Monday, 24 September 2018

It's Knit City Week!

Vancouver, here we come or rather, here comes Vickie and Lisa. I will stay at home to look after the shop and the cats.
The feverish preparations are winding down and the last sock blank has been packed up. Here's a sample:

So as in previous years, I have to advise you of a few changes. First off, the shop will be closed on Wednesday, September 26th and Sunday October 7th so that I can get Vickie to and from the airport in Halifax.
Also, while we still have some yarn on the shelves, a lot of it will be in Vancouver and, after that, Austen Texas along with many of the finished hand knitted pieces so if you are looking for knitting supplies, stay away for a few weeks! (just kidding- come by and buy some rocks!).
I'll be in the rock lab where the cats can't get at me!

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Knit City- Here We Come

A big part of The Artist's Mark is that we are the only retail outlet for the now world famous Seawall Fibres hand dyed yarn. Each year, daughter Lisa (AKA- The Dyer) and Vickie (AKA- the Designer) head off to Vancouver for an event called Knit City.

Knit City is an event attended by thousands of rabid knitters and over the course of three days we sell several hundred skeins of yarn.

Last year, we introduced a product called the Sock Blank. This is a length of knitted yarn which Vickie "paints" with dye to create a piece of art. Here's one she did last year.

The knitter, however, starts unraveling the "art" and uses it to knit a pair of socks! Hence the name "Sock Blanks". Don't ask me to justify other than to say that knitters are, how can I put this in a nice way, CRAZY!

Last year they sold all they brought so this year Vickie is back at it with a vengeance.

So this year they will be heading west with an even larger selection and after they get back I'm going to sweet talk Vickie into making some for the shop.

This year, however, the big unveiling will be of our new spokesperson- Knut The Knitter! Here is yours truly posing with him.

Knut will be at the booth and we are even going to have a contest for attendees who get their picture taken with him and we have a really nice enamel pin featuring Knut for sale. These will also be available in the shop after the show if there are any left. As you can see, we have tapped in to the Viking heritage evident in the popular Viking Shield Shawl that Vickie recently designed and released.

So if you are in Vancouver on the weekend of September 29th, stop by the booth and get your picture taken. And if you are a local who comes by to buy yarn, you might want to hold off next week because a lot of our stock has already been shipped out there.

And while Vickie has been painting, I've been working on some jewelry pieces that I'll feature in an upcoming blog.

As always, if you get lost and find yourself on Digby Neck, stop by and say hi. The weather is still warm and visitors are telling me that the whale watching is really good!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Best Thing To Come Out Of Australia

So here's the beer lover's dilemma.
The doc says no more than one beer a day.
Here's your solution.
I proudly present to you The Darwin "Stubby"

Yes folks, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is 2 full litres of pure beer drinking pleasure!
OK so Sapporo has one too but then you have to drink Sapporo.
Just look at it standing proudly along side a "normal" can of Tooheys.
So the next time you tell "She Who MUST Be Obeyed" that you are just going to stop off and have a beer with the boys, order this bad boy, come home four hours later and pass the polygraph test!
Actually, the Stubby was phased out in 2015 and a wake was held to commemorate the sad event.
Here's an account:
The wake commemorating the life and times of the Darwin Stubby was held at an Alice Springs steak house.
Restaurant owner Wayne Kraft said he was holding the event because, "Darwin is still in mourning".
Mr Kraft said he was encouraged to hold the wake by former Northern Territory administrator Ted Egan, who is famous for turning empty beer boxes into musical instruments.
"It is a sad day so we'll shed a tear in our beer, and Ted's going to reminisce and maybe sing a few songs," Mr Kraft said.
Mr Egan said the Darwin Stubby was a great tourism device, and he often took one along on official visits to promote the Territory.
"It's sad that it's gone but life goes on, and it was one of the great means of attracting people to the Territory," he said.
"It was all about just slow drinking and a lot of chats.
"Drinking is really supposed to be convivial, with lots of food and laughter. That's the old style."
A slow cooked 43-kilogram leg of central Australian camel was being served with the last remaining bottles of NT Draught.
The Humpty Doo Hotel, 50 kilometres from Darwin, used to hold an annual Darwin Stubby drinking competition featuring Norman the Brahman bull, who held the record for the fastest scull of the giant beer.
According to ABC News reports from 1988, Norman once sculled a 2.25 litre stubby in 47 seconds.
At the 1988 competition Norman was reported have washed down his stubby with "half a dozen tinnies and a meat pie".

