Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Welcome to "The Roaring 20's" !

OK so I jumped the gun. There are still a few hours left in this tired decade but what the heck!

For me personally, the "teens" have ended well.

Last night, my Florida Gators won their football bowl game vs. Virginia and now I look forward to following their basketball team. Go Gators!

Last weekend, we drove to Dartmouth to see daughter Sandra and her family and also old friends visiting from Ontario. Sandra and Vickie saw "Cats" and, contrary to the reviews, absolutely LOVED it. So much for critic reviews.

And of course, no Boxing Day (27th here) would be complete without an amazing lobster feast!

That's son-in-law Sean "guarding" them! In all, Vickie and Sandra cooked and cut in half 26 1.5 pound lobsters in one hour and 50 minutes! I'm pretty sure that that is a world record. Even the drive through the beautiful Annapolis Valley was fun- especially with a sky like this!

Not too shabby, huh?

Meantime, our other daughter and her family were enjoying their weather in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where life is slowly returning to normal after Hurricane Dorion.

I am supposed to get my second bionic hip on Feb. 24th. It's a Monday so I hope they don't make hips like they make cars! The timing is good as I should be ready to go when it's time to open the shop in the spring.

I was involved in a very interesting test project for Hi-Tech (lapidary products) and have just sent in my results. If you are interested in lapidary, watch this space as I may be able to let you in on it at some point.

Cheers and best to all!

Friday, 22 November 2019

The Fish Are Getting Larger!

With the cooler weather, the focus around The Artist's Mark has shifted inside to the art and jewelry studios. And while our shop sign is now sitting on the ground, if the sign says "Open" come on in. We plan on being open, at least on weekends, to the end of the year.

Currently, we are doing a bit of a renovation in the art area, but Vickie has been painting up a storm. As discussed in a previous post, her current fascination is the interaction of ink and watercolour. And her focus has been on creating "Fundy Fish", whimsical creations that highlight just how "special" this area is.

She started small but as the creations flew off the shelf, her focus has shifted to seeing if the idea could be executed in a larger format. So now she has moved to an image that fits into a 5"x 7" frame.

By the way, the above is shown in a "Ribba" frame by Ikea. Online reviews of these have been a little spotty but we really like them and find them very good value. Who knows how large these fish can grow to become. Lobster season starts here on Monday so with them gone, these fish might get huge!

And speaking of Ikea, they make another line of frames called "Hovsta" which we also like. here's another of Vickie's latest works shown in this frame.

We hope to be able to offer these pieces online at some point and if that becomes possible, we'll let you know.

And by the way, I have been asked to participate in an exciting lapidary product trial so stay tuned for further developments!


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

We Have Fish!

In previous posts, I have chronicled the ongoing scientifically experimental nature of my better half- She Who MUST Be Obeyed. Its most recent manifestation is ink- homemade ink and also how ink could interact with watercolours and other materials in her artwork.

She started by simply putting the two together on different papers using different brushes without paying much attention to shapes and colours but in the process, a fascinating shape started to emerge.


But Vickie doesn't see fish the way most do. She is fascinated by things like steampunk and whimsy and a mark making process called "zentangles" that has led to her producing images that have even been put on t shirts.

So her fish eventually morphed into...FUNDY FISH... fish that morphed into hybrid creatures with unique personalities.

She started small (about 4 inches x 6 inches)

But gradually, they got larger.

These are two to three times larger and now she is making them in all sizes and colours. So now the question is, how big can she go. Some of Vickie's pieces are very large 4 feet by 3 feet so should she make them larger still?

With no real promotion, we have sold many of them and since, eventually we will be offering these via the Seawall Fibres web site, we now have to take a trip to Halifax to source larger mats and watercolour sheets. She even has to get bigger brushes! And I have to crack the whip to make sure I have inventory!

I have successfully co-opted the cats in this endeavour because apparently, they also really like fish!

So stay tuned and, if you like them, let us know and also let us know if you think they would look good in a larger size. For your information, Vickie is a signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and we sell her work by size- $2.25 Canadian per square inch of image size so since these have a lot of white space, the price is reasonable and they fit in standard sized frames.

We want your feedback!


Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Something's Missing!

Several weeks ago we sustained a direct, 2 day hit from Hurricane Dorion and apart from losing power for 52 hours (no big deal when you have a propane generator) we suffered no ill effects- not even the loss of a shingle!

Well, last week they forecast a little "blow" that turned turned out to be somewhat larger with wind gusts topping out at 120+ KPH! This time we had some damage to an area of siding at the back but the real loss was our beautiful shop sign that for several years has served as a beacon for tourists and locals alike as they travel The Neck.

