Sunday, January 31, 2010

A really good day

This morning a power crew truck came into the yard and I asked them if that meant we were close to getting power back. They said they were hoping to have us back on today, but couldn't make any promises. It was cold and windy and miserable out. Those guys sure do earn their money. Since we still didn't have power at noon, I gathered up all the empty gas cans to take then in to fill up again.

Before I left I made a call to Jan Schoonover. I haven't talked to him since early last summer. In Sheridan last year, he called me over to his booth because he wanted to talk to me about something. He told me that he wasn't getting any younger and had been having some health problems. He said that while he still could, he'd like to show someone how he created his grizzly bear that is embossed 6 inches off the leather and he'd like it to be me that he shows. WOW! I love that piece and I'd love to know how he did it. Well, it didn't work out for us to get together any time last year. Last week my boss told me that he was going to take a vacation in March for 8-10 days. Right away I thought I needed to call Jan and see if that would work out for him. When I called him today he said "I've been trying to call you all week". Our phones were out for almost as long as the power was. When I asked what he was calling about, he said " we're moved into our new house now and Alice is recovering from her surgeries and I thought maybe we could get together in March to do that bear". It's kind of amazing how all these things are coming together. I am pretty excited. I really want to do this and now it looks like it is going to happen!

After talking to Jan I went into town and filled up the gas cans. Stacy decided we should go someplace to get something good to eat. We ended up going to Applebees and having a good steak. After that we headed for home. First thing I do when I got home is go to start the generator to get some heat in the house. Right away I see a red light shining in the meter on the pole. I haven't seen that in a while so I flipped up the switch and the yard light came on. We have power again!!!! Things are looking up around here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

9 Days and still counting

Well, we've passed 9 days now without power in January and we're surviving. We did get phone service back today. The oil wells are pumping a half mile east of us, so they are getting some of the power back on, but they are on different sub station than we are. I heard that the sub station that our power comes from was one that was having the biggest problems so it could still be awhile till we get ours back. We turn on the generator in the morning and in the evening for a few hours to warm up the house. It's been getting down to zero or a few degrees below zero at night so heat is a good thing. We can also get water to take showers, and to water the cows. We've gotten used to cooking on a camp stove or the grill. We use kerosene lanterns, candles and flashlights to find our way around in the dark. The generator wont run everything all at the same time, but it's sure made a difference.

I had a flat tire on my tractor on Thursday while pushing snow, got that fixed and back on today. Was pushing more snow today and the grapple fork fell off the tractor. Got that fixed without too much trouble. It's been an interesting couple of weeks for sure! Maybe tomorrow I can work on some leather for an hour or two. I'm close to finishing up the carving on the mountain lion picture. Kate Dubiel has accepted my offer to let her do the coloring on it. I know what ever she does to it will be great! I've still got the tiny pattern from Silva to finish, and a couple other projects in the planning stages. That's it for now, we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We're back onboard

Today was a good day. We spent last night in town in a motel. This morning I went into Dickinson and had a cord made up that will connect my welder/generator to the power pole. Got some groceries and some other supplies. I wasn't sure if I'd get back into the yard since it blew all night long, but the biggest drift was only about 3 feet deep and I plowed through it. Once home, I got the generator hooked up to the pole and got some heat going in the house and got the water pumping again. It's now close to 60 in here and it feels pretty good! We lost some food in one of the freezers, but the big ones are still good. Got the rest of the snow cleaned off the road and out of the yard so we're good to go for awhile!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Abondoning ship!

This morning we woke up to 10 foot deep snow drifts on the road leaving the yard. It was down to 40 degrees in the house. They are predicting temps below zero later this week and the wind is still blowing 40 mph. We decided to head into town for a shower and a warm place to sleep. It took quite a while to dig out of the yard with the tractor. The rest of the roads weren't too bad but the visibility was not good. Jake ended up in the ditch trying to avoid a huge drift and ran a tire off the rim of his car. But we're in a motel for the night. Tomorrow I'll try and get what I need to hook up my welder/generator up to the power pole so we can get some heat into the house and maybe even some water. Thanks everyone for the well wishes and prayers!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January in ND

