Sunday, February 19, 2012


Since Easter is not far off I thought I would put my egg collection on display. I have eight different kinds of eggs in my collection right now but I am perfectly willing to create more as requested.

Here is a picture of the different kinds of eggs that I have sitting in an egg carton.

One of the smallest eggs that I have is this lovely little egg carved out of ebony. It may be small but it was one tough egg to carve! Ebony is hard wood. Isn't she a beauty!

This one is interesting, it is carved from cedar. What makes it interesting is the fact that it was carved from wood that I reclaimed from renovating out house.

This beauty was carved from a piece of scrap walnut. a friend was building a walnut cabinet and gave me the scraps that he would have thrown away. I carved this egg out of one of the scrap pieces.

This egg was carved from a piece of oak, again a piece of scrap wood that would have wound up in the dust bin. As I recall it was the cut off from the pedestal for an oak dining room table. I love the grain of this one. you can see how the grain works in two different directions in oak giving it a three dimensional effect.

I had just finished carving a flying horse out of butternut  and I was wondering what to do with some of the larger pieces that were left over. The obvious decision, I carved a butternut egg. It sounds almost good enough to eat doesn't it?

This one was carved from a block of mahogany. You don't usually get a piece of mahogany that is thick enough to carve an egg. This one was a real prize. Someone must have given the wood to me because I have never purchased mahogany in my life, it is one of those woods that are endangered. I make use of every piece of mahogany that comes my way.

This one was carved from pear wood. I really like the color and the way the grain plays on the polished surface.

This is a larger version of the cedar egg that I showed earlier. It was also carved from a piece of reclaimed wood from our house renovation. Since our house was built just after world war two the wood is more than fifty years old. The patina of aged wood is something that new wood cannot achieve.

Finally, I carved a large egg out of bass wood, again out of left over scrap. i like the basswood because of its pale color, it closely resembles an egg.

As you see, all the wood that I used to carve these eggs was either recycled wood from renovating houses or wood that I salvaged from wood shop wood bins, mine and others. All of these pieces would have wound up in the garbage or as fire wood.

I plan to offer these eggs, or eggs like these at the TWO DAY INVITATIONAL COUNTRY CRAFT FAIR AND OLD-FASHIONED MERCANTILE on August 25-26m 2012 in Carlisle, Ontario.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


When I was last in China I had a lot of free time on my hands in the evening. Because it was close to Chinese New Years my hosts were busy with more official company obligations which left me alone in the evening. That, in itself, is not a problem. I have become quite used to being by myself when I travel. It is one of the reasons that I take carvings to work on, it passes the time. That is fine while I am alone in my hotel room. The problem us that it would not be acceptable if I took my work and tools outside my room to work on. It would either attract unwanted attention or I might simply be told that I was not allowed to do that in a public space.

When I went for dinner at night I was often faced with long periods of time to fill. Typically, dinner would take from one hour to one and a half hours from start to finish. I am used to dinner at home which usually takes a half an hour from start to finish. So, in order to fill in the periods of time between having my meal served I read my book on Leonardo Da Vinci. This led me to think about my own drawings and studies so I spent most of my time working on my drawings and studies. The studies that I did for The Mermaid were mostly done while I was waiting for the various courses of my dinner to arrive.

After I finished those studies I started to draw various sections of a beautiful ceramic mural that was at the back of the dining room.

Eventually, I asked to be seated at a table in the dining room that gave me the best view of the section of the wall that I was drawing. This is a pictures that I took of one of the pages of my sketch book. Unfortunately, some of the sketches that I did were on scraps of paper that, at present, I cannot find. Nonetheless, it helped me fill the void.

The wait staff became interested in my drawings and they would stand behind me or to the side so that they could see what I was drawing but not disturb me. They would also make comments on my progress on drawings that they liked. It was very amusing. It was also a way to draw them into conversation. Most of them were university educated and could understand English quite well but they were as nervous about speaking English as I am about speaking Chinese. although I am willing to make a fool of myself by making all kinds of linguistic mistakes, these young people were less willing. It seemed that talking about drawings was less intimidating.

In the end,  my little notebook helped me to fill the hours as I filled its pages.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I spent a day in Hong Kong before I returned to Canada before Chinese New Years. I stayed at a hotel on Nathan Road which is one of the main streets in Kowloon and a major shopping area. After breakfast I headed out along Nathan Road. I walked all the way to the harbor and back. I took as many pictures as I could, almost all on the theme of Chinese New Year. I wanted to take as many different pictures of Chinese New Year decorations as I could.

Chinese firecrackers

It;s the year of the dragon!

