Art School: Semester 5, Week 12

Hello everyone.

First, an apology. Last week’s post suffered from far more typos than normal. Far more. I wish I could tell you why that is, but I honestly don’t know. It was just one of those things, apparently, and all I can do is apologize.

This week, though, I have an excuse! I am using a strange keyboard to write this, and it ties my hands in knots. The reason for the strange keyboard is, well, strange. The old one I had started making the USB ports on my computer act a bit flaky. Very often that computer didn’t want to see the keyboard or mouse at boot up, but switching to a borrowed, mushy, ancient, ugly, ctrl-key-in-the-wrong-place keyboard from Anne seems to have fixed the boot issue, so I am using it for now. I think the problem is that the backlighting on the old keyboard uses too much power. This borrowed keyboard has no backlighting, and the computer boots just fine every time with it in place. So I guess I either need a new keyboard without backlighting, or a powered USB hub so the computer’s USB ports aren’t impacted by the power draw of the keyboard. Weird, I know, but such is life. I’ll have to sort that out soon, as this keyboard is awful.

And, as I say, if there are typos in this post — or at least if there are more than the usual number of them — I am blaming the keyboard. Please report them anyway, of course. I will still fix them.

As for the rest of life, it is clear that I hit the wall this term. I am beat — both mentally and physically — and it shows. Friends at school are asking if I am OK after just looking at me, and I have no idea how to answer them. But the term is coming to an end, which means that light I see is either the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train. I’ll know soon.

What’s really odd is that I didn’t hit the wall in any of my previous terms, so something is different this time. Maybe I can blame that on the keyboard as well.

Anyway, let’s talk about the current status of my educational world.


Progress in design class continues. As I write this a few more students have used the CNC router to cut their wood. A couple encountered the same oddball glitch I did, with the router cutting along and then suddenly taking a hard left turn and cutting through good, finished pieces. One, though, cut all his sheets with no errors or glitches at all. No one knows why that is. It makes the process very exciting, though. A bit like Russian Roulette.

On Friday another student was using the router and things weren’t as accurate as she needs. Holes were not properly centred inside the circles that were being cut, so that sheet got aborted. No clue why that happened, but it was.

For my part, this week I assembled the stool. Here’s the start of that process:

That’s the top and bottom, held in the right place with my purpose built tools that go through the slots instead of the fins. The one on the right has the outer and inner rings glued and clamped down. The wedges are only fitted in to be sure everything stays in place. The one on the left is waiting for the glue in the one the right to dry. At that point I could re-use the clamps to glue it together in the same way.

On Thursday both the top and bottom had been similarly glued, and a miracle happened: the fins actually fit in the assembled piece. Here’s a shot of that:

Thanks to the previously mentioned tools and gluing, that assembly took only a minute or so. Very simple to do. Then I glued in the wedges in the top:

The next day the wedges were glued in the bottom. To be clear, when those wedges were glued in, the fins were glued in as well. So as of Friday afternoon, the stool is fully assembled.

Still left to do:

  • Sand the top and bottom.
  • Evaluate for wood filler and use if desired. (I am honestly not sure about this. The lines between the pieces of wood are very deliberate, and if the filler makes them disappear, there are issues. I am thinking about it, and will know more when it is fully sanded. Specifically when I can better see how it looks.)
  • Apply a sealer. (We have a ridiculously expensive wax product or Danish oil to choose from.)
  • Assist others with the setup and cutting of their wood in the CNC system.
  • Participate in setting up the final display of everyone’s stools.

I am not yet fully done with this, but I am getting closer. The stress level here is ramping down, I think.

Aboriginal Carving

The bowl continues to improve. This week in class I thinned down the walls and started (barely) to add a foot to it. Here’s a photo of the bowl as it is now, as well as the crufty keyboard I am currently using in the background:

The instructor tells me he is impressed with my work in the interior. It’s smooth, clean, and shiny, if perhaps a bit rippled because of the narrow gouge I mostly use. It can be a challenge to get wood that smooth because you must work towards the middle from the ends, and at least in one of those directions you will be working against the grain. That tends to result in ripping the threads of the grain (if you will) and those are kind of ugly. I have avoided that, and it seems he likes that.

Anyway, I don’t yet know if I will get this thing done only in class or not, or if I will make it more complicated (or not). Time will tell. But I hope to finish it up either in class next week, or before then at home.

There is also a final project coming up in this class, it seems, but we have very limited time. The instructor talked about that project being roughing out a piece of wood (called “housing out”) to make it ready for a carving, but this week he showed me a plaster cast of part of a face — just the lips and chin— and he indicated that might be involved in the final project. I am not at all sure what that means yet. Once again, time will tell.


As always, this is the place where all my time goes. I am on campus every single day — even though I have classes only three days a week — in an attempt to work on this thing. Usually I manage that.

This past week, things went sideways in new and different ways, so here’s the status.

Oh, and I know I left you all hanging with what is happening with this piece. Get used to that…

Saturday I went in to carve. My conversation with the instructor the previous Thursday had opened up the idea that I should avoid symmetry, and (as you may recall) on Friday I had punched a hole right through the bottom of the thing.

So, based on those two things, I decided to go to town. I decided to open up a large hole in the bowl, making it very unbowlish. The hole in question was an expansion of the one I had carved last time. It enlarged it and cut across the bottom to remove the accidentally punched hole.

