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Fantasia: Cambrian Explosion

fantasiaIn layers of rock laid down 540 million years ago, the fossil record shows ancient life forms that have no precedent in previous layers. This zone is known as the Cambrian Explosion. This period is extremely interesting because, for some reason, the diversity of life increased dramatically, creating most of the currently existing animal phyla. Previously, animal life on Earth consisted of single cells or simple colonies. Why the complexity of diversity took off is unknown. Not only are most of the current animal groups represented in the fossil record, but dozens of other groups are also found, groups that did not succeed in making it to modern times and many of these types are the weirdest of all. It is estimated that 90% of the life forms that appeared during the Cambrian Explosion did not survive into successive geologic periods. Imagine what the earth might look like today if all those different forms were represented. This piece may help with your imagination.

fantasia-detailFantasia depicts many of the life forms existing in the fossil record as well as other forms of varying levels of abstraction. Considering how strange many of the life forms were, it could well be possible that the abstract forms I created actually are similar to ones that existed millions of years before the dinosaurs.  Further, some of the weird ones still exist today.

The myriad pieces are carved from elk, moose and deer antler and displayed in a semi-dioramic manner. There are also a few pieces carved from tagua nut, for color and texture.

42 cm W x  46 cm H x  16 cm D
16.5″ W x  18″ H x  10”D
Price: $1200

Food SafeTray

Food Safe TrayAny cooked food can be served on this tray. Made from Manitoba Maple, it looks as good empty after your guests eat your offerings. Clean the food safe finish by wiping with a cloth (no soap) or rinse under hot water. If the wood starts to look dry, apply a thin coat of food-safe oil then wipe off excess with a paper towel.

The grain on this tray is very interesting, making it look as good when empty.

The grain on this tray is very interesting, making it look as good when empty.

44cm L x 33cm D x 40mm T
(17″L x 13″D x 1.5″T)
Price: $65

Ondolation Wall Art

OndolationThese wavy wall art pieces show that even a soft and not often used wood such as spruce can be very interesting. The texture makes you want to touch this piece. White Spruce is the official tree of Manitoba. The large one can be displayed either horizontally or vertically. The two small ones are of similar size–one horizontal and one vertical.

-large: 1.82M L x 52cm H x 40mm T (72″L x 20.5″H x 1.5″T))
Price: $185
-small horizontal/vertical: 91cm L/H x 60cm H/W x 40mmT (36″L x 24″H x 1.5″T)
Price: $135

 

Poplar Study #1

Many countries are exploring the use of lesser known species of wood for furniture. I spent a month in Honduras designing a line of furniture on a Mayan theme, specifically using species of woods not commonly utilized. Trends come and go, and I don’t know why some woods are not as popular as others. When I returned, I wanted to show that our native Manitoba woods can be as spectacular as the so-called ‘exotic species’.

poplar-study-1Poplar—such a common tree, but we rarely see what treasures it holds inside.This table has a poplar base with a birchbark top surrounded by a poplar frame and covered in plexiglas.

I worked with a sawyer to cut the wood to show off the incredible iridescence that gives it a 3-D look. The top of the table is birchbark covered with plexiglas so it can be used as an entry table or an end table. If desired, the plexiglas can be removed to reveal a beautiful top that you can feel as well as see. In that case, one would want to use coasters when putting drinks on it. The table measures 65cm wide x 50cm deep x 70cm high (25.5”W x 19.5”D x 27.5” H). Price: $200

poplar-study-detail

Posted in Tables, What's New

Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter–HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

Carter frontWe were honored and flattered to get this commission from Habitat for Humanity Manitoba–an art piece for the Carters.

“WE ALL BELIEVE IN HOME” references the hope and shelter that Habitat provides along with a sprinkling or why Manitoba is unique on a national and international scale.

41 layers of elm, ash, spruce and oak build upon each other, the shapes being abstracted beluga whale forms. The layers also recall the Tower of Hope in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Canada’s only national museum outside of Ottawa. We follow the pattern as it rises, the journey is convolutedlike life.

