“WE ALL BELIEVE IN HOME” references the hope and shelter that Habitat provides along with a sprinkling of 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 convoluted−like 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:
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.
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.
The different tones in the wood are highlighted by the copper color of the table base, the benches and the chairs.
Six 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.
Additional 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)
**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”
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.
I 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.
This 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
As 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.
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 )
Caterpillars crawl on the underside of a leaf. From the upper side, the leaf looks undisturbed, but when turned over, there is a hustle and bustle of insects stuffing themselves so they can become adults. Are the insects any less perfect than the leaf itself? Does their presence make the overall piece seem less serene? It is all in the eye of the beholder.
In actual fact, the purpose of these pieces is to provide a wish for true gardeners and plant aficionados. Every year, just when the plants are looking their best , along comes some bug or worm or fungus to disrupt the growth of the plants. If only the power of those invertebrates and fungi could be harnessed for good instead of evil. Thus, we return to the true underlying meaning of these pieces: May the tent caterpillars eat the weeds in your garden.
Each of the pieces is carved from a single piece of moose antler. The darker color of the inner antler material results in darker caterpillars crawling on a lighter leaf surface.
I am continuing to explore the question “can a birchbark piece be sophisticated?” This table exploits the beauty of bark that has the feel of top-grain leather. However, the design and the top are very modern.
An angular base showcases both sides of what birch bark can look like. The dowels securing the base are covered in dyed rawhide. With a sandblasted glass top thick enough to withstand hot drinks, this piece takes an age-old natural material and brings it into the 21st century. The top detaches for easier transport.
The natural rawhide and bark juxtapose with the glass top.
This box is made from a single piece of aged elk antler that has been sliced lengthwise, then hollowed out. The use of older elk antler allows for lines and cracks to show in the antler without reducing its strength and integrity. Because they come from a single piece, the top and bottom match so they fit together perfectly. The inside of the box is finished with beeswax giving it a honey-scented interior.
The exterior of the box is adorned with ivy vines and leaves. 31 leaves and numerous vines run the length of the top and along the front of the bottom. Vines from both halves overlap the other half disguising the separation of top and bottom. Care was taken to select antler of the same yellowish color for carving the leaves.
18cm W x 7cm D x 9cm H
7”W x 3”D x 3.5”H
I try to make most of my pieces as realistic as possible. Antler is ideal for this as it lends itself very well towards intricate detail. A few pieces have delved into the abstract realm and this is one of the most abstract that I have made.
Orchids, by their nature tend to have non-traditional flower shapes, so I decided to extend their unfamiliar shapes into more abstract ones to see where the forms ceased to resemble orchids. I used three orchid types–the traditional tube orchid, the Yellow Lady-Slipper and one called the Dragon’s Mouth. I started with realistic versions of each ( 3 tube orchids, 5 lady-slippers and 3 dragon mouths), then started playing with the shapes, getting more and more abstract until it ceased to be an orchid.
I also carved a bunch of leaves that were used to fill in the spaces and mounted the whole works onto a base of moose antler. Altogether, about 24 flowers are in the piece, but it depends on the viewer to decide how many of them are actually flowers and which are just shapes. The piece is very complicated, with leaves and petals hidden behind other leaves and petals, then roots and seed pods thrown in. What looks like an isolated leaf turns out to be a whole flower hiding in the shadows.
The multitude of shapes are carved from deer, moose and elk antler, as well as tagua nut. The shapes are mounted onto a moose antler platform, which is itself carved and shaped. The piece is displayed upon a poplar wood base.
24 cm L x 41 cm W x 36 cm H (9.5″L x 16.6″W x 14.5″H )
Reg, where do you get your ideas? This is one of the questions I get asked a lot. The others are:
- how long does it take to make that?
- how did you start doing this work?
- do I get a discount?
But, back to inspiration–it is easy to get the ideas as they are all around me. I live in a park, surrounded by the perfect images of nature. As a biologist by training, I find the snails and worms to be every bit as wonderful as the flowers. As well, I don’t limit my ideas to local nature and find inspiration from books, videos and talking to other people.
Consequently, I have pieces representing sea creatures, even though I live several thousand kilometers from the ocean. But, overall, the beauty and grace of the natural world provides most of my ideas.
I’m also not too proud to take a nugget of an idea from somewhere else and build upon it to make something new and unique–often with little in common from the original idea. I have two bonsai-inspired pieces, neither of which look like a traditional bonsai tree.
So, finding an image worthy of attempting to copy is the easy part. The difficult part is trying to make that copy within the limitations of my skill as a carver and the availability of the pieces of suitable antler. This brings me to another aspect of inspiration–the desire to make the piece the best possible–the work ethic. In this, I have two sources of inspiration, or models of work ethic.
First, the level of skill and dedication of traditional oriental artists. Whenever I am tempted to say, “ah, this is good enough!”, I think of the work I’ve seen in Japan, or a Chinese carving I’ve seen on the internet and realize that it can be made better, even if it means starting over. If you feel like saying that it is probably good enough–then it probably isn’t. I was recently working on an oriental dragon and had finished the scales over the two foot long body. I tried a modification of the scale carving and to mixed emotions, discovered that the new method was much better. It meant I had to redo the entire body, but the final result is much better and I am satisfied.
- The second source of my work ethic inspiration is my wife, best friend and partner Jamie and our son Justin. Both are perfectionists (darn!) and so I am somewhat driven to ensure that my work meets their standards. Not that this is a problem, quite the contrary, I like to make my work the best possible so that even if it sits on a counter in my basement, I can be satisfied that it is the best I can do.