June Light

It’s that wonderful time of the month when Nightjar shares her portraits of light.

In the month of the Summer Solstice sunlight is brighter than ever and nature is bracing for the dry season. Many wildflowers have gone to seed and are drying out already (some are doing weird stuff like the wild chive in the last photo… perhaps confused by the unstable weather?) and bugs are very busy. Backlighting is trickier this time of the year but I tried to play with June Light from all angles and I think it was worth it.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Sorting out Abrasives

I had all my abrasives in one big plastic case, some further sorted in smaller containers, but the abrasive papers and pads were just one huge pile. So now that my workshop is in a state when it is actually possible to do actual work again, I have decided before I start to make knives again to sort out my abrasive materials for good (again, so in reality until the next stack overflow).

For the papers I have made a little portable shelf where I could sort them out from the coarsest (40 Grit) to the finest (7000 Grit) with some room to spare for clean paper sheets and carbon paper sheets – those come in handy sometimes in the shop, so why not. I still have three slots to fill, which is a good sign. It is a lot heavier than I thought it will be, partly because that is a lot of MDF and particle boards packed into small space, and partly because that is a lot of abrasive paper – and that is heavy, of course, it is covered in sand after all.

Abrasive papers, sorted and ready to deploy.

Precision is of the essence in such an endeavor, as is the quality of used materials of course. That is why I cobbled it all together from scraps of old furniture – 1 cm particle board from an old bed for the frame and 3 mm MDF stripped from an old bathroom door. And I took the time – about 2 hours. Joking aside, I could, of course, buy completely new MDF and have it precisely cut beforehand in the shop, but waste not, want not. I never got used to throwing money at something that will work just fine when made from scraps that I have at hand (my shop looks the part), and I certainly am not going to do that when I just quit a job and am about to lose reliable income.

Now the case could be filled again with remaining polishing and abrasive materials, in a more orderly fashion – polishing wheels, pads, polishing pastes, etc. It is just as full as it was before – which is not good – but it is all a lot less cluttered.

A lot of felt and fat and various odds and ends.

I will probably have to figure out something better for the steel wool, it tends to rust and crumble before I get to actually using most of it. But, as it is, it is a significant improvement.

I no longer have to take a pitchfork in order to get to the bottom of the case and find the grit I need. Today afternoon I will make some improvements to my belt sander and after that, hooray – I will start to make knives again!

The Art of Book Design: Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights. Edited by Hildegard Hawthorne, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett. Philadelphia, The Penn Publishing Company, 1928.

Arabian Nights is the last book illustrated by Virginia Sterrett before her death in 1931 at the age of 30.  It was a huge undertaking for Sterrett who was quite sick with tuberculosis  and living in sanatorium at the time. The artist was able to work for only brief periods each day and the book took a total of 3 years to complete. Sterrett experienced a brief improvement in her health in 1929 and was able to return home for a time. She even began work on a new book for Penn Publishing in 1930 – Myths and Legends – but she was unable to complete the work. Many people consider Arabian Nights to be the finest work that Sterrett produced.  Enjoy!

[Read more…]

Slavic Saturday

Last time when talking about history, I mentioned the overlong prelude to World War 2 as it has played out in Central Europe. Lets now look a bit closer at what has happened afterward. And, again, this is a de-facto merging of Slavic Saturday and Behind the Iron Curtain series.

Today lets look at one of the most prominent Czech artists to date, although outside of the Czech Republic he is probably not that well known – if he is known at all – Vlasta Burian. (You might remember that I have already written about an artist with the same surname, but to my best knowledge that is pure coincidence, they are not closely related.)

Vlasta Burian was one of the most prominent comedians in Czechoslovakia between the wars. Born in a cobbler’s family, he started out in lower-middle class at the time and he indulged in classic sport activities of that class at that time – like tennis and football (soccer). He was a very devout and good athlete, he could be professional – but in his free time, he also did stand-up comedy for the amusement of his friends, to initial dismay of his parents. And this has gradually become his main occupation and through making stand-up comedy routines in pubs he became a professional comedian and actor who starred in movies and who even owned and run his own theater before and during WW2. And he lived in a villa.

