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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bit by bit...

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This week, I was able to spend several hours, picking away at all the various parts of the top of the spoon. I thought I'd focus on a few close-ups of some of those parts in this week's blog. I think I started with the flower. Last week, I'd begun carving the first three petals. This week, I've begun carving the next three, and the back. I think I have the petals to the depth I want - cupped around the trumpet of the daffodil. It's not as long as a typical daffodil trumpet, but it is definitely a trumpet now, and the thin walls of the trumpet still have some strength. I know I am a sucker for making things delicate, but only when it helps the design. Even I consider how protected delicate parts may be.

Later, I worked a bit on the eagle. I felt like he wasn't looking as "eagle-y" as he should. I think that furrowed brow is one of the defining features of an eagle, so I trimmed a bit from the top of the beak, and I think I managed to emphasise the furrowed brow now. What do you think? I also began to put some shape to the top edge of the wing. Now, most of the front was rough-carved, so I turned to the back. *sigh*.

I looked at the back, and thought to myself, "there is a lot of carving to do here!" Well, this time I started with the vines, then moved on to the knot. You've probably already noticed how my initial carving is quite rough, leaving a lot of flat planes. I think this is partly the way I carve, and partly a result of some limitations of the grain of the wood. I know we've talked about how this wood carves nicely - buttery. It doesn't do that in every direction, though. No wood does. With all the different parts of this spoon, the approach with even small tools can be limited, so I might need to go somewhat against the grain. Against the grain, or across the grain, you have to be very tender and careful not to let the wood chip or tear. I also have to be sure that after my cut, I don't let my tool go into another part next to the part I'm carving. Mostly, it takes small tools, a careful hand, and lots of time. I find myself resorting to my micro skew and chisel to get into some parts. . I think I am rambling a little bit, here... so I'll stop about all that. It'll all get cleaned up in later steps.

I worked a bit more on all the parts of the back - the vines, the back of the "frame", and then, finally, on to the back of the eagle. . I started rounding out the top, shaping the wrap-around wing a bit more, in relation to the body... I think It's looking a little more like an eagle from the back, too. I also started shaving away a bit more depth into the frame. The thing about the frame is, it's meant to be a stable, relatively flat part, with everything else wrapping around it. The frame itself shouldn't look like it's "weaving." It will have to, at least a little bit - that's the nature of shallow relief, but I need to make every effort to make it look like it's not weaving. It looks a little bumpy, but I am envisioning when things are smoothed out, and I think this shallow relief thing is coming into shape.

Well, that was everything you could have wanted to know, and probably lots more, about this week's progress. Hopefully next week I'll get beyond this rough stuff, and we'll REALLY see it starting to take shape!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A slow week...

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Well, this past week, I didn't have a lot of time. I was selling my spoons at a Civil War Reenactment over the weekend, so spent most of last week getting ready for that. I did, however, get to work a little on our Eisteddfod spoon. When I sat down to write this blog, though, I realized, I don't really have a lot to show this week. So, this may be a little short, but here's what I did...
Mostly, I spent a few hours making deeper cuts where needed on the front, and starting to work on my daffodil. I'm not sure if the little bit more depth shows up in this picture, but, I assure you, there's a little bit more depth. I also made some progress on the daffodil - if you look at a daffodil, you'll notice that the six petals overlap a bit. Since this is the front-facing daffodil, and daffodils have trumpets, I have to bring the center of the petals down to as low a depth as I can. So, the petals will end up forming sort of a cup, just like you'd see on a real daffodil. That's the plan, anyway. I'm using tiny chisels and gouges to get in there, so it is a slow process, and has quite a bit more to come.

Then, I felt like a change, so I started cutting the lines into the back. . I don't think the left part of the frame looks right in the back, so I will re-draw that. I can do that, because the eagle wraps around the frame, so the frame will have to be carved to depth, which will erase the previous line I drew and carved. As you see, it's the same process, piece by piece. There are still lots of chips to take away. I guess that's what the process is all about.... take away the chips until they are all gone and what's left is the spoon. :) So, while I'm removing chips, you might consider making a donation to the Left Coast Eisteddfod to get some chances to win the finished spoon!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Laura's turn!

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Well, when the spoon arrived in the mail, my husband and I were on our way out. So, naturally, my husband said, "Well? let's open it up!" So, we carefully cut tape and removed layers and layers of bubble wrap, to arrive at this lovely spoon. I held it in my hands, and we both admired Dave's carving for a few minutes, and then we went on our way, only a little behind schedule. :)

One of the things about the spoon, with its lovely gentle arc near the bowls, and its convex back, setting it on a flat surface would leave it vulnerable to breaking with any pressure placed on its front... pressure like, oh, I don't know... carving? So, I got out a piece of squishy cloth, folded up, and placed it underneath for support and stability. I'll use that fabric any time I'm carving it on a table. Now that I see the spoon, it is bigger than most of my spoons have been, but it's not SO big. I can carve at a small portable table I have. My workbench still isn't finished, and it looks like I won't need it, after all. My dogs will be happy that I will stay in the room with them.

But I digress.... For the first day or so, I was studying the spoon, trying to figure out any challenges and such. What is the major immediate challenge? Where to begin! Seeing as how I'd never worked on a spoon that someone else had already partially completed, I was a little intimidated about beginning. I decided to take the harmless approach, and start by drawing out my lines on the back of the spoon. After about another day, my longing to see how the wood carves kicked in, and I began carving grooves along all the lines on the front, and beginning to remove the paper wherever I could. . That's how I generally start - the grooves acting like stop cuts so I don't accidentally chip the wood with my shallow cuts. Then, I start with shallow carving of depth, much like Dave. But, again - where to start?! I usually start with parts that intimidate me more. In this case, there are probably two main parts that fit that description: the eagle, and Dave's knotwork. I kind of like knotwork, though, so that's where I started. And, incidentally, I am in love with this birch! It does have a buttery feel, just as Dave promised, but it is still strong, and not brittle. It reminds me of the first piece of cherry I carved (which was much softer than the last piece of cherry I carved!) Again, I digress.... so, I started with shallow cuts in the knotwork, and then went a little deeper, and moved along to the vines and other parts of the spoon.

