Monthly Archives: January 2015

Some Things I’ve Made: Part Two

Some things I’ve made: Part Two

I’ve been producing a couple of spoons a week now for several months. Initially, I modelled them after metal spoons I found in my kitchen, but gradually, their style has changed, partly in relation to the tools I’ve been learning to use, partly through looking at the work of other carvers. I’ve also developed a bit of my own aesthetic for these objects of mundane utility – what feels good in the hand and pleases the eye.

DSC07556

Some recent spoons in yellow cedar, hazel, and alder

 

To speed this process along, I built a shaving horse, based on several designs I saw online. This allows me to use a draw-knife and spoke-shave, tools that make carving much easier. I also completed an adze and hook-knife under Lorne Grey’s excellent tutelage during our forging nights.

Shave horse

Using my shave horse in my shop

 

P1130147

adze blade grinding

Lorne helping me to grind my adze blade

 

The search for green carving wood is an ongoing process. I carry a small folding saw with me and watch for trees or branches felled by wind or pruned by neighbours or city workers. There is only so much I can carry on a bicycle, but bungee cords are amazingly helpful in this respect. I’ve brought back pieces of cherry, alder, apple, and hazel. While out at the beach I found a large chunk of yellow cedar, left behind after someone had cut-up a huge log. With help from David Gowman and a rented van, we managed to drag it back to the field-house to be split-up for a number of carving projects.

bike

My bike as a pack-mule

 

yellow cedar

Discovery of yellow cedar

 

Splitting yellow cedar

Splitting yellow cedar (David Gowman photo)

 

During a recent community event, Amy spotted a large pile of plum-wood, cut and dumped on the sidewalk. As luck would have it, Karen had her car and we were able to squirrel a large quantity of it at the studio. These pieces were large enough for bowl carving, so I began the process of carving two out of a single piece of wood. Both have checked somewhat during the carving phase, but the experience has been a good one. Stay tuned for finished bowls.

Bowl carving

Early bowl carving in plum wood

Strathcona Field-house

Happy Carvers: Alexis Greenwood, me, Mark Trankner, the late, great JD, and Sharon Kallis

 

 

Advertisements

All Bodies Dance Project

I have been working with an amazing group called ALL BODIES DANCE PROJECT to produce a short documentary film. Here is the teaser I made for the project:

Aberthau 2: Flax = Food = Fibre

The Flax = Food + Fibre Project continued for its second and final year at West Point Grey Community Centre in Vancouver, lead this time by artists Rebecca Graham and Brian Jones. With many participating community members, they further explored the potential of growing flax as a fibre crop in an urban setting. Several grain varieties (oats, wheat and rye) were also grown for Brian to demonstrate Welsh wheat-weaving, an art-form practiced in agricultural communities for centuries. An added benefit was allowing participants to see the actual growing and harvesting of the plants that make up a large part of our western diet.

Wheat

Rebecca did much to refine the accumulated knowledge for growing and processing flax locally, changing to a different variety (Marilyn) which is much better suited to hand spinning. She also worked to improve the method of retting the harvested plants, in the end producing very fine and beautiful line flax which is now being spun into thread by various members of the local fibre community.

Rebecca in field wheat weave2As in the previous year, the project provided many opportunities for celebration and enjoyment throughout the agricultural cycle, from  garden work parties, to the harvest festival complete with Morris dancers, to the final “Sit and Spin Social” where the processed flax was spun into thread. See my short documentary of the project here:

Some Things I’ve Built – Part One

Over the past year or so, I have been busy making a number of things both related to fibre arts and to woodworking.

flax

Flax plants ready for harvest.

As part of the Urban Weaver Project’s investigation of growing local cloth, I built some of the equipment necessary in the production of linen. With funds obtained by Penny Coupland from the Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grants, and using plans she purchased from The Woolgatherers, (a family business in Wisconsin) I built a flax brake, two scutching knives and two hackles. These are used to extract the long, supple fibres from the stalks of the flax plant, that we had grown locally.

Flax Brake

Flax Brake

P1130190

Flax brake (detail)

After flax is harvested, it is left in water or in a damp field to break down through the process of retting, which uses bacteria to dissolve some of the connective proteins and lignans within the plant. The stalks can then be run through the brake, which shatters the pithy core, and allows the remaining outside layers to be separated. The scutching knife helps to remove the last pieces of pith, before the strands are pulled through various sizes of hackles, separating the individual strands, which at this point resemble human hair. From here, the fibres are spun and woven into cloth.

Scutching Knife

Scutching Knife

Hackle

Hackle

Since ancient times, farm folk would be familiar with these methods and would incorporate the growing of flax into their agricultural cycle, so that most of their clothing needs could be met. Much stronger and longer-lasting that cotton, flax also requires much less water, fertilizer and pesticides. As it can be grown in northern climates, it does not require the shipping and exploitive labour practises used in the production of cotton.

Caitlin with brake

Caitlin ffrench using flax brake

Caitlin scutching

Caitlin ffrench using scutching knife

Caitlin hackling flax

Caitlin ffrench using hackle

Sharon spinning

Sharon Kallis spinning flax