It’s A Torch!

The Torch I am sculpting for the Trinity Western House in Fort Langley finally looks a little like a torch. 


I am so pleased with the natural colours of the cedar and how they are a mirror image on each side. 

Next I will finish sand all the pieces down to about 280 grit. Then I will put the finish on and mount it to the metal frame. 

Torch Sculpture Progress

torch-cedar
Laying out the pieces on a beautiful piece of western red cedar.

I managed to squeeze an hour in the shop this afternoon to work on the Torch sculpture. I transferred the various parts of the drawing onto the wood and used the band saw to rough cut the shapes.

torch-part-4
Laying out the pieces on a beautiful piece of western red cedar.

Once a few of the pieces were cut out, I started sanding them to show the grain. I love the look and smell of freshly milled and shaped cedar!

 

A Large Torch Carving

My next carving project is one that came on short notice, with a short deadline. It’s one that’s extra cool for me because it blends my two worlds of University Registrar and wood sculptor. I’ve been asked to carve a large version of the Torch portion of TWU’s logo.

I’ve got the measurements and the very kind folks in the Facilities and Maintenance department ordered me a full size drawing. I’m now in the process of getting the measurements for a metal frame which will have to be welded in the next day or so.

I plan to carve it in cedar, with a light semitransparent stain. It will be mounted to the metal frame and then the whole thing will be mounted to the second story facade of a building in Fort Langley.

Here’s the full size version, stuck onto my window so I can see through the paper and draw the metal frame and take measurements off of it.

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 gvmcmillan@gmail.com

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.

Steelhead
Steelhead
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!

Heron
Heron
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.