Then, eventually, I got brave, and began to attack the eagle. One thing that will be especially challenging about the eagle is showing enough depth to make it look like the eagle is wrapped around the upper right part of the spoon, without actually being carved in the round. I usually carve more "in the round", but in this case, that would have resulted in a very heavy eagle perched upon the spoon, which wouldn't feel right at all. Instead, I will be carving the eagle in shallow relief - suggesting depth where there isn't really much depth. Just like everything else, though, I start with very shallow cuts. There's a lot of depth to show in quite a small amount of wood, so I'm especially careful to work on all parts of it, just a little at a time. There's very little margin for error on this eagle, more than any other part I'm doing. You can't see much in these pictures, since I'm still keeping a little on the shallow side, but hopefully you can see it starting to take shape.

Well, that's as far as I am after my first few days with the spoon. I suspect I work at a bit slower speed than Dave, so progress may be harder to see. I hope you're able to see it taking shape, though! As the weeks go by, the Left Coast Eisteddfod is nearing! Remember, each dollar donated can equal a chance at winning the spoon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

THIS is a lovespoon!!!

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With the Left Coast Eisteddfod lovespoon somewhere in the air over the continental USA, I thought I would use the time before Laura gets underway to put out a quick blog on this lovespoon I have just finished carving.
This spoon is the real deal! It would be hard to find a spoon with more love and depth than this one and it has been an honour and a pleasure to carve it. Emotionally, it has also been one of the hardest spoons I have ever done.
This spoon was commissioned by my friend D, who was in the final stages of a hard fight with cancer. It was a fight she knew she wasn't going to win, so she organized her passing with single-minded focus and did all she could to make life easier for her family and friends after she was gone. One of the things she did was to commission this spoon for one of her two best friends. If we are lucky in life, we are successful and happy...if we are really fortunate, we have good friends and a close family and D had both in spades!
For me it was crucial that this spoon focused on the depth of feeling that two friends can have for one another and the remarkable bonding a good friendship brings; a sentiment D very much shared. She wanted something of both herself and her friend M to be present in the spoon design, so we chose flowers to represent them. Among the flowers are a pair of hearts whose meaning needs no elaboration! Beneath the flower a circular ring (symbolizing eternity) is broken by D's all too early passing, but the circle is held together by the eternal Celtic knot within. The written message is reinforced by this knotwork to symbolize a friendship never forgotten.
One of D's top wishes for the spoon was that the sun would be present and the spoon would feel positive, light and affirming. Although the spoon will be given at a time of terrible grief, it's sunny disposition is a direct reflection of D's own bright personality. As the rays emanate from the distant sun, they seem to warm the spoon while also drawing the flowers upward.
The final section of the bowl is the twin heart-shaped bowls which gently merge the two separate handles, just as a good friendship can merge two very different personalities. The knotwork reinforces the idea of eternity and the stems are used as a symbol for the growth of a relationship now cut tragically short.

It was tough-going carving this wonderful spoon. But even though I feel heart-broken at the loss of such a beautiful friend, I also feel tremendous pride that D's powerful message of love and affection can be passed along through a simple wood carving. THIS is what lovespoons are all about and why I love doing them!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dave is done!

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Well, I think I am just about done. I had a good day yesterday and managed to get most of my part seen to. There might be a couple of little things to tweak or clean up, but I think I have hit that point when 'enough is enough'. I ummed and ahhhed all night about whether or not to put a coat of oil on it for protection etc.. At first I didn't want to because it does make touch up sanding a bit trickier, but I think that the protection it will afford against wear as the spoon is shipped around will be a valid trade-off. I have only used one thinned coat, but that has let me see the grain and if there were any rough sections etc.. I hope Laura is ok with me doing that!!! I should have asked but it was pretty late and I made an executive decision (at least I think that is what they are called).
I had a big chip break off the flower which made me alter my plans in mid-stride, but I more-or-less recovered the situation. The front part of the petals look good, and I managed to shape around the breakage on the back to give the flower section a bit of a curvy feel






Its a cute little flower but I am very interested to see how it stacks up against Laura's daff when she is done. Flowers are her specialty, so hopefully she won't have to do too much tweaking to mine!










Here's a detailed shot showing my section of the spoon completed and with one coat of protective oil. I'm very happy with the little stylized dragon. He's not as literal as last year's spoon, but I think he has a lot of charm. I like the way his body is woven around the frame of the spoon and merges into the knotwork. I'm also very pleased with how the wings turned out, given that they are much smaller than the ones on last year's dragon and so were much trickier to detail.
I've also carved the back of this spoon in pretty good detail so that the dragon is recognizable from both sides and the knotwork will cast nicer shadows when it is hung on the wall. The bowls of the spoons are also nicely rounded now and also give a nice shadow when the spoon is viewed against a backing.
I can't wait for the spoon to get to Laura and to see what she comes up with! This spoon has been quite an interesting challenge. The design aspect was a lot of fun as we thrashed our way through all kinds of ideas and now it is equally interesting to see how two carvers with very different styles will complete a single spoon! It will also be interesting to see how many people are inspired enough by what we are doing to make a donation to the Left Coast Eisteddfod!! Remember every dollar donated equals one chance to win the completed spoon!