October 30, 2009

Right in my own backyard: Woodcarver's Heaven!

It's absolutely amazing how things work out sometimes! Take this next story for example.

For years now, pretty much from when I first began carving, I've been wanting to get some Flexcut tools. I read about them on Wetcanvas every now and then and got curious. I love the look and shape of the handle; it's organic and most appealing, esthetically. I love the carbon blades; I know all about carbon steel and its virtues. But, as with all quality tools, they are pricey.

Recently though, I sold a print. And,

a) I always use the money from my print sales for printmaking supplies
b) I was in the market for a wide almost flat scoop chisel (for clearing away large areas of block)

But I couldn't find one locally, not even at Lee Valley Tools where they have all kinds of wonderful and amazing things. I decided to visit the Flexcut website.

They, no surprise, make just the thing I want. So the first thing I did was to look for local dealers. There are several listed, mostly different House of Tools outlets, and, all but one, all on Vancouver Island and therefore an expensive two-hour ferry ride away. The only one listed for the mainland, also a House of Tools, told me they were now KLM Tools and didn't carry Flexcut anymore. Can you say: HUGE disappointment?

Specially because by this point, I'd made up my mind that I HAD to have that chisel. There was no turning back; I'd already seen myself happily carving masterpieces with it. (With such a chisel, how could they not be masterpieces?!) I set about ordering directly from Flexcut.

On their site, the chosen chisel is $16.95 US. I figured the Canadian dollar is pretty high right now so my cost should end up reasonably close. Right! It seems that reasonably close in this case is $40 US when it's all said and done:

$17 for the chisel
$15 for shipping
$7 for brokerage fees

Brokerage Fees! What the hell! I don't pay brokerage when I order from McClain's or Daniel Smith do I? Or maybe I do and it's hidden in the shipping so it's not obvious. In any case, I can't justify spending more on shipping charges than I do on the thing I'm ordering. It doesn't seem right.

So, back to the Flexcut dealers page to consider the Vancouver Island possibilities. Three of them. Only one with a web page; that's the one I chose. I reasoned that, even if they didn't have the chisel I was after, they could maybe order it for me and would at least have some kind of deal in place where brokerage would be covered off as a blanket thing. And, even if they shipped from the Island, maybe the fees wouldn't be so steep. I had it all figured out.

Imagine my surprise though, when I landed on the web page and saw they actually have a location here on the mainland as well, ridiculously close to where we live. They have, in fact, been there about five years and I never knew it. And, not only do these guys stock a great selection of Flexcut tools, they have an incredible array of carving supplies in general. I found exactly what I wanted along with another V-gouge and a honing kit that's gone into the "get wrapped for X-mas" bin.



Amazing! Right under my nose, all along...
I can't wait to take the new girls for a test run. Aren't they beautiful???




October 25, 2009

Developing Eagle-Eye in BC's Wilds

The day of the hunt. Specifically, our annual wild mushroom hunt: the day we crawl through wet rain forest looking for chanterelles. There's a place we re-visit each year where, so far without fail, we always manage to find an adequate bounty. And, despite the odd caterpillar and twigs and brambles in the hair, it's a great way to spend a morning. Surrounded by trees and silence it's easy to imagine what it was like here, hundreds of years ago, when the first trappers and hunters came out exploring.

I read somewhere that what sets Canadians apart from other western nations is the unavoidable awareness of how close we still are to the wilds. Certainly here, in BC, you could set off on a hike through a provincial park and, heading north, end up in absolute and dense wilderness. An hour's drive out of the city you can turn your back on civilization and, standing at the doorstep to Alaska, be faced with the possibility of never seeing another human being ever again. It's hard not to feel a sense of awe, standing in the middle of such a forest then. And it's hard not to feel a bit humbled by it.

Anyway, back to our little adventure. Here's R and the dog, setting out. I took the camera and planned to look not only for chanterelles but also for interesting scenery for future prints.


When it comes to wild mushrooms, it's always the non-edible ones that are easy to spot. True to the rule, tree fungi everywhere...



And Rusellas...


Unfortunately, or probably fortunately, finding the edibles takes way more work. They hide: camouflaged under fallen leaves, buried under scaffolds of twigs, nesting in mounds of moss.




This, by the way, isn't a photo from today. I'm cheating and using an old picture I have on file because the camera died after I took my the first three pictures. Batteries! Bummer!

