Tag Archives: DIY

Elements Film Festival

My short film, Upsetting the Apple Cart: Building the Weaving Wagon, will be screening as part of Elements Film Festival in Vancouver British Columbia on April 15, 2018.

“The Elements Film Festival features dozens of nature, wildlife and conservation themed films by filmmakers all over the world. April 14-15, 2018 at The TELUS World of Science on beautiful False Creek, Vancouver. All daytime programming is INCLUDED with Science World admission. TICKETS ON SALE MARCH 15 for evening programs and Festival Launch Party.”


Soil to Sky

This is a short film I just completed for EartHand Gleaner’s Society.

More Spoons

In preparation for Vancouver’s 2016 EASTSIDE CULTURE CRAWL, I have been carving on a daily basis, mostly concentrated on larger serving spoons made of locally sourced Cherrywood. All have been finished with a coating of Beeswax, Carnuba, and Mineral oil.

Short Film Competition

The Storyhive Short Film Competition is in its final week. Thirty winners are given 10,000 dollars to complete their films. Please support my project “Mr Fire-man Builds a Horn Orchestra out of Wood.” You can vote once a day for the next week at: http://www.storyhive.com/project/show/id/907


Synopsis: David Gowman, aka Mr Fire-man, is the creator of “The Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra.” Equal parts arborist, musician, craftsman, and agent-provocateur, his songs mirthfully take the piss out of consumerism, conformity and religion with hits like Aliens, Too Much Pie, and Zombies, played in clubs, festivals and community gardens of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He sustainably harvests a local Paulownia tree and other renewable crops to build his eccentric instruments. With his artwork, concerts and workshops, he activates both friends and community in ways that are thoughtful, provocative, and life-affirming. This is a story of one man who has turned away from mass-culture and consumption, and has built his own life in a sustainable way, enriching the local environment around him.

Mr Fire-man Builds a Horn Orchestra out of Wood

Mr Fire-manVote for my film-pitch at http://www.storyhive.com/project/show/id/907

Between October 26 and November 8, 2015, you can vote once everyday to give me a chance to win 10,000 dollars to make this film.

Carving Tools

As my interest in carving has grown, so has my understanding of the tools required. Different tools are needed for the various stages in carving, starting with saws for obtaining wood from fallen trees, wedges and froe for splitting it into workable sections, and finally, axes, gouges and knives for shaping the individual piece.

I’ve been borrowing some of the more specialized tools from David on our carving nights, and have also been assembling a set of my own. I had a stroke of luck recently in finding a carving hand axe at a local flea market for 15 dollars. With some concerted effort, I was able to resharpen the damaged edge and give it a new handle. It is on the heavy side, but having a single beveled, right handed blade has made a great difference in the initial shaping of wood before switching to the knife.


I’ve also bought some Haida designed hook-knife blades from the local Lee Valley store. They are sold without handles, so I now have them mounted on pieces of maple I had left over from another project. These have proved indispensable in all of the recent carving I’ve been doing. Having the three different profiles has made hollowing out both spoons and bowls much easier. They require some serious sharpening at the beginning, so patience is necessary.


I also made my own adze with Lorne Grey when we were doing some blacksmithing earlier this year, but have only recently given it a handle made from dogwood. My first attempt failed as I had chosen a branch configuration with too acute an angle, making it almost impossible to swing. That (boxwood) handle was replaced and recycled into a handle for the hook knife I also made with Lorne. The adze in particular has been brilliant in working on a larger sized bowl I’m making from alder.




Plum-wood bowl

I just finished my first bowl today carved from a chunk of plum-wood. I based it on the shape and style of a rice bowl.


A lot more work is involved in carving a bowl as compared with a spoon. I’m learning to do a knife finish instead of sanding, which for me has been a bit of a struggle so far. I do prefer the results, especially as it cuts down the dust levels in my shop, and really shows the beauty of the wood.


I’m finishing a larger oval-shaped bowl from the same piece of wood and have started another with some freshly cut alder. Both are smallish, but I have plans for a large, group project with a huge section of alder I now have in my front yard.


Joined By Thread


“Joined by Thread” is a ten minute film that follows a group of women who work together to create a wedding dress from two older dresses. Ashleigh, the bride to be, her mother Lynda and her future mother-in-law Rose, meet with environmental artist Sharon Kallis, who helps them to see the beauty in reclaimed fabric, the history imbedded in our clothing, and to avoid the crass and wasteful “Wedding Industry” that promotes an unsustainable, consumer lifestyle.


Rose Burden, Ashleigh Wallace, Lynda Wallace, Willow Spindler

I was fortunate to have another opportunity to work with my friend and frequent collaborator Sharon Kallis, in a realm I had little knowledge of: weddings, and in particular, the wedding dress. In much of contemporary western culture, the wedding ritual has become commercialized to the point that meaning has been stripped away from many of the most beautiful moments and replaced with a pumped-up orgy of expense, competition, and waste. In this case, the humble act of sewing and the sharing of family history through fabric reveals a richness that has no price tag.