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Latest From The Rock Lab

Now that the kids are back in school, I have fewer visitors to the shop and more time to work in the rock lab.
Recently, a friend from Arizona who spends the summer on Digby Neck brought me some beautiful rock from Arizona including several beautiful slabs of petrified wood. I'll figure out what to do with them this fall but first I wanted to work with warm and cool. Arizona is known as red rock country and he brought a nice slab of jasper from Cave Creek. It's not the easiest stone to work with because it really colours the saw oil and grinding surfaces. But the results are pretty spectacular!
Here's a cab I cut and polished along side the original slab:

The colour is a little off and the stone has a beautiful rich chestnut colouring as well as amazing depth for jasper.
But Arizona can also be cool and this nice piece of serpentine speaks to this. Here it is lit from the front:

And here it is back lit showing the cool translucence:

Both have been drilled and made into stylish pendants and are available in the shop. And keep checking the blog to see what I do with the petrified wood!
The weather is beautiful right now and whale watching is at its peak so if you have some vacation time, come visit The Neck- a most unique part of Nova Scotia.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Queen Has Her "Studio Cats" Again

It has been, to say the least, an eventful summer. We have had house guests for about the last 2 months and one guest, daughter Lisa, brought a special gift!

Some of you may know that Lisa, the one who lives in the Bahamas and hand dyes our Seawall Fibres yarn, puts a lot of time in as a volunteer at The Humane Society of Grand Bahama. Part of that involves being a surrogate mom for newborn kittens and she recently took a bunch that were only 3 days old! Some don't survive but two "Potcats" (what they call cats down there) did.

Now Bahamians are interesting in that they love dogs and hate cats. So the chance of a cat being adopted down there is minimal and since the organization is terribly underfunded, many are, unfortunately, euthanized.

Lisa was determined that that was not going to happen to her two "boys" so she decided to bring them to the U.S. where they have a chance.

Enter Vickie, AKA "She Who MUST  Be Obeyed"- our artist in residence. It has been several years since Vickie had the inspiration of a studio cat so she said to bring them here.
And here they are:

They are brothers and Thor is the larger. Leif is the runt of the litter but we have already ascertained that both are excellent mousers. They appear to love their new digs and have agreed to work as Vickie's inspirational "muses" in exchange for food.

And not a minute too soon since Vickie is painting a large number of "sock blanks" for the upcoming Knit City Show in Vancouver next month.

This has been our best year ever for visitors and I can assure you that on average the weather from now to the end of September is really good and whale watching is at its best. So if you are looking for a late summer escape, come to "The Neck"!

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Summer of Fog

If I was asked to sum up this summer to date in one word, it would be FOG! It's a simple equation: hot air + cold water= FOG.

Ever since I was a boy growing up in Halifax, I've loved the fog. It seems to muffle noise and add an air of mystery and showcases scenery in a haunting soft lens. Vistas you see every day take on another dimension.

This morning, the Lady with the agate eye and her amethyst challenged daughter went for a walk on the beach across the street. Here are some of the pics they came back with. Enjoy!

The rundown pier across the street

The beach at low tide

Daughter trying to find amethyst

This will all be covered in 10 feet of water soon

Our house from the water edge at low tide.

This is an amethyst-free zone

Looks like solid agate in the background.

And here's the amethyst Lisa finally found:

Ok, so it was on my workbench but who's  quibbling?

By lunch time, the sun was shining and the skies were blue and that vast expanse of beach was totally covered in the waters of St.Mary's Bay.

The everchanging vista is just one of the reasons I love living here. You should really check it out!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Agate Eye is Hereditary- Who Knew?

This is always a busy time here at The Artist's Mark- tons of tourists visiting the shop and lots of inventory to replace.

On top of that, we have to get our wood ready to burn in the wood stove this winter (we usually go through about 2 full cords. That's 256 cubic feet of wood and that is a lot of stacking!

So last week, our granddaughter and grandson came out from Dartmouth to help. Once the wood was stacked, they went out to walk the beach in rather dense fog.

They came back with this:

Who knew that they had both inherited Vickie's "Agate Eye"?  As you can see, I was so impressed that I cut them both and I took the end piece of Erik's and tossed it in the tumbler with a load I was doing. And while it's a little "sugary" it exhibits amazing patterning.

I have managed to get two nice slices to play with and will tumble the other end piece next week.

