Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quality vs. Junk

Thick beach glass inspired artist-made glass with aged copper chimes and a beach stone clapper. All copper and glass construction. The copper chimes have been weathered for over three years. A wind chime that starts out beautiful, and becomes even nicer with time. For more information, or to buy this wind chime, CLICK here.

After several years, a well designed wind chime should not be an eyesore~ it should look more beautiful than ever...

Poor quality is depressing. A chain store down the road has it's own brand of tools. Cheap stuff but junk. Especially when on sale, the price is so low that several times I have made the mistake of buying something. Hard to believe, but even the screwdrivers are junk-- how can they possibly go wrong making something as basic as a screw driver? The depressing thing is that so much of this stuff surely ends up in the landfill very quickly. Quality stuff cost more~ sometimes a lot more. But it is so much more enjoyable to use, and so much more durable, that it's well worth the price.

Over at friends the other day, they had several wind chimes on their deck. Every single one looked horrible. They had aged poorly. The chimes were of the painted variety, and rust was taking over~ the paint blistering as though the things were infected with some horrible tropical desease. Ugly!

That's one reason I love working with copper, glass and stone: materials that are either stable or sure to look better and better with time. After four years out in the sun, rain, snow and wind, the three sets I made for myself look better than ever. The copper has all turned a lovely old penny color. The copper connections are as strong as the day I made them. The glass is just as pretty as ever. It makes me proud to know that my work is not for one season, or two, but designed to last for years and years, and to look better each year.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Australian Wind Chime

It's always fun to see something I made in a different setting. This one went all the way to Australia, and the customer was nice enough to send a picture of it in his garden. It's a natural Pacific beach stone wind chime with extra-large copper chimes. For more information on this style of wind chime, or to buy one, CLICK here.

Most of my work goes to the USA~ probably 95%. I think I have shipped to pretty much every US state. Some stays here in Canada. But I have also have had the pleasure of shipping to Thailand, the UK, some Scandinavian countries, and Australia. I get a lot of inquires from overseas, but most often the price of postage proves too steep~ even shipping surface mail.

I very much enjoy when a customer sends a picture of my work hanging in their home or garden. It is always rather a strange feeling to see the piece I was so familiar with hanging in unfamiliar surroundings. The work I made is the same, but the new home is so different! That's fun for me to see, and I know how happy and proud the customer is if they take the trouble to send pictures.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rain Forest

Pacific rain forest inspired artist-made beach-type glass sun hanging. For more information on this work, or to buy it, CLICK here.

After several years of relatively dry winters, this year has been more typical of the Pacific Northwest: Wet! A reminder that this is, after all, rainforest country. Working mostly outside, I am acutely aware of the weather. It's seldom all that cold here, but when it's raining, and windy, and just plain nasty, it's not a lot of fun working outside.

Even being very careful, materials get wet. The natural materials I collect at the beach and in the forest need to dry by the fire. My hands can't bend wire as happily when they are numb. Sculpting and rinsing glass is misery. And somehow it is not fair that the big dog is sleeping inside, warm and dry by the fire~ How tempting it is to join him!

While it's not great standing around working on my art, the afternoon hikes (yes, everyday I drag the pup away from his toasty fire) are beautiful. Dripping trees and lush wet moss; the rainforest as it was meant to be seen. It was on just such a hike that I noticed how stunning some mossy branches hanging by a creek were. Later, I returned with a small saw, and the result is the work you see above. A celebration of the Pacific rainforest.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A Kaleidoscope Wind Chime with handcrafted copper chimes and a beach stone clapper. Sometimes inspiration comes from facing unexpected problems.

For more information about this wind chime, or to buy it, CLICK here.

Small pieces of beach or sea glass are fairly common along the beaches here on the Pacific Coast. Most often I guess someone tosses a bottle, and the waves roll the glass over and over and the sand and pebbles smooth the sharp edges and give the pieces a mat finish. So something nasty turns into something beautiful, and many people enjoy walking and collecting these small pieces. Beach glass is sometimes even used for jewelry, often selling for a lot of money.

My youngest son used to collect everything ~ feathers, coins, bottle caps, and he also had a large beach glass collection. One day when he was poking through his glass collection, I had a close look at it and was struck by the beauty of many of these little jewels. From there, I went on to find a way to make my own beach-style glass, which I now use extensively in my art work.