Ashleigh Wallace and Sharon Kallis

Ashleigh Wallace and Sharon Kallis

It was a challenge and an invaluable learning experience to shoot solo in a very confined space where events unfolded quickly and unexpectedly. I am in debt to all of the participants who were so generous and open in sharing a very intimate and emotional moment on camera.

Sheep to Sweater: Part 2

It’s the last day of 2012 and I have just finished my wool vest. Once I got going with the knitting, the process went much faster than expected. Penny most excellently drew up my instructions on the fly, at each stage measuring me, looking over my progress, and then providing me with easy to follow instructions on sheets of graph paper. I will publish these here shortly, so that any other intrepid soul can use them to make their own vest.


I was surprised at how much wool was needed for this project. In the end, almost all of the sheep fleece I started with was used. On Penny’s advice, I abandoned the idea of making a sweater with sleeves as there was probably not quite enough yarn.

I experimented a bit with trying to dye the wool once it had been spun and plied, but in the end I dyed most of it before I spun it, allowing more possibilities for mixing colours.

Dyed rolags awaiting spinning

Dyed rolags awaiting spinning

About 80% of the wool was dyed with walnut casings but as I ran out, I used tea, and (I confess) a little bit of commercial green dye (so the final result would match my eyes…)

Penny's step by step plans

Penny’s step by step plans

I used large (#14) needles which made the work go fast. I learned from numerous mistakes I made along the way and now feel much more confident with the whole process, especially after all of the generous guidance I have received. I’ve already begun another project, recycling wool from existing garments culled from thrift stores. Watch for “Urban Yard Harvest” in upcoming posts.

Nearing the end

Nearing the end

Sewing the two halves together

Sewing the two halves together



Happy New Year.

From Sheep to Sweater Part 1

It was bound to happen, that after spending so much time around people who spin and knit, I would finally give in and try it myself. Under the generous but firm tutelage of Penny and Karen, I dove directly into the deep end of the wool pool, buying an entire, unwashed sheep fleece from a small farm in the Fraser Valley, with the dogged determination to create a wearable garment from scratch.

Karen and I made the trip out to Langley, where we met the small flock of Clun Forest Sheep who kindly donated their coats to us for a modest fee. Armed with an economy sized bottle of dish-washing liquid, I set about my first task of cleaning the fleece.

My new fleece.

A strong but not unpleasant “sheepy” smell was soon wafting through my house, as fleece met hot water and the heavy coating of lanolin and grime was gradually dissolved. The dirtiest parts of the wool were separated and left to soak in what would later become a bucket of unfathomably horrific odors.

After drying, the fleece resembled a small cumulus cloud, hovering cheerfully in my front room, oblivious to the torments I would soon inflict on it. The carding process forcibly combs the fibers into alignment and transforms the amorphous fleece into an orderly pile of “rolags”. From there the spinning process begins, something I have found both enjoyable and contemplative.

Rolags and plied yarn

Partway through this process, I learned that I needed to ply my yarn, meaning twisting two spun lengths together to create a thick grade of yarn which is more stable to knit with than a “single”. My skill level at spinning has gradually increased and I am beginning to be able to produce a much thinner, even yarn. Interesting how this activity has been linked in several world cultures to the notion of fate or destiny. Metaphorically, threads and string are powerful images.

Using a drop spindle.

The natural dying process has been fascinating. I was enthralled by some wool that Joy had dyed using the root of a walnut tree to produce a rich brown. Later, I found out that all parts of the Black Walnut are rich in natural dye, and that October is the time to gather the nut casings as they fall from the tree. Sharon told me the location of some trees in the West End and I have now made several trips to fill my saddle bags with them. I found out quickly to wear gloves as they will dye skin readily, which doesn’t wash off for several days.

Gathering nuts in October

For days now, I’ve had a pot of walnuts on the stove, and more in the basement soaking. The smell is strong and reminiscent of fermented lime, which has helped to finally dispel the essence of sheep lingering in my house. The colour is powerful and varied. I’ve obtained rich gold, mahogany and dark chocolate browns, as well as some subtler shades of grey, using an iron railroad spike to “sadden” the colours.

Dye pot

At the rate I’m going, this sweater might not be ready until sometime next year. Penny calculated that I would need around a thousand yards of yarn to complete this project. I’m at around two hundred at this point and am considering changing the size of my yarn in order to cut down on the amount of wool needed. Penny has taught me to knit the two basic stitches, so in my down time, I’m practicing with some scraps of donated orange wool and a bag of vile-coloured yarn I got from Value Village.

Stay tuned for part two.

Newly dyed wool