Monday, July 30, 2012
Sunday, November 13, 2011
It began as a drawing I made five or six years ago, but we never actually built it. I have always liked the concept, but since it is more three dimensional than our other pieces, the sketch could not do justice to the essential forms, so we never got a client interested in commissioning this piece. This year, we took the leap of faith to build it for the LWC exhibit, and it could not have been a bigger success. David and I love the way it came out, and it opens up a whole new branch to our growing portfolio of designs. It also won two prestigious awards at Living With Crafts: Best Collaboration, and Best in Contemporary Design. There were so many amazing pieces in the exhibition, so we are honored to be selected by the jurors.
An interesting bit about how the design evolved: the original drawing was quite a bit taller and proportionally narrower, and that form is equally dramatic. But it would only be appropriate for a room with a very high ceiling. In coming up with the final drawings for LWC, it was obvious that it needed to be re-scaled to suit the exhibition hall. In doing that, we realized it could easily be scaled in many ways: wider or narrower, taller or shorter, and with shades as small as 10" diameter or as large as 18." All the variations we played with looked good! What we settled on is a fairly small rendition, which was appropriate for the space and also the Terry Moore Table over which it was going to be placed.
When we had it all built, we realized it needed a name. Originally we had been referring to it as "Tri-Icicles,"
One other note about this piece. Working on two dimensional paper to draw three dimensional forms is limiting. The interplay of lines sweeping through space is entirely different depending on what angle the piece is seen from. And even if I can imagine what the lines on the paper mean when it is translated to three dimensions, it is far from an ideal way to present to a prospective client – the dynamic range of dancing shapes is confusing and ambiguous. So I am now learning how to make 3D models out of copper wire and tubing, annealing the metal so it bends sinuously, and soldering the joints. I still have to work out some tricks for how to hold the odd shaped pieces together while I solder, but the process of bending and arranging the components is fascinating. Just a simple thing like taking three arc-shaped elements and holding them together in different ways provides for infinite choices. The aesthetic and functional results are fascinating. I have no doubt that this new way of designing is going to open up a lot of new project opportunities.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I have been working with Banksia Seed Pods for a couple of years, since Kathy and I went on a trip to Australia and actually saw the pods "in the wild." They grow on a hardwood tree native only to that country. There are actually 175 varieties of Banksia, most of which produce pods that are much smaller, acorn to plum size, and the ones we saw in person were very small. But in the deserts of Western Australia, Bull Banksia (Banksia Grandis) is much larger, from 4-16” long. When flowering, they are even larger, since each of the tiny bumps on the surface sprouts a long spike of flower petal forming a shape that is like a giant bottle brush in yellows, greens, and reds.
Interestingly, the Banksia name comes from Joseph Banks, the famous botanist on Captain Cook’s vessel, The Endeavor, as it circled the globe in the 1700’s in what is rightly considered one of the greatest missions of geographic and biological discovery.
Banskia pods resemble pine cones in a general way, but they are much more dense and heavy. That makes them strong and substantial. They are extremely difficult to carve, since the internal structure is brittle and honeycombed with the empty seed cavities. And they are also impregnated with micro-grains of sand from their desert habitat, and that dulls tools quickly. So I mostly work them by literally grinding away the material to get the best form for my purposes – not the most fun way to turn wood, but the results are so stunning, and I keep going back to this material.
There are several layers to a Banksia pod. The outer crust is grayish and bumpy, punctuated by smiling lips at the edges of the seed cavities. Then right after that is a layer of crimson felt that almost seems unnatural in it’s softness and perfection. Under the felt is a rock-hard core that radiates out from the central pith. Each pod is different in shape, arrangement of cavities, and coloration of the core.
Until this spring, the largest pods I could obtain in this country were maybe 8" long, great for candle lanterns. But this year, I found a source for a few extraordinary pods that were 11-14" long. That made it possible to make a lamp base using a single pod, with a wider base made of a different kind of wood (Teak in this case). The results are stunning, with the light shedding down over the varied surface textures of the pod in ways that really picks up the felt areas, the dark cavities, and the wild grain textures.
What a dramatic combination for the warm glow coming thru the side of the shade.
The photo at the top is of the table lamp that will be in the Living With Crafts exhbition at the Sunapee Craft Show (more accurately known as the Annual Fair of the League of NH Craftsmen). Hopefully you will get a chance to see it there. But since making that one, I have made four others using these pods, with different forms and different companion wood for the bottom disk. The photo below shows a whole seed pod.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
I have been privileged to be a demonstrator at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel for one week every summer since 1995. Guests at the hotel get to watch me make small wood lampshades, and work with me hands-on making smaller accessory items. This coming year I expect to be there in July, probably the week beginnning July 5. It is wonderful in every way: I get to meet interesting people who appreciate my work; I am productive: I get to work in the most beautiful place imaginable: and since we don’t demonstrate every single hour of the day, it is semi-vacation of a kind. And I could not recommend the hotel more enthusiastically! You will never be treated better, or have better meals. Come the week I am demonstrating and we can connect in person. Check them out at http://www.thebalsams.com. Or look at my earlier blog posting about this demo gig at http://woodshades.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html
I feel deeply connected to the hotel and it’s commitment to the summer artisan’s program, the overall pursuit of quality and personal attention to detail, and the long history of one of the “grandest” of grand resort hotels in New England. In 2005, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my demonstrating, I donated a table lamp to the hotel, and it is part of the decor of the spectacular Tillotson Suite. I also have a small table lamp on loan to the massage room in the spa.
