Monday, January 30, 2012


I attended the Hamilton Woodworking Show yesterday on January 28, 2012. Just like last year, I had a great time. I spent time reviewing all the booths. I spent time looking at all the entries for the wood carving contest and I attended several seminars. It was amazing how quickly the day went by.

Initially, I was a little disappointed, some of exhibitors that I had expected to see did not attend the the Hamilton Wood Working Show. I was looking to buy a few more inexpensive riflers but that  particular vendor did not attend. However, there were many other interesting vendors. I noticed that there were a lot of high end woodworking machine manufacturers in attendance. I spent quite a bit of time perusing the equipment by General Machine.

They make incredible stuff, solid, dependable and more capacity than I would ever need. Unfortunately, the price of the equipment is also more than I can afford. If I was going to set up my own woodworking business then I would buy all General equipment and never worry about it again. In other words I would have to be using this equipment five days a week, eight hours a day to justify buying it. Needless to say, I did not buy any wood working equipment at the show.

I did spend some time talking with the gentlemen who were at the booth Haldimand Area and Woodlot Owner's Association. Mostly, we talked about managing and preserving woodlots that were owned by private individuals. I found out that 95% of the land in southern Ontario is privately owned and 15% of the wood processed in Ontario originates from private land. Even more surprising, 80% of endangered species are on private land in Southern Ontario. It is imperative that we as landowners must practice good stewardship regarding the lands in our possession.

I attended an excellent seminar given by Minwax on the application of finishes. Of course, they featured their products in the seminar but the information and the techniques that they discussed can be applied to any product that is used to stain or preserve wood. I came away from the seminar with a lot of good information that I will be able to apply to woodworking and wood carving.

I also attended a seminar given by Maurice Desnoyers of Shaker Roads who is the same gentleman who sold me the fine hard maple that I used to build my granddaughter's crib. He gave an excellent talk on building a work bench. This is a topic that I have been researching and thinking about for some time. Maurice gave me more to think about as well as mentioning a few excellent books about work benches. The first book is by Scott Landis and it is called THE WORKBENCH BOOK. The second book that he mentioned is by John Wilson and his book is called, PRACTICAL HOUSE CARPENTRY: SIMPLIFIED METHODS FOR BUILDING.

The third seminar that I attended was by Sheilagh Mercer who demonstrated carving a Baltimore Oriole. It more than I had expected. In the end I received a detailed tutorial on the anatomy of a bird which is very timely since I am thinking about carving a bird. One of the pieces of found wood that I came across on the beach suggests a bird to me so the information that I gained from the seminar will be of great help as I develop the bird figure.

As I mentioned earlier, I also checked out all the submissions for the carving competition. Let me start by saying that there were not the impressive works of art that so wowed me last year. The competition this year seemed to be dominated by birds of all sorts and totem poles. There were a few pieces that caught my eye, such as the mountain man/ father Christmas character that I showed at the beginning of the post. I liked it because it really seemed to capture the spirit of the subject.

The totem poles were interesting if not original.

The bird that won the open competition was a beautiful piece. It looked incredibly realistic.

I guess I was looking for something a little more artistic. I really need to consider entering into the fray next year. With the focus that I am going to put on carving this year I should have a few outstanding pieces that I would consider entering into a contest next year.

I would like to mention some of the other exhibits that I saw at the Hamilton Wood Working Show. There was an entire bench of wood turners from the various wood turning chapters in Ontario. Wood turning is always something that is fascinating to watch and even more fun to do.

I also watched a demonstration of someone doing scroll work with a specialized scroll saw. It is amazing the level of detail and precision that is possible with a scroll saw.

I never really paid much attention to it before but some of the pieces that were done using the wood burning technique were absolutely amazing! The subtle shading that is possible with this technique is truly impressive.

Last but not least I had a good chat with a couple of fellows from the marquetry society. I took a picture of the large map of Canada that they did. Apparently, each member of the chapter took a particular province then someone else took the flower for a specific province. Once all the parts were done individually, someone else put the whole thing together. It was particularly well done.

