Thursday, April 25, 2013

Decayed lotus leaf

This carving was created from the base of an elk antler.  You'll see how some of the original roughness around the circumference was retained; in other places it was duplicated by carved work.  The tiny lotus blossom petal is carved from pink pearl shell, and pegged into place.  This netsuke measures 4cm across.
Antler is a wonderfully suggestive material; I have several projects on the workbench right now that exploit its various qualities. With this piece, the spongy core, and rough edge suggested exploring the symbolism of the lotus.


I've got a number of finished piece that have been awaiting photography, but I had a technical hitch with my camera and finally got that resolved this week.  Just in time too!  I'm going to be having a very busy month or two coming up.  First off- my local town of Bloomington, Indiana is hosting an Open Studios event with something like 40 artists participating.  I'm sharing an exhibit space with six others at a local venue.  Everything you need to know about the event this coming weekend can be found here: Bloomington Open Studios Tour.  After that, I'm off to London for a week for the International Netsuke Society Convention to meet up with old friends and new, attend some lectures, and hopefully sell some artwork. Finally- in June I'll be in Japan for a couple of weeks touring with my wife, seeing friends, and getting some artistic inspiration.

So, here's the first of a couple of new items.  It's carved from warthog tusk, with inlaid accents in mother of pearl.  It measures about 9cm in length.

The work fits in nicely with an on-going look into flower blooms for subject matter, as well as exploring the carving possibilities of a new material.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Beans ojime

I spent time this summer getting frustrated over several complex carvings that didn't work out well and have either been set aside, or thrown in the scrap pile.  To break through the block, yet keep my hands busy, I completed a couple of simpler carvings.  Here is one- an ojime of three beans.  My wife Emily asked one day what I was carving and I told her "three beans" and then showed her the model I made of three actual black beans superglued together.  She then asked why I didn't just offer the three glued beans as art and skip the carving.

Of note, my beans are about 120% the size of the model.  A half inch or so.  They are carved from a piece of scrap repurposed ivory I had- the grain is fairly coarse, but I think it lends a nice visual texture- after dyeing and polishing.

Bamboo and frog

Carved from marine ivory, this small carving measures no more than about 1 1/8" or 3cm in any dimension.  The raw material was 'D' shaped in cross section, so after a period of brainstorming about what I could fit into such a confinement, it hit me that a short section of bamboo, exposed on the backside to reveal a scene within might be just the thing.

I like the idea of combining two scales of scene, or narration.  The sprouting leaf on the front  curls around and carries the viewer to another scene on the reverse, with a tiny frog perched on another leaf.  His eyes are inlaid in horn, backed with gold to provide some sparkle when turned in the light. The little guy is maybe 1/4" in length.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Local Attractions

No, the Prez isn't coming to town although he was here campaigning in 2008 at the World Famous Little 500 bicycle race. And I did shake his hand.... BUT-
This weekend the town I call home, Bloomington, Indiana is hosting an Open Studios Tour to showcase local artists.  It's the first occasion of what we hope will be an annual event. Rather than welcome people in my home to have them stroll into the small spare bedroom that is my studio, I'll be showing and selling work at a third party location. Textillery Weavers has given about eight of us room within their facility to display sculpture, prints and paintings. Several, including myself, will be demonstrating and creating work on the spot. If you're in the area, please stop by.  I'll be showing recent netsuke and some from several years past, as well as a small selection of other carved pieces.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I've had the idea for this carving in mind for a couple of years, but only recently acquired the right piece of material: to carve a cicada using the natural rind of antler to suggest the texture of the wings and offer tactile contrast with the rest of the piece.
I've worked a lot with white-tail deer and caribou antler, but this is the first one in sambar stag, which I think originates in southeast Asia, and is farmed for its antler.  One of the beautiful things about this material is how you get three textures in one (rind, solid part, and spongey core) which can be utilized for greater artistic expression by way of suggestion and interpretation.
In length it measures 1 3/4" or 4.5 cm.  To my knowledge it is the first netsuke of a cicada utilizing antler in this manner.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chrysanthemum blooms

This grouping of five chrysanthemum blooms is carved in boxwood that has been colored. It measures 1 1/2" at the widest point. The idea for this piece came from a finial to a silver incense burner from the late Edo/Meiji period in Japan.

For my netsuke, I tightened up the group to better serve the requirements of the craft.