DeWitte Family Crest

So many of my clients become friends, which I hope for because it means my carving adds meaning to their lives.

The DeWitte family have become some of our very best friends after they called me on a recommendation from the President of the Central Fraser Valley Woodcarvers Club. Jack is an amateur historian and a very good one. He knows his family history and he knows heraldry. This family crest, with helmet (those are feathers coming out of the top), shield, lions, castle towers, and surrounded by acanthus leaves, is historically accurate for the DeWitte family.

The wood is walnut, and is carved not deeper than one quarter of an inch, which means that all the depth you see is an illusion. It utilizes light and shadow to give the impression that there is more depth than in reality.

I feel privileged to work for true lovers of this art and craft like the DeWittes. And even more pleased to call them friends!

If you are interested in having something similar carved for your family, please email me at gvmcmillan@gmail.com

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Rifle Stock Carving

I get some very interesting carving commissions! That’s what I love about this work – there’s no getting stale because someone is always asking me to carve something creative and challenging.

This latest commission is for a rifle stock. The wood is walnut, and the carving is to match a tattoo! How cool is that?

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.

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

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

A Successful Art Show

 

show-pic
Visitors to Art of the Carver show

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.

Experts table – White flower drop won best of show
Koi Fish
One of Milt Stein’s beautiful creations
One of my bread plates

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.