All in all, it was another great show. I attended some great seminars, there were lots of interesting things to look at and I did buy some Basswood at the Woodshed and I bought another year's supply of sandpaper. I think that I will need a good supply of sandpaper to help me finish all the projects that I have planned for 2012. 


After watching two documentaries and having a meal then a snack and all the water i can drink. Actually, it is really important to keep yourself well hydrated so I drank water every time it was offered to me.

With too many hours left before we landed in Hong Kong I decided to watch another film. This time I picked a movie. The movie was called 1911. It was in the year 1911 that nationalist Chinese forces replace the Qing dynasty . Doctor, Sun Yat Sen, who led the revolution was named the republic's first president.

The movie was largely about the battles and uprisings that led to the fall of the Qing dynasty. I would not say that the movie was without bias. I could sense a definite leaning towards the modern Chinese socialist point of view. New the end of the movie the rhetoric was pretty thick but it could easily be tuned out.

Sun Yat Sen was played by Winston Chao, a Taiwanese actor who I had seen in previous movies, The Wedding Banquet and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Both were excellent movies.

Jackie Chan played Huang Xing, Sun Yat Sen's second in command and the the leader of the forces for the uprising. The movie left something to be desired but it was entertaining. A lot of the finer points of Chinese politics and the dynamics of dynastic power struggles were glossed over. Still, for Westerners, who are not that familiar with Chinese history this film would be an introduction to an important period of Chinese history.

After watching 1911 there was only a few hours left in the flight. We had a meal which resembled breakfast although it was around noon in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it filled the time and by the time the meal was done and everything was put away, well it was time to land in Hong Kong.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


By the time I finished watching The Cave of Forgotten Dreams it was time to eat so a break from movie watching was in order. I am not sure which meal it was but I ate it. One thing that I found on long intercontinental flights, you eat whenever food is offered to you. When you get to your destination you may not have time to eat if you have a connecting flight, as it was in my case.

After the meal I thought I would take in another movie. Since I liked The Cave of Forgotten Dreams so much I thought I would take in another documentary, The Revenge of the Electric Car. This is a documentary by Chris Paine who made a previous documentary on electric cars called, Who Killed the Electric Car in 2006. In his latest documentary, Chris Paine follows the resurgence of the electric car (EV)revolution through the efforts of four different scenarios; General Motors, Nissan, Telsa Motors, and an electric car converter who takes high end gasoline engine cars and converts them into electric cars.

Strangely enough, Bob Lutz was the same guy from GM who ordered the destruction of 6,000 EV cars about ten years ago. In this documentary he was leading the charge to within GM to resurrect the EV car and market it. At Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan, staked the entire company's future on his belief that Nissan could manufacture and market and electric vehicle. Elon Musk was another story altogether. He was the whiz kid who developed Paypal and then sold it for some 46 million dollars which he then used to finance Telsa. As the CEO of Telsa, Musk developed his own high end electric vehicle. The independent converter, Greg Abbott had a mission to show that one man could make a difference.

Eventually, Bob Lutz brought the Volt to market. It was named the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year. Carlos Ghosn succeeded in producing the Nissan Leaf and started selling it in 2010. The Leaf was named the 2011 World Car of the Year at the New York Car Show. Elon Musk almost burned through his entire 46 million dollar fortune and almost bankrupted Telsa before bringing a viable electric car to the market. He learned that it was not easy playing with the big boys in the automotive market. Greg Abbott was a study in hope and persistence. His workshop burned down destroying his equipment and several cars. He had to start over and eventually did start producing his one off electric car conversions.

