Sunday, December 21, 2008

You too, can become a Master Carver

Actually, my carvings I consider okay. There are those who truly are Master Carvers. I am a mere apprentice of these folks, but willing to do my part to help get new carvers started. =)

Way back when, I create a small little page with some carving tips I picked up along the way. When I slapped Atlas Quest together, I felt a more "professional-looking" tutorial was in order, and upgraded it. I included photos, expanded the prose, and added a whole new section for mounting the finished carving.

I've tweaked it a number of times since then. Added Mark's information about how he transfers images. Added Pungent Bob's tutorial about turning a photo into an image that can be carved. Fixed spelling and grammar errors.

Then, several months ago, someone told me that Speedy-Stamp no longer existed. It was renamed to Speedy-Carve. WHAT?! Another tweak was in order.... Updated the glossary, updated the Stampeaz page, and I would need to update the carving tutorial.

I headed out to Michaels to check out this "new" carving kit that's "ideal for letterboxing." They really did change the packaging! Look at that! =) I needed to update some of the photos in my tutorial, starting with the materials.

I went ahead and bought the kit (figured those pesky employees probably didn't want me taking pictures of it right there in their store). Anyhow, it would be nice to have carving tools at my mom's place here in SLO all the time. Then I wouldn't have to carry it from Seattle all the time.

And low and behold--even the directions for how to carve a stamp were updated. That acorn I used as a carving example was no longer there! The horror!

Well, heck, why not? I'd just redo all those pictures of my carving a stamp while I was at it. The existing photos were pretty lousy. Too small, and I squeezed the life out of them with the JPG compression. It needed to be updated.

So I chose to carve the ladybug from the directions. I needed a place for a photo shoot, however. I couldn't find anywhere in my mom's house that had a background I felt was satisfactory, so I started searching around the city for places. The catch is--most businesses really don't seem to like it when people go into their stores taking pictures. Even if it's just my hand carving a stamp. But there is one type of business that is unusually strange allowing me to do weird stuff and never saying boo about it: fast food. I can sit around for hours, and they just ignore me, even when I'm hunched over carving stamps.

I checked out the Carl's Jr, but their tables were white with black spots. Rather ugly. It wouldn't do for a background. The taco bell has these two-tone blues on their tables, and I didn't much care for a distracting multi-colored background. Jack in the Box, however.... A nice, solid, dark red color. Yes, I like that color. That will do for a background. *nodding*

I picked a seat by the window, with the sun low on the horizon making the table positively glow. Perfect.

Now, while the employees at these places will let me sit around for hours carving stamps, there is a catch. They kind of expect me to buy food. Go figure. *shrug* So I ordered a Sourdough Jack combo, filled up with soda, and ate a late lunch. Then I set the tray aside and prepared to carve.

I transferred the image to the carving block. It's not perfect--alas, my precious pencil sharpener is still in Seattle, so I made do with a much duller pencil than I would have preferred. But it'll get the job done.

Then I carved the stamp. It's kind of hard to take a picture with your left hand (I'm right-handed) while carving with your right hand at the same time. Actually, the pictures of my hand--I'm not even carving in those pictures. I'd stop carving, get the camera where I wanted it, pick up the carving tool and move it into a position that kind of looked like I was carving, and take the photo. Then I'd put down the camera, carve a bit more, and repeat.

I have little doubt the other customers and employees in the store thought I was crazy. =)

All-in-all, I really liked the results. The pictures are much bigger than before, and look a lot better. I went back home and started putting all the pictures together into a coherent tutorial. I updated the text, laid out the main steps in a table, and got something almost entirely new slapped together.

Since I was making all these changes anyhow, I figured I'd update the carving tutorial's navigation system. Before, you could only change from one page in the tutorial to another from links at the bottom of the page. I wanted links available at the top of the pages too.

Then I got to thinking.... Maybe I should try carving another stamp? Why limit the example to just one stamp? Or maybe that leaf would look better for the tutorial?

This time I decided to try the tables at Carl's Jr. I didn't much like the white tables with black spots--seems like they did that deliberately to hide dirt on their tables--but I'll give it a try. So the next day, off to Carl's Jr. I went, where I proceeded to carve the leaf.