Chinese New Year tree in the lobby of the posh Peninsula Hotel.

Year of the dragon advertisement for Sogo, a Japanese department store.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art

This is where the Chinese new Year celebration would have been held. Their version of Times Square.

The fireworks would have been in a barge behind the stage in Victoria Harbor

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this dragon. It must have been at least 150 feet tall.

 There were some original 

and artistic displays in shop windows.

I had to take a picture of these wedding rings that featured a phoenix and dragon design with the character for double happiness in the middle, very traditional Chinese.

these giant bronze hands would be worthy of Rodin. they were sitting in front of the martial arts center where,

I took a picture of this awesome looking dragon.

This little golden dragon I saw on display in the window of a jewelery shop. It was barely six inches long. The detail is exquisite.

 The is was back to the hotel for a quick lunch before I was off to the airport for the flight home.

As the sign above said, "Kung Hei Fat Choy", May you explode with prosperity.


Monday, February 13, 2012


When I travel, which is more often that I would like, I take something with me to work on. Sometimes it is drawings to work on or a study but most times I take a piece with me to work on. On my last trip to China I took two pieces  with me that were barely started. One piece was the one that I have come to call The Mermaid. I consider her to be the sister or at least a close cousin to The Siren. The other piece that I took with me was just a piece of wood at the time. I will leave that one for later. The reason that I took these two pieces with me is that I wanted to keep my momentum going on finishing pieces that I am preparing for the two day invitational Country Craft Fair and Old-Fashioned Market Mercantile. 

The interesting thing about the development of The Mermaid was that it became intertwined with the book that I was reading on Leonardo Da Vinci. I have written about Leonardo before when I published a post about the trip that I made with my wife, my son and his girlfriend to the Buffalo Science Museum to view the exhibit call Leonardo Da Vinci : Machines in Motion. the book on Leonardo that I was reading in China was called LEONARDO, by Martin Kemp. Martin Kemp is one of the greatest authorities on Leonardo Da Vinci  I was interested to read his insightful point of view on Leonardo's work.

I was not disappointed. Martin wrote about aspects of Leonardo's life that are usually not covered. He spent entire chapters discussing aspects of Leonardo's life and art that I have never read about before. At any rate, I will cover this book more fully in another post. It deserves a post of its own.

the point is that my imagination became so infused with art of Leonardo that I could see nothing else in my mind except the beautiful Madonnas that he painted. When I looked at the piece of wood that was going to become The Mermaid I saw the faces and the elegant poses of these Madonnas. As I developed the three studies I would eventually work from it became evident that I was using the painting of Lucrezia Crevelli, "La Belle Ferroniere", as my model.

Here are the studies that I did for The Mermaid.

At this point, The Mermaid was roughly carved. Only the major shapes were done. There was no detail.

Pretty neat wallpaper, isn't it?
I thought that the wallpaper in my hotel room went well with The Mermaid so I took a few pictures of her posing with the boats. It looks like she might capsize a few of them!

Here, she is almost finished. I still need to apply her final coat and them mount her onto base that I shaped to make her look like she is rising out of a wave. I will show that in another post.

I think The Mermaid will be an interesting piece at the Country Craft and Fair, that is unless someone snaps her up first!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breakfast in Nanning

What does one eat for Breakfast in China? Since i was staying at a Chinese hotel, the Gui Jing Hotel in Nanning, China, I decided that I should eat a Chinese breakfast. At the Gui Jing hotel, breakfast is Dim Sum. Dim Sum roughly translates as little snacks. In the true tradition of Dim Sum, servers push carts around the restaurant, stopping at each table. You select the dishes you want and they mark it off on a pre-printed sheet of paper on you table.

Here are some of the more interesting offerings for Dim Sum.

You might think that this is a novel way to eat breakfast everyday, especially for a foreigner. I hate to tell  you but after eating Dim Sum day after day for a week or so it does start to become a little boring. I am used to eating breakfast in fifteen minutes or less and getting on with my day. Waiting for someone to come around with cart who might or might not have something that you would like to eat can get old very quickly.

What I did was devise my own system of getting breakfast. I wrote out, in Chinese characters, in my very bad Chinese calligraphy, the names of the things that I like to eat for breakfast. So, when I would show up for breakfast in the morning, instead of waiting for the carts to come around I would tell the servers, or rather show them what I want for breakfast and they would bring it to me. when the carts came around I would also order a thing or two but I would already have something to eat by then.