I also decided to create a few smaller versions of the inverted teardrop hole in other places. Coupled with some thinning of the walls and shape refinement, here’s where things stood as of Saturday evening, and remember you can click to enlarge these things:

Sunday dawned and I went back to carve again. Here, though, is where the fact that I have hit the wall came in. All I managed on Sunday was to rough out the small holes. There are several things that explain that, though. First, due to other things, I got to campus at about 1pm. Second, these holes are small enough that I cannot use the angle grinder to carve them. Instead I used a drill and a set of masonry drill bits, as well as a hammer and some chisels. In short, it was all hand work to open them up, and I was beat by the time I got this far.

On Monday I returned to continue the fight. This time I used the new angle grinder to cut away the rest of the stone in the big opening, and spent a fair amount of time hand filing the other openings to start to smooth them out.

Tuesday and Wednesday didn’t lend themselves to carving, sadly. I spent what time I had available filing the small openings smooth. It took hours to get that done.

Thursday arrived, and with it sculpture class. Sadly I cannot carve on Thursday mornings because there is a textiles class in the sculpture room, and they need to be able to hear in there. So I wait for the sculpture class itself. We had a discussion about a reading from a catalogue of Charles Ray’s work, and then got busy.

And… well… things went sideways.

First, I continued to thin out the walls and managed to put a crack in the wall. Argh. This stone is really starting to bug me. It’s really hard and firm, right up to the point where it isn’t. Then it’s way too soft — or at least fragile — for my expectations. I left the crack in place and kept working.

In passing, I turned it over — to shape it some more — when the instructor came out to see what was up. (That sentence is an example of something called “foreshadowing.” As a friend of mine once said many years ago: “look for it in quality literature.”)

Yes, she really liked it upside down. Something about the shape and the light through the holes.

I had actually considered that option some time back and discarded it, but she brought it back, and she pushed for it. Being the dutiful student, I listened and attempted to internalize what she was suggesting.

Some additional work followed — refining the new top (which had been the bottom) a taking a first pass at making what has been the top into the new bottom — but I ran out of time. I intended to go back on Friday to keep working on it, so I packed up and went home without taking any pictures.

Friday arrived and was a disaster all the way along. First, I had to go buy a new sanding pad for my angle grinder. The old one died on Thursday, so I went to a tool store to get something to replace it. Sadly I could only find a 4" version, when I need a 5" version, but it would work.

Then I went to campus and to the sculpture studio. An intro sculpture class was doing crit in there, which was expected. But the instructor had told me it would only take a couple of hours in an email a few days before, so I expected to be able to work starting around 11am. That did not happen. They went on until well after noon, at which point there was a practicality problem.

It takes a while to setup to carve: get all the gear out and plugged in, put on all the safety stuff, do the work, then reverse the process and put it all away. There isn’t much point in starting if you only have two hours in total available, and another class was going to start up at 1:30. That class’s instructor had assured me that they weren’t going to be in the studio too long and I could work, but they were still going when I came back at 2 and again at 3, at which point the two hour pointlessness issue was coming back up, so I left and went home.

I will go back on Saturday morning and get going again, assuming the crew working on the roof isn’t trying to drop things on my head.

Oh, and some of you might recall I bought a new angle grinder. I am unimpressed. It’s a Makita, and it’s OK, but it is not nearly as nice as my old Metabo. There are some real stupidities with it that I don’t get, but overall it works.

And finally, a photo from Thursday’s class that is unrelated to anything about me or my work. This is Jess, working on the foam for her really big, final piece. This picture needed to be taken. Sculpture action shots!

I will have more photos of my sculpture next week. I promise.

Other School(ish) Stuff

Not a lot of progress on the plastic shredder. We met, and we talked, and we bolted the wheels onto the frame, but we still need the water-jet cut parts of the shredder box itself to assemble and figure out final dimensions for everything, so there it sits.


Argh. Nothing bu the usual Art School Post Index. So you can see these stories in order if you want to. No time for anything else.


Some things of interest this past week, all from the commute to and from school:

This business is just up the road a ways from the place we’re living. After seeing the sign I had so many questions…

Also, because of the messed up spacing, I first read “alegally” as “allegedly” instead of “a legally.” That made it even weirder.

That’s Mount Baker off in the far distance, above the prow of the ship. This was taken on the commute home on Monday. We’ve had a very warm week here, and while it was a very nice day, I already find myself worrying about wildfires. (And I just read a headline about a large brush fire on Vancouver Island this past week, so fire season is already starting.)

This next photo was taken on the way to school on Thursday morning. By the time I noted it, I was not in a good place to get a clear or close photo from the SeaBus itself, so I snapped this at full telephoto from the SeaBus terminal at Waterfront Station, looking towards North Vancouver:

See that large black dot amidships? That’s a hole punched right through the hull. And it’s pretty big, too. Maybe two or three meters tall. My bet is the ship is waiting for an opening at the nearby drydock for repairs.

Addendum: I learned more about this issue on Friday. The ship is the Pan Acacia, and she was hit by another freighter while she was at anchor in Vancouver Harbour on Sunday night. The hole is about two metres tall, as I guessed, and as she’s only a single hulled freighter, it’s a good thing she was at anchor, in harbour, and empty (rather than full of coal) when the accident happened. The ship that did the hitting actually had a harbour pilot on it, so I have to assume someone really messed up. Here’s a news article about it, and a close up photo of the damage:

And because I could, here’s a photo of the prow of the Pan Acacia, showing the ground in lines that (I think) help make it cut through the water more smoothly, or reduce drag, or something like that:

And that is enough about ships this week.

Sorry there are no dog pics. Soon, I hope.

And In Conclusion…

I am in desperate need of sleep, so you get this from the floppotron. Sorry.

There is a lot more from the floppotron on YouTube. Dig in, if it interests you.

Written by

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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