It feels good to know that the wood is in and "The Agate Eye" has been passed on to another generation!

Monday, 13 August 2018

My New Toy- The JoolTool

My daughter Lisa, who lives in the Bahamas, is visiting and brought me a new toy. She used to do a lot of work with precious metal clay but since she started hand dying yarn, she hasn't had the time so her loss is my gain. She has given me a JoolTool! Well, she hasn't actually given it to me. She says I can use it until I die, which, according to her, better be soon!

This tool does what my various wheels do- and more! And best of all I can use it in my office in the winter when I can't get to my shop! I can't wait to try it out and when I do, I'll post some photos.

We are having an amazing summer here at The Artist's Mark and I've been very busy replacing sold stock. So if your travels take you to Digby Neck Nova Scotia, come on by and choose your free tumbled agate or jasper because everyone should own "A Piece Of The Neck"!

Monday, 30 July 2018

Latest Jewelry Creations

We have had a lot of people in the shop recently but I've managed to make a few things to replace those pieces that have found a new home.

My daughter Lisa recently sent me some silver plate bezels and one was almost a perfect fit for a really nice piece of moss agate I had already finished. Since I felt it would work best with silver, it became the perfect marriage.

This piece is already spoken for but my other project is the first of a small series I intend to complete this summer. I live in a very unique place, a small strip of land in south west Nova Scotia called Digby Neck. It is formed from a ridge of basalt which has beautiful seams of agate, jasper, carnelian, amethyst- you name it. It is made up of three parts- Briar Island, Long Island and "the mainland" and, since shear faults in the basalt have created passage ways, you must take 2 ferries to get to the end.
 Some time ago, we found a small, irregular seam of fortification agate, surrounded by basalt on both sides. Seemed like the perfect metaphor for the area so I had to try to express it in a pendant and here's the result.

I used sterling silver wire to wrap it at the points where the ferries are located and the proportions are pretty accurate. Since the agate is fortification, up close it looks like a topographical map. I hung it on a black buna cord with sterling silver findings.

I'm pretty happy with this result so will start the next one which I intend to do horizontally so stay tuned for more pics! And if you want to see this one in person, along with a lot of other unique pieces, stop by the shop!


Friday, 27 July 2018

Back To The Grind

Things are slowly starting to return to what passes around here for "normal" in the wake of my geologist friend Ted's return to Australia. It's amazing but it takes someone visiting to get us to explore our immediate surroundings. For instance, we made our first visit to Delaps Cove. What a beautiful and interesting spot. Here's a shot of the senior citizens:

Yes, I know my pants are dirty. They get that way when you are hunting the elusive Bay of Fundy Agate.

But now my nose (actually finger tip) is pressed to the grindstone and I am also trying to cut some of the great stuff Vickie has brought home recently. Here is a really nice dense piece that took me for ever to cut, especially since I had to do it "free style" without a flat base.

I see some very small fractures but there is some beautiful patterning and colour. In addition, my daughter Lisa sent me a large stash of silver plate bezels and one of my finished stones fit perfectly. Ordinarily I work with local rock but when you get a chance to work with something this nice, you grab it!

This spectacular piece of Moss Agate is about an inch square and the wire in back is there to help remove the stone so it can be glued into the bezel so it will disappear by the end of the day. I also have some really nice bracelet bezels to work with and that might be my next project.

So the bare spots in the shop are gradually filling back up. It has been an amazing season to date and we expect it to continue through the fall. Come and see us in September, when our weather is at its absolute best.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Getting To Know The Neck

Often people come into the shop and ask about restaurants or interesting places to visit so I thought today I'd discuss a few.
First- a great place to eat!
Just a little further out the Neck, in Sandy Cove, is the Schoolhouse Cafe.

I had lunch there today and found what everyone else has- the food is fantastic! I had a fresh tomato and cheese pannini and my wife, who has Celiac Disease had the gluten free chowder as did our guest. Everything was wonderful and absolutely fresh.

The menu is short and simple and changes depending on what is fresh but if you go to their facebook page, you can see the menu for that day. Don't leave without trying a cinnamon bun!
They even have a large map of part of the neck which shows places of interest- including our shop!
Check their facebook page for hours and make the time for a meal. You won't regret it!

