Saturday, June 25, 2011


I have been thinking about selling some of my carvings. In fact, I have one piece, The Master, has been on sale on Etsy for the passed month of so. It is time to get another piece on Etsy for sale. In many ways, this other piece as completely different from The Master yet there are similarities.

I call this new piece, Siren. For the longest time I thought of it as a mermaid but the more I looked at it and when I took the pictures for this post and for Etsy, the word siren kept coming to mind. So who care? Siren or mermaid, what's the big deal? To me, at least, there is an ethos about the piece that says,"I am a siren...beware!". In Greek mythology the sirens were birdlike women who lured sailors with their songs and caused them to crash on the rocky shore of their island.


On the other hand, mermaids,

have been portrayed as sinister in the past, today they have taken on a more benign presentation in popular culture. When I conjure up an image of a mermaid I think of the little mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen who caused misfortune more by ignorance than by malice.

When I took the pictures of my latest piece I began to see it more as a siren than a mermaid. Especially in the setting that I placed it in for the pictures. I could see a man being drawn in by her alluring gesture. If she could sing and I imagined her singing, she would captivate the way  Melody Gardot can captivate with her singing.

What is interesting is that the carving is very small. It is less than six inches wide at the widest. It is only three inches deep and it is not more than six inches in height. Yet it seems to occupy a much larger space. It definitely has presence.

What I find interesting is that it all started as a piece of wood that I found bobbing on the shore during one of our walks along our beach. I guess my little siren captivated me one that day. I had no real plan for the wood when I found it. There was just something about it that I liked, the curve of the wood, the color, I really don't know. I just knew that I had to make something out of it. What it turned into was a siren.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


last Saturday, on June 11th, my wife and I went to Burlington Fine Art and Craft Festival. The festival is held at the Burlington Art Center (BAC). There were 78 exhibitors at the festival covering all arts and crafts. Because of my particular interest I paid close attention to the artisans who worked in wood but I also checked out the glass and stained glass artisans which is another interest of mine.

 This gentlemen is a wood turner and he had some of the loveliest bowls that I have ever seen. His shop is called Applelane Wood Craft.

This was the only stain glass shop that I photographed. I really liked the  combination of shells with stained glass, the opaque with the transparent. It was a nice contrast of materials. This shop was called Catch the Light.

 This particular shop was called Wood Works. We had a curious conversation. I always ask the artisans if I can take a picture. They always say yes but I feel that it is just being courteous. This gentleman asked what I was going to do with the pictures and I told him that I write a blog and I was going to write about the festival. I do not think that he quite grasped the concept of a blog because he asked me some questions that I could not answer because they had no relevance to blogging. It made me aware that many people had no idea about what goes on in the blogging world.

 This gentleman was the only one who has a website which is a little curious in this day and age. His shop is called Wooden Treasures by George. George's website goes by the same name. See the link to the left.

This a picture of the outdoor exhibit of the Burlington Wood Carver's Guild. There was more inside the Art Center and I took some pictures there as well.

 The fellow who makes these bird houses devotes a lot of time to them. Each one is an intricate work of art. His shop is Paul Vuurman Birdhouses.

 While everyone was strolling around looking at the shops there was a Jazz band playing . It created a nice ambiance to the festival.
 Here are the pictures inside the Art Center in the room where the Burlington Wood Carver's meet. It was nice to visit the place where i spent a lot of time working at carving. The carvers who were demonstrating were not familiar to me but I spent some time chatting with them. There was a woman who seemed to be quite interested in the concept, perhaps she will join the guild. The guild has many women members.

 I took a picture of this dragon because I thought it was particularly well executed.

 I took a picture of the relief carving in the gift shop inside the Art Center. I believe that it was done in soap stone or perhaps sandstone. I did not ask. The reason I took the picture is that it reminded me of my daughter and my new born granddaughter. I think that I will use this idea to create a relief in wood based on this same idea.

Well, That was the highlights of the Fine Art & Craft Festival at the Burlington Art Center in June 2011. At least those were the highlights from my point of view. There were a lot of other artisans there as well. There were people who made jewelery, clothing, soap, photographs, just about every craft that you could think of. It was an extremely interesting and pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I would strongly recommend that you attend the festival next year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


To say that Barcelona is Antoni Gaudi and Antoni Gaudi is Barcelona would not be an overstatement. Barcelona is not only define by Gaudi's architecture but it is infused with the ethos of Gaudi's vision of art and architecture. Every building seemed to emulate Gaudi in some way. May it is just the Catalan world view. When you consider that Salvador Dali and Joan Miro are fellow Catalans you can see that there is a consistency to the way that they looked at the world.

On Saturday, May 16th we decided that we would devote the day to the works of Antoni Gaudi. In the morning we decided we would go toPark Güell. After consulting the travel guide we decided that best way to get to Park Güell would be to take bus number 24. You have to understand, Barcelona is situated at the base of a mountain and Park Güell is located near the top of the mountain. We were informed that bus number 24 will literally drop you at the front gate of the park. We realized the good sense of this after we left the park and decided that we would take the Metro back to our hotel. It took us over half an hour walking downhill to get to the metro. If we took the Metro to the park it would have taken us much more than an hour walking up the side of the mountain to get to the park. We would have been tired of walking by the time we got to the park. I would strongly advise anyone who is considering a visit to Park Güell to take bus number 24 or a taxi, don not take the Metro!

