Friday, July 24, 2009

NEWR 2009 (NorthEast Woodcarver's Roundup) - DAY 1

Well, we're back from NEWR2009 and had a blast meeting up with our NEWR friends, jamming, carving, and causing mayhem! A great time was had by all. I'll get back to philosophy soon - I promise. But first a trip report.

For those that don't know - a "woodcarver's roundup" is a gathering of folks who enjoy woodcarving lasting 3 or 4 days or so, where volunteer instructors teach workshops in a variety of carving styles. There is usually no charge for any of the instruction though you are expected to purchase your materials (prepared "blanks" or raw wood/bark) for the workshop from the instructors. This helps defray their expenses to come & teach. In addition, many instructors sell intructional books or DVDs and some offer tools or other blanks. Folks either camp or if available rent rooms on the grounds. It is a great way for new carvers to get exposure to a wide range of carving styles, carving techniques, tools, and great folks at a relatively low cost.

The three big round ups in the US that I know of are Evart Michigan (in June), NEWR in Honesdale PA (in July), and one in Florida (don't know timing or location). There are probably others that I am not aware of. NEWR takes place in late July (runs from Sun evening to Thur evening) each year at Cherry Ridge Campgrounds in Honesdale PA. Cherry Ridge offers cabins, rooms in their lodges, or camp sites for those with trailers or tents. This was our 4th year attending. The first two we camped but the second year we got rained out of our tent (this area get's a lot of thunderstorms this time of year) so we had to bug out and commute from home (we live about 90 mins away). So last year and this year we decided to get a room. MUCH nicer!!! (yeah I know - wimp! guilty as charged)

So Theresa and I left home Sunday afternoon about 3:30pm then turned back after realizing we forgot something critical (did this twice). Finally got "on the road" for real about 4:30pm and pulled into Cherry Ridge about 6pm. Checked in to our room and went to the main hall to grab a bite to eat and listen to the instructor's spiels. Each instructor gives a brief introduction to their workshop to help folks decide which they want to sign up for. Then . . . the rush to each instructor's area to sign up for the workshop sessions you're interested in. I planted myself by my buddy Mike Bloomquist's area because he was limiting his Monday NA Flute in bamboo to only 8 and I knew it'd fill up immediately. I was second in line and sure enough it filled up within the first couple minutes. Meanwhile Theresa planted herself over at Maura Macaluso's ( table to sign up for her Carving in the Classical Tradition class for Tuesday since that was our next priority. Then I dashed over to Hall 2 to sign us up for Ed Otto's bark woodspirit class for Wednesday, while Theresa signed us up for Jack Miller's smoothie shorebirds class for Thur. YES!!! We successfully got all our classes. Then it was time to chill and catch up with old friends from NEWR's past before heading back to our room to watch some Pride & Prejudice on a laptop and get some sleep.

Next morning I was off to Mike's NA flute class while Theresa decided to spend the day relaxing and getting caught up on emails & family stuff. I had selected my piece of bamboo the night before when signing up. We were all settled and ready to start at 9am. First part of class was learning about the basic structural elements of a NA Flute and how they work. Then it was on to looking at our bamboo and deciding on layout. Bamboo is a type of grass that grows in sections with blockages of the tube at nodes spaced out along the length of the bamboo. A NA flute consists of two chambers - a "slow air" chamber where you blow in, and a main chamber where the air is forced over a knife edge and into the chamber that varies in length based on how many finger holes are covered. The more holes covered, the longer the tube and the lower the pitch.

Here is a photo of Mike's whiteboard diagram (hope he doesn't mind me posting this).

The air passes from the slow air chamber up through a hole and along a channel under the "bird" where it is then directed onto an edge of a second hole allowing part of the airstream back into the tube. This area is called the fipple and is what produces sound. The difference in air pressure between the outside and inside air streams set up an oscillation of the tube resulting in vibration or sound. In making a bamboo NA style flute there isn't much actual carving except to hollow the air channels for the fipple and carving the bird. I kept mine simple just so I could focus on the actual construction of the flute. We used and online tool the helps calculate the placement of the finger holes given the fundamental pitch of the isntrument with no holes and the overal length from the node between the chambers to the foot of the flute. To create the holes we used a 1/4 in brad point drill bit and then compared each pitch to a tuner. If it was flat we raised the pitch by burning the holes bigger. This was accomplished using a torch to heat larger drill bits held with vise grips. The heated bit was pressed into the hole you want to widen and allowed to burn out the hole. Worked like a charm. Most of the flute came out producing sound but were somewhat weak in volume. So Mike gave us some hints for how to improve them.

I hope to make more in the future.

Here's a pic of Mike and my flute.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Philosophy?? And Carving???

Mark Yundt as some of you know has been very active on the WCI Forum over the last several years. He now has a blog in partnership with Doris Fiebig (in my Blog List) and I highly recommend it. In addition to being a wonderful artist and carver, he is also one of the most interesting and fearless folks I've ever talked to with respect to general philosophy, symbology, meaning, and life principles. Doris too has some excellent writings in their blog on "learning to see".

Mark has encouraged me to take up and run with my stated goals for this blog and has asked - where I will begin? Honestly - I don't know. That question has stumped me. I have stated my interests, I have given some insight into what resonates with me, and I have stated my interest in beginning to think and intuit more deeply about myself, art, carving, the world around me, etc. "Where do I start?" Hmm...I don't know how to answer that other than to pick a "start" and see where it leads.

So - I will partly abdicate that decision, by choosing to start with reading and thinking about some writings of someone whom Mark suggested I read. Paul Brunton was a philosopher who lived between 1898 - 1981 and wrote extensively about what he called "The Overself." You can read more about Paul Brunton in Wikipedia here, and his writing about "inspiration and the overself" here. The writings I am starting with come from "The Notebooks" (The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.) Hopefully - the main focus of this exercise will be on how these writings relate to creativity, artistic expression, and carving.
Mark of course approaches these topics from a solid base of thinking and intuiting (I assume) and as a serious FT Professional artist (woodcarver). I on the other hand approach this as a total amateur and novice woodcarver who has dabbled with artistic expression over the years (music performance, acting, writing, photography) and now as a long term (4 years) novice woodcarver. I am inviting Mark and anyone else who finds this interesting to jump in and participate via the comments and/or links back to your own blog (where you have the ability to post your own photos and can perhaps be more extensive in your posts).

Some ground rules. The challenge is how to explore these ideas with out getting lost and hyperverbose (which I tend to do) and losing your - the reader's / participant's - interest. I am writing this blog partly as a selfish exercise in "journaling" and to spark my own growth and creativity, but I do hope that other will find enough interest in these topics to both follow along and hopefully participate via the comments. I would like this to be an exercise in "dialogue" (in the sense as discussed by Peter Senge in "The Fifth Discipline" - where we hold up ideas for examination and commentary without the need to try to passionately prove to one another other the idea's validity or lack thereof) as opposed to "debate" where the spirit is more one of trying to convince everyone else that I am right and they are wrong. That said folks should feel free to ask pointed questions and challenge each others thinking without feeling like it will be taken as a personal attack.

So with that, my next post will be based on my beginning reading of Paul Brunton's writings as posted here. There is a LOT of material in this, so this could take some time and I (we?) WILL probably stray off into tangents at times. Or maybe we'll peter out on this topic and move on. That's cool. Plus, I may need to get more adept with the blog's tools in order to keep these posts organized, so be patient.

For now - that's all. I'll try to post my first post on this topic by next weekend.