My goal was to make large pieces. After much trial and error, I succeeded in finding a way. I Sculpt the glass, to get the size and shape I want. Especially when I was a novice, this created considerable waste. In the early years this was not a big problem because we had good glass recycling here on the Sunshine Coast. But that ended, and I was horrified one day taking a large amount to the landfill (where I had been told they still recycled glass) when I was told broken glass would have to be dumped in the pit. I didn't like that my work was adding to the landfill problem.

Sometimes ideas come from facing unexpected problems. This waste glass inspired one of my most popular ideas. I started treating the small pieces and using them in what I call my 'kaleidoscope' wind chimes and my freestanding sunshine catchers. These have been so popular that they have more than taken care of my 'waste' glass dilemma. So instead of tossing glass into the landfill, I am happy to have found a solution that brings more beauty to the world, and happiness to my customers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Surprising Myself

There is something very soothing and peaceful about this chocolate amber wind chime. It doesn't shout; it whispers. For more information, or to buy it, CLICK here or here.

A feeling I frequently have upon completion of a new work is one of attachment. For me the latest is the greatest, and I am not eager to see it sell. I want to hang on to it, to enjoy it greedily for myself. I guess that's just pride in one's work, which is no doubt a good thing.

But then I make a new work, and the feelings for the prior one are displaced to the newest. And the cycle starts again. You would think after all the years I have been doing this full time, I would be bored or numb to whatever I make. To avoid that, I try to dream up at least one or two new designs a month. And the others evolve. Small changes, little improvements. That keeps it all interesting, challenging, and exciting.

I believe that is the difference between an art and a craft. A potter I know is very good at what she does, but she does exactly the same things over and over and... over. Long ago she set a color for her work, and she sticks to that one color. She is an excellent crafter, but she is not an artist. As an artist, I know there is no way I could ever stick with that one color for years and years. I'd go mad, or die of boredom. I'd start smashing plates (and using the pieces to make something amazing!). Going off on a radical new tangent is part of what I do~ surprising myself.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Crazy Pop

Do you ever let your children talk you into something foolish? I like mine to learn from their own mistakes, but sometimes things go too far. Like yesterday.

Working hard on art projects, it got late, and I noticed my 16 year older had not brought in the kindling and wood for last night's fire. Heating only with wood, he and I share the chore of keeping the home hearth burning. After six months, we are both sick of it. Anyway, it was late, we had to head out to a dinner party, and I had to get cleaned up, so I asked him to please fetch the wood.

He laughed the laugh that translated means 'Pop doesn't have all his marbles.' It had been a sunny, warm day, and all our big windows and skylights had heated the house to the point where doors and windows were open, and people wore T-shirts. So it did seem crazy to be worrying about firewood. On the other hand, being a wise ol' man, I knew with the clear sky the temperature would be falling faster than the US dollar, and that the fire would be sorrily missed. However, in a rush to get off to the party, I let him sway me, and skip the wood fetching.

So we got home from the party, and the house was already tomb cold. No problem. Everyone just hoped into bed. But alas, I am, as always, up hours before everyone else. While that laughing son sleeps warmly under his blankets, I sit here freezing. He doesn't learn a thing, and I make typos because my fingers are freezing together. Crazy Pop.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Pacific beach stone, driftwood, double copper art wind chime~ beach stone clappers. Sometimes everything just comes together~ and that's why this piece is called Harmony.

For more information on this work, or to buy it, CLICK here.

Sometimes I get an idea and it takes months to develop it~ or maybe it never happens. Other times, things flow and everything clicks. Sometimes materials fight every inch~ they don't want to do what I want them to do. And other times they seem to bend and shape at my slightest touch to exactly where I want them to be.

After years of working with copper, glass, stone and wood, I know these materials. I know what they can and can not do for me. But they can still surprise me. I sometimes ask too much of them. For example, I may want the copper to bend a little too sharply. I know, now, that it just can't~ but I might ask it to anyway, and be a little surprised when it won't.

Mostly I am surprised these days when I get an idea, a picture in my head, and find all the pieces I need on the beach, and have all the materials bend just the way I imagined they would~ and the whole things comes together to make that picture I had in my head. It's a nice surprise. That happened for the piece pictured above, and that's why I call it 'Harmony.'

Monday, March 13, 2006

Under the Influence

Natural Pacific beach stone wind chime with handcrafted copper chimes and a beach stone clapper. The beauty of the Pacific Coast inspires.

For more information, or to buy this wind chime, CLICK here.

Artist are deeply influenced by their environment. Years ago, when we lived in Vancouver (or, as it is sometimes called here on the Sunshine Coast, 'the Big Smoke'), I drew and painted faces. Hundreds of faces. That's what the city is, so that makes sense.