But fame is fickle friend. Despite being known patriot for his whole life, he managed to live through most of World War 2 without being overtly persecuted. I say most – Nazis have tried to rope him into making propaganda for them, but after one public routine in radio (which he intentionally botched) he took to feigning illness whenever he was approached by them again. So in 1944 Nazis got finally fed up with him snubbing their attempts to make him their stooge. He was arrested and his theater was closed.

Reasonable expectation after this would be that after the war ended in the spring of 1945, he would be fully vindicated of any wrongdoing. But that was not the case. He has managed to become moderately wealthy, and that was a big no-no after the war when the Communist Party took the reins through a coup. That he has managed it truly through his own works (and was giving to charitable causes throughout) was irrelevant to the new regime. That he was just deftly snubbing Nazis the whole World War 2 was also not enough – he was not resisting enough (in his position, probably anything short of charging at a tank with bare breast and bare hands would be considered “not enough”, after all, Czech pilots who fought against Nazis in RAF were persecuted for fighting against Nazis on the “wrong” front).

So charges were made-up, a kangaroo court was called (multiple courts, actually) and in the end, he barely escaped with his life. All his possessions were confiscated for the good of the people (how convenient) and he was barred from acting – he was only allowed to do menial works. The short imprisonment and subsequent ban from acting and public appearances have seriously undermined his health, both physical and mental.

Like many artists, he suffered from depression. Sports and comedy were probably part of his self-medication. When denied the things he loved, he aged in mere five years noticeably more than he should. When the acting ban was finally lifted after five years, it was too late. He was no longer the springy, energy exuding person he used to be and his acting has suffered. It was still good enough to make a living, but nowhere near as good as it used to be. His health deteriorated quickly and in 1962 he died of pneumonia. His wife followed him in mere nine weeks, grief took her.

His popularity was such that after his death, a movie about him bearing his nickname “Král Komiků” i. e. “The King of the Comedians” was made. And in the following decades his movies were still screened at local cinemas and they are still occasionally aired on Czech TV to this day. Many can also be found on the internet. Unfortunately, unless you understand Czech you won’t be able to enjoy them. Dubbing is out of the question, a lot of Burian’s comedy was in his voice, so you would need really a top-notch dubber. Subtitles would not help too much either, because another significant part was wordplays.

In 1994, five years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, he was posthumously vindicated in court. Historians extensively examined the historical sources and they found a total lack of any evidence of his collaboration with Nazis whatsoever, in any form. Despite this, for Vlasta Burian the long string of injustices and indignities was still not over. In the year 2002 his grave was adorned with his bronze bust, but it was stolen shortly afterward and probably sold as scrap metal.

Today his grave is adorned with a statue of his hands, which were after his face his most prominent feature. May he finally rest in peace.

Free image from Wikimedia Commons


Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Our weather has finally warmed up and the past few days have been pleasantly warm and summer-like. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many of our readers, especially those across Europe who are enduring a heat wave. Jack and I hope you find ways to stay cool, safe and hydrated. Jack says all you need is water – drink, splash, swim and stay cool. I say a little air-conditioning might be a good thing, too.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

I’ve been low on energy for the past few days so Jack and I have been taking short walks close to home. Today, though, I woke up with a smidge of get-up-and-go, so we did. We got up and went to the river and I’m happy to report that the flooding has resolved and all the paths were clear and dry. Jack had fun splashing around and a HappyJack™ makes for a happy voyager.

The Art of Book Design: Illustrated book of Poultry

Martin Doyle. The Illustrated Book of Domestic Poultry. Philadelphia, Porter & Coates, 1892.

Because chickens are beautiful. And it’s what’s for dinner tonight.

Black Breasted Malay

Ghou Rook Rumple (Silk Fowl Chicken)


via: The Internet Archive, where you can view all the illustrations, including the ducks and geese.