Winter Activities at Dog Bark Park, a blog by Frances Conklin

Dennis & I are often asked what occupies our time at Dog Bark Park during the winter when our bed & breakfast inn is closed from November through March.

Hibernating beagles

Hibernating beagles

While the big dog is in hibernation & traffic is light out on the highway during winter, as much as we might wish to join the big dog for a long sleep, we instead focus on activities that can only be accomplished during this slower season.

During November, December & into January we’re kept busy in the carving studio making dog sculptures ordered as special holiday gifts. By the end of the holidays we’re typically depleted of inventory for our gift shop.

Dennis, Frances and Sprocket

In the studio, photo by David C.

After a short break in January, we take up the saws & paintbrushes again to begin rebuilding inventory of dog carvings in preparation for the busy summer season ahead.

Creating a dog carving

Creating a dog carving

Last week we increased our supply of carvings from 24 pieces on the shelves in our gift shop to 64 pieces completed & ready for sale.

Dog carvings on shelves

Dog carvings on shelves

We didn’t make such rapid progress this week preparing & packing some wholesale orders for shipping & doing other tasks in and away from the studio instead.
However, by the time April arrives we should have nearly 200 pieces  stocked for shipping to customers or selling directly from the shelves.

After the holidays, while our bodies continue resting from the long days of activity during the previous months, we  kick our mental energies into high gear creating new ideas for our art, business marketing & such. This is when we develop new postcard & other product designs, clean up the shop & store, order in new supplies for the inn, establish goals & objectives for the new year and the like.

We also allow ourselves more flexible work hours at the studio; sometimes not opening when the weather is too inclement.

Winter at Dog Bark Park, photo by Wild Web West

Winter at Dog Bark Park, photo by Wild Web West

We enjoy a bit more time at home reading, watching television & spending creative time in the kitchen & on the computer; all leisure luxuries mostly unavailable to us during our vibrant high season.

By mid-March we eagerly await the return of  spring’s beauty &  the opportunity to welcome visitors & guests to our wonderful part of Idaho.

How we do it – create a German Shepherd dog carving that is

What seems uninteresting & unremarkable to artists is often not the case for non-artists.  Many times artists’ fans & collectors are fascinated by the seemingly mysterious processes involved in the making of art.

This blog will describe some of the processes we use in our studio at Dog Bark Park to create a chainsaw-carved dog carving, specifically a German Shepherd Dog.     

German Shepherd Art

German Shepherd dog carvings

Using a gas Stihl chainsaw we cut a slab of wood from a log stored outdoors in our log  yard.  Imagine the large log being rather like a loaf of bread that is sliced into appropriate thicknesses for the various uses intended for the bread; perhaps thicker for french toast & thinner for sandwiches, for example.  Similarly, we cut the log slice to the appropriate thickness for the size of the piece planned.

chainsaw carving, chainsaw art, dog art

Cutting log into slabs

We bring the freshly cut slab into our studio where the rest of the chainsaw work is done using an electric Stihl saw.  We begin by drawing an outline of the desired dog on the slab, being mindful to “read” the wood to avoid placing a knot or other undesirable characteristic in a location that might compromise the final outcome of the carving.  A large knot  on the nose of the dog, for instance,  is detrimental to the structural & cosmetic integrity of the piece.

Dennis then begins cutting away in large chunks any wood outside the German Shepherd shape penciled on the wood.  Eventually the dog begins to emerge into a 3-dimensional piece as the carving process continues as he reduces the thickness of the nose, makes the cuts to fashion the ears, tail, feet and so forth.  The final stages include rounding all the squared edges to give a finished more natural look to the dog.  The scrap wood scattered on the floor around the wood carving platform after the piece is finished is a large volume of wood than what is in the finished piece.  All this scrap is stored becoming our fuel for heating the studio.

Dog art, chainsaw carvings, German Shepherd dog

Carving a German Shepherd

After being carved the dog is set aside, either indoors near the wood stove in winter or outdoors when sunny weather prevails,  for a few days or couple of weeks to dry before prepping the carving for painting.  How long a piece takes to cure depends on moisture levels in the wood, the ambient air humidity & such factors. 

When cured, the dog is given eye & nostril cuttings using a Dremel tool.  The dog is brushed to remove any thick globs of sawdust and then it is lightly burned with a propane torch to burn off any remaining loose material as well as any residual chainsaw oil.  The burning also provides a final cure & adds color to the pine wood.

The German Shepherd carving is then taken outdoors to a painting table to spray paint on the black saddle markings.  At least two coats are applied, with drying time of a few hours or couple of days between coats.  Next the dog is moved to our studio paint table where its eyes and nostrils are hand-painted black.  Final finishing includes affixing a brass license tag  to the dog’s upper chest, tying a red fabric neckerchief around its neck & attaching hang tag.

