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
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!).

Carved Bread Plate 

  
The past few evenings have been spent finishing this carving. In my last post, I had glued up the cherry boards. Since then, I cut out the circle with my bandsaw circle-cutting jig that my father (the jig-master) made me decades ago.

  
Then I hand planed the surface. 

   
 
Once the circle was flattened I fell in love with the piece of wood. The lines, the tiny pin knots, and the range of rich colours that were showing up made my heart pitter-patter. 

   
   
Next I laid out the letters, which always takes longer than expected when working around a circle. The letters have to be sloped just so, spaced just so, and just a little narrower towards the inside of the circle. Then I got down to business cutting the letters. 

  
After the letters were all incised, I redrew the inside circle. Then I got after the ‘bowl’ carving.

  
Then I flipped the plate to carve the back. 

  I’ve learned from the native carvers from the west coast about the value of a simple file in wood carving. I put my file to use trueing the outside rim of the plate. 

  
Then after a little cleaning and final touch ups under a bright light and magnifying lense, all that was left was to put the finish on. 

  
After posting a picture of it on Instagram, it lasted all of a half-hour before it was snapped up by someone. I delivered it this evening in this package : 

  
Details:

  • The wood is black cherry 
  • The dimensions are 14″ in diameter by just over 1″ thick 
  • The finish is linseed oil and beeswax
  • It is sold.

Carving a Cherry Bread Plate

 

Bread Plate Plans

I came across a lovely bunch of rough cut cherry wood, which I have been on the hunt for since my last bread plate went to a good home in Fernie, BC. I have wanted to carve another similar plate, but as long-time readers of this site know, I need the perfect piece of wood before I can start. 

I went to visit my mom and while I was there I dug through dad’s old piles of lumber and found the perfect piece of cherry. 

Bread Plate Glue-Up
 
I after rough-sizing the wood and jointing the edges by hand, I glued and clamped the wood together on a flat surface. I only need one flat surface for this project as the rest will be carved away. 

Next job is to cut a circle out of this board and plane it perfectly flat. 
 

Acanthus Leaf Study

Finished Acanthus Leaf

I call this relief carving “Acanthus Leaf Study” because it is the one I use as a model to teach introductory woodcarving classes. It has all the elements of a classic low relief sculpture. It has a level foundation, some high sides, some low, some slopes, deep vees, undercuts and undulations. It has curves like Venus de Milo and is evocative of Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. It throws a lovely shadow and will gradually warm to an antique shade over time.

Unfinished Acanthus Leaf

It is carved in Aspen wood. The dimensions are 6 inches by 4 inches, by 3/4 inches thick. It is signed as an original with my brand initials.

Owned by a private collector.