Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spoiler: Transfer and a little carving

Hello all.  Just an update on me and the event carve that I had posted earlier.  Me, well, I've been sick as a dog with the flu which has morphed into a lung infection.  This has taken me out for the past ten days or so and generally I feel like hell still.  Yay day three of antibiotics.

Anyways, in the few moments I've had where I actually had some energy, I finally transferred and started carving.  Summer's coming!

Initial transfer using xylene on Webfoot's NZ Cut.  I was really happy with the transfer and the detail was really nice.

I never really know where to start when I carve larger images, so I picked the sun and got it and the rays finished.  I think I probably should have done the ornate border first, so I think I'll work on that next.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ephemeral Nature of Letterboxes

Over this past winter I moved to a new city (twice, *shaking fist*) and have been thinking long and hard about my  letterboxes.  In the past, when planting, how I went about doing it was largely based on their proximity to where I lived.  And the closer they were to where I lived, the easier they would be to maintain and therefore, the less I put into planting them in secure places. Now, I'm rethinking that decision and worry about the longevity of some of those boxes that were perhaps hastily planted...

As all letterboxers know, especially the ones in the habit of planting, letterboxes vanish.  Sometimes it’s muggles, sometimes it’s geocachers; but other times it’s flora, fauna or mother nature exerting their dominance over the land.

And quite frankly, sometimes I’m convinced it’s the wee folk interfering with the hobbies of humans.

Such is the nature of the hobby, but it is something I have been putting more and more thought into as I plan future boxes.

In terms of longevity, there is definitely a wide spectrum of the quality of hides.  (The security of the hide is what I’m talking about here, not so much the general location or the "uniqueness" of the hide.)  Obviously, you can’t protect a box from everything – weather, nature, development, muggles, geocachers – but, I think certain types of hides will be more secure against these letterbox threats than others.

Boxes hanging on wires from trees or bushes I generally think are on of the most vulnerable types, particularly if they are in or close to urban areas.  The trees themselves are vulnerable: they can be chopped down or pruned, discovered by kids playing, and they are usually home to wildlife that may remove the box from the trees themselves.  The boxes fall and move…

Indoor boxes are also really vulnerable.  Boxes in libraries, of which I have quite a few, are perhaps even the most.  The obvious problem is children finding them, but what about the movement of books or bookshelves – as libraries are prone to do.  If the box is a magnet in a library, just moving some bookshelves around means that the box could be lost for good.

I suppose a little bit better are those within the root systems of trees, or inside fallen logs.  However, as the trees grow – or rot – these spots either become invisible, or the homes of other beings who do not appreciate plastic invaders.

I suppose the most secure types of hides would be those hidden in rocky areas well away from nearby trails and urban areas. A well-hidden box in these areas means that it is likely cold enough that critters aren’t hibernating in there, the rocks provide a shelter from the elements, the rocks don’t grow or rot away, the rocks stay put and don’t move about… Some of the oldest finds I’ve discovered in my admittedly short letterboxing career share this as the type of hide.  (But then again, some of those old ones are also in what I consider to be the least secure type of hide.)

We letterboxers ourselves are ephemeral. We come, enjoy the hobby, and go.  Some perhaps lose the desire to continue with the hobby, some move away… some pass away… But the letterboxes can and do live on for
others.  Some of my absolute favourite letterboxes weren’t necessarily ones with great carves, impressive locations, or cool clues, but were ones that had been left undiscovered for large periods of time.  One I found hadn’t been found for three years.  Three whole years.  What was I even doing three years ago?  The planter was no longer in the letterboxing biz, or at least had moved away, but because the box was in a secure spot, it was ready and willing to be found – quivering in anticipation of meeting a new letterboxer – that I was gifted with the
box over such a great time period.  That planter doesn’t even know that their good work in securing their box sufficiently means that I, years after, have benefited from their thoughtfulness.

I’m not really sure what I’m saying here.  I’m nearly rounding out 100 planted letterboxes, and I have to say that the vast majority of my boxes I would have to place in the “unsecure” category of letterbox hides.  While I do intend to continue letterboxing (and maintaining boxes that have been lost due to their lack of security), I think I
will be endeavoring to ensure that my future hides are ones that will outlive my involvement with this hobby – and benefit those come after.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Korean Souvenir

This very friendly Buddha sits in front of the Jogyesa shrine near Itaewan.
Look, two posts in one day - I'll catch up, I swear!

One of the things that has taken time away from me is the rather unexpected trip to Seoul (I know, poor me).  Seoul is a magical place and I am so happy to have gone; it certainly wasn’t on a list of places I ever thought I would travel.  However, my sister was there and just finishing up an English teaching position, so I made my way out and explored the beautiful City.

