Category Archives: Videos/Photos/Slides

The raw power of a horse sculpture

Detail, Horse Sculpture, by Gary Ruckman

Detail, Horse Sculpture, by Gary Ruckman

Last week, I saw Gary Ruckman working on a horse sculpture in the ceramics studio. The dynamism of the piece was the first thing that registered when I looked at it. It’s incredible! My friend is an expert horse sculptor and it’s always a pleasure to see his newest creation, but sometimes a particular one really gets to you, as this one did with me. The rawness of the piece, unfinished, only added to its appeal. I didn’t think to ask, but it appears to be a draft horse, judging by the legs, hair, and hooves.

What did I like about it? The twist of the lowered neck, the implied motion, strong and sure. I also like the way he works with manes and tails and each horse has a specific character that includes horse hair, along with musculature and stance. I’ve watched Gary’s technique morph over the five years I’ve seen him sculpt horses, but he’s been at it much longer than that. Since I’ve known him, he’s also taken a number of sculpture classes, some from artists who also specialize in horses, and he adds this knowledge to his own. I thought you’d like to see what he’s up to and it seemed especially appropriate, since today is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse! Gong Xi Fa Cai! (And while I need to reinsert the gallery, you can read more about Gary by clicking here.)

Full piece; horse sculpture by Gary Ruckman

Full piece; horse sculpture by Gary Ruckman


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Raku workshop this weekend

Horsehair Vase Judge's Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg

Horsehair Vase Judge’s Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg.
“Horsehair Raku Technique: taking out of the kiln at 1350F and putting horsehair on the pot which burns into it. Putting the pot on a tissue will give smoke effects on the pot. The yellowish color is from spraying ferric chloride on the put while it is hot.”
By Swanica via Wikimedia Commons

You know how you feel when something exciting is about to happen? Well, I can barely contain myself! I am taking part in a raku workshop this weekend. It is being taught by Dan Severance, of the Port Moody Arts Centre. A pro with much experience, Dan is also fun to be around. He’s perfected his techniques over the years and I know this all-day workshop will be terrific. We’ll be learning special raku techniques using horse hair and feathers, along with ordinary methods. I’ve worked with raku since the early 1980s but have yet to learn these advanced techniques. It’s perfect timing, as I’m going to start concentrating on raku.


Raku pottery coming out of the kiln. Photo via Wikimedia Commons


A vase glazed and fired using the Western Raku technique, showing the soot, crackle glazing, and random oxidation typical of this pottery form. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 I like the primitive nature of a raku firing…red hot pieces lifted from a kiln and plunged into organic matter. Crackle glazes and smoky blacks. It makes me reflect on the history of raku, on the Japanese and Koreans artisans who have fired pottery this way for centuries. One reason I’m stoked is because, while I’ve used traditional raku glazes on sculptures and vessels, I’ve yet to use the metallic oxides which result in beautiful coloration and patterns. So think of us this weekend. We’ll be working inside a gorgeous two-storey Arts and Crafts-style building, then firing outside alongside it. We’re enjoying a gorgeous fall here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Perfect for a raku firing: sunny yet crisp.

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Arts centre festival celebrates woodcraft for PoMo Centennial

wood fair

DATE: Saturday, July 20th
PLACE: Port Moody Arts Centre, 2425 St Johns Street, Port Moody, BC
TIME: 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
FEATURING: Demos and displays; art exhibition — wood and bark carving, wood turning, toys, boats, papermaking.

When I was a teenager, I had full access to my Dad’s shop in the basement. It was a haven and heaven. The wide orange workbench must have been built in place because it was so massive it wouldn’t have made it down the stairs. A grand workbench, just about any tool you could imagine was on, in, or near it. Dad also taught me how to safely use and care for these tools and implements. He was big on caring for tools. I remember using the table saw for many projects made of wood, but I made things out of other materials, too. I recall a tiny paper box held in a vise and a chair upholstered in aluminum foil. My Dad treated the mahogany siding for my bedroom in that area. I made a wooden mural for my friend Cynthia and a simple piece I still love and have called “Chiclets on a Board.” Between working in clay at high school and with wood and other materials at home, I was fully immersed in true craft. My brother Alan was good with wood, too, and I still have the finely routered jewelry box he gave me. What with the studying of woods and grains in my Interior Decoration class, I think we could have made anything had we put our minds to it.

So, when I heard about the upcoming Wood Fair at the Port Moody Arts Centre, I was thrilled.  A juried show that celebrates wood, it will showcase many fine examples of workmanship. Yesterday, I was on hand when artisans began arriving with their pieces. While there, I saw boat being hung from the ceiling of the main entryway and another brought in. I am astounded at the beauty of these vessels and felt the air snap with excitement and anticipation. A Wood Fair! In addition, a decent-sized airplane made of cedar strips, Kraft paper and paint was fine tuned on the main gallery floor, then hoisted and hung over the reception area. Right before I left, a young woman brought in an exquisite side table she’d designed and built, saying it was made of afrormosia and a local wood.  Along part of the top and one side, she’d inlaid what looked like silver. It is amazing…that’s the only word for it.

So, this coming weekend, come to the WoodFair at the Port Moody Arts Centre and you, too, will be amazed! The City of Port Moody is celebrating its Centennial and wood has always been central to life here. Our working waterfront has only one remaining cedar sawmill but, at one time, many more dotted this crescent-shaped town that hugs the end of the Burrard Inlet. The Wood Fair honors artisans and the heritage of Port Moody.

Wood carving tools

A selection of wood carving gouges and chisels.. By Aerolin55 or GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

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Summertime bird baths

Lichenostomus chrysops -Laguna, New South Wales, Australia -bird bath-8 (1)

Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lichenostomus chrysops) on a bird bath in Laguna, New South Wales, Australia. By Peter Firminger from Wollombi, Australia via Wikimedia Commons

House Sparrows and Mistle Thrushes. By Pauly via Wikimedia Commons

Western Scrub-Jay 8

Western Scrub Jay. By Jessica Merz via Wikimedia Commons

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