It's different now. On the Sunshine Coast nature is everywhere, and there are not so many faces. Out my back door there are miles and miles of forests. Just down the road, miles of Pacific shoreline. After moving here, I stopped painting faces. Now I work with beach stone, driftwood, my own sea-type glass. That the the spectacular natural beauty of this place should so influence my work is... just natural.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


For more information on this glass and copper art ornament, or to purchase a set, CLICK here.

Making beautiful things is more than my day job~ it's my life. But there are chores that must be done. Finding time for everything is a challenge.

You probably turn a dial and the heat is there. Easy. Every so often a bill comes, and you pay it, and that's that.

Not so here. We heat exclusively with wood, and right now I am cutting and bucking trees, chopping and stacking. We need seven cords. They say wood heats three time~ when you cut it, when you chop it and when you burn it. True! But in fact it also heats when you stack it, and when you lug it into the house. It's a chore, to be sure.

Off course, heating with wood has it's advantages. Like no heating bill. And it certainly is nice on a cold winter's night to have a big pile of wood inside, a roaring fire. But at this moment, when I have ten art projects I would like to be working on, it's a drag.

The chain saw is one tool I don't much care for. It's earsplitting loud, it stinks, it's dangerous. I have a lot of respect for that tool, and am on high-alert when using it. It wasn't the chain saw that got me last year; it was the splitting axe. It was too late, too dark, when I was holding a smallish piece of wood to chop and chopped my thumb instead. Wow~ I didn't realize that splitting axe was so sharp! Fortunately, I hit my thumb off to the side, or I would likely have severed it. As it was, it was not much fun working on my glass and copper for the next month. It's only when you get an injury like that that you realize how much you use your thumb.

Now, having cut half the wood, those guys who deliver a truck load of chopped wood for $150 are looking like a pretty good deal. Except past experience has taught that most often their wood is garbage. And besides, these trees I'm falling are way too close to the house, blocking our sunlight and creating a fire hazard. So today I'm off to saw and chop and split and stack. I'd so much rather be making something beautiful~ but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How Nice!

To have my work noticed is always nice. But to be noticed by the gifted artist Rebecca Grantham is absolutely wonderful. Her plein air paintings are a breath of fresh air.

To make the 'Friday Fab Five' list of L.C. Dumke made my day~ I feel like I won the lottery!

It's always a little scary putting your work 'out there' and a pat on the back is deeply appreciated.

Thank you!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Perfectly Imperfect

The glass is not perfect, the stones are not perfect, the tung nut oiled red cedar base is not perfect, the copper wire is not perfect... and that's just perfect!

For more information on this piece, or to buy it, CLICK here.

I hope my post yesterday didn't leave the impression that I think all art must be perfect~ certainly not! No, I only meant to focus on the finishing details that are sometimes not given enough consideration.

The imperfections are the fingerprint of the artist, the soul of the piece. Recently I have noticed a lot of stuff being shipped in and sold cheap that pretends to be 'artistic.' I assume some business guy(s) thought this would be a smart way to make some bucks, and maybe they are right. But I just find it depressing.

What I imagine is that they bought nice things at craft fairs or galleries, and figured out how to mass produce these using machines, or more likely underpaid labor. In so doing, they did away with all the little imperfections, with the artistic fingerprint, and the copies are completely soulless. A rating of zero on the life meter. They have no voice. They are worse than most of the cheap stuff, because they pretend to be something they are not. They try to say: "Look, I'm a crafty thing" but they most certainly are not. They are just more massed produced cheap junk. No fingerprint.

So three cheers for the artistic fingerprint!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


A handcrafted copper hook of the style I use on most of my work. For more information, or to buy a set of 12 of these hooks, CLICK here.

Last time I wandered into a gallery craft store, it was a good one. They featured many fine things, original and well made. But their whole front window had a problem. At least, for me it was a problem.

See, someone with real skill and design abilities had created a series of stained glass suncatchers, and these were all suspended by the window. The suncatchers were elegant and clearly the artist had invested a lot into each one. Well done! Ah, but a snag. Each was suspended by a length of horrible, cheap chain, available at any hardware store for a dime a foot. The chain was soldered right onto the suncatchers, not easy to change. For me, that's like taking a fine painting and slapping it into a cardboard frame! I suppose the artist was just so focused on the actual glasswork that no thought was given to the rest. But the 'rest' is important. You don't want a cardboard frame on a fine painting, and why should anyone pay top price for something with an ugly generic chain?

