Carving a dragon boat heads with Eric Neighbor – First step is Design

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team at Alcan Dragon Boat Festival 2004.

Carving dragon boat heads with Eric Neighbor:

Sunday 1:45 to 5:00pm

At the Roundhouse Community Centre, on Sunday Feb 20, Eric Neighbor
introduced the teams to the project.  We each paid $100 for the
workshop that provided carving tools, 8 logs of seasonsed red cedar to
create 4 sets of heads and tails, and his expert advice, as he has
taught more than 4000 people how to carve.

Day One would see us organize our carving schedules, familiarize
ourselves with Eric and the program's goals, conceive sketch and design
life-size plans.  There was a good friendly atmosphere in the
room.  Eric made everybody feel welcome and excited.  Our
team members that showed up for Day One were our coaching team – Bob
Brinson and myself, our keener rookie of the year from 2004 – Naoko
Watanabe who only arrived in Canada the month before meeting us at the
Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, and my friend Gordon Bradford.

My team coaching partner Bob Brinson and I knew many of the people on
the other teams, as we had either coached the other teams or paddled
with some of the paddlers.  Only four teams signed up to be part
of the pilot project for carving dragon boat heads and tails: Women on
Water from Fort Langley, The Wong Way organized by the “Modernize
Tailor” William Wong family, Abreast in a Boat, and us – Gung Haggis
Fat Choy.  Bob had formerly coached Abreast in a Boat, the team
made up of breast cancer survivors, and he was now presently coaching
Women on Water – whom he lead to their first medal at the Peachland
dragon boat reaces this past summer.  I had paddled with Ming Wong
from The Wong Way + their patriarch William Wong had grown up with many
of my aunts and uncles in Chinatown.

Most of the teams got off to a quick start working on their drawings
while our team concentrated on the logistics of how the design would
work. My friend Gordon Bradford is an industrial designer who brought
in some great design concepts of function and application.  Bob
Brinson is a former CBC television carpenter who had worked on the
Beachcombers production and has reconditioned the original 1986 teak
dragon boats as well as refitted the 10 year old Taiwanese dragon boats
that only arrived in Vancouver in 2003.  So our team started
working with 3-D drawings and concepts of which boats we would connect
the heads to, and the best way to utilize the carving material. 
While Gordon has never been in a dragon boat before, he is an avid
canoeist and our team worked well together. 

Bob and I wanted to utilize both the Scottish and Chinese elements of
our team's origins to create a unique multicultural design.  We
built upon the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon head logo that my architect
friend David Wong of e-Atelier Architects had designed in 2002. Naoko
and I exchanged ideas about some design concepts, went to get drinks
and potatoe chips for everybody – then fleshed out the design details
once Gord mapped out the outline on paper.  Our dragon head design
would transform from a flat  siloutted outline figure into a
3-D  lively cartoonish  personality – complete with wagging
tongue and tilted tam-o-shanter hat.

We are all very anxious to start taking chips out of the cedar wood,
and to see our design coloured and taped up to the wall.  CBC TV
cameras will come by on Monday night to film us beginning our work
comparing the raw logs to our creative concepts of ink and pastels on
paper.  They will return on Friday to see how much we have
accomplished or didn't accomplish.  Meanwhile, I shall take
digital pictures to document the process and keep you updated on our

While our team isn't full nor set, a number of team paddlers and
friends will join us for the carving experience.  Some wanna-be
paddlers, new recruits and former paddlers will also drop in and
hopefully take their tentative steps at carving a dragon boat head and
tail.  There is still lots of room for eager beavers, as four to
eight people can work at a time on the heads and tails.  If you
would like to join us or watch – please call me at 604-987-7124 or drop
in on us at the Roundhouse Community Centre.  We will be carving
on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – from 3pm to 8pm, and on
Tuesday from 10:30am to 5pm.
  Team debriefing meeting after a race, while being filmed for the Thalassa French PBS station, France 3.

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