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Snowcap


Steve Duryea

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This is a Snowcap, an obscure Central American species also known as the White-crowned Hummingbird.

 

The bird is lifesize at 2 1/4" long. Carved of tupelo gum and painted with acrylics, some of which I made myself from dry pigment (for example, the wings are hematite). The eyes are black jade, bill is fossil ivory, toes boxwood with steel claws.

 

Tree is a carved and gilded maple core, with some additive work in epoxy putty, glazed with oil paints. The inset stone just below the bird's foot is Australian crystal opal. At its base are three moonstones. I'm also a lapidary and do all that work myself.

 

The base of the piece itself is snakewood.

 

Overall height 5 3/4".

 

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Very nice! You have used an interesting combination of materials, and very well used at that! I am quite curious about anything you might want to share about the use of acrylic and the techniques you have used to color it (in the Tools and Technical or Materials areas of the forum). Are the steel claws something you have made? They are so tiny! as are the toes as well! Thank you for posting this lovely little humming bird.

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Very nice! You have used an interesting combination of materials, and very well used at that! I am quite curious about anything you might want to share about the use of acrylic and the techniques you have used to color it (in the Tools and Technical or Materials areas of the forum). Are the steel claws something you have made? They are so tiny! as are the toes as well! Thank you for posting this lovely little humming bird.

 

Thank you, Janel. I got here via your site. I had no idea such a resource existed until an old friend told me about this place.

 

Your work is just fantastic, and I have even begun investigating what else is here... I'll be doing a lot more learning than posting about techniques and that's for sure. One of these days I may even break into the stash of boxwood I've had for a quarter century and try carving some netsuke myself. Always been too intimidated... how the hell do they do that?

 

These little guys are a mix of subtractive and additive work, and in most of them I'm going for a sort of Nouveau-Deco look. Just seemed a natural way to combine carving and lapidary. In this case there is no rhyme or reason to it other than that the colors look good together, being close to complementary colors-- the bird is more magenta than shows in the pics and yep, that is their actual color.

 

In some others, which I'll post later, things make a bit more sense... though not much. It's just decorative art. Most of my clients don't know anything about birds.

 

Making the claws is a standard bird carving technique. Most often people use copper for this. Nothing complicated, just leave the wire long enough, stick it in a pin vise, bend it with round-nose pliers or over a small stake, hammer the section for the claw flat, go to town with a very light touch with diamond burs, files, and sandpaper, then chop it off with a small diamond cutoff wheel, insert, prime and paint.

 

Snowcaps actually have pretty stout toes for their size. I've been able to go even smaller with boxwood toes but if I ever do a species with really teensy feet I'm going to have to carve them direct in metal. I also have a bad habit of dropping finished toes on the floor, whereupon they instantly vanish forever into the eighth dimension... unless I step on them trying to find them first. Aaaaagh!

 

Not quite sure what you mean by coloring with acrylics. What I'm doing is painting, pure and simple... are you speaking of something else?

 

Making acrylic paint is very easy, if you confine yourself to using pigments that don't need grinding or mulling so I'll be happy to talk about that in the Tools and Technique section if folks are interested. I would think that most people here would be interested in relatively subdued, low chroma pigments-- ochres, siennas, umbers, red earths and so on. Many of these disperse readily, no further treatment needed. The range of available dry earth pigments is far greater than anything you can get pre-made in tubes or jars and many are extremely beautiful. Inexpensive, too.

 

Oh & btw, the gold accents on the bird's throat are shell gold, 23KT gold powder in gum arabic. Manuscript illuminators use it.

 

Back to the salt mines for now, thanks for your kind comments.

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Loosing the claws on the floor must be like loosing the 1mm amber eye just as one is trying its fit into the eye socket of a tiny frog. Bounce... bye bye! Rarely found, often remade.

 

You had stated that you used hematite for the wings. Then in the latest message, the use of dry earth pigments... to be used with what for a medium? I am using my imagination and have ideas, but would find it interesting to learn something through other's experiences. From my years as a potter, I am familiar with various powdered materials used in combination with other powdered elements to form glazes and colored glazes with the addition of great heat. The potential for learning about elemental color creation with raw materials catches my interest.

 

"One of these days I may even break into the stash of boxwood I've had for a quarter century and try carving some netsuke myself. Always been too intimidated... how the hell do they do that?" ;) Very carefully, with very small tools! :lol:

 

One just has to take the first step with a little piece of wood, files and very small carving tools, with a bit of imagination. You already have the skills and likely have the tools, so... you are partway there. Very broadly general rules for netsuke intended for use, are to keep the piece compact and rounded, with little or no exposed delicate parts. The himotoshi (cord holes) should allow the piece to hang in the way intended for viewing, and the piece should stand in the intended way for viewing. There are so many netsuke to see from the previous centuries, you would get the gist of those concepts. Contemporary netsuke are also something to look at. Artists' styles around the world are quite varied. Some westerners have trained with Japanese netsuke-shi and many have not. Some copy centuries old netsuke style, some don't. Some carve himotoshi these days and some don't. (I seem to be not conforming to traditional netsuke standards, so call my work small sculpture, or if a Japanese word is needed, okimono.) The key is to just get started and grow from there.

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Well yep it's that first small step that counts. I'm already familiar with all the terminology and have spent the usual large bucks per volume on many books from Kodansha. But so few of them actually show process... the Masatoshi book, Contemporary Netsuke and that's about all I've been able to find.

 

I actually happened to be in SoCal for a bird carving competition when the Bowers Museum had an exhibition of contemporary netsuke, 1998 I think... they were showing a video of Masatoshi doing a carving. I harrangued the staff for an hour about getting a copy-- no dice.

 

Anyway, the medium I use is an acrylic dispersion called K6, available from Kremer Pigments in NYC in either high gloss or dead matte. These can be intermixed for a semi-gloss.

 

The process is very simple-- just add pigment to a mix of approximately 1 part dispersion to 1.5 parts distilled water. This makes a thin paint, which can be thickened either by adding more pigment or with a proprietary thickening agent from the same source.

 

Kremer has a huge list of dry pigments. That's where I get most of mine. And zillions of other goodies. Want some scouring rushes or buckthorn berries? This is the place. Heck if you've got enough money, they'll even sell you some genuine Tyrian purple.

 

Kremer Pigments

 

Having just opened their page, yikes they've moved from the corner of Prince and Elizabeth to boring old W. 29th St, too bad.

 

They also have a West Coast distributor in San Francisco--

 

Sinopia

 

I'll be happy to get into this in greater detail on the Technical page. The main thing to keep in mind is that some pigments are much easier to disperse than others. Some pigments require grinding. And of course, when working with dry pigments you gotta use a dust mask.

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