This past week started out with fog, fog and more fog. It was really pretty as the frost stuck to everything. The trees had frost hanging off of them several inches long. But frost on power lines isn't so pretty. By Wednesday when I left for work, the lines we coated with frost and ice about 2 inches thick. The lines were starting to sag a LOT. Some looked like they were just 10 feet off the ground. One of the lines in our corral broke as did some other lines and the power to the house was off for about 6 hours. They got it back on but said the didn't know how long it would last. It lasted until about 6 pm on Thursday. Then lines and poles were snapping all over ND. We have been out of power ever since. No heat, lights, water. The phones went out on Friday around noon. On Saturday afternoon I brought my welder over to the house. With it's generator, we can run a little electricity, keep the freezers cold, and even watch a couple hours of TV. It's been staying between 45-50 degrees in the house which is bearable but the temps are supposed to drop a bunch the next couple days to below 0 at night. Not sure if we'll be able to stay here if that happens. They say it could take a week to 10 days to get power back up and running to everyone. That was before the storm finally hit last night. Today we got several inches new snow and winds around 40 mph. There are 4 foot or deeper snow drifts where we go out of the yard, and I don't know what the roads are like. I guess I'll find out tomorrow when the wind is supposed to quiet down. It could be a really interesting week!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

I received an email this week from Troyd Geist, Folklorist for the North Dakota Council for the Arts. It's time once again to get in applications for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. This program provides grants to people interested in learning what are considered "traditional arts". Here in ND these include Dakotah storytelling, Vietnamese embroidery, Czech Easter egg decorating, Armenian copper bas relief work, blacksmithing, saddle construction, German-Russian willow basketry, Hidatsa quillwork, Sudanese music, Norwegian Hardanger embroidery, etc. Grants from this program provide up to $2500, part for materials for the apprentice and part goes to the master who is passing on his knowledge.

I've participated in this program twice in the past as an apprentice saddle maker with Rex Cook from Dickinson as the master. You can see pictures of how we made the first saddle here

and the second saddle here.

This year I am thinking about applying for the program to teach my son how to build a saddle.
Several states have similar programs like this one. Check them out by doing a search for Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program or your state's council for the arts.

Teeny Tiny Tools from George Gross

I was talking to Kathy Flanagan one day about the tiny carving pattern that I got from Silva Fox and Kathy said maybe I needed the tiny tools that George Gross makes. I had not heard of these tools before so I had to find out about them. Kathy said that Ira Cooper of QED usually had them in his booth in Sheridan. That's funny, I usually stop by Ira's booth, but I don't remember seeing them there. Kathy said it's because they are that tiny! Well, I got a hold of Ira through Facebook and he sent me a link to a website that about George's tools, Cow Creaser The tools George makes are tiny modeling tools for the detailed kind of carving that he does. You can see some of the work George does on the website. Ira told me that George has been making 4 sizes of modeling tools but he is thinking of going to just one size. Now for the tough part, what size do I need. Ira helped me out there too. He said he could send me all 4 and I could keep the ones I wanted and send the others back. I knew right away that once I had all four sizes in my hand I wouldn't want to send them back and Ira admitted that was his devious little plan. I received these tools earlier this week in the mail and I haven't had a chance to play with them much but I am looking forward to it. As soon as I get the mountain lion done, I want to get back to work on the tiny horses and I think these are going to really help with that project. The sizes of these tools are 3/32 (small) .066 (smaller) .039 (teeny tiny) and .024 (microscopic).

Last week I was going through some old leather craft magazines and I happened across a couple articles by George Gross. They were in the March/April and the May/June 1992 issues of the Leather Crafters Journal. There is also an article in there where George tells you how he makes his tiny modeling tools if you are into doing it yourself. If you would rather just buy them ready made like I did they have their contact info at the bottom of the Cow Creaser website.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I finished up the majority of the hair last night. Still got some more to do on the legs the neck. Here's what it looks like now. I took the first picture last night right on my bench like I normally do. I took another this morning with the picture in the light booth Stacy got me for Christmas. I never realized that it would make that much of a difference.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Back to the ear

The ear on the right side of the lion's face is what's going to give this picture real 3 dimension. It's going to be the part that sticks out the farthest from the background. By having it stick out this far, it will help make the lion's head look like it is turned. So, at this point, I took the scalpel and sliced the ear loose all the way back to where it would be attached to the head.

As you can see here, it's cut through the leather and into the putty below. This scar will be filled in with a thin layer of putty. The back of the ear will also be shaped with putty.

To get the putty to stick to the ear, I first coat the leather with rubber cement.

Putty is applied to the back of the ear to give it shape, and to get it to stand up. Putty is also used to cover the scar in the leather where the ear was cut loose. Then when the putty has dried for awhile, the hairing knife is used to put texture over the putty helping to hide the scar.

Then a little water is added to the front side of the ear so that it softens up a little and I can shape it.