As you can see, our sign got blown right off its clips and is now sitting about 30 feet out in the marsh. It's not the end of the world as we had already cut the wood for a new one we were going to make over the winter. I had secured the "closed" sign by a bungee cord but the hooks holding it were also pulled right out of the post so it is now jerryrigged as well.

But not to worry. As they say in that movie, "We can rebuild him- even better!"

And in the meantime, although our sign might be gone, we're still here and open most days (although we will be in Halifax this weekend) so if you are looking for yarn or that perfect gift, call us at 902 482-2188 and we'll make arrangements to meet you at some point.


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Why You Should Visit Digby Neck

Most people don't have a lot of time to spend visiting other places so I'm going to make the case for you using some of that valuable time to visit Digby Neck Nova Scotia.

First, it's the only way you are going to get the chance to visit The Artist's Mark and meet me!

All kidding aside, many people who visit the shop say they are amazed at the quality of our goods and the fact that everything is hand made by professional local artisans.

But beyond that, we have an on site professional lapidary shop (and professional lapidary!), art studio and jewelry bench. Families love to see how the various machines work and learn about the local geology and everybody leaves with a beautiful free piece of Digby Neck in the form of a tumbled rock that is over 300 million years old!

However, we aren't the only artists in the area. Digby Neck is dotted with galleries and studios, not to mention the home for the best whale watching around. And driving The Neck is far from a boring experience! Check out this aerial view of the beach and cliffs across the street from our shop. The little house at the end of the beach is ours and here's what it looks like up close. And thanks to Troy and Carmin Cale for sending me these photos!

There are misty coves around every corner and the sunsets will take your breath away.

So make plans to visit this truly unique part of Canada's playground. You'll leave with a lifetime of memories for the whole family!

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Fall Comes To The Neck

Well, another tourist season is drawing to a close and the scene of activity now shifts.

Yesterday, the last stones were groove cut and all the saws, tumblers and wheels have now been drained,cleaned and put to bed. The VT Rock Lab is in hibernation mode.

The oil cooled 10 inch saw is in Dartmouth where, hopefully, my talented grandboys will be replacing the neanderthal 1/3 HP motor with a new 3/4 HP beauty and mounting it to a nice laminated countertop piece courtesy of East Coast Countertops. Who knows, knowing them it might come back equipped with bluetooth!

So now is the time when I take inventory of what I need to make over the winter and get to work at my bench in Vickie's studio.

The first priority is to finish some ear ring and ear ring/ pendant sets as I sold quite a few of these over the summer. I get to use this beautiful space as long as I keep my mouth shut and don't disturb the REAL artist.

Here she is working under the close supervision of one of the two studio cats (the true rulers of the domain!). And here are a few of the pieces she is working on.

So while it is cold and rainy outside, we are all set for a fun, creative winter inside.

The shop is still open and we still have a good inventory of Seawall Fibres yarn so if you are in the area, come on by!You might want to call first to make sure we are here.

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Great Ink Experiment

It started as it often does, with Vickie on a quest for knowledge. Actually, it is more an exploration, a voyage of discovery of possibilities, and she's been on it all her life.

"What would Peter be like if I could mold him completely in my image?", that sort of thing!

Vickie is constantly learning and taking in knowledge of anything and everything. I have often said she might die one day but she will NEVER grow old, as she is one of the youngest people I know, mentally.

Hence my entire married life has been lived in the context of a grade 8 science experiment and I have often felt that I might be one of the exhibits.

This time the subject was inks. She often uses them in her art and wanted to explore the possibility of making her own.
Example of various inks with w/c - India, walnut, acrylic

Step 1 was to scour the Internet for info which led her to the idea of making ink from acorns (as opposed to oaks). Thus the experiment began.

The first phase was the gathering process, which was made exponentially easier when we discovered that our friends, Dan and Lucie, were sitting on a veritable ink mine of acorns. In short order we had several pounds of them. But, there was a bit of a problem in that all she wanted were the caps, and so we drifted into acorn Processing phase, where caps were separated from the acorn via a rubber mallet and pulverized in the kitchen Ninja (which, by the way, made a heck of a noise!).

Then we entered the Extraction phase. This was accomplished by dumping the cap particles into a stainless cookpot along with a couple of rusted nails (for added flavour) and a bit of vinegar plus a small bunch of cloves to preserve the batch, along with copious amounts of water. This witch's brew then had to simmer for 3 days and, since it gave off a rather pungent odor, what better spot than in MY workshop??? Actually, while the smell was strong, it was not unpleasant.

