Putting Pencil to Scalpel
Plenty of people make art using pencils, including, no doubt, readers of Air Mail Pilot such as yourself. Big deal. But here’s something more unusual: a Bosnian sculptor named Jasenko Dordevic makes art from pencils.
Using magnifying glasses and miniature scalpels and chisels, he carves teeny-tiny figures on pencils’ graphite tips. (Graphite is the black stuff in the middle of a pencil that leaves marks on paper and desks and binders. It’s a crystalline form of carbon, but you knew that.)
Dordevic’s pencil-tip sculptures can be surprisingly detailed and intricate: a couple sitting on a bench, a wishing well, a guitar, the Greek mythological character Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill, a wee-size replica of Auguste Rodin’s famous normal-size bronze sculpture The Thinker.
It takes Dordevic between 5 and 10 hours to rough out a pencil sculpture, and then days to fine-tune the work. While carving the very smallest details, he uses a microscope.
But why? “For me,” Dordevic told the Daily Mail, “creating a miniature is a battle with yourself, where I get to push my limits.”
He also pushes the limits of pencils. One problem of sculpting in this medium is that graphite breaks more easily than does, say, marble. Even the long balloons that birthday clowns twist into sculptures of dogs are probably sturdier. “You have to be very careful,” Dordevic explained, perhaps unnecessarily.
If you want to see his work in person, you can visit the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick, England. Because yes, there actually is a pencil museum on planet Earth. But stop right there. It’s summer; let’s give it a rest. No more pencils, as the saying goes.
A Good Feather Day
Old Dog, New Tricks
A British sheepdog who couldn’t work due to a loss of hearing has gotten back out in the fields, after learning to communicate with her new owner with sign language.
Peggy is a Border collie who has spent her life as a working sheepdog. When she went deaf recently, her previous owner was unable to communicate with her on the farm, so she gave Peggy away to the R.S.P.C.A., an animal rescue center.
There, Chloe Shorten, an animal welfare manager, and her husband, Jason, a shepherd himself, took Peggy in and began teaching her sign language so that she could get back to working in the fields.
“We completely fell in love with Peggy,” Chloe told The Times of London, “and it soon became clear that she wouldn’t be going anywhere. We knew Peggy wanted to be working so we started the long process of teaching her how to herd and work with a shepherd without relying on voice commands.”
The process of training Peggy was similar to training a dog through voice and sound—repetition of signals and tasks, followed by positive reinforcement—but consisted entirely of hand and body motions.
“Instead of pairing a verbal command with an action, we’d use a physical hand gesture,” Chloe explains. “She reads our hand signals and body language as a way of telling what we’re asking for. For example, thumbs up means ‘good girl.’”
Now, Peggy has learned that outstretched palms mean “stop,” a pat on the knees means “come,” and a waving motion of the hands means “slow down.”
Despite her sharp mind and eye, at nine years old Peggy is not the young pup she once was, so Chloe and Jason let her get plenty of rest. But that doesn’t stop them from letting her lend a paw around the pastures as much as they can.
“It’s amazing to see her … enjoying her life with us. She’s proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.”