Monday, May 30, 2011

Craft Council AGM Weekend

A going away vest!
This past weekend was the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador's Annual General Meeting and get together weekend in St. John's.  There were studio tours on Friday, a day long board meeting and presentations on Saturday and the members Annual General Meeting on Sunday.  This was my last AGM for a while as I stepped off of all of the committees that I was on.  Its a great organization, but I need a bit of a break to focus on other areas for a couple years.

'Robot Contemplates Flight' Mug from Blue Dragon Clay

Maaike at the Clay Studio Fundraiser
We paused Saturday's board meeting to attend a Graduation Exhibit at the Anna Templeton Centre and a Clay Studio fundraiser at the A1C Gallery.  At the fundraiser, I picked up a Robot mug from Maaike Charron from Blue Dragon Clay.   I especially like how big and light the mug is.  For Lori, I picked up a ceramic chimp.  The traditional gift for 9 years is pottery and since she was on the road during our anniversary last week it seemed like I should bring something home.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the name of the maker - but hopefully someone who sees this can fill us in.

Ceramic chimp on the wall

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Photo Scales: A little more gear

New Photo Scales
I'm winding down Elfshot for the summer and gearing up for fieldwork.  My to-do list is slowly changing from flintknapping wholesale and one-of-a-kind reproductions to gathering equipment and supplies for a couple months of work in Nunavut.  My head is still pretty much in Elfshot mode, but in less than a month I'll need to have everything wrapped up and be ready to head north.   Lori picked up some new rain gear for me at Mercer's Marine in Clarenville earlier this week.

1 metre scale in a small caribou blind
Today,  a new 1 metre scale and north arrow came in the mail from The Trowel Shop in Montreal.  The scale splits into two 50cm pieces which makes it handy to carry on a backpack and the round cross-section means that it doesn't have a front or back and looks the same in every photo.  Each coloured band is 10 cm long.

Back of North Arrow
The north arrow has 1cm and 10cm divisions and a list of common hypotenuses on the back.  We use hypotenuses all the time to measure the diagonals of grids when we set up units on a site.  So the table is a handy little chart to have close to hand.  Both photo scales came with their own cloth bags with velcro closures to help cut wear and tear when they're not in use.  

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday's Blog Post... Finally

Newfoundland Chert points and Endblades
Getting something up on the blog is the last thing I have to do today before I can call the workday done.  I've been working the past couple of days on a secret project that's pretty much done now.  Its a fun piece that I'll be able to talk about in a couple months time after its been delivered.  In the meantime there's still jewelry to be made and this weekend is the Annual General Meeting of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Its being held in St. John's this year and it will probably be my last CCNL AGM for a while.  Archaeological and Elfshot work has been preventing me from dedicating the volunteer time that committee work requires so I'm going to take a break.  I'm sure I'll be back once I get my work-life back under control.

These pieces will likely end up in a shop in Gros Morne.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 23, 2011

Long Weekend

Ochre warms them up
I took a few days off work this weekend.  Its hard to take time off when you work at home without feeling guilty, but its been such a busy winter and spring with a hectic summer and fall around the corner that I really needed a couple days of downtime.  Today I was back in the workshop.  More wholesale and custom commissions.  While the sun was out, I was spraying a protective clear-coat on a a few Maritime Archaic Indian pin reproductions.  These are made from caribou long bones, stained with red ochre.

This is pretty much how the pins would have been oriented in the long bone when I cut them out.  I use the long part of the shafts for the body of the pins and orient the heads where the bone flattens and flares out towards each end.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 20, 2011

Introducing the Nikon Coolpix P500

Obsidian necklace
Now that I've moved on to slightly smaller orders, it feels like the pace has picked up a bit.  I have another gift shop order ready to package, but I want to hear from the customer before I go ahead an put it in the mail.  There's a rumour that Canada Post is on the cusp of a strike, so an alternate shipping option might be a safer bet over the next week or two.

My new camera - Its red!
I've been doing a bit of gear shopping in anticipation of the upcoming field season.  We've been buying Nikon Coolpix cameras as good mid-range point and shoots for the last 5 or 6 years.  Last summer I took the Nikon Coolpix P100 into the field and was really happy with the 28x zoom, hi-def video, in-camera battery charging and flip screen.  I continued to use it almost daily over the winter to record works in progress and to take artifact shots.  I had no intentions of giving it up, but then Nikon brought out the P500 with a 36x zoom.  I ordered mine from Futureshop and it arrived on Wednesday.  I'll post a proper review later in the summer, after I've had a chance to use it a bit more, but so far it seems very comparable to the P100, but with a much bigger zoom.  It should be good for wildlife shots.

