Art School: Semester 5, Week 6

Hello once again, and welcome to the end of week six of my fifth semester in art school. Time continues to fly by, and there is way too much going on, but that seems to be the way of all things now. It must have something to do with getting old.

I have many photos to share this time, and some I completely forgot to get. As usual. I do my best, but trying to remember to take pictures while in the act of getting things done is not natural to me. Still, I try. Please enjoy what you see here, and email me to ask for more next week.

Before we get started on the school stuff, though, I have a port update. As you might recall from last week’s post, a container ship had smacked into one of the gantry cranes used to load and unload them, causing the crane’s boom (or arm? this is all new terminology to me) to crash down on top of the shipping containers on the ship. That wedged things pretty well, since they couldn’t unload the ship at all until the crane was removed. That, in turn, caused port backlog and dire warnings about delays and months of issues.

So, let’s see what happened in reality, shall we? (Note the foreshadowing!)

Monday Morning

As of Monday morning you can clearly still see the crane laying on top of the ship. (Click to embiggen, if desired.) But you also see the big crane just to the right of centre, there working on cleaning up the mess. Then we have this on Tuesday morning:

Tuesday Morning

Oh look! The crane has no arm anymore. It’s off the shipping containers. I couldn’t get a good photo of it, but the crane on a barge that they brought in to work this issue was holding the boom of the gantry crane above the ground, way off to the side at this time. I assume they were arranging either transport to get it out of the way, or creating the needed landing pad for it so they could cut it up. Regardless, while I could see it, I couldn’t make the camera see it against the sunrise and through the dirty windows.

And finally on Wednesday morning:

Wednesday Morning

That’s a different ship! The Evergreen shipping lines vessel was dealt with and moved on after all the excitement, and an APL ship has arrived.

So, in total, this dock at the port was out for about one week as a result of the accident. I assume they are still working on getting that gantry replaced, and some insurance companies are doing the best they can to bob and weave out of the way of paying that bill. Just how much total impact there was (and will be) on Canada’s import/export market, I can’t say, but I have seen that dock go empty for days in a row, so I would think they can get caught up relatively quickly. Rail capacity in and out of the port is another issue that impacts this, and the backup could be problematic there as well, I guess.

Still, this seems to be handled now. So unless I hear otherwise I’ll stop covering it like a news story and move on to actual art school related news.

Before I get to class news, though, here’s a proposed poster for the graduate show that will be happening this April. I will have works in it, though I am not (yet) graduating. Everyone participating was given an opportunity to create a poster. While I am not even remotely a graphic designer, I did create this. I expect others will be (much!) better, and one of them will be selected for the final thing itself:

Now we can get on with class news!


Design class is moving along reasonably well, I think. This coming week we do a short presentation on our work so far, looking for feedback from our classmates about what we’ve been planning. I don’t have a lot of photos to share yet, but I did manage to get a number of possible designs for the stool I am designing printed from a particular view in the CAD software, and I will share a couple of them here:

I have several things kind of like this but these two are my favourites so far. The others tried other approaches that were not as successful in my estimation.

I don’t have a good image of the top (and bottom) yet, but that’s because it’s complicated. I know how the joinery works, but the finishing of the top and bottom depends — in large measure — on how the fins (or supports you see above) wind up looking. They need to be in the same style, so I am keeping my options open on that front for the moment.

In any case, I think I am getting close to a design. It will all come together in a satisfying rush very soon. I’ll get feedback next week, and then I will create a scale model of the proposed design in cardboard. Once that is done, I can create my final plans and get the cutting process started. I hope.

We’re going to build these things, of course, and they will need to be sanded and finished in some way (the instructor is looking for wax based, sustainable finishes). So there is time to spend on the process still.