Pieces of elk and deer antler arise from the cracks and gaps, seemingly in a random fashion. Only by standing back and looking at the whole piece do we see that there is a pattern to the antler pieces as they rise to the apex, as does hope.

Colors and thicknesses vary, textures modulate and shapes protrude. The 6 pieces of birchbark sewn together into a pair of wings symbolize the shelter we all seek−that place we call home.

Polar bear footprints and 10 abstract representations of beluga whales swimming through the waves at the mouth of the Churchill River remind us that our home is the only prairie province to have a saltwater coastline−a world capital for beluga whale and polar bear watchers.

Manitoba is in the middle of nowhere and the heart of everything−the place we call home.

WE ARE SO IMPRESSED BY HABITAT THAT WE DECIDED TO DONATE A HOUSEWARMING GIFT TO EACH OF THE 25 HOMEOWNERS OF HOUSES BEING BUILT IN MANITOBA. BELIEVING A PIECE IS INCOMPLETE UNLESS SHARED, EVERYONE IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY.

For a short documentary about the piece in French:
http://beta.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1040557/jimmy-rosalynn-carter-habitat-pour-humanite-kucey-sculpture-fureteur-manitobain

Manitoba Sweet

If you desire something unusual and special, then cruise our galleries (both sold and available) to see what our inspiration, philosophy, and creative thought has produced.

–we believe our pieces can function at an art level because they address issues, explore concepts and express thoughts.
–they are unique, one-of-a-kind and personal. We try to blur the line between utility and art.
–we use the language of visual expression–color, texture, composition–to create items that are unique in design and singular in execution.

manitoba-sweet-bWhen designing a piece, I always envision all its possible uses and if I make the piece on spec, the end user. I feel that this suite would work equally well in a dining room or a boardroom.

Version 2I chose two slip-matched pieces of an exceptionally large tree (for the prairies) and bridged them with frosted glass segments to create a table that seats 10.

The sections of thick wood maintain their live edge to enhance the organic nature of the tabletop while showcasing the grain and coloration of the Manitoba maple.

The juxtaposition of natural wood with sleek glass and metal makes this table into an exceedingly elegant, light composition.

manitoba-sweet-cThe metal base was designed to hold 3 LED candles at either end of the table to create a dramatic night-time setting. The 3/8” sandblasted glass will support heavy and hot dishes.

The different tones in the wood are highlighted by the copper color of the table base, the benches and the chairs.

chairSix comfortable transparent acrylic chairs with custom powder-coated bases and fittings flank the table to provide comfortable seating, retain a clear view of the beautiful edges of the wood and maintain the elegant, modern aspect of the ensemble. They also complement the glass.

Using metal for the base allowed me to design an elegant table with lots of leg room. The modern look of the chairs, base and benches form the counterpart to the thick, natural wood. This gives the suite a dynamic presence.

bench-lightAdditional seating for four is provided at the ends by two custom designed upholstered benches. Our metal division fabricated both the table base and the bench bases. Notice how perfect the welds are—it looks like the pieces grew that way!

Depending on how the light hits the easy-care upholstery, it is either the color of milk chocolate or dark chocolate. The darker tones of the ultra-suede fabric complement the brighter tones of the copper powder-coated legs.

The benches were designed for comfort first and by using metal, I was able to make them appear to float at the ends of the table. Their design and low height allows one to see through it and will support one’s back (whether you are 5’2” or 6’3”).

The finish on the table is tung oil. It provides a protective finish while giving a lot of depth. Professor Norm Kenkel, a biologist at the University of Manitoba, reminded me of another reason to use it:

“Tung oil is an environmentally safe and sustainable wood finishing product.” There are reasons why tung oil has been used as a wood finish for thousands of years. It’s great stuff. For a traditional pure oil-rubbed finish, it’s the only game in town.”

Tung oil may have been in use as far back as Confucius’s times (circa 400 BC). The Chinese ship industry has been known to use tung oil in the protection and finishing of wooden ships in the 14th century.