Still, as always, we found what we came for: I'm guessing close to 2 lbs (?), nicely washed and waiting to be turned into crostini for dinner tonight and who knows what else after that:




But I guess I must have chanterelles on the brain; the block I printed from today looks like it could be a patch of them in the forest:



Here's what it looks like when printed:



Inching my way forward.

October 18, 2009

Rainy days

One misty moisty morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
I chanced to meet an old man,
Clothed all in leather.
He began to compliment
And I began to grin.
How do you do? And how do you do?
And how do you do again?

It's been years since N and I would sit, cuddled on the couch, and read Mother Goose rhymes together. But, even after 18 years, on days when the clouds roll in and the mists fall, that rhyme still jumps into my head. And I love the misty moisty days of early autumn in BC. It's not really cold yet, summer just barely fading away and the real serious rains haven't begun so no one is sick of them yet, and it's great to stay indoors and print, or read, or listen to music.

Yesterday, warm and dry while the rain played songs on the window panes, I made a new bed spread; today I got caught up on some mending that's been hanging over my head for months. I also added in the fourth colour to my print:





So far so good. Moving along well.


October 12, 2009

Giving Thanks (again)?

And here we are, another Thanksgiving weekend. At least up here in the "true north, strong and free" it's another Thanksgiving weekend and it's incredible to think it's already been a whole year since the last one. Wasn't it just last week we were all sitting down together?

This year, lots to give thanks for. All the usual stuff of course: family, health, simple abundance etc. But along with all that, there's a couple of things I, personally, am adding to the list.

First, a milestone: My Texada Sunset was accepted into a juried show at the Maple Ridge Art Gallery. It'll be part of a themed show with quite a few local artists participating (various mediums) but hey, I'm glad to be included.

I met the curator on Friday when I delivered the print and she seemed pretty sincere in her praise of it so that, of course, felt even better, specially since the whole "show and tell" thing is still something I need to get acclimatized to. That, and growing some balls for when I talk about my work to people like gallery curators, for example.
My first urge still is to want to run for the nearest corner. Strange really, considering I'm hardly someone who comes across as shy and retiring in most other situations.

Second, I sold another print, at work, and I feel really good about the sale. Good to know there are some people I work with who like my prints enough to want to take them home and make them part of their space.

Third, I printed the third colour in the Hummingbird Vine print today. I couldn't stand the suspense of not knowing how my two blocks would marry up, so I decided to do the background colour for the blossoms instead of carrying on with the blue as I originally planned:


BIG sigh of relief, so far no issues. The few areas that are darker will be a different colour so the darker shade is ok.

And that's about the deal for this weekend. Where did it go?

October 04, 2009

The Cost of Being Frugal

Here's the result of today's efforts. (I'm not posting any images of the gray hair I gained as a result though):



I have a real issue with wasting stuff. I'd probably make it the eleventh commandment if I had the option: Thou shalt not waste!

Because I hate wasting stuff, like perfectly good ink, for example, I had some blue ink left over (from who knows when) in one of the little tublets I use for mixing, sealed in cling wrap and waiting for the day I might need it. That day was today. Clearly, the ink's been sitting for quite some time because I had to stir it really well to get it to proper consistency, but I managed. All was good. I discarded a couple of rubbery clumps and figured I was good to go.

Except that I needed light blue for today and my saved ink was several shades darker. No matter, I thought, forever the optimist. Surely, those rubbery clumps I'd taken out already left just the right amount of ink for me to add some white and some transparent medium to and I'd have the right shade, right? Ha!

More than an hour later (mixing ink, adding more white and transparent medium, cleaning my glass inking plate and brayer and block, pulling a proof, and doing it all again and again) I was a quarter tube of white ink poorer, wracked with guilt over how much ink I wasted, but finally close to the colour I was after. Do I ever have a hard time judging how light a colour will turn out to be! I so often seem to end up with a darker shade than I want. Lesson learned today: light to dark and NOT the other way around.

Anyway, I printed from block 2 today; the white areas in the image will, if the patron saint of printmakers is on my side for this one, be filled in by areas of block 1.

Here's block 2:


Last Sunday, I used block 1 to print the sky. I've started clearing some unwanted areas but only inked up and printed from one part of the block.


I saved the ink from today, to use next week....