To say the least, Park Güell is a magical place. The architecture and ornamentation of Gaudi's designs are amazing.

I have never seen geometry like this anyway in the world.

The colors and motifs that Gaudi used are reminiscent of the middle east.

This is the high point of Park Güell. From this peak you have an amazing view of Barcelona and the rest of the park.

You also have an excellent view of the Sagrada Familia which is the cathedral that Gaudi designed. We went there in the afternoon. It looks like some quixotic imagining rising out of the city.

Some of Gaudi's structures look like minarets rising above the trees, elegant and beautiful.

There is a raw, visceral beauty in Gaudi's work that touches you in a way that ordinary structures do not.

Then he creates other buildings that seem to exude whimsy and humor.

This structure is the heart and soul of Park Güell.

Even the iron fence work is full of creativity and imagination.

And here is the king of iguanas! This critter which must be at least eight feet long is remarkable in its conception. It is probably the most phtographed object in Spain. Voila! Here is mine to add to the list.

The space underneath was heavily populated with hawkers who seemed to be from lands east of Spain.

And what would a public space in Barcelona be without its requisite Flamenco guitarist. Actually, he was quite good but I still did not buy his CD.

Everywhere you looked there were mosaics by Gaudi.

You have to love the organic feel of Gaudi's work. These series of arches reminded me of the rib cage of some terrible beast.

The crenelated flow of the balconies creates a beautiful and elegant series of lines and curves. 
I could not shake the sense that this building reminded me of a ginger bread house.

Yet another picture of the famous iguana. You can tell that I was impressed with this fellow.

This picture is not so much about the balconies as it is about the dog heads which are actually the water drains for the run off when it rains. I would have loved to see it rain and just what happens to the water as it gushes out of the mouths of the dogs.

Doesn't it look like these structures simply grew out of the ground. I guess that is the magic of Gaudi, his work, as weird and wondrous as it is, seems to have evolved organically from the earth.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I have been celebrating Father's Day for some thirty odd years. It has been an unique and wonderful experience every one. This year is the first year that I will be celebrating Father's Day as a grandfather and that is a totally different experience.

In previous posts I have written about the cradle that I made for my grandchild who was born on June 9, 2011. As it turns out it was a baby girl who was as pretty as anyone could imagine a new born to be. My wife and I are immensely happy with our first grand child. It is certainly a different experience than being a parent for the first time.

I remember when I became a father for the first time over thirty years ago. It was an incredible mixture of thoughts and emotions. It was a joyful experience because now I was a father. At the same time I was filled with anxiety. Not having a father for most of my life I was not sure how to be a father; I had no role model. Strange as it may sound, I took my cue from literature and philosophy. I tried to emulate father's that  had read about and I tried to incorporate the social and moral philosophy that was still very fresh in my mind. You see, I had just graduated from university when my first child was born. Life was still very theoretical and   idealistic.

It did not take long before I realized that the real world creates its own unique challenges that no amount of theory or philosophy can entirely address. It really boiled down to a few basic principles that I was not really aware of but looking back they governed my learning as a new father. I was ferociously protective of my child. I was not going to let anything in the known universe get in the way of my child's well being. I quickly learned that patience was a virtue to be valued above all others and when I ran out of patience, I just had to call up more because a new born requires an infinite amount of patience. I quickly learned the mechanics of being a father, changing diapers, helping with feeding and comforting and everything else. I realized that my life had been changed forever. for the better. Is this not why we are here, to ensure that the next generation will grow and prosper?

When we had our second and then our third child fathering became more natural but no less difficult. Each child presents his or her own unique challenges from the very instant that they are born and then throughout their entire lives. It still amazes me how the same two sets of genes can produce off spring so completely different yet in so many ways completely the same. It is truly a miracle of genetics and evolution.

Now thirty years later I am a grandfather. Some men feel depressed by this fact. I feel that I have progressed to the next stage of life. There is now another generation of my my descendants on the planet. Again, this is cause for joy and for anxiety. The joy is in seeing my children become new parents. I realize that they will struggle with parenting like we did but the difference is that they will not need to learn in the same vacuum of experience that we did. We are there to share our experiences with them.

I hope that I have learned enough and acquired enough wisdom in the thirty odd years that I have spent as a father to give even a few wise words to help my children in their endeavor to become parents. Yet, realize that the same principles still apply, a fierce protective love of our children and an infinite supply of patience will get them through most of their trials.

As a grandfather, I have the luxury and the privilege of building furniture for my grand child. I have already made a cradle and a change table. I have a a little time to make the crib for my granddaughter as well. I could easily have gone out and bought these items but that would be all to easy and it does not allow me to share in the experience of parenting a new child. By making these things with my hands I feel connected to my children and to my granddaughter, When she sleeps in the cradle that I built we are connected. The time and effort that I put into making this furniture is a fraction of the time that new new parents devote to their new born babies.