The suite includes the table, 6 chairs, 2 benches and 6 LED candles.
Table: 107cm W x 245cm L x 74cm H(42”W x 96.5”L X 29”H)
Benches: 107cm W x 50cm D x 74cm H(42”W x 20”D x 29”H)
Chairs: 55cm W x 56cm D x 82cm H (21-5/8”W x 22”D x 32-1/4” H)

Price: $5000

**WE WOULD BE HAPPY TO TALK WITH YOU ABOUT CREATING ANYTHING! WE BOTH ENJOY THE CHALLENGE AND REWARD OF TRANSLATING YOUR INTERESTS AND LIFESTYLE INTO A COMMISSIONED PIECE THAT REFLECTS YOU.**

“…a greater contingent of homegrown designers both established and emerging is not only finding success in Canada, but forging a national aesthetic based on attention to materials, robust lines, cheeky humour and a marked eco-consciousness.” 
-Danny Sinopoli, The Globe and Mail

“…individuality and singularity implies rarity, which breeds desire”
-Sophie Lovell

Posted in Tables, What's New

More on ideas…

Everybody gets in a slump from time to time. I find that after I finish a piece, I develop a hesitation to start a new one. Maybe it is the abrupt change from finishing one piece and having to start with the planning and rough carving that attends the commencement of new work. Whatever the reason, I usually find myself in a slump after I finish a piece, a reluctance to start something new. Luckily I live in a style where there is usually something to do to occupy myself till the enthusiasm returns.

Ideas for new work, on the other hand occur when least expected and often in bunches. While working on something entirely different, an idea for an excellent piece may show up, or it may occur when I see something around the place, or am reading about something else. I keep a list of ideas written down so that when I am ready to start something new, I can decide from among several options. The list of ideas can also serve to build enthusiasm for starting new projects.

So this last slump was a double whammy because I had just finished a string of several projects and had used up all the items on my list. After completing all the spring work around the place, I was looking to keep my skills up, but didn’t have any ideas, nor was I really enthused about starting a new project.

In the past, I’ve worked on some small projects – little things – to keep the carving muscles in shape. One such activity that I like is to make leaves and feathers. I find they are often useful for inclusion in other projects later and are also nice things to give guests – particularly to kids.  While making some leaves, one of the pieces of antler I selected had a flaw in it (not unusual) that resulted in a couple of weak spots – holes – in the leaf. In a case like this, one can either scrap the piece or incorporate the flaw into the design. I chose the latter and decided carve some caterpillars and attach them to the leaf to make it look like they were eating it and making the holes. It turned out kind of nice for a little project, but I felt that, to be honest, the caterpillars should have been carved from the same piece as the leaf. Glueing them on after is the easy way. Thus resulted in the next project.

moose antler, aficionadoI selected moose antler because it was flat and not to thick and proceeded to make two pieces – each a leaf that looks undisturbed from above, but underneath holds three caterpillars hustling over the surface and borrowing into the folds of the leaf. One would think that the difficult part would be the carving of the caterpillars themselves, but they were relatively easy. The hard part was making the underside of the leaf. Why? Because after the caterpillars were carved, the surface remaining had to smoothed until it looked like a leaf – and there were those caterpillars in the way. This involved a lot of sanding using a stick to hold a small piece of sandpaper. The after the surface was smoothed, it had to be carved to look like the underside of a leaf – i.e. the veins had to be carved into the surface, or in one case, the veins had to left in relief whole the rest of the surface was reduced.

The pieces turned out better than expected – for an unexpected reason. The center of a moose antler is spongy like all antlers. Some parts are very spongy with relatively big holes. Other parts are quite dense and can be carved. I choose pieces that were dense in the middle and the unexpected benefit was that when finished, the middle material turned darker than the outer material. Since the caterpillars were all carved from the inner material and the leaf surfaces all carved from outer material, the result is dark caterpillars crawling on a lighter leaf surface.

The caterpillar project got me thinking about how objects could be carved onto the surface of other objects and the wide variety of potential projects that could be realized using this technique – and the idea list is again growing.

