Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blue table

Courtney decided that our apartment needed a bit more colour. She went out and bought some paint. We were going to have a go at drawing a cloudy sky on the ceiling but thought it better to start off with a slighter smaller project. So she took the table out onto our balcony and painted it blue. I dabbed a little paint on it, but Courtney get properly stuck into it. I think she's still pulling blue paint out of her hair. I'm not sure if the paint will ever lose the tacky, sticky feeling it has, but it certainly brightens up our living room.


Here are a couple of spoons I've carved. The bottom one is roughly teaspoon size and needs a bit more finishing with sandpaper. The top one is good to go. Before I actually start using them I want to seal them. From what I've read, it seems that walnut oil is the best for sealing wood that will come into contact with food. Obviously to be avoided if you have a nut allergy, but it has a better taste than linseed oil. Not sure what other options there are. I don't want to leave the wood as it is, as it is likely to soak up whatever I use it in. Still I'm happy with the look of them, and if I can get walnut oil, then I look forward to using them too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I received my crooked knife ( a knife bent sideways) earlier this week. It meant that I could finish off the spoons I'd already shaped. Working with dried wood is certainly harder than green wood! I also need  to ensure that the wood dries slowly as one of my spoons was showing signs of splitting. Apparently keeping the wood in an open paper bag for about a week is a good way to dry it out.
I'm now looking forward to trying some bowls and cups. They're bigger tasks but should be good fun. I look forward to posting some images of my finished work on here soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A bright future?

This article has me a little worried. Basically it details how already there are computers which are able to compose original scores of music and another which is able to automatically write sports articles. The article then warns how this could impact the future of photography. Everybody is well aware of the prevalence of digitally altered images, well digitally created images are the next logical step it would seem.
I feel as though this would first impact commercial photography, where photography is used as a medium to portray an idea, emotion or some sort of product. There will still be areas where a person will have to be behind the camera in some way. Photo-journalism, weddings, sports to name a few. These images wouldn't have the same impact if they were 'thought-up' by a computer. I also think it would difficult to set up some sort of automatic capture for these fields.
This is something which is already in place in the field of photography I greatly enjoy: wildlife. Camera-traps are a bit of a grey area in this respect. All the major decisions are still made by a person: location, composition, etc. All that happens without the camera operator is the release of the shutter. This is done by critters triggering it, usually by some sort of light-trap (the animal breaks an infrared beam by stepping into it, the system acknowledges this by firing the camera). Wildlife photography is an area which I think is safe from being recreated digitally. It could be put under photo-journalism in this respect as you are documenting it as it happens. There have been several cases where some sort of 'setting-up' or manipulation of a wildlife image has caused a bit of an outcry. People want to see images of animals, behaving naturally in their natural environment, or at least as close as is possible.
So this new technology will affect large sections of photography, but not the craft as a whole.

New clothes

I'm a big fan of minimalism. I'm not particularly good at it, but when you have to carry all your possessions, you soon see having few things as a good thing. This was a lesson that was drilled into me during my time in Thailand. I went to Thailand to complete a CELTA course, then get a job teaching English. So I packed reasonably light, but had stuff for setting up house, rather than backpacking around.
As it happened, I ended up applying for work in Korea and backpacking around Thailand for a couple of months. When you're carrying 35 kilograms of stuff, you soon realize that lugging half my body weight isn't much fun.
I left the tropical climate of Bangkok (average temperature 26'C) and arrived in the harsh Korean winter (average temperature -3'C). With a summer wardrobe. I quickly got myself some warm clothing (2 pairs of polar fleece trousers, 2 polar fleece hoodies, a wool cardigan and several vests). After bumming around Thailand I was pretty skint, so the stuff I got wasn't exactly top quality. Looking at it all I realized that a) I probably couldn't fit it all in the baggage I've got and b) I probably won't want to by the time I leave. (but I will, because I don't tend to ditch clothing until I have to. So I remember the strategy a friend of mine was intending to adopt: buy expensive stuff that lasts so you won't need to replace it. Saves money in the long run and you have nice clothing. With this in mind I ordered myself some new stuff.
I've recently started to take action on my interest in bushcraft and have been up in the woods, whittling, making fires, generally doing what I can to frighten Korean hikers. With that in mind I got myself a Swanndri ranger bushshirt. It's a scratchy wool affair that's a bit of a bugger to take off, but its super warm and won't melt in front of a camp fire like all my other clothing purchases would.
I also had to get myself some trousers. When packing from my mothballed wardrobe in my parents loft, I had sunny Southeast Asia in mind. So the trousers I packed were pretty much all smart work trousers. I did have one pair of brown cords that weren't too formal but they're several years old and look it. They're wearing very thin in places you don't want a wardrobe malfunction to occur. So I looked around and found the Cactus Clothing Company. They offer several variations of 'indestructible' canvas trousers. So I got myself two pairs. One in 12oz canvas, one in 6oz. They're pretty much a perfect match for me. They are smart enough to wear at work but casual enough for out and about (the fleece trousers are a little pajama-ish). The only downside to them is that they need some serious wearing in. Straight out from the packaging and they're cardboard stiff, almost standing up on their own. I'm assured that after a couple of wash/wear cycles, they soften up, but till then they're a little chaffing.
Everything I packed before leaving for Thailand (except my boxers and socks) was at least a couple of years old. The eldest, a pair of dark brown work trousers, are (I think) 6 years old. Nothing special about them. So I'm hoping that by acquiring stuff that has a reputation for being tough, I can limit what I carry around, while being able to rely on it doing its job without falling apart.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Life Update

