Monday, July 29, 2013

A visit with Gorst Duplessis: prelude

I'm in New Orleans this week for the Botany 2013 meeting. Yesterday afternoon I had a couple of hours available to visit Gorst Duplessis.  He has a beautiful home on the edge of the French Quarter, which took a lot of damage during hurricane Katrina. 

No, the hurricane did not rearrange Gorst's shop - it's a very active and busy place, as you can tell by the shavings....  I'll post a photo essay in a few days. For now, I will be a scientist and pay attention to all the interesting research that will be presented over the next few days.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Penstemon fruticosus

Penstemon fruticosus by andiwolfe
Penstemon fruticosus, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Photographed on Moore's Mountain, just north of Boise, Idaho. This is one of the species in subgenus Dasanthera - the basal lineage of this very large and diverse genus of plants.

I just love the way the anthers are so hairy and the corolla is pleated. These are characteristics unique to the subgenus, and are ones important for pollination.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A visit with the Carolina Mountain Woodturners

I spent last weekend with The Carolina Mountain Woodturners (CMWT). This was my third visit (first in 2003, second in 2007). The CMWT is my all-time my favorite club to visit - the spirit of volunteerism there is exceptional, people are very courteous, and it feels like home. I did an all-day demo on Saturday, July 20, and a hands-on class with 10 students the next day.

Normally I have a maximum enrollment of six students, so I had to dramatically change the format of my class. Usually the focus is on pyrography and coloring techniques using a sampler board and a design that is burned in on two panels for practicing pyrography textures and coloring techniques. That class has an absolute max of six students - that's all I can handle for the intense coloring tutoring.

For 10 students, I modified the class to include the pyrography sampler board, but then we spent the rest of the time doing a sampler of texturing techniques using rotary carvers, and then some work on surface enhancement on turnings that the students brought from home.

The Carolina Mountain Woodturners do their hands-on classes at the Ox Creek Community center building. It's an old building that has a large common room adjacent to a kitchen.

The club lathes were set up, simply for their power strips and lights. Each student had ample room to work, good lighting, and access to several power plugs. The tables were set up around the perimeter of the room, which made it very easy for me to walk around, look over shoulders, and give some help with tutoring and coaching.

The table where I did my demonstrating became a coloring station. This class would be better in a two-day format, because we really didn't have enough time for coloring at the end, but I think everyone took some new techniques home with them after the class.

Three of the students at the end of the day: Fred, Tina, and Dick.

I really enjoyed this group of students. We had a very fun day together.

Hey, this is my first turned mushroom - ever. Melissa Gunther collects mushrooms from visiting turners, so I turned a small one out of poplar and did the surface during the hands-on class.
The underside has the gill pattern carved with a small bur.

Who knows, maybe I'll start making some mushrooms?

I learned a few things from this first go around with 10 students: 1) I need to have a set list of burs for students to use. The students had a wide assortment of burs, but not the same ones that I typically use. 2) The layout of the room was ideal for handling so many students. 3) If I don't focus on coloring techniques, 10 students is feasible.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Penstemon attenuatus var. militaris

This species is in section Penstemon subsection Proceri. I photographed it on Moore's Mountain, which is in the Boise Mountains of Idaho. It was super abundant in a meadow near our lunch spot (the "our" being the American Penstemon Society group I was with).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My latest book!

I finally finished putting together the photos from Paris into a book. You can order a pdf rather than the print version, which is what I would recommend. However, if you like to thumb through photo books go ahead and splurge. There's a preview of the first 15 pages. The book is 60 pages of photos and text. I'm looking forward to getting my copy in the mail...

Sunrise at Waterman Farm

Sunrise at Waterman Farm by andiwolfe
Sunrise at Waterman Farm, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye....

There seems to be a lot of corn planted at Waterman this year. I'm always hoping they'll plant sweet corn and make it available to the community, but, alas, that never seems to be what happens. At any rate, the sunrise this morning was beautiful.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Progress on my recent work

I'm about halfway through the negative space removal on this cellular motif.  It's been fun getting back to the shop, but I'm frustrated by the clutter that accumulated during my woodturning sabbatical. At some point, very soon, I'll have to reorganize my carving bench, tidy up the wood pile, sweep up the shavings, and vacuum the entire shop. I think procrastination can be developed into a fine art all on its own....