Now, at home, I typically drink freshly brewed coffee for breakfast. As you would think, in China, I drink tea, at just about every occasion that you could think of. A few years ago, I tried Chrysanthemum tea for breakfast and I never have anything else for breakfast, at least when I am in China. You would be right in assuming that Chrysanthemum tea is made from, well chrysanthemums. They are not your garden variety of chrysanthemums, these flowers are specially grown in a specific area of China. The flavor is wonderful. Since Chrysanthemum tea is not a true tea, it is a herbal tea. Most people combine the Chrysanthemum tea with a regular tea called Pu Erh tea. Pu Erh tea is a special fermented tea from Yunnan province in China. The fermentation process not only makes the tea dark it gives it a full-bodied flavor. When you combine Chrysanthemum tea with Pu Erh tea you get the best combination of both teas. The combination is excellent for breakfast. Actually, Chrysanthemum tea is excellent any time. My wife and I drink Chrysanthemum tea at home, usually on weekends.

One day, during my recent trip to China, I thought that it would be nice to have coffee for breakfast, just for one day. When I sat down for breakfast, the server asked me I wanted Chrysanthemum tea, or ju hua cha as it is called in Chinese. They had gotten used to the fact that I was drinking chrysanthemum tea every morning. I said, " No, I would like to have coffee this morning." Off she went to procure a cup of coffee for me. I knew coffee was a big deal because it was usually only consumed in specialty shops. I waited. They brought my dishes for breakfast but no coffee. I asked the server where my coffee was. Instead, the restaurant manager came to my table and apologized. She said that their coffee machine was broken and they could not make me any coffee. I said, "Don't worry, just bring me Chrysanthemum tea." That was the end of my idea of having coffee for breakfast. The truth was that I had brought Tim Horton's coffee in package form from Canada which I brewed in my hotel room every night. Still, it would have been nice to have a cup of coffee in the morning in China.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Last week a small group of artists and artisans got together at Whispergreen farm in Carlisle, Ontario to take a few promotional pictures that will be used to promote the upcoming invitational Country Craft Fair and Old-Fashioned Market Mercantile. the Fair and Mercantile will be held at Whispergreen farm on the weekend of August 25 and 26th.

The mastermind behind the country craft fair and market festival is Julie Johnson, the proprietor of Whispergreen farm. Jule also has a shop on Etsy called, Rustic Revivals. Rustic Revivals specializes in Farm house/Cabin/Cottage decor, Salvage Art and Primitive One of a Kinds, Reclaimed, Recycled, Upcycled,Natural, Mother Earth...specifically, the salvage of barn wood and board, folk art painting of it, also salvaged metals, sewing of prim dolls and ornaments, burlap, horses, boxes and baskets of barn wood and tobacco lathe (slat) wood, wall plaques and wall decor for home decorating and centerpieces, all from reclaimed wood, natural tree or stone ornaments, or salvaged parts of antiques...distressed, crackled, old, but UNSHACKLED!

she is also the captain of UPECO which is an Etsy team. Upeco stands for: Unique Primitives, Enviro-Conscious & Countrylovers (you can be all of these and even better!) This is for all the fabulous artists who work at protecting and promoting either our history, our country-side and natural wonders, or both.
This will include lovers of Country, Primitive, Salvage Art, Upcyclers, and Recyclers. Favorite Materials should be: barnboard, woods of all kinds, natural objects from forest and field, found objects, scrap metals, rags, cottons, burlaps, jute, hemp, recycled paper, etc.

Four of us who turned up for pictures, including Julie. I was the first to arrive, Julie was in the barn finishing off on an interview with a reporter from the Flamborough Review. Shortly after the interview was finished, Merv and Jean arrived. Although it was a chilly outside we lined up in period costumes for these pictures.

The gentleman on the left is Merv McCartney, Merv specializes in knitting. Beside Merv is Jean Rivers of Rivers Watercolours. Jean is holding up one of her lovely watercolours of cows. Beside Jean is none other than Grinling Gibbons of Bayshore Woods. Grinling is holding up two of his finest pieces; The Master and the Three Warriors. Beside Grinling is Julie Johnson of Rustic Revivals. Julie is holding two of her pieces from her shop. One piece is a Cabin Cushion, which is made from burlap with a recycled frill from an old pillowcase with leaves and moose. The other piece is Julie's iconic Shaker style Cheese box with original folk art horse theme painted by a Canadian artist.

I t was great to meet some of the people that I will be exhibiting with in August.

Here are a few more pictures featuring Grinling Gibbons.

