Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just Another Wednesday

Chert flakes (mostly)
I'm collecting up some rock samples in the workshop today to send to a friend in the US who is going to shoot lasers or neutrons or something at them.  The neutron bombarded rock releases radioactive emissions which tell you what elements are contained in the stone.  If you can get signatures from rocks at a bunch of known sources then you can potentially match up artifacts found elsewhere with the quarries that they came from.

Port au Port chert core
Other than that, I've got a few reproduction jobs on the go, but they are all gifts, so I can't really talk about those until they are delivered.  I saw a cool piece of modern flintknapped art that someone brought to The Rooms to get more information on, but I don't have permission from the owner to post pictures, so I can't really talk about that yet, either.  It might be a neat story in a few days, if it turns out to be what I think it is.  There was also a pretty stunning discovery in the Province recently, but the Provincial Archaeology Office will be publicising that when all the details are ready to report. So that's something to look forward to, but it doesn't really help make today's post anything other than a list of things that I'm not writing about.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tundra Buggy Gift Shop

Elfshot Fibre Optic Jewelry
Today I'm sending a jewelry order off to the Tundra Buggy Gift Shop in Churchill, Manitoba - The "Polar Bear Capital of the World". October and November is their busy season, as the bears gather at the coast, in anticipation of Hudson Bay's freeze-up. They need the ice to get out and hunt seals.  The Tundra Buggy is a little like a giant white school bus on monster truck tires that can safely take visitors and researchers into the bears' territory.

This is a part of the North that I haven't visited in person, but the more I learn about Churchill and nearby Wapusk National Park the more interested I become.  I can remember being enthralled by the photos of the bears and buggies as a kid, and working on the artifact reproductions for Wapusk last spring was a real treat.  I notice from the Parks Canada website, that Tundra Buggy Adventures is one of the authorized tour operators to bring visitors into the Park.

Photo Credits:
1: Tim Rast
2: Screen Capture from

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to Business

Points to notch
I just got home from a Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador board meeting.  I'm currently the Treasurer and board representative for the Human Resources committee.  We try to have board meetings every two months.  At the moment we have 19 board members, which is a lot of people to coordinate with, but we managed to get a quorum this morning and had some good discussions about finances (we're in pretty good shape) and the upcoming Craft Fair (still a few spaces available in the second half of the fair if you haven't booked yet).
Hurricane rations
This afternoon, I'm back to work in the workshop.  I missed a day of work on Wednesday from the effects of Hurricane Igor.  We didn't have any property damage, but I was without power for 24 hours.  The clock stopped at 3:14 on Tuesday afternoon and when I went to set the time after the power came on Wednesday afternoon it was reading the correct time, so it must have started up again at 3:14 on Wednesday.  My phone and internet came on a few hours after that and my e-mail and website ( came back online yesterday evening.  I lost a bit of food in the fridge, but the freezer seems fine.  I only had to prepare one meal over a propane torch, but it was kind of fun and since Lori is still out of town I might have another wiener roast in the fireplace this evening.

Obsidian, Fibre Optic and Recycled Glass
I'm working on a wholesale order of jewelry that I need to ship as early as possible next week.  I have all the blanks made and I'll get them notched this afternoon.  I'll take a bit of time to assemble them into necklaces and earrings on the weekend since I missed a day of work on Wednesday.  I usually try to keep to a 9 to 5 work schedule with Elfshot, just so it doesn't get overwhelming.  Its easy to always be at work when you are self-employed.  I'll make an exception this weekend, because the assembly can be done indoors with the TV on and I can sleep better when I'm making progress on an order.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Still in the Dark from Igor

Candlelight blackout
We had hurricane Igor blow through Newfoundland yesterday.  At the moment about 50,000 people are still without power - apparently 75 lines were down across the province including 32 down in St. John's.  Our house is in the dark, which meant Lori was packing for her New York trip by candlelight.

Lori's New York Feet
We got up at 4am this morning and I drove her to the airport. There were still lots of tree branches on the roads and many of the traffic signals are still out around town. Its weird to see so many blank spots in the city where the lights are out.  Since the airport has power I decided to hang out here for a few minutes, charge my laptop batteries and stick up a quick blog post before heading back home to our neighborhood blackout. 

