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.
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!
Friends, thank you for coming to the Art of the Carver show and sale this past weekend. It was a resounding success! There was some discomfort among the organizers because we introduced a few significant changes this year, but I think we’re all celebrating now. We moved the venue from Chilliwack to the Matsqui Community Hall and guess what? More people showed up! We placed a greater emphasis on offering carvings for sale and guess what? More people purchased carvings! We asked some carvers to demonstrate how to carve and guess what? We could hardly finish carving because of the crowds of people asking questions and chatting us up about our work. We had a food truck outside – thanks to the fine people at Urban Spoon – and they served BBQ’d brisket along with a bunch of other great menu items. Brisket! My mouth is watering even as I remember the deliciousness… Step aside people, I’m going back for seconds!
So many volunteers made the show a success. The judges were fantastic (even if I didn’t do quite as well as the Richmond show). We had a few vendors who I’m sure did quite nicely based on the lineups I saw to purchase their equipment. Rick Wiebe of Wood ‘N Wildcraft had a huge table with a row of carving tools like you’ve never seen in one place before. And Bow River Woods had a solid table with nice sales on items. There were other vendors as well, and I saw many people walking away with tools, wood, and other items they had purchased.
These next photos are of carvings by other carvers and one of my bread plates.
The demand for my hand-carved cherry bread plates is growing.
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 email@example.com
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:
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.
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.
Note that this carving won a first place in a the Advanced category, and it is large and sanded smooth with a glossy finish.
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…
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:
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 :
The wood is black cherry
The dimensions are 14″ in diameter by just over 1″ thick
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.
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.
Each year, I carve a figure from the Christian nativity scene for a family member. Last year it was Mary, the mother of Jesus. This year it was Joseph.
I had a lovely piece of mahogany given to me by a client and friend, which was straight grained, relatively soft and of a warm reddish-brown colour. I cut out the basic shape on my band saw and went to work with the carving gouges. Joseph is intended to be a figurative sculpture, hence there is little detail. The idea is that you can see yourself in him and imagine what it would have been like to be at the birth of Jesus in that manger in Bethlehem. Joseph’s body language is a mixture of awe and pride, welcoming you to the scene and showing off the baby.
Joseph is approximately 6 inches tall, and is finished with a blend of linseed oil and beeswax.