Friday, February 3, 2012


This is the first time that I had ever been in Southern China so near to the Chinese New Year celebration. This year Chinese new year was very early, January 23rd. The date can vary greatly because the date is calculated according to the lunar calendar. the lunar calendar has few days per month than the Julian calendar and it has fewer months. So each year is considerably shorter than the Julian calendar. at any rate, that is why the date for Chinese New Year varies considerably from year to year.

One of the things that I noticed was that there were Chinese New Year decorations everywhere. I did not notice very much when I checked into the hotel  on Sunday evening, I was too tired to notice or to care. However, the next morning, while I was waiting for my driver to pick me up, I had lots of time to check out the decorations in the lobby of the hotel.

Beside the entrance to the elevators there were two, almost life size, statues of a boy and a girl in the pose of giving traditional Chinese, New Year greetings.

Outside the hotel I saw what I initially thought were trees, orange trees, that vaguely resembled Christmas trees in the west. As it turned out, they were composite trees. Someone took tall skinny trees, attached them together to make them look like one tree.

Also in the lobby of the hotel there was a table, actually several tables joined together, where vendors were selling items for Chinese New Year. Most of the items were dried fruit and other foodstuffs that people in China would give to one another for Chinese New Year. I spotted something that was familiar, a package of Ferro Roche chocolates. When I converted the price from CNY to Canadian dollars I was amazed. It worked out that each chocolate was worth $2.00 Canadian! No matter how desperate I might be for chocolate, I was not going to pay $2.00 Canadian for an individual piece of chocolate, at least not Ferro Roche.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


So we arrived in Hong Kong around 2:30 PM on Saturday. I had just been catapulted thirteen hours into the future. Who says that time travel is impossible? After leaving the plane I had to get my boarding pass for the flight to Nanning. Typically, it takes about an hour for the transfer desk to process my boarding pass. I realized after a few trips that they will not issue a boarding pass to me until my luggage has been transferred from one plane to the other and this typically takes about an hour. I was a little surprised that they had moved the transfer desk to another terminal which meant i had to take two elevators and the train to the next terminal. This is a little taxing after being on a flight for fifteen hours and keeping yourself awake for the same period of time.

Eventually, I made it to the transfer desk. I was eternally grateful to see that there was a Pacific Coffee shop immediately adjacent to the transfer desk. I imagine that it was strategically placed in that location. I got the process going for my boarding pass then went next door and had a cappuccino that helped keep me awake.

Once I had my boarding pass and they transferred my luggage from air Canada to Hong Kong airline I was free to go through security. It was another long trek down an elevator then a long walk down a long corridor to my gate. At least, it seemed like a long walk because at that point I was dead tired.

At the gate, I was too tired to read so I just sat and looked around at the people coming and going. It is interesting how things that may be perfectly ordinary in their own context look very strange to a foreigner like me. At the gate, there was this young woman who was walking around the waiting area with a small bathroom scale in a box. She was asking people if she could weigh them. Everyone that she asked agreed. I watched her take the scale out of the box, place it on the floor in front of the person, they would step on the scale, she would write down the weight. After she weighed the person she would go on to someone else and repeat the process. At one point, she looked over at me. I could see that she was thinking about coming over to ask me if she could weigh me then I could see that she thought better of it and went on to someone else. What if I didn't speak Chinese? What if I refused? Better not to ask!

The flight from Hong Kong to Nanning was great, only one hour. Overall, it was a pleasant flight. The stewardesses was efficient and pleasant. They served me coffee which was greatly appreciated. I am definitely going to be taking Hong Kong airlines again. They are head and shoulders above Southern China airlines where the stewardesses are not exactly surly but they are not exactly friendly either.

I arrived in Nanning around 6:00 PM. Customs was a breeze, my luggage arrived on the carousel right away and I was out in the waiting area by 6:30 PM. The idea was that Effie, a young marketing assistant for the company I was visiting, was supposed to meet me. I didn't see her right away so I waited, and waited, and waited. I waited until 7:15 PM. Still no Effie.

A taxi driver approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. I asked him if he knew where my hotel was. He said that he. We negotiated a price and left. I find that it is better to negotiate the price before you leave the airport. There is less chance of getting a nasty surprise at the other end. We settled on 150 CNY which was probably too much but it was late and I just wanted to get to the hotel so that I could go to bed and sleep. I quickly got the impression that driver did not really know where he was going so I started to give him directions and we finally arrived at the hotel. Interestingly, or predictably, depending on how you look at it the driver told me that he did not have change for the two 100 CNY notes that I gave him. I said, no problem, let's go into the hotel, they will have change. Much to my driver's chagrin that's what we did. I paid him and he was on his way. First, though, he gave me his card along with my receipt. He told me to give him a call if I needed a driver. I really did pay him too much!