Now about interesting places and things to do.
Digby and Digby Neck, are fascinating places to visit. But how can a visitor know about all the interesting coves, beaches, walking trails etc.? And how can they know about the teeming life in a tidal pool?
You contact Greg Turner (no relation I swear) at Gael Tours! Greg knows EVERYTHING about our area and can take you and your family on an adventure that will even get your teen off their phones!
Check out Greg and The Schoolhouse Cafe and get the most out of your Digby Vacation
And don't forget to visit us at The Artist's Mark!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

A Lapidary Convert?

Currently, my friend Ted is visiting from Sydney Australia. Ted is also a geologist, in fact, we went through McGill together.

My objective on this trip was to get him working in the rock lab and I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams! Best of all, he works for beer! And even better, HE BUYS THE BEER!

Ted's weapon of choice is my Hi-Tech 8 inch slant lap. Here we are suiting up for battle in the rock lab.

Note that I graciously let Ted wear my Hi-Tech apron. Now we're getting serious.

And now Ted is totally immersed in his grinding efforts.

I must say, he did really well, taking several pieces from 100 grit right through to final polish. And while he was doing that, I was cutting some of our recent finds. I'm pretty lousy at rockhoundind what with my artificial hip and all but between Ted and "She with the agate eye" we have come home with some pretty nice stuff! Here's a little sample straight off the saw:

The shop has been super busy of late with a lot of European visitors and many of my pendants have left for new homes so with the weather being a little punky today, I'm working on some new stuff and will try to post pics when finished. Also, I have a load coming out of the tumbler tomorrow and will follow that up with an absolutely spectacular load of mostly crazy lace.

So if you are in the neighbourhood, drop on by and see what's new.


Friday, 6 July 2018

This has been a super busy week at the shop, with several pendants going to new homes. Today it is raining heavily so it's a perfect time to catch up on filling a few holes in the inventory.

First off, I have to tell you about my new venture- stone guitar picks!

To date, I've made about 25, using different types of local agate and jasper and I've sold about 5 or 6. The picks themselves have to be very thin (2 mm) which has resulted in my two index fingers becoming a little shorter and a certain amount of blood loss but it has been a lot of fun. We came up with a design for a simple leather pouch which, I am proud to say, I've done by myself, including the cutting, drilling and sewing. Best of all, we are using all re-purposed leather. I sell them with the pouch for $35 and if it keeps up like this, I'll be making a ton more!

Sewing all these leather pouches gave me an idea for a pendant design and we cranked out our first effort today.

Sorry for the pic. The leather is actually black and the stone is a gorgeous orange/ brown slice of carnelian. I'm looking for feedback on this before I make more but it certainly is "unique"! We are thinking of calling the line "Biker Chic". Any thoughts?

The last piece is a slice of petrified wood that has a small pyrite cube in the upper right hand corner (just visible in this pic) and a lot of visible cell structure.

Again, it is a truly unique piece featuring a beautiful local stone. The last two pieces will be available in the shop for $50 each.

We also just restocked the yarn shelves with recently hand dyed yarn so if you are a knitter, check out Seawall Fibres on Etsy and Ravelry.

Hope to see you soon.


Saturday, 23 June 2018

Why I LOVE Cutting rock- Part Two!

Today, I finally got to do a little rockhounding myself and while most of these are Vickie's, the last one is MINE (and it's worth the wait!).

Lets start with a really nice piece of jasper:

Actually, looking at it now, it looks like possibly carnelian- great colour and patterning. Vickie says she has dibs on the end piece but I'll get at least 4 more.

Now here's a really interesting little piece of amethyst that has been brecciated (broken) by quartz:

Don't know how this will be to work but it sure looks spectacular.

Then there's this little gem with plume and great fortification agate sections:

It looks awesome backlit:

And if you like red, you'll love this one. In person, the plumes are even nicer and I can't wait to polish it:

And now for the piece de resistance! The light was really flat and at first all I saw was the globular black hematite on the surface.

One end looked interesting- the other not so much so I decided to cut across to make the interesting end more manageable on the saw. I guess I chose a rather fortuitous spot:

So now this end looks interesting too and #1 daughter has already claimed a slab with the druzy (I think I'll get two). Back to the interesting end. In cross section it isn't much:

But oh boy, when I cut in the other direction- BAM!:

The fortification pockets are amazing and I can't wait to polish it. Don't know what will happen to the patterning as I cut slices but there is still fortification on the other face.
I may actually have to barricade myself in the rock house because it appears that several family members want a piece and they never get around to paying me!

So if you want to see some interesting jewelry made with spectacular local rock come on by! I'll be locked inside the rock shop.