Monday, October 31, 2005

Trip to Canberra and animals

I left Sydney this morning with Les Fortescue to come to Canberra. It's about a 3 hour drive over to Canberra. We made one stop to look at Lake George, an ephemeral lake that fills up every 7 years or so. At the rest stop we saw an Echidna, a marsupial spiny ant eater that is an egg laying mammal. On the way to Les' house, we stopped roadside to see a mob of Kangaroos at a nature reserve that runs up to his house. A group of Kangaroos is called a mob - not a herd or flock or some other term.

After I finished my work at the herbarium, Les took me up to the Black Mountain Tower so I could get an overview of Canberra. The view from the tower is incredible, and Canberra is a beautiful place. Lots of trees and an architectural aesthetic that works with the landscape.

Here are some pictures from the touristy things today:

Trevern and Anna Dawes at their house. I took their picture before I left this morning. They were kind enough to host me this past week and change.

An echidna grubbing for ants. (I had originally used the word "rooting" instead of "grubbing," but just found out that this term means something entirely different in Australia than in the USA. 3.11.05)

Les Fortescue trying to photograph the echidna after it went into a bush.

A mob of kangaroos.

A wallaby at the Black Mountain Tower.

The Black Mountain Tower. We went up onto the top deck to look around.

Views of Canberra from the tower.

A windswept me on the top deck of Black Mountain Tower.

The parliament building.

CSIRO National Herbarium

I made it to Canberra around noontime and then made my way over to CSIRO and the National Herbarium. The seminar I had planned was scrapped because of the late start from Sydney (car troubles for my Canberra host), but I was able to use the collection to look at Euphrasia specimens. I also had a nice visit with Randy Bayer and some of the postdocs and students at the herbarium.

Here are some pics from the herbariium visit:

This is the national herbarium at CSIRO in Canberra.

The "Scroph" section where I spent the afternoon.

I looked at a lot of Euphrasia specimens.

Randy Bayer on the left and Marlene and Matthew Unwin.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blue Mountains International Woodturning Symposium

I just returned from the symposium, and I'm pretty tired from the weekend. I'll post just a few pictures with this short report.

There was a nice mix of international and Australian turners demonstrating at this symposium. The line up included Alain Mailland, myself, Graeme Priddle, Mike Lee, Gary Sanders, Stephen Hughes, Gordon Ward, and Vaughn Richmond in addition to a host of local turners (Ernie Newman, Anna Dawes, Theo H., Terry Baker, Glenn Rodgers, etc.).

My rotations included carving, texturing, and scorching; pyrography; and coloring techniques. I also did the instant gallery critique with Stephen Hughes. We were able to talk about every single piece in the instant gallery, which was really an unusual situation. That was quite a lot to cover, but we managed to do it all in 90 minutes time.

The setting for the symposium was an elementary school, and we basically took over the classrooms. I hope the teachers don't find shavings and dust all over their desks when they return tomorrow morning. I was wondering how everyone would manage to sit through a 90 minute demo in chairs a few sizes too small, but we seemed to get along alright.

Here are some pics from the weekend:

My demonstration room, which is setup for a coloring techniques demo.

Graeme Priddle demonstrating.

Stephen Hughes demonstrating.

Here are some photos that Anna Dawes took:

We had dinner at Rhys Jones' place. He was in charge of the logistics for setup at the symposium. After dinner I got out my fiddle to play some Irish tunes with Andy Schmidt (on bodhran), Theo H. (on guitar), and Alain Mailland on the African drum. Alain seemed to enjoy himself. Everyone once-in-awhile he would get up to dance and clap and whoop it up to the music. Rhys is in the background taking photos of this musical invasion of his home.

This is a picture of me at work during the symposium. I'm doing my carving, texturing and scorching demonstration.

And this is how I spent a lot of my free time this past week. Anna's house is on WiFi so I could work on my blog from my laptop.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blue Mountains excursion

Today's adventure was a field trip to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. We met up with some other turners at Dick Turner's house. Dick is a retired forester who offered to take me botanizing so I could get an introduction to the flora of Australia. We had three car loads of people along. I rode with Dick Turner, Gordon Ward and Robert Jones. Gordon also has a forestry background, so our car was the "botanist" car.