And here is how the ear looks now.

Hairing around the eye

Now I've moved on to the hair around the eye. Under the eye, I started by "picking" with the hair knife like I did on the nose. Then after a few rows of the really short hair, I started to cut in slightly longer hair.

This hair is then sliced underneath and separated in the same way we did the longer hair inside the ear, but on a smaller scale.

I take a scalpel or a modeling tool with the end sharpened up to slice under the top eye lid.
To do the eye lash, I cut a piece of light cardboard (business card etc.) and tuck it into the cut line of the eyelash. This will keep me from accidentally making a cut on the eye ball. A cut there is almost impossible to smooth out or cover up.

With the cardboard in place, use the scalpel to cut in individual eye lashes. These cuts need to be really close together to make them look realistic.

Next I'll continue on with the hair above the eye, being careful to watch the direction of the hair and the length.

More work on the lion

I decided that I wanted a little more stretch on the jaw of the lion so I wetted that area on the front of the leather, then used a large marble to push this area up from the backside. You can see that the putty while dry, is still flexible enough to allow you to form and shape it. The cavity is once again filled with the putty mixture.

Ok, now I'm ready to start the hairing. I started right above the nose putting in really short hairs with the multi blade hairing knife. The short hair is made by stabbing the tips of the blades into the leather and pulling up.

Then I moved over to the ear. The long hairs inside the ear are made by making long cuts with the hairing knife.

Then the scalpel is used to slice carefully under the cuts we just made with the hairing knife. This will allow the hair to be lifted up.

Then, again using the scalpel, slice between each individual hair. This will allow them to really stand up and be shaped.

Here you can see how the leather takes the shape of individual hairs.

Tooling the grass (background on the lion)

One of the things that I really like about Robb's video lessons is that he has already done all the "thinking". I spent a couple days working on the grass, on and off. It was mostly a lot of beveling and backgrounding, kind of boring. The challenging part was to make sure that where grass blades crossed over each other, they came out on the other side and didn't end abruptly or just disappear. I had to go over some of it several times to get some depth. I'm still not finished with that part, I'll do some more cleaning up later and add some modeling to the individual grass blades. What I wanted to do was be able to see where the blades going to end up in front of the lion because I wanted to cut some of the tips loose in this area. Then when I got to the hairing, I could put hair texture on the areas where the grass had been cut loose.

I've used a couple different backgound textures. A simple checkered texture between the blades of grass, and a different texture around the outside area of the picture. I am thinking this will help when it comes to the coloring portion of the picture. Now I'm ready to move on to the fun part, cutting the hair.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mountain lion progress

I had a pretty good day yesterday with the mountain lion despite a cold that's knocking me on my butt. This piece of leather is working great and the leather putty is doing exactly what it's supposed to do so I'm getting a lot of depth and definition. It's fun when things go like they are supposed to. I was tempted to start the hairing, but I think I can do a lot more shaping with this one and I want to take my time and get as much detail into it as I can. I could have probably finished that part but I took off a few hours in the afternoon to push snow again. The wind picked up pretty good yesterday and it wont take much blowing snow to get us blocked in here again so I'm trying to get the snow pushed back off the road as far as I can. A couple more hours in the tractor today and it should be ready for the next round.

Well, here's a few pictures of what I accomplished yesterday.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Back to something I'm comfortable with

Because of Christmas, and the weather the last couple weeks, I haven't been working. Usually that means I get to spend some time carving leather. But thanks to the snow storm on Christmas eve, I got to spend the next couple days pushing snow trying to open up our road, and then several days after that repairing the loader on my tractor. Add to that playing the Maytag repairman with our dryer, and before that replacing the pressure tank in our water well. Seems like when ever I start working on any repair job it's never just something simple. I'm always missing one more bolt or tool or I didn't realize the pulley on the dryer was out along with the belt. Nothing is ever simple!!!

Today I decided to take a break and carve some leather. I still haven't finished the tiny picture Silva challenged me too but I will get back to it one of these days. I know that trying things that are "out of our comfort zone" cause us to learn and grow. But today I just wanted to do something that I was more comfortable with. I have a book of patterns from Robb Barr that I've always wanted to do something out of, so I picked 2 patterns in the book and traced them. The one I have started on first is a really neat mountain lion that Jake really liked. Since it's one of Robb's patterns, it just begs to be embossed. So far I've gotten it traced to the leather, cut, beveled, embossed and filled with putty. It's hanging up to dry overnight.

Here's a few pictures of my progress so far.