Now we come to the next phase, Filtration. Using paper coffee filters (mine) and a filter basket (mine) and numerous plastic containers (also mine), the pulp was extracted.
She has yet to find a viable use for this stuff, but it's just a matter of time! BTW, the colander is also mine!
Now the big moment! Would it actually work as ink??? We dipped a piece of paper (mine) into the concoction and voila!
ignore the "cut/cut" copy - the ink is the brown stuff on the right
At this point we knew that the fluid we had obtained would colour paper, so now the question was, could we concentrate the colour? To do this, more boiling was necessary to evaporate excess fluid. The original strip is sitting, half covered, in a window (blocking MY view) in order to test light fastness. Finally Vickie was satisfied with the consistency and colour and it was time to test it to see how it reacted with watercolours.

The test strips are at the bottom and as can be seen, the colour has darkened and it makes a beautiful graduated wash, lifts almost entirely (apparently this is a good thing - she says she still needs to add gum arabic - I don't know why she couldn't just use Canadian gum, but apparently this stuff is the ink equivalent of  "eye of newt"), makes a lovely edge (she says) wet on dry (???) and spreads fabulously wet on wet (more????). Also, it interacts with watercolour perfectly!

So the experiment appears to have been a total success, and I can look forward to many more brewing vats appearing in my shop in the future.

When all is said and done, she ended up with about 3/4 cup of ink....I now understand why others charge $18 for a small bottle! Incidentally, if you want to check out her earlier experiment using the rock sludge from my lapidary shop to make watercolour, check out the earlier blog post.

Of course, this isn't the final destination. The voyage of discovery continues and where she goes next is anybody's guess, but when she gets there, it will be on the blog, so stay tuned.

Monday, 30 September 2019

The Artist Comes Over to the Dark Side

Some of you may know that, apart from being an exceptional artist, my wife Vickie (AKA She Who MUST Be Obeyed- anyone who watched Rumpole of the Bailey will get it) is an avid rockhound.

This can pose problems for me because she is always bringing stuff to me to cut open for her. Consequently, the stuff I really want to cut gets put on the back burner. In the past, I have, to no avail, dared her to cut one herself but a few days ago, she finally agreed. The fact that she was taking over most of my shop with an experiment that will be the subject of a subsequent blog might have been a factor in her decision.

Anyway, after donning her professional Cab King apron which she insisted I modify to read Cab Queen, she was ready to begin.

As you can see the smile is tempered with terror. Either that or she is trying to emulate Jack Nicholson in either The Joker or The Shining! And this is before the saw was even running!

So now the saw is actually running and she has started the cut.

She has really good position but because of her basic blindness, she insisted that the blade guard be lifted and this is causing the nice vertical red brown line of cooling oil to appear on her new apron. And yes, it IS time to change that oil!

So now the rock has been cut.

The smile is less manic and her heart rate has come down to the low three figures. She has yet to notice the stain on her apron. So now we have to go outside to the area where I hose down the rocks to remove the oil and after doing so, here's the result of her cut.

As you can see, her smile reflects the heart rate having now dipped below the century mark and I have managed to position her hands so she still can't see the oil stain. The rock was a piece of vein fortification agate surrounded by some chocolate haematite patterning and was actually worth cutting and now she wants me to cut thin slices to make a pair of ear rings! She actually did a great job. The cut was nice and straight due to even pressure on both sides of the stone and there are virtually no saw marks.

Will there be more lapidary work in her future? Only time will tell but she has broken the ice and I think will now feel more  comfortable with the machines!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

A Very Satisfied Customer

I have found that there are several real advantages to having the combination of rock lab, jewellery studio and shop in the same location. It allows me to wear several hats each day and work on things when there are no customers and get valuable direct feedback on our work when there are.

It also puts me in contact with hundreds of very interesting people each year. This year alone, I have had a couple of fellow Florida Gators fans come in and admire my Tim Tebow “shrine” and I have also met some really nice people who, for some reason, cheer for other football and basketball teams in the SEC. But I let them buy stuff anyway.

I meet such interesting people- fellow geologists, land surveyors and a lot of young people far away from home and out to explore the planet.

But my favourites are the really nice people with whom you feel as comfortable as you would with a long time friend.

Such a couple are Harry and Shirley, from Syracuse New York. They were here on vacation in early August and we got to know a bit about them. Harry is a retiree who is an excellent professional photographer/ videographer. Shirley had enjoyed knitting but not in the last little while.

Shirley loved our yarn and left with some along with a pattern and renewed enthusiasm for knitting. But before she left, she posed a question.

One reason for her trip to Nova Scotia was to visit the home of her great grandfather, a ship captain who sailed out of Yarmouth in the 1800’s (she even has his ship’s log from 1878!). On her trip, she had found a stone that had really spoken to her and asked if we could use it to make her a piece of jewellery. The rock was sandstone, which, normally would hold no fascination for me since it wouldn’t take a polish but it did have some interesting colour and patterning and Vickie really liked it’s abstract shape. It represented a challenge to her and so off she went.

