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I Finally Tried It


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After about 15 years, I finally carved the cow bone that I prepared for carving. I kept thinking that this was the first experience, but really, the very first non-clay (I worked with clay before starting with wood in 1995) material was a disk cut from a cow bone that I found in the woods. It was used as the closure for a manju style netsuke. I was captivated back then by the translucence and feel of the material as I figured out how to remove material and achieve the function and finish needed. I'll have to dig for the photo, sorry.

 

I managed to complete this piece without breaking it, pushing the limit with thinness. It was exciting and fun to see it develop. I can see why you all enjoy the material so much! The smell reminds me of tusk and antler. It feels similar but different than those as well.

 

The leaf I brought to a gloss and then sanded it back with 400 and then 600, quite completely. The contrast between the polished elements and the matte leaf is more pleasing to me than all glossy for some reason. I do believe that over time the leaf will shine in some places with handling and rubbing on fabric. To maintain the matte surface, I am also choosing to not put any wax or oil on this. I do not know if any of these were good or bad choices. Any opinions?

 

488_w.jpg

 

Oh, I inlaid a small white opal also.

 

Janel

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Beautiful work Janel. I think your choices were perfect. A lovely subtle contrast between the matt and gloss. I feel oil could bring out textures that would distract from the beauty of the carved elements. If the carving is not against the skin then it should hold its colour for many years. If it was ever worn as a pendant, it would naturally take the oils from the skin and change it to a more yellow colour. There are some staining techniques that could be very nice for this. But as I said, it's very lovely just as it is.

 

Billy.

 

PS. I hope you wore some breathing apperatus. Bone can be nasty on the lungs. :)

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Hi Janel,

 

When you say that you "finally tried it", I think it's more like you finally mastered it ;)

This piece is quite amazing, it reminds me of another one of yours in boxwood with a ladybird on it. Anyway, it is quite amazing work and for now on, thinness as reached a new level :)

Bravo.

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Hi Billy and Christophe,

 

Thank you for your messages.

 

Billy, I have a dust collector with a 4 inch tube that collects the dusts and had it running much of the carving time, being unsure of the hazards of bone. I will vacuum the bench today before the next project. This will be a pendant, though I cannot predict how someone might wear it. One can hope that the wearing of it will enhance rather than diminish its appearance. Maybe I should make a little test piece for my own wearing to see if I can learn more about the nature of the materials as it interacts with my skin.

 

Christophe, you are correct about the apple leaf being similar to recent carved wood pieces. The shape of the bone before carving lent itself to be this leaf. I have apple trees in my yard, and they continue to interest me as a source of inspiration. The greater challenge before me is to not repeat my subject matter too often. I like leaves for some reason. (Half of my year is spent looking at bare tree branches in winter, so there is an element of awe with watching trees throughout the leaf season.)

 

While watching the translucence develop and seeing the shape of the flower and other things show through, I kept imagining/remembering a subject or scenario that has been with me for perhaps decades. I think that finally I might be able to move forward with exploring it in bone, and if not bone, perhaps in mammoth tusk.

 

On with the day!

 

Janel

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Thank you very much.

 

It may not be the wisest thing to carve bone this thin, but it is part of learning about materials. Many questions arise accompanied by many ideas for incorporating thin areas and stronger areas, and about how the different thicknesses might endure the stresses that it will experience as a wearable object.

 

Decades ago, I determined to learn and grow with each piece. Not always accomplished with each successive carving, but such a promise keeps me coming back to carving when life apart from the bench becomes an undeniable responsibility. The bone waited patiently for decades, and with the appeal of the material from recent work by you, Billy, Yuri's ocarina, and the fine and different works from others, it finally made it out of the cupboard and sat within view with other pieces of material waiting for their day of decision. That I have been carving thin leaves from boxwood lately helped the piece to develop within that train of thought. Thus the thinness, and the fun of pushing it a little further than the wood because of its translucency, though there is still more material that could have been removed. It will be interesting in different other circumstances to explore this attribute.

 

Yes, I use power tools to rough out the form. After spending a few days with three women artists at last summer's workshop (my first as teacher) , I learned more about the work of Sharon Church who carves with power tools. Learning about how I use hand tools was her goal, to further develop the details in her already exquisite pieces. I saw her collection of burrs and power tools aimed at small details was quite impressive and her skill with all of her tools exemplary. I have a relative few varieties of burrs in a small assortment of sizes, so my power tool work is limited. Besides, I am quite committed to doing detail work by hand with very fine control with many kinds of hand tools, gravers, scrapers, knives, gouges, what ever gets the work done as I see it is needed. I am trying to push a little further with the power tools in the interest in seeing how it goes, and in saving time, but again, hand work to bring out the nuances and details is my primary goal. That class last summer was overtaken by tool making, which cut back on the carving time unfortunately. I regret that, but the need to know how to fashion tools that you feel the need for is quite important.

 

The bone seems to dull the tools more than wood, and perhaps even more than antler or tusk, which makes me wonder if there is a different tool steel, or a different temper/hardening degree to aim for when making tools for bone. Any wisdom or opinion about this?

 

Thank you again.

 

Janel

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Hi Sandy,

 

Make sure that your tools are quite sharp so that less pressure is needed to shave away the material. Do you remember the white poster tacky stuff that I mentioned (years ago I suppose) in earlier posts... that also helped me to hold the piece and offer a form fitting backing while working on the piece. At some point though, to be sure to not go too far, the lightest strokes towards the end may have been just holding it in my fingers so that I could check often, and hear the sound of the tools and material while scraping.

 

Can we see what you are working on?

 

Janel

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Hi Tony,

 

We each carve differently. I cannot do what you do, or what any of you all do. It just isn't what I know or imagine. We all have our own strengths. Don't give up! Keep learning from what you do and grow a little bit with each piece.

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A very beautiful piece. I love it when a low value material can become priceless in the hands of an artist/craftsman and here is a wonderful example! Bone does have a lovely translucency. I dont enjoy carving it though, I dont like the smell.

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