About two weeks ago, we were told that our apartment was being put on the market. Due to some change in the law, the owner of our flat had to sign something for us, as foreigners, to continue living there. Unfortunately the owner lives in Japan and so was unavailable. We didn't want to hand over a set of keys and risk our stuff walking off, so we had to endure people looking round our apartment when we just wanted to kick-back and relax.
This went on for three days, with visits everyday. A week ago on Tuesday we were told that we would have to move out the next day because the new tenants wanted to wallpaper. We were not happy about how we were being messed around and felt helpless and undervalued. It kind of sucked. Plus we had no idea where we were being moved to, or what the new apartment would be like. The only upside to the move was that I got Wednesday morning off work to be there for the move. Fortunately the movers were great. Really respectful of our stuff and quick. Our new place is only a couple of blocks away. The layout it almost a carbon copy of the old place. It was kinda filthy when we moved in. Courtney and I spent several hours scrubbing and cleaning before we started to feel good about the place.
We've had this past week off work. We were planning on going somewhere in Korea during our vacation time but we've just chilled out at home. Last weekend we took part in an art event that benefited the Korean Woman's Association. I donated a photo to be auctioned and Courtney did a live painting. It was a great night and we were honored to be a part of it.
We've managed to get the apartment the way we like it, and now we like it a little better than the old place. We know how to get the hot water working here, we don't have any English channels here so we don't watch TV. We've got ourselves an internet connection finally and hung some of our work on the walls.
I've finally started to take an active interest in bushcraft. I've been trying my hand at some simple wood carving. So far I've churned out several spoons, each one a little better than the last. I'll need to get a crooked knife if I want to carve out the bowls, but I'm not sure how I'll get my hands on one of them in Korea. As detailed in the last post, we went out, made a fire and cooked on it today. That was a lot of fun. I've read a great deal on many of these things, camp-craft, bushcraft and the like, but actually trying them out is a whole other ball game. It's a lot of fun and has a much steeper learning curve.
I've been reading the Zen Habits blog and one of the many suggestions for improving ones life is to wake up earlier. I'm naturally more of a morning person than a night owl so this has been easy for me. Even though it's our vacation I've been trying to get up at 6 a.m. with reasonable success. It's nice to be up while the day is still young, knowing that most people are still asleep. It gives me a chance to see the world wake up around me. I haven't been using the time very productively yet, but I will start setting myself tasks to do soon. Come April, the sun will be rising about the same time as I do, so I will take that opportunity to hopefully get out and take more wildlife photos. I've been kinda lax with it at the moment. During the work week, it's dark when we get up and the light begins to fade when we get home but the days are gradually getting longer and becoming better for me to take pictures.
We'll see how everything goes.

In the woods

Courtney and I went up the hill behind our house today. It's a cool little walk. There's an old bunker up there, and a load of trenches, so I guess the area used to be used by the military. We however were up there to cook sausages.
We collected some firewood. I took my firesteel with me, Courtney wisely took a bic lighter. We went up the old bunker and decided to set up 'camp' on top of it. Less chance for the fire to get out of hand. Neither of us have any real experience starting fires in the woods, let alone trying it with a firesteel. We had tinder and kindling and what-not but after a lot of faffing about we resorted to the lighter. Even then it took us a couple of attempts to get going. A lot of lessons learned from it:
1) have all your tinder, kindling and fuel ready before starting the fire.
2) build a base to work on, don't try starting on the ground.
3) have a little bit more of everything with you than you think you'll need.
We did finally get a nice little blaze going and whipped out the sausages. Court got hers nice and crispy before quickly tucking into it. We then learned another very important lesson. Korea individually wraps its sausages in plastic. I don't think Courtney will soon forget that lesson. With the plastic wrapping removed, the sausages were still terrible imitations of meat. Still we didn't go up there to have a culinary experience as much as we went up there to dink around in the woods. All in all, it was a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Portfolio Site

I've just set myself up with a free trail with zenfolio. I've been meaning to sort myself out with a proper website for a while now and zenfolio looks like it suits my needs quite well. Please check it out here and feel free to leave some feedback.