At most times of the year our carvings are made to order, meaning they will be packaged for pick-up or mailing  to customers upon their completion.  This process is often called on-demand manufacturing.  In any case, what it means for us is that typically our carvings sell faster than we can replace inventory in our shop store.   We do try to maintain an inventory of at least 50 small-size carvings of various breeds at any one time to be able to fulfill orders for them quickly.

Somehow this large-size German Shepherd

Dog Art, Chainsaw dog art, German Shepherd art

German Shepherd Dog carving ready to paint

has not been spoken for.  We have left it “naked” for the time being in the event someone is interested to have a white shepherd, all black one, or one with markings different from the typical black saddle & muzzle.  If ordered this week we could still complete paint and ship the Shepherd to arrive before Dec 25th.       

Dog art, German Shepherd Dogs, Chainsaw art, gifts for dog lovers

German Shepherd large ready for paint, small ready for adoption

Sweet Willy is 10 years old – Specials offered

 This year marks the 10th year that guests have been arriving to stay inside Sweet Willy’s giant dog body. 

Sweet Willy the big dog inn for humans

Over his ten years, he has gained much notoriety and blazed trails for Dog Bark Park around the world.  We think he has easily earned a Perfect 10 for good work!
 
To celebrate, Dog Bark Park is offereing 10th anniversary specials throughout the year.   Look for announcements of the specials here & on our social media channels.
 
Our 1st special is all about another breed of dog – labrador retrievers!
 
Order 2 small-size labrador carvings from our online gallery and receive a $10 rebate.  This offer is valid until March 10, 2012.

Labrador Retriever - Black, Yellow, Chocolate, shown sitting pose

 
 Labs are available in sitting or standing poses.  Each comes with a brass license tag located underneath the red neckerchief & an informational hangtag. 
 
To receive the $10 rebate, both dogs need to be ordered at the same time & shipped to the same address. 
The $10 rebate will be issued as a refund at the same time we email acknowledgement of the order.

Labrador Retriever - Sitting, Standing

 
 
     Please join us in observing Sweet Willy’s 10th birthday.  If labradors aren’t the breed of choice for you or yours, do check back from time to time for other surprise specials.
 
    Sweet Willy thanks everyone for being a part of his first 10 years.  “Keep on barkin’!” is this beagle’s message when asked about his special birthday!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Connecting with Art – In Bed with Art

In Bed with Art by Katharina Kneib

 
In Bed with Art, published by Verlag-Hellblau, is a travel directory of selected inns & hotels from around the world that place emphasis on art.
 
The author, Katharina Kniess, contacted us many months ago with interest for Dog Bark Park to be included in the 224-page book.
 
Dennis & I were delighted to share our thoughts about art as it relates to our business & lives.   What follows are excerpts from the book.
 
We are connected to art on several fronts: the most major as husband & wife artists we produce and market our own unique artwork.  We are chainsaw carvers with folk art-style renditions of the world’s many dog breeds our specialty.
 
We have great interest in all genres of art and architecture.  Both of us have dabbled in artistic endeavors from our youths.  With his yearning to create art, Dennis gave up his career in the design & building trades of many years to become a chainsaw artist. We met a decade after that, which started our combined work as artists.
 

Dog Bark Park Inn B&B under construction

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This eventually led to the design & building of Dog Bark Park Inn Bed & Breakfast located adjacent to our art studio and gallery.
 
The connection of art to our inn is that the very building itself is an expression of art.  The entire building is what is often referred to as mimetic architecture; a building that looks like something else; in this case, a gaint beagle dog……The big dog building was self-designed and constructed entirely by Dennis. 
 
We eagerly interact with our guests to share our art processes & experiences in Idaho.  This interchange enriches our lives and we think deepens the appreciation of our guests for the art and lifestyle we have here in Idaho. 
 
Pedestrian entrance to Dog Bark Park – Diaphonous

Working in the arts is a satisfying outlet for our self-expression.  We endeavor to exercise that creativity in everything we do at Dog Bark Park. 

In addition to our studio gallery we have an outdoor sculpture garden of self-constructed objects, like a giant red fire hydrant, an old-fashioned electric coffee pot, an intricately designed roofed walkway, etc.
We are very fortunate to earn a living doing exactly what we want to do with art!

How we create a chainsaw carved dog

 
Meet Huner, a blue merle sheltie carving recently shipped along with 26 other sheltie carvings to a sheltie club in Texas.  This particular sheltie, named Hunter, is our large-size chainsaw dog.  it is about 18 inches tall, by 6 inches thick, by about 20 inches long & weighs nearly 10 pounds. 

Chainsaw-carved Sheltie Dog
The wood is Ponderosa pine harvested from a dead tree last summer.  We use electric Stihl chainsaws in the studio, and once the carving part is done we cure (dryout) the dog for several weeks before beginning its painting.  When the wood is dry we use a propane tourch to burn away any residual chainsaw oil & to lightly darken the wood which also removes any splintery wood fragments left as part of the carving process.  Note the saw marks along the dog’s ruff & body to indicate long flowing fur.
 