After consultation with Jeff McGiver, the managing director of the hotel, I designed a new table lamp base that is exclusively associatied with the Balsams. Two of the lamps now sit proudly in the registration area of the lobby, and I am more of this lamp design available for purchase by guests and appreciators of the Balsams. This has been a lovely project for deepening my connection to The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, and representing that association with a tangible and artistic expression.
As you can perhaps perceive, the design is reminiscent of a conifer tree, and relates to the many beautiful trees on the hotel property, and to the logo of the hotel, which is comprised of three balsam fir trees in a circular frame. The lamps in the lobby have 16” tall bases and are about 30” tall overall. But the concept can be scaled to whatever dimensions you need.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
FYI, the pair is available for $4000 for the set. If they do not sell together, they can be purchased individually at the end of the exhibition. We are very excited about the results of this collaboration and would entertain other commissions in this general style.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Balsams is an amazing Grand Resort Hotel, in northern NH. Far far far Northern NH, seems like it is almost off the edge of the map of the USA, and in some ways if feels like it is off the edge of the 21st Century! The scenery is fantastic, the food is heavenly, and they have an unusual craft and art demonstration program that is both supportive of artistans and entertaining and informative to the guests. Each week during the summer, a different person sets up their equipment and a display of completed works, and the visitors spend time viewing and learning, and often getting involved in a hands-on basis.
2008 is my thirteenth straight year being involved with the Balsams. It is a huge physical effort to get all my stuff up there. I have even built a special water-filled lathe for making small lampshades on-site. But once I am set up, I love the whole experience, which is so different than a craft show. The interactions with the guests are leisurely, and the beauty of the location is simply breathtaking. My demonstration area is outside under an awning I build, and when I gaze out over my lathe, I am looking upon spectacular gardens, a lovely lake, and right up into the rugged cliffs of Dixville Notch. I am prone to exclaim to the guests that for one week each year, I have the most beautiful "office" in the world.
Last week I worked on lampshades and bottle stoppers outdoors, and also helped a lot of people have their first experience holding a turning gouge and making shavings. Many of them are young, sometimes less than 10 years old. And then some are guys who have not turned since high school, and that may have been 60 years ago. There is joy and amazement as they hold the gouge and discover how it works, how to control the cuts, how to reveal the beauty of the wood. I keep it safe by holding my hands on the gouge from the side, but after the first few cuts, my instant students are already doing most of the control and application of effort.
Being at the Balsams is a working vacation for me. I get lots of useful work accomplished, I sell my work and make great connections with prospective clients, and Kathy and I are guests in the hotel ourselves, which means we get to eat the award-winning meals and use the amazing facilities. I hope you someday get to enjoy the Balsams yourself as a guest. Think ahead to July of next summer.... I don't yet know what week I will have next year but it will probably be in early July.
Check out their web site to get more information: http://www.thebalsams.com
Monday, July 28, 2008
I am again recognizing how infrequently I post here, my apologies. But I do have something "hot" to talk about, a material for making lamp bases that is simply amazing. Camphor is a species of wood that grows in the entire Pacific Basin. I see specific references to Borneo and Taiwan, but apparently it is more widespread. It has become an invasive species along river banks in Northeast Australia, and major efforts are going on there to eradicate or control its spread. As I understand it, is is basically a weed tree, but it does have one commercial product that is extracted from the wood: Camphor Oil. Here are a couple of interesting tidbits that I picked up from Googling:
"Steaming the tree’s bark or wood creates a white, crystalline, and odorous substance, a substance that was once believed to hold magical properties, but now has scientifically proven medicinal qualities."
"The therapeutic properties of camphor oil are analgesic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, cardiac, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypertensive, insecticide, laxative, rubefacient, stimulant, sudorific, vermifuge and vulnerary. Camphor oil can be used in the treatment of nervous depression, acne, inflammation, arthritis, muscular aches and pains, sprains, rheumatism, bronchitis, coughs, colds, fever, flu and infectious diseases."
Most of the Camphor oil produced now is synthetic, not from Camphor trees.
Anyway, there is a company in Oregon that imports blocks of burlwood from Camphor trees, and they are gorgeous. Early last fall I bought one and made a lamp base, and it sold instantly at the first show where I exhibited the piece. The same thing happened with the next two Camphor Burl pieces I worked with. So now I am convinced that it not only me that sees Camphor Burl as being an excellent material for making lamp bases. The combination of this wood with my shades is really stunning. The warm light of the translucent wood lends a dramatic extra oomph to the amazing colors and swirling patterns in the burlwood.
The wood is amazing to work with, it is heavy but very workable, cutting smoothly. It is mostly very solid and stable, not honeycombed with cracks or bark inclusions. Each piece is quite unique, some swirl patterns are tight and small, others are large and evenly spread over the entire piece. But from a wood turners point of view, perhaps the most remarkable thing about working with Camphor is the smell of the wood. As soon as I make the first cut, my shop is full of the most amazing odor, it would remind you a bit of Vic's VapoRub, but much much more pleasant. For so many years, I have had an annual winter cold, but not this year. Does that have to do with my breathing in the medicinal qualities of the Camphor? Who knows.... but I like the smell. When clients buy a lamp made of Camphor, I am providing them with a baggy of the shavings, a small memento of the process of crafting that base.
I have gone a bit crazy for Camphor Wood. In addition to the three I have already sold, I have now completed 8 more Camphor Burl lamp bases for the upcoming League of NH Craftsmen craft fair at Sunapee next week. And I just ordered 4 more chunks of the wood. The raw material is quite expensive, so of course there is a premium to be paid for these bases, but they are so remarkable. I feel sure I am on the right track, and that my commitment to this new direction will be something that you will all enjoy.