This documentary was totally captivating. It might seem like a dry subject but Chris Paine brings a lot of cinematic technique and expertise to create an entertaining as well as informative documentary on the electric car.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


There are only so many hours that you can read a book on an airplane without taking a break. Even a book as fascinating as The Power of Myth can make your eyes tired after hours of reading. So after I had our meal, whatever meal it was, I decided to watch a movie. Actually, I watched three films, two documentaries and one movie.

the first documentary that I watched was called the The Cave of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog. It is a documentary of the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc caves that were discovered in the Ardeche department of southern France. The caves were discovered in 1994 by Eliette Brunel-Deschamps, Christian Hillaire, and Jean-Marie Chauvet. The caves are named after Jean-Marie Chauvet. Radio-carbon dating puts the age of the caves and the drawings at about 30.000 years ago. These are the oldest cave paintings discovered to date.

Putting all the archeological data aside, the filming of the cave painting was spectacular. I was mesmerized by the primitive beauty of the horses, lions and bears and Rhinos. The animals seemed to come to life on the film. I was completely taken with theses cave paintings and I plan to do a series of pieces based on the Chauvet cave paintings.

Looking at these cave paintings is a glimpse through the lens of time. We have a privileged view  the world as these artists saw it. What could be more amazing than to see the world through the eyes of an artist who lived 30,000 years ago.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


What do you do when you have fifteen hours to kill on a plane from Toronto to Hong Kong? Well, you could sleep which I have done before. It does pass the time but when you get to Hong Kong you are thirteen hours ahead; you left at, say, 10:00 AM in the morning on a Saturday and you arrive in Hong Kong at 2:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, the following day. The problem us that if you slept on the plane you will have no chance of sleeping that first night and probably very little on the next few nights. My strategy now is to keep myself awake as much as possible for the entire trip. I will doze off but I really try to keep it to a minimum. So what do I do.

For one I read then when my eyes are too tired to read I watch movies. when I combine that with all the food that they give us during these fifteen hour flights it more or less fills up fifteen hours of sitting in one seat. I was well prepared for this trip. I took four books to read. I admit that I only finished two of them by the end of the trip but I was busy in China.

The first book that I read going to China was called. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Although I had heard a lot about Joseph Campbell this is the first book by him that I have read. It was a great book. There is a lot that I took away from the book. I would recommend that anyone who has an interest in mythology, religion or the symbols that shape and are shaped by our collective consciousness, read this book, There were a couple of sections  in the book that particularly resonated with me.

On pages 106 - 107, Campbell is talking about how myths must be respond to the environment. "Myth must be kept alive. the people who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another. the function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment of the world."

On page 122, Campbell talks about who is responsible for interpreting the divinity inherent in nature for us today, who interprets unseen things for us. "It is the function of the artist to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today. But he has to be an artist who understands mythology and humanity and isn't simply a sociologist with a program for you."

On pages 204 - 205 Campbell discusses what is meant by "illumination". He compares it closely to the Buddhist concept of illumination; seeing the eternal in all things, finding release from desire of all things, seeing the world clearly, infinitely. He says that this is not just for saints and monks. It is also for artists. The real artist is the one who has learned to recognize and to render what Joyce has called the 'radiance' of all things, as an epiphany or showing forth of their truth."

These are the parts of the book that I found most interesting and relevant to art. The entire book is fascinating. I would highly recommend it. the book was so good that I finished it before I arrived at my destination in Nanning, Guangxi.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


For those who follow mt blog and might be wondering where I have been the last few weeks, well I have been in China and China does not allow access to blogs. This is not entirely true because I do receive hits from China but I could not connect while I was in China.

I left Toronto on January 7th. At the airport, Terminal 1, I had my usual breakfast at the same Cuban restaurant that I usually eat at. Beside the restaurant there is a giant metal sculpture which has been there for as long as I can remember. It was only on the trip that I realized who the artist was for the first time; Richard Serra. I felt embarrassed that I did not realize that these giant free standing steel plates where the work of Richard Serra but then I have really been interested in contemporary sculpture until this past year. So this was a big discovery for me. I had to find out more about this sculpture.

what I found out was that the sculpture was purchased for the expansion of Terminal 1. The sculpture. Tilted Spheres, is so big that it had to be installed before the walls and roof were completed. It sat, covered with plastic sheets, exposed to the elements until the terminal was completed. Now, it sits near the departure gates so it is one of the last things that you would see before you board your plane. I also realized when I returned from my trip to china that it is one of the first things that you see before you go through Canada Customs.

