Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

Whittling

Monkeys on a Weathervane? I call it "King of the Hill".

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp Art, WhittlingRob GorrellComment

For some reason the other day I got to thinking about the old "Barrel full of Monkeys" that we played with as kids. Did you have a set? It was a pretty simple toy, but fun.  At the same time I was thinking about the series of folk art weather vanes that I am working on in the shop. So here is how my mind tends to work sometimes. I am thinking of a new weather vane design and about monkeys, so the obvious conclusion is that I need to make a weather vane full of monkeys. Right? So I did.

Cutting out some of the planning steps, I ended up with a pile of monkey shaped blanks of basswood. I was going to hand-carve each of the monkeys, but decided to save time and effort and power carve them into vague, monkey-influenced shapes.

It was at about this point that I started thinking about how the monkeys would be climbing over each other to get to the top of the weather vane. Would the top monkeys be pulling the others up, or kicking them off the heap? Were the monkeys working cooperatively to achieve the summit, or were they trying to jerk the top monkey off of the peak? I did not know yet.

After loosely carving the monkeys I set them aside and worked on the copper weather vane parts. For the arrow and tail I used some salvaged copper sheet that I had in the shop.  Once the copper was shaped and soldered into shape I worked on the layout of the monkeys. Thank goodness for zip ties and wires. Getting wooden monkeys to fit neatly on a weather vane turned out to be quite a challenge.

Skipping forward again, I finished carving and painting the monkeys and fastened them together using a variety of techniques to get them under control.  For the base I used part of a salvaged pine beam, an old spool of some sort and a few chip carved pieces of a shipping crate.  A few layers of paint, some antiquing of the copper and I called it done.

King of the hill weather vane

In the end I decided the monkey on top was a mean looking dude and is trying to dominate the other monkeys. Maybe I'm just in a mood, but that is the way I see it. What do you think? [polldaddy poll=6717789]

I have listed this creation in my Etsy Store if you are interested in purchasing King of the Hill for your collection.

Variations on a Parisian street sign.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Traditional woodworking, WhittlingRob GorrellComment

The Carnavalet Museum in Paris has a fantastic exhibit of trade signs made up of original metal signs saved as many sites in Paris were being torn down to make way for new streets and buildings.  One of my favorite signs was this all metal sign of  a trumpeting angel.  I have no information about the actual original use for the sign. To me she is a kick-ass messenger trumpeting some important message to passers-by.  I feel like the branches she carries might be some sort of olive branch, symbolizing the possibility of peace and joy.   I thought about this sign many times after we got home and eventually decided I wanted to make a folk art carved sign inspired by this street sign.  I wanted to combine some different materials such as copper, steel and wood to create my own version of this great antique sign.

I started out with a basswood blank and cut out the blanks for the wings and body of the angel.  I'm not much of a carver, so the carving is pretty basic. I was going for some sort of loose quilted look.  You can see where I planned to attach the wings and cape later on.

After I carved and sanded the wood parts, and put the parts together, it was time to base coat the angel.  I started with a sort of light mustardy color.  I did not want this piece to end up all dark right off the bat, so I did not antique the paint layers very much. This photo was taken early on in the painting process. And yes, I know the head looks a little Cro-Magnon at this point. Shelley helped me get it looking a bit more human before the sign was finished.

And yes, that is an awesome post vise.

I created a sort of flowing cape from some salvaged copper next and fastened it to the body behind the wings. The original sign had another apron of sorts in the front but I decided that I did not like the way it looked. So I left if off. 

It was at this point that I ran into a problem, the hair. In my mind I wanted to sign to have hair inspired by the way some girls wear their hair in big loose style like this (as a guy I guess I really don't know what the style is called, but this model is very pretty).

  My technique was to curl sections of wire and glue a number of them into the head of the angel.  Well........it did not exactly come out as I imagined. It looked more like a victim of a bizarre accident with an extension cord.  We worked on it later on in the project and got the "hair" under control. It isn't what I envisioned, but at least it is not demonic anymore. The foliage on the original sign was flat and cut out of the metal sheet with the rest of the sign. I wanted to give the sign work shape and movement with a copper garland.  It took a while to cut out all of the leaves, shape them on the mandrel and solder them to the twisted copper wire stems. I am happy with the way it came out in the end.  In fact, after seeing how the foliage came out I decided that I wanted to leave out the hanging sign that the angel was holding in the antique sign.  The trumpet is also copper as was pretty simple to work out.

The remainder of the project involved the wavy metal banner that supports the angel.  Rather than try to figure out some way to hide the bars that attach the angel to the banner, I decided to make them a prominent part of the design. Since it was a nice day when I was working on this part I used my smaller outdoor forge.  This required some creative fire management to get the large banner supported during the several heats needed to work up the banner and straps.  The hanging bars are attached to the banner with hand hammered copper rivets.

So at the end of it all we ended with the angel sign shown below.  I think it still needs a little work here and there to really finish off the project. The next project in this grain will be a scrolled metal wall bracket to support the sign outward from a wall.

A chip carved treadle lathe.

Folk Art, Traditional woodworking, WhittlingRob Gorrell3 Comments

There is a temporary lag in shop time right now, due to spring yard work, that has kept me from posting much.  In the lull I thought I would post a few things that I have run into that have inspired me to take more interest in folk art and hand tool use. I saw this incredible treadle lathe in a shop in Paris. Unfortunately the shop was closed so I have no information whatsoever about the lathe.

The whole lathe is chip carved. At first I thought maybe it was some sort of trophy piece, a fancy tool to be admired and not really used much. But this lathe shows a lot of wear and a few repairs, so I think it was in good use at some point.

The flywheel and treadle are substantial, so this was no lightweight lathe, it could handle some mass.

But the thing that stopped me in my tracks was the carving. This thing was a beauty. I wish I had more to add about the lathe, but I do not. 

 If anyone knows anything about this lathe I would really like to know more about it.

>A whittling treasure is discovered.

WhittlingRob GorrellComment

>A few weeks ago my in-laws brought a plastic box of wood carvings over to the house and wanted to know if we could design and make a display for the pieces.  Here is what was in the box!

I have seen a variety of folk art whittling in museums and books, but this is the first time I have really gotten my hands on a group like this. They were made by Douglas Uhl. He worked a sand and gravel "digger" dredge on the Ohio River in the late 1930's. It seems that Douglas made these tools while on the river.  Douglas was also a woodworker and was my wife's grandfather.

A few of the tools have inlays which were salvaged from a guitar that he found floating in the river. I am assuming that some of the tools are made from wood pulled out of the river also, but do not know that for sure.

There are many carving books out there that give some information on this type of whittling. One of my favorites is Whittling and Woodcarving, by E.J. Tangerman.  I think I like it as much for the 1930's illustrations as for the instructions.

I am looking forward to building a nice folk art display to house this family treasure.

Click here to go to home page.