Aboriginal Carving

Last week I worked on my feather carving, after sharing a photo of it at the roughly half done state. I finished it before class started this week, and here is what we saw of all the feather carvings, in process and otherwise:

Feather carvings

It is, admittedly, a bit hard to tell, but three of those are finished, and the rest are in process. Mine is the one with the gaps, to the right of the painted one. The painted one is finished, and the one to the left of the painted one is also finished. The painted one is by a young woman in the class of First Nations descent, and I suspect she will be a major artist someday. Her skills are amazing, and her designs are top notch. I hope she remembers the little people (like me) when she is rocking the world to its core.

Anyway, both finished feathers (that were not mine) took the wood down to something so thin it was amazing. Given the kind of details I was attempting to include I couldn’t do that, so mine is a bit thicker.

Last week I mentioned that the instructor says there is no word for “mistake” in his language, and that instead the word used is “teaching” or “learning”. I assure you there was a lot of “learning” in my carving. Gobs, in fact. I encountered wood that couldn’t be carved in any direction, all kinds of issues with breakage, and innumerable ways in which my choices for thickness and position of the centre stem (or quill) were less than optimal. But, to be honest, I also got it done.

With luck others will have their feathers finished next week, and if I am clever I will grab another pic.

But, we also started the spoon carving project, and I have no clue what that means for what others will be working on. If you are curious about that, here’s a link to images of [ welsh love spoon ] where you can see all kinds of interesting wood carvings that might be related to what people are trying with this new project. Personally, I’ve concocted a design that is what happens when you combine a spoon with the spaceship Discovery from the movie 2001. Carving has barely begun, though, so there are no photos of that yet. Soon, I promise.

Getting back to “mistakes” vs. “teachings”, the language in question is Squamish. I am not sure, but I don’t think my instructor would claim to be an expert in the language itself, as he is not a linguist of that nature as far as I know. Still, he does know the language, and if he says there is no word for “mistake” I believe him. He says that the language also lacks many words for saying something bad about others. It’s not easy to do in Squamish, it seems. Honestly, that combination seems as hopeful and wonderful as I could hope for, and while I doubt I will ever learn Squamish, there is something wonderful about a culture that makes it hard to put down others and do anything other than learn from unexpected events. That seems a very wise way to look at the world.


Those who know me know that this class is where my life is going these days. I have classes three days a week, but I am on campus a minimum of six (and usually seven), mostly to work on the various sculpture projects. Honestly I should send the instructor a link to this post. She might find it amusing.

Anyway, as you will recall, there are three casting projects going on in parallel.

The first — the top — is done. I really should just get a picture of a final cast and the mould for you. I’ll try to do that next week.

The second, in my case, is the casting of an oddly shaped object and assembling 30 of them into a tower. That is moving along well, which is good since crit is this coming week. I have photos of the ongoing work…

Days ago, after bonding the casts together in groups of three (to make one layer), I started assembling those layers into groups of two, using simple white glue to bond them into place. The photo above shows a couple of such groups.

Next, I started assembling the tower itself:

Here you see the bottom four layers assembled together. I’ve poured hydrostone into the hole down the middle, around a reinforcing wire, and I’ve used some wooden bits to hold the wire in the centre as the hydrostone cures.

That process continued over the week:

Nine layers all adhered together. At this point I had a problem. The top (tenth) layer’s hole doesn’t go through to the top itself, so I had to figure out how to put the top layer on. I found some white construction adhesive and that is what I wound up using. But, of course, by that point I had forgotten to use the camera, so photos of the final work will wait.

That’s actually OK, though, as I am also in the process of creating a hexagonal wood base for it. That was cut and painted today (Friday) and I will mount it all up next week. Photos will come at that point.

And finally, the third project is the aluminum cast of a “domestic scene” in low relief carving on five inch square tiles, initially carved in Plasticine. Last week you saw the carving and it had latex over it (as part of creating the mould). OK, so…

That’s 13 layers of latex and some registration bumps in the surrounding area (margins). I have also trimmed and removed the cruft from beyond the margins, so it goes past the Plasticine by about an inch only. Next, I built a clay wall around that a poured plaster over the top:

The plaster is the “mother mould” and the latex (which is below the plaster in the above image) is the “daughter mould”. Once cured, that was taken apart, starting like this:

And moving on to this:

Here you see the plaster removed from the latex., Next I carefully removed the latex from the wood and Plasticine below it:

There you go. Now you see the original carving in Plasticine on the left, the latex mould (inverted) in the middle, and the plaster mother mould for the latex on the right.