We went to Mt. Wilson to look at the rainforest biome and on the way we were able to look at a dryland forest. The difference in these vegetation zones has to do with the soil substrate. As you go up in elevation you change from sandstone to basalt rock. The rainforest is restricted to the basalt substrate.

The sandstone outcrops remind me of Table Mountain Sandstone group in South Africa. It's wonderful climbing rock, and I enjoyed scrambling around on the outcrops. I would have enjoyed spending a few hours climbing and exploring the flora, but that wasn't a good plan for the day. Guess I'll have to plan on coming back sometime while I'm still able to climb.

Here are some pictures from the day:

This is from our first stop. The Blue Mountains aren't particularly high in elevation (about 1000 meters or so), but they are typical erosion mountains and the valleys are spectacular. The forest in the background is dryland eucalyptus forest with mesic forest around the streams. I went out to the edge to look down.

Silky oak is in the Protea family, and it's one of the woods that many turners are allergic to. It's a lovely tree, but I think I'll avoid it as a turning wood.

This is the state flower of New South Wales. The aboriginal name is Waratah. It's another kind of protea, and it's very beautiful.

That's me with the waratah.

We walked around in the rain forest at Mount Wilson. I've never seen so many species of tree ferns in one place. This one was about 35 feet tall. We also saw a large variety of eucalyptus trees, banksia shrubs, acacia trees, ferns, legumes, orchids, and a lot of other plants. It was pretty cool.

These are some of the people on today's excursion. L to R: Dick Turner, Ernie Newman, Robert Jones, Gary Sanders, Gordon Ward, and Theo.

Same crew, except Theo took the picture. We're sitting on a "brown barrel" eucalyptus that has fallen across a stream.

This is an overlook of one of the erosion valleys. Notice the erosion patterns in the sandstone? There were a lot of interesting swirls and eddy erosion features in this rock.

This is a view of bridal veil falls at Govett's Leap in the Blue Mountains National Park. The falls are at the bottom of the "U" valley.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Today I rode the rivercat (a catamaran ferry) into Sydney from Rydalmere. I went to the Royal Botanic Garden to use the herbarium collection and to give a research talk in the afternoon. I spent most of the day looking at herbarium specimens of Euphrasia, a parasitic plant that is pretty diverse in Australia. I wouldn’t mind working on this group if the opportunity arises.

Here are some pictures of the day.

The rivercat arriving at Rydalmere.

Revision of previous harbor bridge picture. Today was sunny and hot! If you look closely at the larger picture you can see people standing on the very top of the bridge and then about halfway down the right side of the arch. You can pay a fee to go up there.

Ditto for the opera house.

And the skyline.

A scene of the botanic garden near the rose garden.

A nice scene in the garden looking toward the harbor.

A plant in the legume family.

Another cool looking plant. The plants weren't labeled very well - sorry.

Entrance to the research center.

The "Scrophs" section of the herbarium (Scrophulariaceae, Orobanchaceae, Plantanginaceae - only they hadn't updated to reflect the current taxonomy). This is a different sort of shelving compared to most herbaria. The sheets are stored in plastic boxes racked in shelves.

An example of what I was looking at today. I wanted to get a "feel" for Euphrasia to see if I might be interested in pursuing some work on them. They do seem pretty interesting from what I saw today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Collaboration 2005

I spent the past weekend in Newcastle, Australia for the Collaboration 2005 conference. Put together 30 artists from different media and countries and you end up with an interesting mix of projects and great fun. I learned so much from talking to sculptors, carvers, furniture makers, and painters! I'll have ideas buzzing around my brain for months to come.

Anna, Alain, and I arrived midafternoon on Friday. That gave us enough time to unpack our gear and get started before the arrival of the rest of the group. I made a small pollen grain bowl to put into the "lucky dip" drawing, which is where everyone makes a small item that can be exchanged as a lottery drawing. I drew out an offcenter spin top made by Theo.

After everyone arrived to the workshop on Friday we had dinner and a slide show and got acquainted for a bit. Then it was off to our campsite to settle in for the weekend.