The photos turned out, but I can't say I liked them much. As I expected, I hated the background. And the leaf seemed almost too easy to carve. I wanted something at least somewhat more intriguing than the leaf.

The sun design looked intriguing. Perhaps too sophisticated for someone's first carving, but it could be inspiration for people to challenge themselves too. But the background had to go. The back page of this weeks New Times (a free, local weekly paper) had a lot of clouds on the back which seemed like a nice, neutral background to use. Ideally, I'd have liked to go back to the Jack In the Box for their table, but I was itching to carve right then and there, so I figured I'd give the clouds a go.

And then there was sun.

I went back to my mom's house, and added both carvings to the bottom of the transferring and carving pages. No text--just more examples of carving stamps. I'm still half-tempted to take out the leaf since I don't think it really adds anything. It's even easier to carve than the ladybug was, and I hate the background on it. I liked the sun, though. The background still wasn't as nice as the tables at Jack's place, but it was a bit more complex to carve than the simple ladybug.

But what I wanted was a much more intricate carving. Something new carvers could really strive for, and I looked at the instructions that came with the kit again--and noticed that they had these wonderful line drawings explaining how to carve a stamp. They weren't meant to carve like the other images, but they were still perfect for tracing being bold, line drawings. I'd carve one of those!

The next day, I headed back to the Jack In the Box, ordered another Sourdough Jack combo meal (the things I do for you folks!), and carved another stamp--far more intricate than the previous stamps I had carved for the tutorial. I rather liked the final result--can't say I've ever seen anyone ever carve a stamp of someone putting a nib on a carving handle!

The tiny images I used for the leaf and sun wouldn't do for such an intricate image, so I made these a bit larger, and even added a small bit of commentary.

I still want to tweak the tutorials a bit more, but most of my letterboxing supplies are still up in Seattle so additional tweaks will have to wait. I want to use something other than black ink for stamping the ladybug and sun, but all I have with me is green and black. (Green = signature stamp, black = goes with everything!) And I also want to get a picture of the last stamp after coloring it with colored pencils. Throw a bit of color into the stamp, and a nice segway into the Art of Stamping tutorial. Details! Details!

Anyhow, the "minor" update of the tutorial has turned into quite the project for me! =) I've now carved four stamps for them, which I'm thinking about hiding as a series "How to carve a stamp in four easy steps?"--perhaps making that the basis of a Creating Great Letterboxes tutorial. (I bet most of you didn't even know about that page, did you? It's been there since the day AQ went up, but I've never publicized the link since I felt it needed photos and real-life examples which I never seemed to get around to doing.)

So that's what this last update has been about. =)

Oh, and if you click the column name in search results, the results will be sorted by the information in that column. That's the tweak I did that would have broken lots of things. =) (It looks simple, I know, but that 'little' feature took me the better part of a week to get working!)

Oh, yes, and one other thing.... Last Thanksgiving was a Free Listing Day--you know, the day that everyone can list finds on unlisted boxes. I didn't get to a pay phone to post an announcement until about 3:00 that afternoon, however, at which point I figured it was too late. I had hoped to post an announcement the previous day, but a pay phone did not make itself available to me. So I never bothered to make an announcement, and I suspect nobody even realized that anyone and everyone was able to record unlisted finds that day.

So I'm rescheduling it for Christmas Day. Merry Christmas! =)


Anonymous said...

Great Job Ryan!! The tutorial looks marvelous!!!

And you do carve very well!

Goofy girl

Anonymous said...

Great carves! I like the tutorial page. I knew about that non-publiized link. I have spies to Ryan, That's how I get all my precious info I tell a few people. Anyways, great stamps and I like your idea for having them as a box.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that tutorial is as secret as you think it is... I had read it, along with every other tutorial on both AQ and LBNA, before I ever went after my first box...I wanted to make sure I did things right.


Anonymous said...

The changes, as always, look great!

Teresa said...

Nicely done. Some day I'd like to see a video of the knife carving method, because I just don't 'get' how to do that.

Matt & Becki Hart said...

You wrote; "It's kind of hard to take a picture with your left hand (I'm right-handed) while carving with your right hand at the same time."

I worked at McD's for 6.5 years, let me just say those fast food employees would have been more than happy to take the pictures for you (esp. during a slow time).

Hart x6