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"Call me March," said the Lion.

Here at AlChemy Ranch, March roared right in. It's been blustery, cloudy, and cold. But, I look out the window of my studio space and I can see a a wild cherry tree with so many blooms it looks like a bowl of popcorn. And it smells heavenly. So go ahead, March...do your thing because I know Spring is right around the corner.


Speaking of the studio, I have been painting in oils but am going to put a pause on that until it gets warm enough for me to paint with the windows open. It will be healthier that way. I did, however, finish a commissioned piece as well as a pet portrait for a dear friend whose fur baby crossed the rainbow bridge. It is always an honor as well as a humbling experience for me to be able to do that for a grieving pet owner. The love is so strong.


I have also been going through and photographing my available artwork. Rather than posting my original artwork for sale in our store, we decided I should have a portfolio website so I could also use it to "court" some art galleries. When done, we will link the website to this one. In the meantime, here's a short video of some of my paintings...



And now I will get back to creating. Here's Mr. AL:


How long? It is really long. You might want to fill up a cup of joe!


Whenever my woodcarving comes up, people often ask me the same question. "How long does it take to complete a carving?" The short answer is: "I honestly don't have a clue." I can, in very general terms, perhaps give you a rough estimate.


And here's why. In the process of carving, everything else vanishes. There is no time; there are no clocks. I may be interrupted by 'it's time to sharpen,' but an entire day can go by in a flash, leaving me to wonder how.


When working with wood, I rely on the wood itself to indicate when a carving is done, although technically, I could

continue indefinitely.


After the 'how long?' question has been answered, the following comment is usually, "That must take incredible patience." I respond, "No, real patience is required by those who watch me carve. It must be like watching grass grow or paint dry." (Bryn, here, interrupting...it is not like that at all...it is fascinating to watch the process...that is why I make the Instagram Progress Report reels.) (FYI: Bryn maybe just a tad biased, but no argument here!)


One aspect of my woodworking may seem unusual to some people. I like to experiment with different varieties of wood, which can be puzzling to some. Isn't it conceivable to choose your favorite carving wood and stick with it? However, by trying different types of wood, you can discover new nuances and textures in each.


Interestingly, in my homeland of Minnesota, a "Land-O-Lakes" butter carving contest is held every year at the state fair. I wonder if butter has a unique grain that could be carved in different ways, similar to basswood, which is often suggested as a beginner's choice. In refrigerated, glassed rooms, you can watch people compete. However, I can't imagine having a butter carving as a final result in my living room!



The challenge lies in discovering and learning how each characteristic of a particular wood dictates the sharpness of the carving edge, the direction of the grain, and the amount of wood that can be removed in a single stroke. It's fascinating how some woods hold detail exceptionally well and finish beautifully. One important rule to always remember is to

carve downhill!


Finding myself in the heart of the wine country in California and wanting to find a way to use my love of woodcarving to provide an income, I began to consider the concept of carving wine barrel heads, soliciting mainly to established wineries with their logo on them. The first hurdle was carving oak wood, which is not one of the preferred carving woods. It's brittle, subject to splitting right where it shouldn't, and a pain!


Learning the intricacies of oak was the initial challenge. One could say I suceeded after hand carving over forty wine barrel heads, located in six different countries. But the technical revolution caught up with me and computer controlled routing machines, and laser engraving eventually could produce wood reproductions at a far less cost than hand carving. And wineries, being buisnesses, had a hard time justifying the desparingly different price. I completely understand from a

business standpoint.


While technology has come a long way, there's still something special about the touch of a hand that can't be replicated by machines. There is a level of empathy and intuition that comes from the heart. Machines and technology don't have a heart, at least not yet.


Last week, AL and I drove a couple of hours south to Hamilton Lee Supply to shop for wood. AL has a couple of projects lined up and he needed to hand-pick the wood. I learned so much by listening to AL and Brad talking about their love of wood and the beauty of different grains. Made me understand just a little more and to appreciate the history of those working with wood. Quite the field trip, and, yes...Mr. AL came home with more than enough wood for his projects!


Have a great month, and look for those signs of Spring. They are there!



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