Bands of minerals create colour
The photos of the obsidian necklace on this post are some of the first I've taken with the new camera, but from now on, most of the images you see on this blog will be coming from the P500.  Lori has inherited the P100 and is giving her P80 to her parents.  It'll be their first digital camera.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Trashy TV List

Elfshot's Mess, Mythbusters' Explosion
Lori dropped of the big Historic Sites Association order yesterday at their St. John's warehouse, which means that I can move on to an all new set of orders today.  So there's more knapping during the day and assembling jewelry in front of the TV this evening.  I'm really struggling to find something new to blog about because my work has been so repetitive lately.  But I've been watching lots of TV while working on the wholesale orders.  Here's my current watch list.  Feel free to mock me, I'm not proud.

Dog the Bounty Hunter : Dog Chapman and family track down bail jumpers in Hawaii and/or Colorado.

Pawn Stars: Big Las Vegas pawn shop which gets in amazing items. I love Chumlee.

Repo Games: Answer 5 Trivia questions and they won't take your repossessed vehicle.

American Pickers: Looking for junk to sell as antiques.

Canadian Pickers: Looking for junk to sell as antiques in Canada.

Doing DaVinci: This one's pretty cool - a team of builders tackle constructing a different DaVinci machine every week.

Hardcore Pawn: I hate watching this show.

Extreme Couponing: Its crazy.  People will plan for a week and buy $1000 worth of groceries for $50 and a stack of coupons.

Swamp People: Hunting gators with awesome accents.

Mythbusters: You know the show.  Still great.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lost Stone Necklaces and Earrings

These Elfshot obsidian necklaces and earrings will be available through Heritage Shops in Newfoundland and Labrador in the summer of 2011.   I'm not sure which of the dozen or so Heritage Shops they'll wind up in, but the shop at Port au Choix always has a big selection.  
I make these from flakes of obsidian that are the byproduct of knapping larger stone tools.  Usually flakes like these are discarded, but it seems a shame to lose all these beautiful translucent flakes.  So I save the most remarkable pieces and turn them into these necklaces and earrings.  I call them the Lost Stone series.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 13, 2011

Round and Round Again...

Earrings and Necklaces to assemble
I suppose its appropriate that its Friday the 13th, considering what a nightmare our house has become because of all these partially completed orders.  If I can work through the weekend, I should be able to get my biggest wholesale order of the season finished and delivered to the Historic Sites Association by Monday.  That will clear a big physical and mental space for the next round of projects.

The handles still need finishing
Lori is heading out the door to her niece's birthday party and asked what I'm doing this evening.  I said the same thing I've been doing for the past month; filling wholesale orders.  I also have this blog post to write about the same thing that I've been blogging about for the past month; filling wholesale orders.  She said; "Good.  Its important that they know the monotony of it."  So there you go.  Now you know the monotony of wholesale artifact reproduction and archaeology inspired jewelry making.  *sigh*  More on Monday.

An acrylite jewelry display case.  Needs to be shipped to Manitoba  in the next week or so.

Caribou bone pin blanks soaking in borax.  I'll probably do another boil on them this evening to help with the degreasing.

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Knife.  This thing is pretty much finished.  I used an old bow drill spindle for the handle.  I carved off most of the usewear, but there's still enough poking through that it helps with character and antiquing.

Dozens of flintknapping kits taking up floor space until I can deliver and/or ship them.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beothuk Pendant Reproductions

Relieved when they match
I finished the three Beothuk pendant reproductions that I've been working on over the past week or so.  I made them from caribou mandibles.  This was the first time I used caribou mandibles as the source for the bone, so it was a bit of an experiment.  Based on what I saw this past week, I will certainly use jawbones for pendant blanks again.  I wouldn't say that all Beothuk Pendants were made from caribou mandibles, but I feel that many of them likely were.

Beothuk Bone Pendant Reproductions. Range in length from 8 cm - 12.5 cm
The surface shown here is the smooth, exterior surface of the bone.  The interior surface tends to be a little rougher.  I signed them with tiny "TR"s along the lateral edge (not visible in this photo), so they won't be confused for the original artifacts.