Nuts & Roots & Seeds & Shoots

fine-art-antler-carving-nuts-roots-seeds-shootsThis montage style piece explores the concept of the garden and orchard. We are led to believe that these are places of peace and tranquility. To reflect this, the piece contains representations of walnuts, almonds, acorns, pistachios, peanuts, Manitoba maple seeds, strawberries, peas, asparagus, green onions, carrots and soybeans as well as numerous leaves. However, as every biologist, gardener and tree grower knows, the natural world is a battleground between the plants and the things that want to eat the plants. To this end, if you look closely, you’ll notice a number of creepy crawlies nestled in among the plant matter. Some you’ll recognize, like the caterpillars, nut, worms and snail. Others are less known, like the almond beetle, the land scallop, the asparagus ant lion, a peanut caterpillar, the onion lasso worm and the rarely seen predatory parsnip.

This piece is made from many, many pieces of elk, moose and deer antler as well as a few tagua nuts. The walnut, one almond and the soybeans with snail are removable for handling. The realistic renderings are interspersed with abstract shapes reminiscent of plants or plant parts. The various pieces are displayed on a backdrop of carved moose antlers and mounted on a base of Manitoba Maple.

51 cm W x 38 cm H x 18 cm D
20″W x 15″H x 7″D
Price: $1200

The Problem with Abstraction-a work in progress

fine-art-antler-carving-nrssAs a biologist, I try to make my pieces as detailed and correct as possible. For flowers and animals, it is fairly easy to study specimens and pictures and determine the correct number size and shape of constituent parts. Then I attempt to model the parts and put them together, or else I try to carve the parts into the larger piece. Some skill is of course required to convert visual observation into a physical piece. But once the parts are completed and in place, you can usually tell when you are finished.

Abstract pieces are another thing altogether. This work-in-progress is entitled: Nuts and Roots and Seeds and Shoots. First, there is no model to measure and compare with. In fact, for original abstract ideas, there is really nothing to start with, except an idea in your head. Further, you never know when you are finished. The idea in your head is a starting point, but once it becomes translated into a physical thing, there are always other things that can be added, subtracted or modified to improve on the idea. Basically, you continually work on the piece until something inside says, “that is finished!”  In a few abstract pieces, I’ve kept working on it until I’ve gone one step too far and then decided to remove or repair that last addition, subtraction or modification. But even then, for several weeks, every time I looked at the completed piece I wondered if there was something else I could do to improve it.

Can you tell which are the real almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and peanuts?

Can you tell which are the real almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and peanuts?

An abstract piece does have the advantage of being more open for discussion. People seeing the piece before or after completion will often give ideas, comments or criticisms. These are all very welcome because their comments are based upon their view of the idea behind the piece–a view that is just as valid as mine was when I started. Comments on a realistic piece are much more limited: “that looks like the real thing”, -“his nose looks too long”, etc. Abstract pieces allow a person to provide more input from their own frame of context and can engage a person more fully.

For other abstract pieces already completed, see Cornucopia and Orchids (under Miscellaneous in older posts or in Gallery )

Beardless Iris

fine-art-antler-carving-beardless-irisThis type of iris plant in full bloom is called beardless because the styles of the flower lie flat upon the petals as opposed to the more common type of iris where the styles are more filamentous, or bearded. 

The iris flower is one of the more complicated to carve because of the many pieces it is composed of and the curved flowing nature of its parts. The leaves are relatively simple, but a lot of leaves are required to make the sculpture look realistic. So, this piece required considerably more work than anticipated at the beginning. Nonetheless, the sinuous curves of the stems and leaves blend into one another such that, in some lighting situations, the sculpture almost looks abstract.

With the right lighting, the piece becomes almost abstract.

With the right lighting, the piece becomes almost abstract.

Two flowering stems with auxiliary buds rise from a mass of leaves mounted on a birch base. The flowers and leaves are carved from deer, moose and elk antler.

38 cm  H x  24 cm  W x 21 cm D
14″H x  9“W x  8″D
Price: $420

Posted in Flowers, What's New
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