Coffee Stirring Spoons

Story

These spoons came about because my daughter-in-law’s mom really likes double-walled glasses or mugs for hot coffee, but sometimes they break when people use metal spoons and, in her words, “stir like a billy!” which appears to be Kiwi for “stir like the Incredible Hulk” or, to translate into Canadian, “stir violently and break my favourite mug!”

Sorry, but that is not cool.

She asked me to come up with a design that would blend style and mug-stirring-safety all in one spoon. For an added bonus, I have kept the spoon bowl rather small to help reduce sugar intake and keep the dreaded diabetes at bay. You can have a style, mug safety, and personal health all combined in these little spoons.

Each one is hand-carved in walnut, and impregnated with non-toxic cutting board oil.

Inspired by the Art-Deco movement and exclamation marks.

Price: $20 each, or 6 for $99. Shipping is not included.

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Bishop’s Crozier Number Two

One really cool thing about being an artist who takes commissions is that I get to participate in the lives of the most interesting people. The projects they ask me to do for them are always deeply personal and often profound.

Earlier this year I received an email from a Catholic Priest who was soon to become the Bishop of Tuktoyaktuk, which is located in the Inuvik region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. He had seen that I had carved a Crozier for the Anglican Bishop of Victoria, and hoped I could carve one for him too.

What made this carving so interesting is that he had his own bit of heraldry that signified his specific calling or vocation as a Bishop. In Latin, the phrase is Veritas et Reconcilio, or Truth and Reconciliation, which we Canadians know from a Commission with the same name. The shield and symbol he had was unique and striking in its simplicity and style.

The broken heart is mended (see the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, verse 18). The cross has a spear on one side , part of the ancient Roman method of crucifixion (shudder!). The other side has a stick with a sponge soaked in vinegar. This is mentioned by John in his Gospel, chapter 19, verse 19, in which he tells the reader that when Jesus said he was thirsty, the Roman soldiers offered him a sponge dipped in vinegar on a hyssop branch.

The top space of the shield symbolizes the northern ocean that Tuk sits on the shores of, while below it is land with a river flowing through it, which I assume is the Mackenzie River.

I chose a piece of wood that should last forever and handle the weather of the Canadian north: teak. I finished it with the best feeling finish ever – a blend of flax seed oil and beeswax.

My client, the Bishop, is happy because he said it was exactly what he had hoped it would be.

Which means I am happy too!

Spoonfuls of Goodness

I was given a beautiful and large piece of yellow cedar, and a fellow carving club member was in the midst of carving some large spoons which inspired me to carve one myself.

I like spoons that have a shape that flows from curve to curve.

This one has no flat lines anywhere. It is all curves. Even the top side of the handle gently curves from side to side as well as down the length.

The abalone shell is also not flat, but has a slight curve that closely matches the handle.

The entire spoon has been carved by hand, and the carving marks from the knife and gouges show. I believe a good wood carver is like a good painter whose brush strokes demonstrate her skill. Marks from the knife and gouge show how skilled is the carver, how sharp the tools are, and demonstrates his or her knowledge of the wood.

This is west coast style: carving that uses a west coast wood, shows a connection to the ocean, emphasizes nature and allows nature to show through.

This spoon is for sale for $169.00 Canadian

Charcuterie Boards

Thanks for following along with my wood carving work here. I enjoy creating art and seeing your responses to it. I love seeing the grain in unique pieces of wood.

I have benefited from my father’s collection of wood over the years, and I found two exceptional pieces that I sat on for a while before finding the tools I needed to do the job properly. These two pieces combine art and my love of wood grain. They are live edge which means I only removed the bark but left the edges otherwise untouched.

This first board is yellow cedar, and is approximately 12″ in diameter.

This second board is big leaf Western maple, and is quite a bit larger. It is about 12″ across the narrow edge and 30″ long. It is also almost 2″ thick. I have more plans for this one, so stay tuned.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of them.

Thanks!

Grant

Gecko Evolves Into Salamander Bowl

In my last post, I introduced a carving in progress of a bowl with what was going to have a gecko on the side of the rim. I have decided to change it to a salamander because the wood is yellow cedar which does not grow where geckos live. We have many salamanders and lots of yellow cedar on the west coast of Canada, so these two go together better than a gecko.

The bowl now has maple leaves incised along one side and curling over the rim, and just to the left is where the salamander is peeking over the rim. Maybe she is looking for a tasty morsel of food in the bowl?

So many people have picked up the bowl and commented similarly: “I love this beautiful bowl – the leaves are great!” Then they turn the bowl slightly and remark, “Oh! I didn’t even see this little creature! I like it!”