At this point, the original Plasticine and plywood are pointless. Now we cast a copy of the original in the new mould using something durable, like Hydrocal:

Original carving on the left, mould with casting material in it on the right. (The tape on the corners is because the latex daughter mould didn’t want to wedge into the plaster mother mould and stay there, so I taped it down to keep it nice and flat while the cast was happening and curing.

Cast from the mould

And there is a cast from the mould, ready to be used in the greensand casting process in a couple of weeks. (Next week is crit for the assembled, cast object work, and the week after that is reading break, so after that there will be an aluminum casting effort going on.)

In addition to all of that, we turned in our proposals for our final sculptures. I will give you the short version of mine here: I intend to carve something in stone that looks like there is no way it could reasonably have been carved in stone. More on this in the coming week or two.

Other School(ish) Stuff

The plastics recycling project is still getting moving. No real news on this yet. The instructor is trying to purchase the motor and a couple of other things we need to make the plastic shredder. I suspect building that beast will be a big part of our time in the coming weeks.

The other things — meeting my carving instructor’s mentor and volunteering at a local gallery — have not yet happened. That’s good, honestly. Way too busy.


Art School Post Index. Nothing else to include. Sorry. But see the photos section!


Two posts ago I had a number of requests for dog pics. Here you go:

From top left, moving around clockwise:

  • Tinkerbelle up on her hind legs, looking over the fence for the neighbour’s dog, Jasper (aka Jazz). Not too long ago she couldn’t stand up like that at all!
  • Close up of Tink doing her thing. Jazz is a relatively new addition to the neighbourhood, and he’s a hit as far as I can tell.
  • Tink & Cruzer out in the first snow of the winter.
  • Cruzer, again in the first snow.
  • Tink and Skookie still worrying about Jazz.
  • Tink in a blurry action shot after more snow fell. She loves the snow, mostly because she is not hot.

Remember, you should be able to click to embiggen any of those pics.

Next we have these Monday views from the Seabus terminal in Vancouver, looking north towards North Vancouver, after the first snowfall:

And we had this lovely sunrise on Tuesday morning:

That commute on the Seabus is rough, let me tell you.

And In Conclusion…

This week I want to leave you with a bit of a mystery. Someone must know how this thing works:

It’s a lousy photo, I know, but it’s a feather board to keep wood in alignment on a table saw with a metal top. I took the photo after the shop manager showed me the beastie in question. What you can’t see from the photo is that on either side there are rotating knobs. Rotate them a bit and they click audibly. At that point the magnet below them is “on” and the device is clamped to the metal top of the table saw. Turn them back and the magnet goes “off.” At that point the device is no longer stuck to the metal table top. It sounds so simple, except that there is no battery or plug. No electricity at all as far as I can tell. I can’t really imagine it’s piezoelectric either, given what little I could see.

So, the question is, how does this thing work? What is the physics behind on/off switches for the magnets?

Oh, and to make it more interesting, I flipped it over and looked. The magnets are visible on the bottom, and turning the switches does not make them move at all.

My plan is to google this and see if I can figure it out, but I figure this will nerd-snipe a few of you as well. I am really curious about how this works, but I wanted a chance to see if anyone can figure it out without googling.

Here’s a better picture, taken from the net:

Assuming I can figure it out, I will share what I learn next week. Anyone who figures it out — without googling! — and tells me how they think it works between now and then gets credit and magic internet points for a correct answer. So email me what you know or theorize. No cheating! How can this thing work given what you know already, with no batteries or wires?

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

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