Design is one thing, and skill (putting things together) another, and then display is something else altogether. Things can be okay with one or the other, but for a really happy experience all three are needed. The painting may be stunning, but that crummy frame detracts. The suncatcher is lovingly made, but that junky chain is... junky.

Oddly enough, crafts people / artists who clearly sweat over every tiny detail of their work often seem to fall short on the details. A beautiful pottery vase, for example, on a less than well finished wood base. It's like they run out of steam at the end, or just stopped seeing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Blues

Artist-made glass, handcrafted copper chimes, beach stone clapper wind chime.
For more information, or to buy this wind chime, please

To see a larger picture, click on the image.

After years of working with glass, I have developed a feel for it. Each piece is different. But there are generalizations, too. For example, blue glass is always a headache. It's hard to sculpt, and hard to drill.

For sculpting, the blue glass tends to fracture in ways I do not like: jagged, sharp shapes. And the blue glass does not enjoy being drilled. Sometimes it breaks, or fracture lines appear around the holes. Fracture lines are evil, as they will in time spread and cause a break in the glass. It used to be that I would toss aside any slightly broken or fractured piece of blue glass. But you live and learn. Now, mostly I can salvage the piece by carefully working out the defects. It takes a lot of time to do this, and I believe considerable skill, too. But for a nicely shaped piece of blue glass, it's worth it.

With other colors, I feel the glass is cooperating, almost working with me. But blue glass fights every inch of the way. Years ago, when I did not have much experience, the glass would mostly win. Now I win.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Artist-made glass with copper wire wrapping. Click on the image to see it larger. For more information , or to buy this, CLICK here.

I love copper. It's a warm, soft, beautiful metal. And I use a lot of it.

I use all different types, from very thin wire to two inch pipe, but mostly I use medium wire for wrapping glass. Twice a year I buy a one thousand foot roll. I always think: 'There, that's going to last a long time!' but it never seems to. Today, I am going to buy another roll. I've been out for a few days, and I don't like that. I need it for almost everything I make.

The price of copper is going up, and up. Apparently a world shortage. I'm much more careful how I cut it now~ getting the maximum from each piece. It used to strike me as unbelievably inexpensive. I mean, someone has to prospect, find the mine, mine it, smelt it or whatever, make it into pipes or wire etc., ship it to stores where it gets marked-up-- and not long ago you could get a twelve foot 1/2 inch hard copper pipe for $7.00! Well, it's more than doubled in price, but still seems like a pretty good deal.

The thing about copper is that it looks great new and polished, and even better (I think) aged and oxidized. I have had three of my wind chimes out on the deck for several years. From time to time I stop and look at them, and wish I could have my freshly made chimes look that good. They will, but it will take some time. A rich, chocolate brown.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Quality Tools Help

To make something like this natural beach stone wind chime, quality tools help. You can dream up ideas, but if you don't have the tools they will remain dreams. To learn more about this wind chime, or to buy it, CLICK here.

A poor quality tool is a pain, a time waster, and sometimes dangerous. A fine tool is a pleasure. I've had plenty of both, so know something about this.

Several years ago I decided it was time to get a table saw. I thought an economy model would be okay, believing I would not be using it all that much. My friend down the road, a master woodworker, set me straight. He stated firmly that I would be wasting my money. Sure, the economy model was cheap, but it was also small and underpowered, and there would be all sorts of frustration. Following his advice, I somewhat reluctantly shelled out the high price for a high-end model. Well, my friend was right. It turns out that my work evolved. If I had bought the cheap little saw, I would be kicking myself hard. Instead, I am enjoying every minute of using the quality machine, and I use it almost daily.

So when it came time to get a large drill, I didn't even glance at the cheap ones. Right move. A friend bought a cheap one for similar projects, and it sits useless on a bottom shelf. It's a toy. Mine flies. Quality tools are expensive, but it hurts even more to spend hard earned dollars on something that turns out to be junk.

A powerful drill capable of cutting through stone. Click on images to increase size.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Winter Beaches ~ Wet Stones

Wet beach stones

Yesterday, I did get down to the beach, as planned. Stone hunting. It was perfect.

Most people like the beach in the summer~ sleeping, getting grilled. Not me. If it's really hot, I might go. But quickly~ so quickly. Just to jump in, have a swim, and then I head right on home. It's too hot. There's no shade.

