get a “Best of” ribbon. It must have taken a year or more to do!

This heron won best of division in Advanced. It was the largest carving in the show. Don’t look to closely at it – there are all sorts of issues with it. But it’s large. Very large. So large the judges probably couldn’t see the perfect and artistically carved little wren two to the right, which didn’t win anything at all. Hmm…

All in all, it was a very good show, with some excellent carvings and sculptures. I’ve really only shown you some of the highlights. I missed taking a photo of Ken Fotheringham’s carving of a flower drop which easily rivals anything Grinling Gibbons ever sculpted.

A Wormy Pear

Remember the pear I carved for the theatre company a few months ago? That garnered a surprising amount of attention and requests from others for more carved pears. It appears that pears are a favourite among many of you!

Wormy Pear

I call it a wormy pear because the wood (mahogany) is from a log that has been eaten through and through by the tiniest of worms. The holes they left in the wood are black around the edges. It reminds me of the pear tree that grew outside my bedroom window when I was growing up. It had the most delicious pears in the world – I’ve never had another pear that was nearly as good – but they were rough on the outside and often had worms, so eating them required paring with a knife (see what I did there?). Those pears would never sell in a grocery store because of the imperfections. Learning to see the beauty in imperfections can help us discover some of the best that life has to offer.

This one is carved in mahogany and finished with linseed oil and beeswax. It is approximately 7 inches tall.

An Ear Selfie

Ear Selfie in progress
One of our faculty members, Erica Grimm, in the School of Arts, Media + Culture at Trinity Western University (my day-job) had a solo show called Salt Water Skin Boats in which she presented a sculpture of an ear, done in wax and a few other interesting materials. It inspired me to sculpt a response out of wood.

My response to her concern is related to the title I’ve given my sculpture. I believe we in North America live in a narcissistic age where it can sometimes seem that we are preoccupied with capturing the perfect selfie. Learning to listen, bending to hear, lending an ear to someone or something other than ourselves becomes difficult when we’re most concerned about our own image.

Rough Ear
Ear Selfie roughed in

A TV Interview with Grant McMillan

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be featured in an interview for Shaw TV’s Go! West Coast. It is now live, and you can watch it on Shaw TV’s channel 4. If you are not a Shaw subscriber (as I am not), you can view it on YouTube: Langley Carver. It’s a 2 minute and 7 second video, so it won’t take long.

I misspoke near the beginning of the interview when I said my dad was a carver and my grandpa was a woodworker. I don’t recall saying my dad was a carver – he was a woodworker. But somehow I slipped up on that. Oh well!

I know I’m probably being too self-critical, but near the end of the video I appear to be rather over-animated and a bit wild-eyed… Again, oh well!

The man behind the camera (Jim Price) did a fine job, and distilled about 2 hours down to 2 minutes. It was fun and I hope you enjoy watching it.

My 15 Minutes of Fame

With the advent of the phrase, “It’s gone viral!” I think we may need to revise the phrase about fifteen minutes of fame and call it the “fifteen seconds of fame.”

In about three weeks time you’ll be able to determine if I’m ready for a life of fame. On Wednesday I was interviewed in my garage/home/studio by a producer and cameraman from Shaw TV for the lifestyle show called “Go! Vancouver” or “Go! Westcoast” that airs (here in BC) on Shaw Channel 4 at 5 pm and 9 pm daily. If you are a subscriber, watch for the story about my carving work that should air in approximately 3 weeks time. If you’re not a Shaw subscriber, you can pick it up from Shaw’s Go! page or their Shaw TV Go! Westcoast YouTube channel.

You’ll be able to see me working on two carving projects as well as some of my recent relief carvings and sculptures. I share a little about my background and how I got into carving, as well as why I do what I do and what I hope you get out of it.

What you won’t see in the video is the mad scramble that happened a few days before the interview. My entire family, including my daughter-in-law, worked to clear out the garage/carving studio from all the stuff and detritus that accumulated over the years. They worked hard and made some tough decisions about throwing things out, including my son & daughter-in-law’s wedding cake. Hey, as the interviewer said to me, “I hope I’m not bursting your bubble when I say that reality TV isn’t always real.” Nope, no surprise there!

One thing I didn’t know (or maybe forgot) is that my lineage in wood work extends even further back than I thought. While on the phone bragging about my new found fame to my Mom this week, she informed me that not only was my father into wood working and my grandfather a sawyer, but my great-grandfather owned a sawmill in Ontario. That further convinced me that sawdust has found its way into my gene pool and altered my family line.

After going through a few old photos in preparation for the interview, I see that I should revise the timeline of how long I have been working in wood. I usually tell people that I started carving in 1989 or somewhere around there. In actual fact, I was helping my dad build our home while I was still in diapers! You say, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Well, here’s proof:

Vic & baby Grant Building Skirting

As you can see, I was very good at holding down pieces of wood from floating off in the breeze.

And here I am screwing a board down with my bare hand!

Vic & Young Grant Woodworking

All that and I’m wearing a plaid shirt that would make Red Green jealous.

Anyhow, don’t forget to tune into Shaw TV in about 3 weeks and look for a red-faced, stammering guy who looks like me waving sharp tools at the camera. If you live in BC, it’s channel 4, airing daily at 5 pm and 9 pm.

P.S., If my old buddy Paul Corbett of Cutting Edge Lawn Care is reading this, I think I might have you and Steve beat for photo evidence of years of experience (haha!).