Inuvik Arts Festival, 1998

Things have been going well so far at the Inuvik Arts Festival. One of the sales people said that there has been a serious inquiry by a person who buys each year for someone else who can’t make it. The person in question saw the piece on the internet and asked for it specifically. Wow, it seems like the advertising and web stuff works!

It has been good to get away from Faro. I have met so many interesting people here:

A photographer from Vancouver, Peter Timmermans, is up doing a shoot on the Dempster for Canada Post and their highway series of stamps. We had some wonderful chats, and he carved a few things with my tools. (The festival asks artists to share their skills with other artists and the general public in attendance.)

A painter from Ireland, Cathy Henderson, over to sketch the Festival and its artists, did a watercolour of me at work on 'Candle Ice'.

A retired art teacher from New York, who I chatted with at length on the boat trip from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean; both he and Peter Timmermans suggested “going where the money is,” with the carvings if they don’t sell here.

I have especially enjoyed working with other carvers, including Maureen Morris and Bob Kussy, with whom I shared a carving tent.

The organizers and volunteers and all the rest have been super, not to mention the people attending the Festival. What a blast, just talking with people as they tour the Festival. It has certainly been worth it.

Encouraged to Greatness

Today was a sick day, but it was also a lack of courage day. I sketched the details onto the antler for the wolves and ravens, but that was all. I couldn’t face doing any more.

I called Maureen Morris, another antler carver, to see how things were going with her and to seek encouragement. She mentioned that her practice is to carve in two shifts each day; mornings for the hard, heavy work and afternoons for the lighter stuff. When she’s working on a show, she said she works much longer hours. In between she takes a break of one or two hours and does something else, like gardening.

I watched Tin Cup again last night with Miranda. Another “the journey is more important than the end” movie, but it demonstrated clearly that to excel, even with a tremendous gift, requires practice, hard work and being pushed to the limits of endurance. I guess that’s why hard work can often compensate for talent, but never for talent and hard work combined. Difficulties are universal markers on the path to greatness, not obstacles meant to deter, only to deter those not willing to reach, to do all it takes to earn greatness.

To date I have often been one to turn aside at the difficult markers. Sometimes I have ridden on with abandon, but never to a goal, never with an end in mind. Now is the time to reach for a goal. Now is the time such a goal has become clear. Ne’er before in my life have I had opportunity even to glimpse a goal let alone reach and plan for it, and now, here it lies before me and I would faint and turn away to the half-life I once lived.

No, I must hold firm and pursue my destiny, art. Commissions, yes, but also a show of stunning works so beautiful they take your breath away, carved with grace and polish and depth of emotion. Works to cry, laugh and fall in love over. Works to set people free.

Tea with Maureen Morris

(Maureen Morris is an extraordinary antler carver, living in Atlin, British Columbia, Canada)

Maureen's studio is currently located inside her funky log home, close to the road which runs along the shores of Atlin Lake, just north of downtown. The place is something to behold! There are bones everywhere, inside and out. Antler dust lies inches deep in the studio, thick, thick, thick, representing so much amazing work, so much creativity!

She'll soon move the studio out of the house and into a new building further back on the property, on the crest of a small rise. It's a much larger space and it commands a wonderful view of Atlin Lake.

Maureen takes summers off to work her large greenhouse, located just behind the house, and what a greenhouse! A paradise of wonderful humidity bearing the sweet smells of all the beautiful plants she grows.

I told Maureen that I admired the dedication she brought to her art. She demurred, explaining that it was easy, she was "just selfish." I reflected that her "selfishness" has given a lot of people pleasure.

Antler Carving Workshop with Maureen Morris

The workshop went well. Last night we reviewed Maureen's work and had a look at tools. Maureen uses sanders, polishers, files (for cleaning lines) as well as Dremels and Foredoms. For finishing work she uses bits that look like a sharpened stick, none of which I have.

Today we watched Maureen carve a bird from start to finish. She takes a lot of time over her lines, using various rounded or tree bits, then refines the lines with cylinder bits and finally uses the spear-like finishing bits. Her eyes she makes with the cylinder bits and refines them with the finishing bits. Maureen works the whole carving at once and makes decisions as she goes about where to place decorative lines and feathers.

Carving burrs recommended during Maureen's Workshop
(burrs recommended by Maureen Morris during the workshop - good recommendations all! )