It was raining a little yesterday. No people. Not a single one. Just me. The tide was way, way down and the stones were slick and shiny with wetness. They are so beautiful like that~ as though they have been put through a lengthy tumbling process. Sometimes, I treat the stones I bring home with a special epoxy to create that 'just out of the surf' look. Mostly, I let them be. People who use them outside will be happy when it rains, and they see them wet.

A beach stone wind chime where the stones have been treated to look wet. To learn more about this wind chime, or to buy it, CLICK here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Weekend is not a Weekend

A weekend is no longer a weekend, and hasn't been for years.

When we lived in the city, and I worked at a 'regular' union job, weekends were weekends. Free time. And that is one thing I do miss. Just like coffee breaks were real breaks. I still drink coffee, but I drink it while I work. Usually I forget about it and end up drinking it cold. I miss hot coffee!

Last year I decided to reserve one full day a week for relaxation. That fizzed. Someone will buy something, and it has to be packed. The sun will finally be shining, and pictures need to be taken. I'll have run out of copper chimes, and must cut them immediately. The customer should not be kept waiting just because you might like a day off. And more honestly, I love my work. I'm passionate about my work, so if I have a free day, what I like to do is... work!

Today is the weekend. I know that because the family is home from work and school. Fortunately, just because I am working does not mean neglecting them. When I go to the beach in a few hours to fetch yet more beach stones, they can come along. For them, it will be a trip to the beach; for me it will be work. With work like that, who needs weekends?

Friday, March 03, 2006


For more information on this natural Pacific beach stone chime, or to buy it, CLICK here.

Using natural beach stones, pebbles and driftwood in my art, before long I learned an odd thing: Each little section of beach is special. One area is great for large, smooth rounded stones but hopeless for driftwood or small pebbles. Another is wonderful for driftwood, but has no smooth stones. And yet another area is loaded with beautiful small rounded pebbles, but has no large ones.

So depending on what I intend to make, I now know I need to go to beach 'A' or 'B' or 'C.' It's funny how different they all are. I hadn't understood that before. Before a beach was a beach was a beach. Now each one is special.

I think when you use natural materials, you see the world a little differently. Where ever I go I look closely at everything~ there just might be something perfect for a new creation.

Early Winter morning beachcombing~ a pleasure!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Joy or Noise Pollution

For more information, or to buy this natural Pacific beach stone copper wind chime, CLICK here.

From 99 cent mass produced "Why would anyone spend even a buck on this" chimes, to multi-hundred dollar one-of-a-kind works of art, wind chimes come in many styles.

Someone once gave us a large, expensive set of wind chimes. My wife and I had a little thing going where she would hang them up on our deck, and a day or two later I would stash them back in the garage. A few days later they would be back up, and I would again remove them, and so on. Why? For me, they were way too loud! We live in a quiet area, and I could not enjoy sitting out with a cup of coffee and reading a book with those things clanging away.

Loud seems to be the 'thing' now. Not long ago I was in a store featuring a selection of wind chimes. Although nicely made, they were all extremely loud~ some should have come with a warning about wearing ear protection!

So one question you might ask yourself before choosing a wind chime is whether you want one that will drive you and your neighbors crazy, or something a little more subtle.

The wind blows, but not all the time. So probably you should consider not just tone and volume, but esthetics. A bunch of tubes hanging from a roundel can look okay~ but a wind chime can be much more than that. It can be a work of art. Some can even be hung indoors in the home or office as art.

A well designed art wind chime is a pleasure to own. Others can be a headache.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pain and Pleasure

Artist-made glass with copper and true verdigris copper chimes. For more information on this piece, or to buy it, CLICK here.

When an email comes announcing a sale, I feel mixed emotions. First, happiness. Then some sadness.

It's wonderful so many people like what I make, and it's great when something sells~ no doubt about that! But then I realize I have to pack the sold work, and that's a job in itself: packing glass to survive the postal service is tricky. Then I recall the labor that went into the piece. Some are more work than others, but they are all hard work. In the winter, it's cold and usually wet. Most of my work is done outside, without heat, and sometimes without a roof. In the summer, it's hot, and there are mosquitoes.

A wind chime like the one I am featuring today has so many steps needed to complete it. And when it sells, I remember all those steps. And then I pack and ship, and it's kind of sad to say good-bye. And the price seems low.

But often a week or so after shipping, I get an email from a thrilled customer. An email that shouts joy. And this beyond anything else is what makes it all worthwhile. To create something that makes someone happy, something that will last for years and brighten someone's days~ now that's pleasure!