The undercoat grey/blue color is achieved by applying several layers of spray paint.  Next to go on are two layers of white hand-painted on to define the sheltie’s legs, toes, tail, muzzle & collar. To make the merling we lightly dry brush on touches of white over the dog’s body.
After all the white paint is dry, the dog is given black eyes, nose, lip line & whisker marks.  When the eyes are dry a thin dab of white is applied to bring the dog to life.  Because of all the steps involved, it usually takes us several days to paint a Sheltie.

Chainsaw art - Newfoundland dogs

 
This pair of Newfoundland dogs just shipped to a customer in NJ.  Brown colored newfies are described as bronze.  The black & white one is a variation of what is called a Landseer Newfoundland, which means a black & white Newfie.  The most common coloration for a Newfie is solid black.  The tiny white eye marks described above,  show in this photo.  Underneath the red neckerchief, each dog  wears a brass license tag marked with the year & location of  its origination, Dog Bark Park Cottonwood, Idaho.
Weimeraner chainsaw art dog carving

The Weimeraner, a smooth coated dog with an unusual grey/brown coat coloration, was a breed we have finally been able to offer after discovering a technique a spray painting to achieve a resemblance to its unusal color.   We apply several layers of brown & grey paints with the final layer a light drifting of grey.  The dog has amber eyes & a brown nose, both not readily visible in this photo. 

 
All three dogs pictured are the large-size carvings we offer on our website.  This size carving is suitable to display outdoors on a patio  or porch or indoors in any entryway or by a favorite chair for example.  If protected from the weather they will last for years to come. 
 
 
 
 

Dog Breeds 101- the Norwich Terrier

We’re back with another installment in our dog breed series.  The Norwich Terrier is our pick for this post.

Norwich Terriers carved in wood by ChainsawA bit of confusion about the name of this breed sometimes still exists. At one time this dog was included in a group of small bodied terriers referred to as Norfolk Terriers. It was only as recent as 1979 that the Norwich was recognized as a separate breed from the Norfolk Terrier. The Norwich has erect ears and the Norfolk has folded ears. Other than these differences, the two dogs share a common history. A line-up of red-coated Norwich Terriers

Both terriers were used for centuries in England as general farm and hunting dogs.  They became popular off the farm in the late 1800’s which began their development with specific breed characteristics.  The Norwich is a small, sociable, alert, handsome and charming dog making it well-suitable to be a companion or working dog.  Although it is smaller than other terriers, this beguiling canine is as sturdy and energetic as any.

Since Dennis & I have just added the Norwich to our kennel of canine carvings, the Norwich is not yet listed on our Dog Bark Park website.  The dog is available in either small or large size carvings and is priced the same as all our other dog carvings.  As the photos illustrate we offer the Norwich with either red or black & tan colorations.  To order, simply e-mail frances@dogbarkparkinn.com or phone us at 208 962-3647.
Our chainsaw Norwich Terriers will debut in June at a Norwich specialty show in Texas.  We look forward to their success  & have enjoyed making a baker’s dozen of the little dogs for this show.  Each dog looks a bit different from the next one since they are individually carved and hand-painted. 

7 Norwich Terriers, 7 slightly different faces

  

More lesser known Dog Breeds

Where we are in rural Idaho the most common dogs include labradors, border collies, cattle dogs, german shepherds, golden retrievers & other hunting or ranch working dogs.

Here, we’ll explore three lesser known dogs.

Sealyham Terrier

Sealyham Terrier in Wood

The Sealyham dog breed was developed in the mid 1800’s by a Capt. John Owen Tucker Edwardes of Sealyham, Wales.  This dog was bred to hunt badgers, foxes & other vermin.  With its short legs and terrier tenacity, the Sealyham is less than a foot tall and sports a wiry weatherproof outer coat.

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu in Wood

This breed was established in Japan.  The Shiba Inu, a small 20-30 lb dog possessing a keen disposition & talent, is often compared to Japanese pepper – spicy.  Shiba Inu literally mean small dog.  The Shiba is an agile hunter of ground birds and small game.  They are quick, catlike in their cleanliness & often aloof to strangers.

Wire Fox Terrier

Wire Fox Terrier in Wood

With origins from Great Britain dating to the 1700’s, this terrier has remarkable eyesight, a keen nose & durability making it a favored hunting dog .  Today they also make a good alarm or watchdog if given an outlet for their exuberant energy.  The Fox Terrier has a hard wiry outer coat which combined with the usual tri-colors gives them a dapper & personable appearance attractive to many dog enthusiasts.  Like most terriers, firm & fair training is necessary for this dog to be successful with its humans.