I guess that time that I spent reading about and studying modern and contemporary art last year paid off. I can now recognize a Richard Serra sculpture!

More about my trip to China in the next post.

Friday, January 6, 2012


On the twelfth day of Christmas, January 5th, I looked back on the previous eleven days and reflected on what they said to me about Christmas.

On the eleventh day of Christmas I received eleven lucky orange blossoms.

On the tenth day of Christmas I received tens of tens of email messages.

On the ninth day of Christmas I collected nine pieces of found wood for carving.

On the eight day of Christmas we had a banquet for eight people with eight courses.

On the seventh day of Christmas I downloaded seven ebooks to our new iPad.

On the sixth day of Christmas we bought six golden delicious apples for a pie.

On the fifth day of Christmas we bought five bottles of fine ice wine.

On the fourth day of Christmas we enjoyed four excellent entertainments.

On the third day of Christmas we enjoyed three periods of hockey.

On the second day of Christmas we received two pairs of hand made mittens from Labrador.

On the first day of Christmas we enjoyed one lovely Christmas morning breakfast with our woodland friends.

When it is all said and done, that is what the twelve days of Christmas are about, enjoying the company of friends and family.


On the Eleventh days of Christmas I was starting to get acclimatized again to the regime of work. Everything did not look quite as bleak and overwhelming as it did the day before but it was not going to be a walk  in the part either. As I was working at home in the evening trying to get caught up on all my email I decided that I needed to take a break from the computer screen.

I sat in my chair on the counter and looked around the room at nothing  in particular. My gaze finally settled on our miniature orange tree. There were blossoms on the tree! Before the Christmas holidays there were two or three oranges on the tree. We had moved the tree out of the way for Christmas to accommodate our Christmas Tree. Now that Christmas was over we put the orange tree back in its usual location which was much more visible than it was over Christmas.

I took a much closer look at the orange tree and saw that there was eleven orange blossoms on the tree. This tree must think that Spring is around the corner. I took it as a fortuitous sign that there were orange blossoms in these first days of the new year. Maybe 2012 was going to be a good year!

On the eleventh day of Christmas we received eleventh lucky orange blossoms.


On the tenth day of Christmas I went back to work. After being off work for almost two weeks it was difficult to get back in the swing of things. One of the first things that I did was boot up my computer while I made myself a cup of tea.

Once Microsoft Outlook was open I watched the emails load. There were not ten new emails, there were tens of tens of eamils. It was more than a little depressing plowing through the emails but that was reality. It is part of my job to keep up with communications. Most of the messages had to do with issues and events before Christmas but a few were about new events in the new year. Some of the messages were from people asking for help. Some of the messages were from my superiors at work giving me directions for new assignments for the new year. Unfortunately, the tenth day of Christmas was my least favorite day of the twelve days of Christmas.

It was a long day. The memories of the holidays were fading fast as I put myself in the frame of mind to start working on new tasks and projects for the new year. I could only hope that 2012 was going to be a better year than 2011. Unfortunately, when I looked at all the issues that were already piling up on the first day of the new year it did nto seem likely that 2012 was going to be better year.

All I can say is that the tenth day of Christmas was like a bucket of cold water to bring me back to the harsh realities of work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


It is January 2nd and everyone is gone. My oldest daughter and her husband are on their way back to Washington, DC. Our son is on his way back to Labrador to resume his high school math and science teaching position. It is just my wife and I and the quiet is pleasantly present. It was time to take a short trip down to our beach to see what the tide has washed in, there is always something of interest.