That’s exactly the reaction I hope for with almost all my carvings – there is always something subtle about them that isn’t noticed right away. Salamanders are like that – you have probably stepped over more of them than you’ve seen. Even if you are looking for them they are hard to find because they blend into their environment. I carved this one to follow the swirling grain of the burl. The worm holes in the surface of the burl are also in the surface of the salamander.

Carving a Gecko Bowl

What? You’ve never heard of a Gecko Bowl? I’m shocked and amused!

I found a couple of yellow cedar burls (carbuncles?) in my dad’s old woodpile and thought I would try to carve a bowl in one.

I started by hollowing out the bowl before taking off the bark. I did it like this to minimize any potential damage from clamping the wood.

A couple of folks at the Central Fraser Valley Woodcarvers Club suggested that they thought some kind of animal could be carved into the bowl. I stripped off the bark and find just the spot for a gecko.

Check out those bug holes, er, speckles on the gecko’s body!

More to come as I have time to work on this.

Grant McMillan

Living Outside the Box: A Carved Urn

22 months ago my friend Ray Olafsen was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. We had the privilege of walking through it with him and his wife Doris. Ray was unique and amazing. I have never met anyone who lived so intentionally and so generously. Ray made everyone feel special and loved. When Doris asked me, a few weeks before he passed, if I would make his urn, I immediately said yes. And could I carve something about Ray on the box? Oh yes I would!

The pictures below tell the story:

Ray wanted me to be sure to spell his name correctly “with an e, not an o.” He joked that when he got to the Pearly Gates, he would have St. Peter double check the spelling of his name in the Book of Life. I made sure his earthly home had the correct spelling!

Ray was not a pushy, Bible- thumping Christian. Far from it. Instead, Ray would simply want you to know that you are important to God and that he hopes you are prepared to leave this earth with little warning. I heard him say to people who were nervous about talking about his looming death, “I know I am dying and I am ok with that. But we are all dying. I have been given the privilege of having some warning and I know I am going to heaven. Do you know where you are going?”

Ray’s urn points the way. He lives outside this box, which is exactly how he lived life.

See you soon, Ray. See you soon.

Trout Carving 

Here are a couple of fat little trout that I carved for a client in the Okanagan valley. These fellas are going on the face of a fishing cabinet.

After cutting them out I used a nice little carving jig to hold them in place while I carved them with my mallet and gouges.

In the pictures and videos below you can see more of the progress and the stain selection. I received great service from Michelle Sparrow and her paint store North Langley Paint & Decorating when she advised me on stain selection and application as well as a good clear coat to spray.


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Cougar Carving Completed

Finally!


You say, “It’s about time, Grant. You’ve been dragging this carving out forever…”

True. I’ve started and stopped and finished and restarted this carving a few times. But now it is finished, mounted in a hand-carved frame, and is hanging on my wall.

It is a rare opportunity to buy something that wasn’t carved on a commission for someone else. I manage to squeeze in a carving of my own maybe once a year. The rest of the time I am carving items that others have requested from me. For example, my next projects include a box for an urn, a cross for a collector, a large sign for the Pacific Woods Lodge at Camp Qwanoes, a relief carving of a fireman’s helmet, a sign for a cabin, a lintel above a grand entry set of doors, and a large cross for a chapel. All this will easily take me into next year.

Mountain Lion Carving Update


A few blog posts ago, I mentioned that I had finished the Mountain Lion carving. Then I decided it needed a frame. And it couldn’t be just any frame. It needed a frame that was integrated with the carving subject. So I custom made a frame from a piece of old growth redwood that I salvaged from a neighbour’s renovation about 10 years ago.

After fitting the frame around the carving, I decided to carve the cougar’s paw prints into it. You can’t see the cougar’s feet in the carving, and that is by design. I want people to feel a little uneasy about how close the cougar is to them, and by hiding the feet in the grass, it leaves you unsure about how close it is. Hikers, fishers, and hunters will all know the sphincter-tightening feeling of seeing those fresh tracks.

I started the project in the fall of 2016, thought I’d finished it this summer, and now think it is nearing it’s true completion. All that is left is to put a few coats of finish on the frame and attach a hanging-mechanism.

This carving is less than 2 mm in depth. In fact, the carved paw prints are the deepest part of the carving, yet it gives a beautiful impression of depth and life when under the proper overhead lighting. I’ll post the proper measurements when it is completed.

Remember, this carving is for sale – make me an offer! You can email me at gvmcmillan@gmail.com