We stayed at a scout camp at Glenrock Reserve. It was situated on a lagoon about 1/2 mile from the ocean. This is a view of the ocean from the campground. The ships out there wait for spot in the harbor to open, and there are usually a dozen or so big ships waiting for their turn at the docks.

This is the view from the beach looking back toward the camp.

We ate breakfasts and one dinner at the camp. We also gathered in the dining room in the evenings for some social time.

I was pretty jet lagged the whole weekend, but felt awake enough on Saturday night to join a group for a beach party. That was the only place we could go for a beer since alcohol was forbidden in camp and we were a long way from any pub. I brought along my fiddle and agreed to play only if we could do a swap of songs or stories for every tune I played. Graeme Priddle and Stephen Hughes got a fire going, and then we were on our way.

After my first tune, Stephen took up the challenge and told a joke that had to be acted out. Ernie Newman went along and was talked into doing some silly things. Most of the other jokes were not PC and unrepeatable in polite company, but there were a couple of good ones in there, too. A couple of the fellows played percussion along with my fiddle playing. It was fun, but I was ready to turn in before the party broke up. I made my way back to camp by flashlight and picked up a ground leech along the way. That wasn't too thrilling, nor were the giant cockroaches, but the rest of the fauna weren't hard to get along with. The birds made a huge raucous each morning, but most of the songs were pleasant to listen to.

I worked on Saturday morning with Alain Mailland to learn how to use his tools for making the forms for his elaborate carvings. I wanted to try carving in 3D rather than across a single surface. It took me three tries to get the basic form. The first piece of wood I had on the lathe had an internal check that I didn't see until I had finished the outside profile. The second piece of wood was way too soft. The third one worked ok. This is what the form looked like before I started carving.

Here I've cut away the scrap to make the basic shape.

Silvio is helping me learn to use a carving knife to refine the shape.

Alain is teaching me sanding tricks.

Here's what it looked like after I finished the carving and Annette Barlow did the painting.

And here's the collaborative walking stick that Anna Dawes and I contributed to a group project.

We used a hobby club workshop as the setting for the collaboration work. The shop was well equipped with many lathes and all the power tools needed for woodworking.

Everyone brought their own gear and it was interesting to see the different tools used for different projects.

the large room was set up for painting, pyrography, assembly, and thinking. It was pretty busy all weekend as was the shop and the outside yard, where most of the really noisy things took place (power carvers, air compressors, routers, etc.). I lived in ear plugs and a dust mask all weekend.

The Scobies and Annette Barlow brought a large assortment of paints and they were busy all weekend helping to decorate the various projects.

Lunches were provided on site and it made for a good break time to regroup, visit, and plan the next stage of a project.

Here are a few of the proejcts that were made through the weekend:

Graeme Priddle organized a project where most everyone made a walking stick. Mike Lee turned the collar and I decorated it in a maple leaf motif.

This stool had legs made by four different artists. Neil Scobie organized this one. The next two pics are progress shots of the legs being made:

The next two pics are ones I took during a walk on the beach on Monday morning. You can see a coal seam running along the rock face of the coast and the old railway line where coal would have been transported together with a decaying wagon. This area is a national park, so the remnants will stay in place until they decay away.

And, finally, here's a group photo of most of the participants of this weekend's collaboration.

Front row (L to R): Robert Vaughn, Andi Wolfe, Alain Mailland, Ernie Newman, Annette Barlow, Robert Frye, Andrew Wood, Mike Lee.
Second row (L to R): Andrew Potocnik, Liz Scobie, Anna Dawes, Anna Scobie, Gordon Ward, Vaughn Richmond, Theo, Robert, ??, Ruth Thompson, Les Fortescue.
Third row (L to R): Stephen Hughes, Terry Scott, Aris, John, Glenn Roberts, Silvio, Greg, Graeme Priddle, Gary Saunders, Neil Scobie, Andy Schmidt.

I hope I got the names right. Did you notice there were two Andrews, an Andy, and an Andi? That made for some confusion as did the two Anna's. This was a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad I was invited to participate. Now, if I could just catch up to this time zone, which is 14 hours ahead of my home one, I'd be in great shape for the rest of the trip.