After a short walk along the beach it was not difficult to come up with nine pieces of drift wood. The size and variety is truly amazing. On the small end of the scale I found pieces that can easily slip into my pocket and carry home. I picked up half a dozen pieces of that description. On the other end of the scale I found an entire tree roots and all. I actually had to cut the tree in several pieces to get is back up the ravine. I also found some mid size pieces of lumber, some measure 12X12 X36 inches. when I get these pieces home I leave them under the overhang beside my shed where that are exposed to the winter air but not to winter rain or snow. This allows the wood to dry up from the waterlogged state that I found them  in to being dry and acclimatized to the winter air. I will leave these pieces outside at least until the spring probably longer. When they have been sufficiently dried by the environment I will bring them inside to my workshop where I will let them acclimatize to that environment before I start working on the wood. The entire air drying process can take up to a year depending on how dry, how large and what type of wood I found in the first place. The most important thing is not to rush the process. It is always better to wait longer before starting to work with a piece of than it is to hurry and find out that the wood was still too damp and it continues to dry as you work with it. This can only lead to undesired results. The wood can split, it can warp and crack. Unless you are aiming for this result wait until you found wood is completely dray before you start to work with it.

So , with these nine pieces of wood sequestered beside my shed I will just have to wait at least until Spring. Fortunately, I have plenty more fully dried wood inside my workshop just waiting to be used!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Since my wife and I stayed home on New Year's Eve we got together with the rest of our family. all eight adults plus our granddaughter and had dinner at the Iron Chef restaurant in Hamilton. My son and his girlfriend came to our house earlier in the afternoon so that we could socialize a bit then we left around 5:30 PM to go to the restaurant. when we arrived at the restaurant around 6:00PM we were surprised to see that the place was full. We were glad that we had made a reservation because the only table left was the one that the restaurant had reserved for us. I guess that there were not that many places open on New Year's Day. My youngest daughter, her husband and our granddaughter arrived shortly after we did.

After everyone was settled into place we got down to the business of ordering dishes. Since there were eight of us we ordered eight dishes. Here is what we ordered: Eggplant in Garlic with Spicy Meat Sauce, Braised Lamb in a Stew, Mushrooms with Chinese Vegetables, Iron Chef Duck, Tofu and Vegetables, Noodles with Beef, and B.B.Q. sliced Pork. We ordered more than one serving of some of the dishes and half of our party also had steamed white rice as well. Everything was washed down with copious amounts of Chrysanthemum tea.

We had an excellent tea. The food was good and the company was great. we talked and ate and laughed and ate, drank some and ate some more. By 8:00 PM everyone had eaten and it was time to leave. It was time to wind down the vacation. My oldest daughter and her husband were going to return home to Washington, the next day, our son was going to return to Labrador in another day, and the rest of us were going to return to work in an another day or so. There were some tearful goodbyes and some some heartfelt farewells and then our eight person, eight course New Year's Day banquet was over.


Finally, we made it to New Year's Eve. It really seemed to be a long trek this year and next year does not seem like it is going to be any easier. Well, it is the times that we are living in, there are greater changes afoot than anyone one of us knows about or can comprehend. We might as well enjoy the moment. celebrate this special moment in time where we balance the past against the future and celebrate the moment.

Although my wife and I did explore the iPad that were received for Christmas, we really did not spend that much time with it. My son-in-law and daughter helped us set up some apps and explained how to navigate around the iPad. Still, we had been so busy that we did not spend a lot of time with the iPad.

Since my wife was not feeling well on New Year's Eve we decided that we would stay home so that she could rest and not infect anyone else, especially our granddaughter. We had a quiet dinner at home, watched a movie then I thought I would explore the Kindle ebook app. it took awhile before we had realized that you download the books using an Amazon account then they would appear on our iPad. It was nothing short of miraculous.