Penstemon wilcoxii

Penstemon wilcoxii by andiwolfe
Penstemon wilcoxii, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Another beautiful penstemon from the Boise Mountains of central Idaho. I can feel the cool mountain breeze as I remember this place. I'll need that memory today. We're at the leading edge of a heat wave for the midwest.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Penstemon payettensis

Penstemon payettensis by andiwolfe
Penstemon payettensis, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Just one of the many beautiful penstemons found out west. This plant was seen in the Boise Mountains of Idaho last month.

Every time I travel through the western cordillera my spirit is renewed. Penstemons are just an excuse to get a mountain fix - at least that's what it seems like sometimes. It's hard to live in a geologically-challenged area. Ohio is definitely not a mountainous state, but there are other advantages to living here. Ohio State University and Columbus are examples....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two broken burs today, so I'm taking a break....

I'm about 1/3 of the way around the vessel in terms of doing the rough shaping. Unfortunately, I broke the last two of my drill saw burs - both on the same cell. There must be a very hard spot in that part of the wood.

These drill saw burs are cheaply made, and I just ordered some more. I was dismayed to see the price had about doubled since the last time I ordered. I need to do some research to find a less expensive source now.

The diagram on my bench is from a micrograph of Sequoia wood anatomy - a cross-section of the stem. Each cell is four to six-sided, and the final shaping will reflect this for the most part. It's slow going, for sure, and I'm using the Foredom tool for the drill saw burs. The vibration beats up my hands, but I can't risk my NSK handpiece for this stage of the work.

Friday, July 12, 2013

From my garden

From my garden by andiwolfe
From my garden, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Along the driveway, where we have our bird feeders, I have a small garden featuring purple cone flowers, shasta daisies, and volunteer sunflowers. The cone flowers are in full bloom. In a few weeks the seeds will be developing and the goldfinches will feast to their hearts content...

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Friends by andiwolfe
Friends, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

This is one of my favorite photos from my trip to Paris. We had an afternoon free after our workshop with Peter Turnley finished, so Steve and I visited the Saint Michel district near Notre Dame. These two cooks at Hallal Kabob were having a great time interacting with me after they spotted my camera.

Back in the saddle again....

I'm not sure that metaphor is the correct one, but I've resumed my artistic journey in wood. I took the past year off from woodturning and carving to put all of my efforts on my day job. Long hours in the lab and in front of the computer were necessary to bring the backlog out of storage and into print... or at least into the publication and grant proposal mill.  Ahhhh, peer review - so good for the ego (not!).

However, after the AAW symposium in Tampa, my muse and motivation for wood art have returned. The balance of my time will still lean toward my science endeavors, but I do plan to spend some time in the evenings and weekends playing with wood.

My first project for 2013 will be made from redwood burl (Sequoia). The design is inspired from scanning electron micrographs of Sequoia wood anatomy. Here are the progress pics thus far....

The form I will carve is a tall bowl with walls about 1 inch thick.

The layout was done on my comfy sofa with my dachshunds competing for room on my lap....

(Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfe)

This is the design layout - 33 columns of "cells". The base of the vessel has fewer columns because of the curvature. The carved motif will not be nearly as rigid as the layout - this is simply a guide for where I will pierce through the walls and carve the cells.  If I have room, I will add the paired pits, but I'll have to see how it goes...

(Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfe)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Still life of wood shavings

Still life of wood shavings by andiwolfe
Still life of wood shavings, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
©2013 Andi Wolfe. Ahhhhh, the smell of wood shavings.... I spent last weekend in Tampa, Florida for the American Association of Woodturners symposium. I was the event photographer, and one of the requests this year was for some photos of shavings, hands at work, details of turning, etc. I certainly had a lot of photo opportunities with all the simultaneous demonstrations going on throughout the day, and I made a lot of very nice photos, I think. This one is from Friday morning - a demonstration done by Trent Bosch. I loved the lighting on the bed of the lathe with these long shavings. These types of curls are obtained while turning green wood (i.e., wet wood that is freshly cut).

The lathe, by the way, is an American Beauty by Robust Tools. Several tool companies (Powermatic, Jet, Robust Tools, Stubby Lathes) sponsor the AAW symposium by providing lathes and tools for the demonstrators and youth turning program. The lathes are available for sale afterwards - usually at a bargain price. If you're looking to buy an excellent lathe, check it out next year at the 2014 AAW symposium (Phoenix, AZ).