So, in the end, being a grand father is a delightful experience. You have all of the benefits of parenthood with very few of the obligations. This is why i can devote my time to making furniture for my granddaughter and writing posts on my blog about being a father and grand father.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


At the end of the post about Amsterdam were on our way to Barcelona. We had booked a hotel room in Barcelona for two days. It was five o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived in Barcelona, Barcelona Airport. The flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona was only a few hours so it seemed to go by quickly. From the moment we landed in Barcelona everything went smoothly. It was strange landing in another country and not having to go through customs. We left the plane, walked down the terminal and followed the signs to baggage which led us to the lower level. The Barcelona is a nice looking airport, very clean and spacious. There is a large central atrium with shops and restaurants on two levels. It was too bad that we were not going to be returning to Canada from Barcelona, I would have liked to spend more time in the airport.

After we picked up our two suitcases, we decided that we would travel light on this trip, I had to find out how to get to downtown Barcelona from the airport. The Barcelona guidebook, Rick Steve's Spain - 2011, described how to take the bus from the airport to Place Catalunya where we had booked a hotel. I decided to ask the person in the information booth for help. I had all of the phrases in Spanish that I thought I would need readily available. the first thing that I asked was, :Habla Ingles? The young man behind the counter said,"Yes sir, may I help you?" He gave me very clear and concise instructions in English on how to take the bus from the airport to Place Catalunya.

We followed the instructions and easily found the bus, Airport bus to Place Catalunya. We bought our bus tickets from an automated kiosk right at the bus stop. It only toook a few minutes for the bus to come.. It was an express bus called, "Aerobus".

We were told that the bus would be blue and it would have "AEROBUS" written on the side. The bus only made a few stops before it stopped at Place Catalunya. The entire trip only took about thirty five minutes.

At Place Catalunya we got off the bus. We saw the square which is not square and had no idea where our hotel was. When we booked the Hotel Continental.  it said that they were virtually on the corner of place Catalunya but we could not figure which corner. I asked a young lady who was walking by where the Rambylas was and she gave us directions to get there. In fact she walked across the square with us to make sure that we went in the right direction. Once we were on the Rambylas we thought we would find the hotel right away. Instead we started walking away from the hotel. We walked half way down the street then I decided to get out our map and try to pinpoint the location of the hotel.

As Istood by the curb studying the map an man walked up to me and asked if he could help. We were told to be wary of pick pockets  in Barcelona so I was suspicious. Still, he did not look the type. I told him we were looking for the Hotel Continental. He said that it was just up the street. He said that he would take us there. i did my best to make small talk in Spanish but my Spanish is fairly limited. He showed us the hotel. We thanked him profusely and went into the hotel.

At reception we were told that our reservation had been cancelled. By this time were getting exasperated. I pulled out our reservation and gave it to the receptionist. She make a few phone calls then said that there had been a mix up. We did have a reservation but they had no vacancies. We were about to protest when she said that they would give us a room and their sister hotel that was just a few blocks away. It was a more expensive hotel but they would give us a room for the same price as our reservation price. We were relieved. The receptionist said that we could walk to the other hotel. It would only take us about ten minutes.

With directions in hand we set out for the hotel then promptly got lost. There was something about Place Catalunya that I could never figure out. The sqaure was very disorienting, at least it was for me. We wondered around aimlessly for about half an hour, our suitcases in tow. One of the problems with Barcelona, in fact, all cities in Europe is that street signs are nice but not always present. you just have to know where you are going. Finally, I established a cross roads then proceeded street by street, checking the cross roads at each street. This was to become our most common means of navigation in Europe. We eventually made it to the second Hotel Continental. We quickly checked in and went to our room. It was late and we were tired so we decided that we would just eat from the 24 hour buffet in the hotel. It was great! There was plenty of good food and lots to drink. They had beer, wine, soft drinks, tea and coffee.

After eating and resting for a bit we decided we wanted to see something of Barcelona on our first night. We walked along the Rambylas careful not to stray off the street. We did not want to get lost. The Rambylas is an amazing place. It is part restaurant, part carnival, part tourist trinket mecca and 100% entertainment.
 A mime made up as a cowboy!
This was a mime as Don Quixote.

 There were street artists.

 Even though we were completely exhausted we staying out exploring the Rambylas until almost 11PM.

It took us some effort to get to our hotel but it was worth it. It was an elegant hotel. Right from the foyer,
To reception.
To the Louis XIV drawing room with angels painted on the ceiling where we ate.
We also like sitting on the balcony that faced onto the Rambylas, it was adjacent to the drawing room.

Our room was small but adequate. My only complaint was the pink decor. It was just a little feminine for my tastes but the free beer and wine more than made up to the color scheme. The truth is we didn't spend all that much time in our room, we were too busy taking in Barcelona. That was enough for our first day in Barcelona. On Saturday, we were going to go to Parc Guell. That will be a whole entire day to write about!