Cards, Candles, CBC
Our house really wasn't impacted that much.  There was a lot of wind and rain, but no damage done.  Lori did her nails by the last bit of daylight and when it got dark we lit some candles and played a card game.  We turned on the radio and listened to CBC for updates.  Other communities weren't so lucky, there are several towns cut off by washed out bridges and at least one man was reported to have been swept out to sea when the driveway he was standing on washed away. 

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Optex Portable Studio and Lighting Kit

Optex Portable Studio
Henry's, the giant photography store has moved a modest new outlet into St. John's. It opened a couple of weeks ago and the Grand Opening event is going to be held September 25th. Elaine ordered an Optex Portable Photo Studio and Lighting Kit from Henry's in the spring for the Archaeology and Conservation Lab in The Rooms. I've been using it a lot for artifact and artifact reproduction photography and really liked it, so I popped out to Henry's on Friday night and picked one up for myself.

Example of artifacts photographed in the portable studio

It folds up into a small case
The whole thing folds up into a flexible, sturdy case a little bigger than a briefcase for travel and storage. The case itself forms the back of the 16" x 16" x 16" photo tent, so there is no wasted space.  Its held together with velcro bands and sets up and disassembles in about 5 minutes. It comes with two reversible background sheets - one is blue on one side and grey on the other and the second is green and white. Those are fine for most situations and I find that the blue background gives excellent contrast with most artifacts. The design of the photo tent is simple enough that it would be easy to add other colour backdrops on your own.

The broken tripod
It comes with a small tripod. Optex makes some very good tripods, but this isn't one of them. I thought it was silver painted plastic, but its actually a light aluminum. The legs are loose, so that the only way it can be set up is with the legs fully spread. I don't have a photo of the tripod set up because the first time I opened it up and put a camera on it, it broke.

These are the backdrops it comes with
If I hadn't had several very good months using the photo studio at The Rooms, I might have been a little worried about the rest of the set-up after the crummy tripod. But overall, I like the photo box so much that I'm still very happy with the purchase. The soft-light photo tent is a very good size for photographing small objects.  Its just the right size for the sorts of stone tools and jewelry that I work with.  You can take pictures of larger objects, up to about a foot square, but you start to become limited with angles, as the sides of the box begin to show up in the edges of the frame. Its lit adequately for macro photography, and the weave of the fabric is tight enough that it doesn't become distracting.  Still, I might look for paper backdrops to create very clean backgrounds when photographing tiny artifacts or jewelry.

Ivory Harpoon Head photographed on the blue backdrop

Elfshot earrings photographed on the white backdrop

Optex Photo Studio and Lighting kit
The way that the box and backgrounds are fixed together with velcro makes it very easy to reconfigure. I'm not sure if Optex sells custom made backdrops in different colours or materials, but Henry's carries a wide range of background cloths and papers that could easily be trimmed to fit the case.  I'd recommend this studio to other archaeologists and craftspeople in an instant, especially if they already own their own tripod.  Before tax, the photo studio kit cost $139.99.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, September 17, 2010

Area Man Loses Sleep, Plans Fall Schedule

Artist's impression of me at 3:30 am
I'm settling back into my Newfoundland work routine, but my body is still on Calgary time. I don't know why I thought having coffee at 8:00 last night would be a good idea, it certainly didn't seem like a good idea at 3:30 in the morning when I couldn't sleep.

Its going to be a busy fall. I'm working on a wholesale jewelry order for a new customer in the heart of polar bear country right now. There will be a new set of Palaeoeskimo reproductions from one of the most northerly sites on earth. I can't wait to receive those artifacts and start working on them. I've got a couple suprises and one-of-a-kind pieces in the mix to keep things interesting. 
Dorset Palaeoeskimo Harpoon Head
I'll also be working on a couple articles with friends. We'll be revisiting and writing up the collections and previously unpublished material from a few interesting sites and collections found on Newfoundland's northern peninsula. 

Unfortunately, something had to give.  I'm not going to be attending the Craft Council's Christmas Craft Fair this year.  I'll miss being there and seeing everyone, but I'm afraid that I don't have room in my schedule to make enough new product to stock a booth.

