Friday, 28 December 2018

Winter on Digby Neck

Every summer we get guests at the shop who ask if we live here during the winter and many are surprised when we say yes.
A lot of factors come into play. We've done a LOT of travelling and are dealing with some health issues and, of course, we are cat people once again.

But the main reason is that we absolutely love the winters here! True, we get some very bad storms with snow and high winds. In fact, we're having one now. It is, however, quite exhilarating to know that we have a ton of wood for the wood stove and if the power goes out, we have a big generator and the added bonus is the scenery. For instance, because of the approaching storm, we experienced an amazing sunrise while drinking our coffee. Here's a little sequence taken with a cell phone and there is some distortion due to magnification for which I apologize.

And now it's snowing so hard I can't see across the road!

Digby Neck is truly beautiful and unique in the summer but the winters ain't too shabby! In the winter, we take the sign down by the road so it doesn't blow into the next county but if you are around and see the red Mazda, stop in and say hi. Right now, I am finishing several pieces of jewelry and we are getting ready for the official launch of the Seawall Fibres web site so I'll be posting lots of pics in the days ahead.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Back in the Jewelry Lab

It's been pretty cold here of late so I'm getting around to doing some assembly. And thanks to my daughter Lisa, I have a very good supply of silver plate bezels that lend themselves to a new concept I have wanted to try.

I call it "Stone & Bone"- combining polished stone with fossilized Shark's Teeth. Here's an example.

This piece combines an elegant piece of Jasper with a wire wrapped shark's tooth and hung from a black buna cord Here's another:

This is a beautiful piece of local plume agate in a silver plate bezel and suspended from the bezel is a fossilized tooth and piece of drilled shell- all hung from a black leather cord.

We are also finishing off some of the pieces Vickie has done using polymer clay. This piece we call Samuri and created the effect of fossilized bone wrapped in worn leather.

It is hung from a segmented metal chain that can be shortened if desired.

These are a little different from earlier pieces so I would really appreciate your honest feedback on the "Stone& Bone" concept.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be doing several pieces using leather to hold the stones so stay tuned.


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Latest Piece of Rock Jewelry

It has been really cold here of late so I finally got around to cleaning my work bench so I could finish a few things.

Here is a really interesting local stone that has a bit of everything- agate, jasper and pockets of crystalline quartz.

The stone is fairly large (4.5 mm high) and the quarts pockets make it "twinkle" as the stone moves. Because of the size, I was able to use 18 gauge copper wire to make the "prong" setting I have developed and it is nice and firm. And if you look really closely, you can see a few "artist's marks" which I like to leave on the piece. I hung it from a really nice persimmon premium Greek leather cord and used 100% hand made copper clasps.

And here it is ready to go to a very nice lady in Bear River.

My next piece is going to feature a copper plate with a very intricate cut out design to set a gorgeous piece of local carnelian so look for it in a couple of days.


Friday, 23 November 2018

Back in the Rock Lab

We have had snow and high winds on The Neck for the last few days but with my industrial heater, it's warm enough to work in the lab.
So here's an update on the material I showed you in my last post. I have finished the cab and guitar pick I made from petrified work and here's how it looks before I do the final polish.

I am actually going to use the red pebble grained leather behind the stones to create a "setting" for the guitar pick and it will become a pendant for Vickie's 48th wedding anniversary. (I looked it up and 48 years is petrified wood- actually, it's home improvement but that's no fun!). I won't polish the pick because it will become too slippery to use but I'll probably use my tin oxide and Fordham Buffer on the pendant.

I also finished one of the two pieces of Rhodonite (I love this material!). Again, this photo is taken before any polishing but just as it came off the 8,000 grit belt.

This stone is 4.5 cm x 2.7 cm and I have actually cut a groove all around the edge of the stone to hold a silver wire which will be the only setting. The stone's patterning and colour are so striking I want to show as much as possible. This one along with the petrified wood piece will be available eventually in the Artist's Mark Shop.

So that's how I'm spending Black Friday. Hope that wherever you are, you have a great day!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Working With Petrified Wood

Last summer, my friend and fellow lapidary Glenn Cook from Arizona gave me some beautiful slabs of petrified wood from his "stash". I would tell you the extent of said "stash" but you'd never believe me. Let's just say it's... significant!

Anyway, Glenn cuts thick slabs and this one is about 11 mm. I was originally going to make a pendant and Vickie created a shape so I cut the slab and did a rough grind on the shape. Here's what it looked like.

Since it was too heavy, I thought I would try a little experiment to save me a lot of grinding. Could I actually cut this into two ovals without using a vise? First step was to draw a guide line.

Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that my line wasn't exactly straight but I knew that if I cut on the top side of the line on the left and ended up in the middle of the line on the right it would be perfect. Since I would be feeding the stone by hand, I decided to use my thin MK trim saw blade to give myself a little more margin for error. I carefully started to feed the stone into the blade and here's my result.

The thick piece on the left is now about 6 mm and I will now do a bevel around the edge on the good side and grind it smooth. If it is still too heavy, I'll grind a bit off the back. The one on the left is a shade under 4 mm.Again, sharp eyes will notice that there is now a shape defined on the right. That's the guitar pick that I'm going to make Vickie for our 48th anniversary in a few weeks. I'm thinking I might drill a little hole in it so she can wear it as well as use it as a pick.

Stay tuned for the final result!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Picking Time on The Neck

Winter is coming.

All the signs are there. Today, we had some snow and the high winds and sub freezing temperatures  made the walk from my office to the rock lab "refreshing". The hatches have been battened down, roof leak repaired and the wood stove is cranked up. We're ready.

The industrial heater in the rock lab makes it nice and comfortable out there and over the last week I have finished a new batch of guitar picks.

I started with 23. 3 broke and the guy who fixed my roof bought 2 so I am left with 18 which should be enough to get me through the holiday season. The patterning in these is awesome and the light ones are mostly amethyst. Now I have to make some more leather pouches.

Fortunately, I have a lot of leather blanks ready to go and they can be done where it's nice and warm.

And speaking of warm, my friend in Arizona sent me pics of some slabs he is bringing me next year. These are slabs of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest in Arizona.

Pretty awesome, huh? Can't wait to do some cutting and polishing!

We will be taking the sign in pretty soon so it doesn't blow away but if the car is here, we're here so come on in.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The Beauty of Nova Scotia

It's been a while since I posted because I've been busy in the rock lab and it's also the time of the year when we "batten down the hatches" around here. The store is still open but we will probably bring the large sign in so it doesn't blow away in the next big wind.

The knitters had a very successful show in both Vancouver and Austen Texas but we have received new stock just before the postal strike!

So, the beauty of Nova Scotia. For those of you who have traveled here, you know all about it. You are never more than a few miles from the ocean and even old abandoned houses are amazing! Just google abandoned houses in Nova Scotia to see what I mean. People have been living, and making a living, here for 300 years so history is everywhere you look.

Even the weather is beautiful- especially when it is wild. And trust me it gets pretty wild! Here's what I woke up to a few days ago, when a big storm was heading our way.

Talk about "red skies in the morning"! We were getting pounded just a few hours later.

But there's beauty everywhere, even below ground. Here's a slice of a fossilized tree showing really distinct rings.

And here's a beautiful slice of seam agate.

So if your idea of a great vacation is to wring beauty from nature, this is your place. And if you find your way to my beautiful "neck of the woods"- Digby Neck, stop by and say hi and I'll show you some beautiful treasures of nature.

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.