I’ve never been anywhere in Asia, so this was my first experience.  From a letterboxer’s perspective, I have to say that the potential for letterboxing is high even within the city.  That is because the city is based in and around a number of mountains and the Korean people are avid hikers - there are oodles of trails.  You are never more than a couple subway stops away from a number of trailheads leading up into the mountains.  The mountains are gorgeous and have beautiful hidden treasures like Buddhist temples, panoramic vistas, and waterfalls.

Unfortunately, at least in my search of AtlasQuest, there are very few letterboxes in Seoul, and only one of which my travels could bring me in reach of during my stay.  That was the Korean Surprise letterbox in Myeongdong.  My sister, friends and I made our way out and did some nice shopping in the area and found the spot the clues led to, and after a very thorough search of the spot, failed in our quest.  A tad disappointing not to have a find from Korea, but it was a great adventure nonetheless and led me to a delicious restaurant.

I did manage to plant a letterbox, Love in Suraksan, and truly hope that it will be found at least once before it disappears into the void.  I planted it near where my sister was living in Seoul near Mount Suraksan – Suraksan is Korean for “water trickling down the mountain”.  Residents of Seoul make their way to Suraksan  in the spring in order to sit in the creek where the water trickles down and let it wash over them… I was visiting too early in the year to enjoy such festivities and instead planted a letterbox nearby instead.  It’s not that far from the subway station and does not require anyone to do any climbing, as it is essentially at the base of this mountain.

But now that I am home and faced with all kinds of ephemera related to the trip, I decided to plant a sort of souvenir letterbox.  Now, for you letterboxers out there who know my style of boxes, this is not like any of them.  First off, it is a *gasp* store-bought stamp. *boo, hiss!*  Well, in my defence, I actually purchased this cute little stamp in a stationary store in Itaewan (a shopping district of Seoul).  It's really, really, cute.  It has Korean writing on it and I've left the translation in the box.  And the written statement... well... that is indeed how I lived while in Seoul.

Now, in order to overcome the store-purchased-ness of the stamp, I would like to tell you some other interesting things about this box.  The tin it is in is of a Korean boy-band - they are of a special type of music called K-Pop which *everyone* seems to listen to down there.  It was funny, and I will always remember sitting next to a rough looking guy on the subway who was blaring K-Pop music through his headphones...  The logbook itself was made from a postcard I purchased which shows hand-carved wooden Korean characters.  The logbook shows the image of the purchased stamp along with the translation, along with a stamp impression of a hand-carved stamp/seal that I purchased - the translation for which is "bumblebee" which I've used instead of my standard signature stamp.

If you're interested in finding this box, head over to the Markham Village Branch of the Markham Public Library.  There's another letterbox in here somewhere if you're interested.  Before I left for Seoul, I visited the travel section and took out some books about South Korea and Seoul.  When I went back to plant this box, I looked for the asian cuisine section to find some books on the delicious Korean food I was treated to while there.  Oddly, the travel section and the recipe section face each other - I could reminisce.  You'll find the letterbox attached to the bottom-most shelf at the back left of the bookcase where you'll find asian cookbooks.  (If you can't find any on Korean food, it's because I took them all out!).

Spoiler: Creative malaise and picking my event box carve

Okay, so my apologies, I’m not gone.  I have had quite the whirlwind year so far which has meant that there has been little time for letterboxing-related activities, and even less for the blog.  And at the moment, I have a terrible case of the flu.  I've been off work since last Friday.  But I’m here and alive - and I’m looking forward to an amazing year of letterboxing adventures.

One of the things keeping my mind preoccupied is this year’s BoxON which I am hosting in Markham.  I’ve had a bit of creative malaise since I scheduled it, my brain hanging up on the image decision for the event box.  Yes, there are many other things to work on leading up to that carve, but for whatever reason, my brain wasn’t allowing that to happen.

However, I have finally picked what I feel is the perfect image for the theme (Mystery Markham).  It’s a complicated image, and will definitely take me longer than any other carve I’ve done, so I’ve decided to chronicle its creation here in the lead up to the event. Hope you don’t mind.  If you’d rather not see it, I will be continuing to include the word “spoiler” in my blog titles so you will be warned.

I’ve chosen to reproduce and slightly modify the Flammarion woodcut, which I’m sure everyone has seen at one point or another. The Flammarion woodcut dates back to the late 1800s, although there’s some argument whether it is a woodcut or some other type of print. It’s unknown who the artist is and it has been reproduced endlessly in
literature and online.

I have always really liked the image, and I think I will enjoy carving it because whether it is actually a woodcut or not, it is in that style which I really like.  The image itself I think captures the feeling of wonder at the universe, that there are infinite mysteries out there – one of the aspects of letterboxing that I enjoy so much. The image itself also lends to being modified to include a title within the bottom scroll.  I’m planning to make it quite large to get the details – perhaps about six inches wide – so it will take me quite some time.  Stay tuned for updates!