Photo Credits:
1: Tim Rast
2: Latonia Hartery/Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finally Home

Dad at John Ware's Cabin
I'm finally done travelling for the summer.  Just before heading into the field this spring, my dad moved off the farm into an Extendicare Lodge, so as soon as I got back from work I wanted to go visit him in Alberta.  Calling him from Nunavut on the satellite phone and describing things like the lack of trees and the sun going around and around was a little confusing.
Souvenir water from Vulcan, AB
I told him I was working in Nunavut, but he must have heard "I'm working on the moon a bit", because he was telling everyone that his son was working on the moon this summer.  To be fair, he is living in Vulcan, so children leaving home to explore outer space isn't that unusual.

Dad and Sandra at Dinosaur Provincial Park
I had a great 10 days with my dad and stepmom.  We went for lots of drives and I soaked up the southern Alberta scenery.  One of the highlights for me was a trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park, northeast of Brooks.  I wanted to go to see John Ware's cabin, which is preserved in the park, but the Badlands in the park came close to stealing the show.  The soft mudstone and sandstone erodes beneath the elements, while the much more durable ironstone weathers more slowly creating caps and pinnacles at the top of water-gouged hills.  This fantastic landscape stretches along river valleys and coulees for miles.
A landscape formed by erosion

The mushroom shaped formations are called Hoo Doos

The badlands stretch for miles and miles along river bottoms

A Centrosaurus bone bed display
As if that wasn't amazing enough, this erosion has exposed millions of dinosaur bones and bone fragments, including hundreds of complete skeletons.  The Royal Tyrell Museum has a field station set up in the park and many of the fossils are prepared and interpreted on site.  More recent Alberta history is also showcased in the Park, inlcuding John Ware's cabin.
John Ware's Cow Country : A Grant MacEwan Classic
John Ware was a rancher in Southern Alberta who was born a slave in the Carolinas.  When he was freed after the Civil War he was determined to become a cowboy.  His quest brought him into southern Alberta on a cattle drive that started in Texas and ended at the Northwest Cattle Company, which eventually became the Bar U Ranch.  Eventually, John saved up enough money to buy his own small herd of cattle and he settled on the Red Deer River.  Over the years, the Legend of John Ware grew.  Today, its difficult to separate fact from fiction, but he was a real man and when he was killed in a riding accident on September 12, 1905, his funeral in Calgary was the biggest funeral that the city had ever seen.  Alberta Historian, Grant MacEwan, told the story of John Ware in his book, John Ware's Cow Country.

I've always been particularly fond of John Ware.  Two of his daughters, Nettie and Mille, lived in Vulcan while I was growing up and going to school there.  In fact, Millie was a resident of the same Extendicare Lodge that my dad lives in now.  During my undergrad at the University of Calgary I was awarded a scholarship established by the Ware-Lewis family and my archaeology field school was held at the Bar U Ranch, where John first worked when he came to Canada.

John Ware's Cabin
The log cabin in Dinosaur Provincial Park was built by John in 1902.  When the Red Deer River flooded that spring it washed his previous home away.  But as luck would have it, the same flood freed a boom of logs at a sawmill upriver and using a team of horses and a lasso, John scavenged enough logs from the river to build his family a new home.

Photo Credits: 
1-7,9,10: Tim Rast

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gateway to Labrador

These photos are from the Gateway to Labrador Visitor Centre in L'Anse au Clair.  The Centre's goal is to introduce visitors to all of the different people who lived in Labrador over the past 9000 years.  For conservation and security reasons, they chose not to use artifacts in the displays.  All of the objects in the display panels are artifact reproductions that I made for the Centre in 2006.  Highlights for me were the Palaeoeskimo bear head and all of the ivory pieces from the 7500 year old L'Anse Amour burial.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wander Back in Time: L'Anse aux Meadows

In September 2009, Lori was part of an archaeology crew at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site testing areas that were going to be impacted by expanding the Parks Canada buildings and infrastructure.  Here are some photos from her tour through the reconstructed sod buildings.


Photo Credits:
1-8: Lori White
9: Derrick LeGrow

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Boat Stands, Nunavut

Barrels used as boat stands near Clyde River, Nunavut

Pairs of stacked rocks at earlier Thule or historic Inuit sites served the same function for kayaks.

Kayak Stands, Nunavut

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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