Fortunately, our passion is making interesting pieces and we often combine stone with other materials such as leather, copper and polymer clay and this stone was perfect for that. So Vickie came up with an abstract design to compliment the stone, one which incorporated copper from a very old piece of plate we had and we went to work. I did the cutting and drilling while Vickie provided the “artist’s eye” and did the beautiful finishing.

Recently, we shipped it off and Shirley absolutely loved it. Thanks to her photographer husband, we have this beautiful picture of her wearing it. (Harry, I wish you could take all my shots!)

In this close up view, you can see how well the components go together and work to compliment this precious keepsake.

Shirley, we are so happy that you trusted us with this treasure and hope that you enjoy it for many years to come.

Monday, 26 August 2019

More Amazing Agate and Jasper from Digby Neck

A while ago, I had a bit of surgery done on my chin and the doc told me to stay away from my machines for a bit but after a follow up visit, I'm good to go again!

So this morning I cut several pieces, mostly to define and cut out shapes for cabs that I will work on over the winter.

This piece is from a beach so we really have no way of knowing where it originated but since I have a drill core of the same material from a site nearby, I'm pretty sure it is local. Here's how it looked on the outside.

This is what's known as brecciated (broken) jasper and here is what it looks like on the inside.

Pretty spectacular, huh? The broken pieces of jasper have been re cemented at a later date and in the process, small cubes of pyrite have formed. They show as shiny gold shapes in the picture.

And if you think that looks good, How about this? Recently, a friend brought me a piece he had found while exploring his property "somewhere" on the neck. He is a fellow lapidary from Arizona and has given me some amazing slabs of petrified wood so since he has no equipment here (bring a saw on your next trip Glenn) I offered to cut it for him. The patterning on the outside looked "interesting".

But I must admit that I wasn't prepared for what lurked inside.

This is called "fortification agate/ plume agate" and it is one of the most amazing examples I have ever encountered. Now I have to find a way to "liberate" it!! (heh,heh).

I am amassing some awesome material to work on over the winter and later in the fall but I also have some beautiful cabs I just finished to amuse myself with.

Man I LOVE cutting rock!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Latest Finished Piece

It has been extremely busy around here in the last month so it's time to fill some of the empty spaces.
This ring is a beautiful piece of local agate, found as rough rock and cut and finished in my rock lab.
Here's how it looked at the start:

And here's what the final product looks like:

I set it in an adjustable, size #7 Amati silver plate bezel. The stone is 2 cmX 2cm. and has a beautiful clear section in the midst of some beautiful golden red plume patterning.
Lots more to come so stay tuned!
And if you are in the area of Digby Neck, come on by and say hi!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Summer on The Neck

We are in an extended period of beautiful weather finally and this was the view from our deck this morning.

The great Blue Herons are still around and very often we will see one or more out there catching breakfast.

The shop has been really busy of late and I am in the process of finishing some cabochons to fill some of the empty displays.

In my last post, I showed a couple of local rocks that I had cut. Since then, I've cut some slices and Vickie has created some shapes and I have begun to finish them and I must say, it is beautiful material. The first one I did was to fit in an empty silver plate ring bezel I had. In this picture I show it in the bezel but I still have to grind a bit off the back to even it up and then I will raise it up so it sits more outside the bezel but I think you can see the beauty of this stone. It is a local plume agate and it polished like glass. I can hardly wait to work on the other pieces I have ready to go. here's the picture.

In a subsequent post, I'll take you through the whole process so you can see how a rough stone ends up as a piece of jewelry.

Cheers! And if you are in the neighbourhood, stop by and I'll be glad to show you both the store and my shop.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Why I Love Cutting Rock- Edition #647

To say the least, it has been a very unusual summer.

Right now, we are getting the weather we normally get in late June and tourism reflects this. Up until about three weeks ago, we had had few visitors to The Neck but since then, it has been very, very busy.

Vickie has been in her studio most days working on what she calls "mark making"- basically experimenting with the use of various items to make paint and ink marks on paper- you know- the kind of stuff you did in kindergarten (heh,heh). But she has been able to bring me a few treasures and recently I got the time to cut a few. She has a real knack of sensing when a fairly mundane rock will look amazing on the inside and here are a few examples.

From here, I'll be cutting some slabs, defining some shapes and grinding and polishing some cabochons for next year's jewelry. Hopefully, I'll post some pics later in the fall.

I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people over the last little while including a very special couple from Florida. When somebody gets out of their vehicle wearing a Florida Gator t-shirt, I know I have met a kindred soul.
Cheers Earl and Rosellen! I'll be thinking of you in a few weeks when we kick off vs. Miami!
Go Gators!