Caribou Jawbones make good blanks
The mandibles provide good dense bone which is a perfect match for the thickness of the flat pendants and the slight curves and undulations seen in many of the original artifacts are very good matches for the blanks that come out of a caribou jaw bone.  The inside of the mandible has a little more surface texture, but its still very dense and holds the incised pattern quite well.
These are Beothuk bone pendants (and other bone pieces) on display in the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The interior, rough side 
I tried three areas of the jawbones for pendant blanks; the inside of the body of the mandible, the outside of the body of the mandible, and the ascending ramus.  The best bone came from the outside of the jawbone - it was the flatest and smoothest and provides the largest workable area.  The inside of the jawbone is a close second, although it has a slightly more irregular surface and the blanks aren't quite as flat.  The ascending ramus didn't work so well.  The bone on that part of the mandible is so thin that its translucent and I felt that it would create too fragile of a pendant.  It would also be very easy to gouge right through it while incising the pattern.

 Cathy Driedzic watercolour
I wanted to antique each one slightly differently, so that they wouldn't all look like they were made by one person at the same time.  I used red ochre for the finish, but I stained the blanks to different degrees with tea and charcoal to help change their appearance.  The archaeologist who commissioned these reproductions intends to display them together as a set and grow the collection over time.  I'm looking forward to seeing the collection grow.

This is a detail from Cathy Driedzic's watercolour Beothuk Bone Pendants.  Lori bought this painting for me in 2007 from a Craft Council Gallery show timed to coincide with the Canadian Archaeology Association's annual conference in St. John's. One of the pendants in this set happens to be the same as one in Cathy's painting.

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pendant Pencil Patterns

Beothuk Pendant progress
I made some progress on the Beothuk bone pendant reproductions.  I have the blanks finished and some of the major incised decorations carved.  I don't usually incise all the lines in one session.  Maybe its just my short attention span and the tendency of the pencil lines to smudge, but I usually incise the long outlines first and then mark out and add the short ticks and pattern details in a second and sometimes third carving session.  I use a dremel tool to carve the incised lines.

Checking them against the patterns
These are the pendants made from the caribou mandible blanks. The three pronged pendant is a new blank. Originally, I'd made a blank for that piece from the ascending ramus of a caribou mandible (the part that attaches to the skull), but it turned out to be too thin and fragile. The new blank is made from the body of the mandible, under the teeth - the same as the other two pendants.

Most of our basement look like this
The pendants aren't the only thing I'm working on - they are just the least repetitive things to blog about.  There are still dozens and dozens of points to knap and assemble into jewelry for spring wholesale orders.  That's what is filling up most of my days and nights, although Lori and I did get away to her parents cabin for a nice mother's day visit with the family, yesterday.  A highlight for me was the frequent visits from the new ravens living on an island in the middle of the pond.

A pair of ravens moved into the neighbourhood of Lori's parent' cabin.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 6, 2011

New Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador Website

The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador has launched its brand new website: check it out!

Photo Credit: Screen Grab from

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Caribou Mandible Blanks

Bone blanks, mandible, and paper patterns
I spent most of the day notching glass and obsidian points, but I did sneak in a bit of bone working to get started on a few Beothuk pendant reproductions.  I have piles of caribou mandibles left over from the Wildlife Division and I used one to make the 3 blanks that I need for the pendants.  So far, so good.

I cut blanks from inside and outside of the body of mandible under the teeth , as well as one from the ramus.

Thin and flat
I've used long bones in the past for Beothuk pendant reproductions and the end products are pretty good, but they require a fair bit of shaping and thinning to get them down to the correct dimensions.  At first glance, it seems like the mandibles create flat blanks of the correct size and thickness, with much less effort.  I still have a bit of cleaning to do and I haven't finished the pendants yet, so my opinion might change, but so far the caribou mandibles seem like a pretty good source of the thin flat bone used by the Beothuk to make their pendants.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 2, 2011

Still Monday

Chert points for jewelry
I'm still chipping away at filling spring wholesale orders and despite everything that's going on in the world today it still feels like a Monday.  I'm sunk by everything that needs to get done within the next couple of months, but I'm optimistic that getting an order in the mail this evening will help me get my head back above the surface.

Light at the end of the tunnel.  Fieldwork in Nunavut in less than two months
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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