I thought that I would start with the free books from Amazon. Since there were thousands to choose from I did not think it would be a problem to select a few. After looking around I settled on books that leaned more towards the classics. I downloaded an Italian cookbook for my wife,Italy Revisited by William Stockert . Then I downloaded The Complete Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. You can read my entire post that I wrote about the da Vinci exhibition that I went to in the summer in Buffalo with my wife, my son and his girlfriend. I also downloaded a number of books about art and music as well as philosophy; A History of Greek Art by Frank Bigelow Tarbell, Michelangelo by Estelle M. Hurll, Rembrandt, also by Estelle M. Hurll, Beethoven's Letters, 1790 - 1826, Volume 1, and The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. In the end, I downloaded seven ebooks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Well, by the sixth day of Christmas we were getting low on food supplies with all the entertaining and guests food was disappearing quickly. Since I need to visit a government office in downtown Hamilton, my wife and I decided to do some shopping in the Hamilton Market. December the 30 was the last day that the market would be open in 2011 so it was an opportune time fill up the larder, so to speak.

The market was a lot busier than I would have imagined  on December 30th but then again there were probably a lot of people who were in the same situation as we were, running low on food supplies. The sellers must have been aware of this as well  because every stall was full and brimming over with food stuffs. We perused the stalls to see what there was and finally settled on six quarts of Golden Delicious apples to make a nice fresh apple pie and half a dozen farm fresh eggs to replenish all the eggs that had been used over the previous week of cooking. I was looking forward to turning the six quarts of golden delicious apples into at least one apple pie.


Since I started this twelve day of Christmas idea I might as well continue it for the full twelve days. on December 29th, the fifth day of Christmas my wife and I took my daughter and son-in-law to Magnotta winery in Beamsville on Ontario street. There were two reasons. The was, we thought that it would be a fun thing to do on a Christmas vacation day. The second reason was that I wanted to pick up some ice wine to give away as gifts for the up coming Chinese New Year celebration. You see, I have absolutely no problem crossing and combining cultural celebrations.

It was a short drive to Magnotta and the weather was mild and mostly sunny. Not surprising, there were not that many people in the winery but there were a few. I gave my wife and daughter the task of trying out all the ice wines and selecting the ones that they thought would be the most suitable for gifts.The people at Magnotta set up a selection of five or six different ice wines and my wife and daughter sampled each one. It was a lot of fun and in the end they settled on the apple ice wine and the cassis ice wine. I am sure that they will both make suitable Chinese New Year gifts. I bought two bottles of apple ice wine and three of cassis.

After our visit to Magnotta we crossed the bridge over the QEW and visited the Legends Estate Winery but, unfortunately, it was not open on December 29th. Instead, we started our journey back to Burlington and stopped off at Kittling Ridge for a visit instead. Kittling Ridge is always a fun place to visit. The people are friendly and knowledgeable and they often have specials. Since I had already bought the ice wine that I had set out to buy we looked around and left after a short visit.

It was a pleasant outing for the fifth day of Christmas and I wound up buying five bottles of fine ice wine.

Monday, January 2, 2012


yes, this the first post of the new year. I am not going to look back  on 2011 and analyze what was good and what was not good, what I accomplished and what I never got around to doing. That's all water under the bridge, in a manner of speaking. It is more interesting to think about the year ahead, the possibilities and opportunities.

This has been my first year of blogging and my first year of posting my work on Etsy. Although I have some items on Etsy but there has not been any significant activity, at least not until Christmas. I have to admit that I have been somewhat remise regarding signing in on Etsy on a regular basis. In fact, I could not remember when I had last signed in on Etsy. Well, i had some time over the holidays so I thought I would check everything out. Apparently, I had received an inquiry for a commission on December 1, 2011. I did not see it until 28 days later. That's not a really good response time to an Inquiry! I did what I could, I took the information that was sent to me and worked up a rough concept and sent it back as quickly as I could, the same day that I read the inquiry. Who knows, they may still be interested, if not, it taught me to log into Etsy more than once a month.

This leads to the second good thing to happen on Etsy. This evening, January 2, 2012, I logged into Etsy, I log in every day now. I saw a message which was an invitation to display my work at a rustic fair on the weekend of August 25 - 26, 2012 in Carlise, Ontario which is practically in my backyard. I am pretty excited about this opportunity. To say the least it will be interesting and an opportunity to display my work in the real world and meet prospective buyers. Who knows, there may be a few prospective commissions as well.

It seems that 2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year for me!