Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Progress & Prayer Flags

Every week, a little more progress is made on the new school. It's a slow process, and I'm very lucky to have some wonderful neighbors who have pitched in to help. Just a few doors down from my shop is Joe's Signs, it's a full service sign shop here in town. Joe was kind enough to set me up with some vinyl for my windows.

The inside is coming along, too. The prayer flags hanging in the tool room hopefully give us some good karma around all the machinery.

And it never hurts to remind people to keep an eye on their digits.

My next task is figuring out what to do with the concrete floor in my office and in the small gallery space. I've spent the last few days stripping off the linoleum and cleaning off the adhesive. Anyone who does that for a living has my sympathy. Now I'm doing a little research to decide what to do with the bare concrete. Staining? Painting? Etching? Any suggestions?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Whenever I have a little free time, I love to check out other blogs. Food blogs are one of my favorites, like Jen Yu's or the Pioneer Woman's blog, both of which are part of my morning ritual. I'm also a little addicted to Cynthia Guajardo's ceramic blog, and this completely ridulous/disgusting site.

But since I sell my work on Etsy, I like to peruse some of the artists on that site. I've collaborated with a few of them, and gotten to be friends with some, even though we're miles apart.

Recently, I was checking out some local artists, when one woman's work snagged my attention. There was something entirely hypnotic about her work, and I found myself looking at page after page of her pieces. Honestly, I can barely tear my eyes away from her work.

Of course, I had to "meet" her, and as I was checking out her profile, I noticed we share the same birth date. Well, that sealed it, I had to write to her and introduce myself.

Let me back up a minute here and say that whenever I read someone's blog and they do a profile on a "guest", I automatically think - "oh, you ran out of things to say today, right?" But that's not the case here. I think Debi's work is simply fantastic, and I hope you will, too. Debi goes by the user name of Fishstikk's on Etsy, and you can check out her shop here.

So here's a little "introduction" to Debi, I asked her to answer a few questions.

Anything about your design process that you feel like sharing? Where you get your inspiration? Where do you work? How you start the process? Do you have some sort of ritual before starting?

My ritual always consists of going into my art room and then remembering say, my glasses, getting up to go fetch them and returning 20 minutes later after doing several things I saw along the way, sitting down and remembering that I still need my glasses...rinse and repeat.
Inspiration comes in many forms, from something my Ralphie cat does to the mean mockingbirds outside my front door (with babies) to the rescue birds my friend brings over that she finds on the golf course.
My design process was slow at first but in thinking how can I take the to the next step brought about some really great things, especially in the big eyed birds. I love taking things that would normally have been thrown away and create new things with them.
I also got to convert my spare bedroom into my art room and at the moment have it stuffed to the gills with future projects and things I find 'seemingly' useful.

Name three people you'd like to have dinner with (living or dead is OK).

Hmmm, I think Angelina Jolie must be fascinating to talk to, the things she's done and the places she's seen.
I would love to pick Tim Burton's head with all the weird things floating around in there.
Stephen King as I adore most everything he's ever written. He's been the host of many a nightmare and I find him one of the most creative souls I've ever heard of.

If we'd open your fridge, would we find any surprises?

Most definitely. I've kept almost all of my "science" experiments with the exception of the ones that have got up and walked out.

Anything on your nightstand that you care to share with us?

My dogs ball, the current issue of Cloth Paper Scissors that I hope to be published in "one day", Stephen Kings' most recent book and my volleyball league schedule.

When people ask what you do - how do you describe yourself?

I generally speak about my day job first but then I like to tell them what I really enjoy doing - I make art! Then I like to bore them with projects I'm currently working on, hehe.

Can you name five different things about yourself that most people (even those close to you) might not know?

This might be pretty hard to answer. Those close to me know me pretty well. I'm insecure. I'm shy...no really! I was the prom queen in High School. Wow! I struggled to get those three out, who would have thought I would be so...transparent. Hehe.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

At first I thought I wanted to be a vet because I liked animals so well. We weren't really allowed to have any pets growing up except for the occassional wild cat who wasn't even allowed in the house. When I realized that being a vet was much more complicated than just simply "having" a bunch of animals around I decided I wanted to be an artist. Go figure.

What's your studio/workspace like?

Disorganized, messy, cluttered, full of everything imagineable, happy and bright all at the same time. I love turning trash into treasure with altered art so needless to say I keep the most bizarre things around for the day I may find a use for it kind of things.

What do you listen to while doing your work?

Movies. I love to watch movies while I work. I'm sure that if I had music on in the background I would more than likely accomplish a lot more when I work but movies it is.

What's the most interesting (or most challenging?) (or most frustrating?) project you've worked on?

I did a swap with some wonderfully talented artists where we decided to alter our ancestors. There were 5 of us in this group and we each picked out three of our own ancestors for the others to choose from. I had no problem choosing which ancestors I wanted to use but when it came time to alter them I was completely stuck. I agonized over my decisions on what to do. I mean come on, these were someone's Grandparents and Mothers. It took me weeks to come to grips with it (everyone else too). Finally one day it just clicked and I was ever so pleased with how mine came out. Would most definitely like to wander down that path again!

What are you working on right now?

A surprise project that may come to fruition in November but I had better get it done by July 1st! That and lots more of my Big Eyed Birds and chubby little houses!

Describe your perfect meal.

That's easy, Salmon cooked in extra virgin olive oil, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach with some vinegar and strawberry cheesecake for dessert...yummy!

(Thanks, Debi!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Junk mail

Is your mailbox always full of junk mail? We get a buttload of mail every day, and most of the time, it's all a bunch of crapola.

I don't get it. I went to Catalog Choice a while ago, and asked to opt of of all my catalog deliveries, but I still receive them. They go right into the recycling bin; I don't even look at them.

What a waste of money. Even worse, what a waste of trees.

Here's something I received in today's mail.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I opened the envelop to find this:

H i l a r i o u s.

I needed a good laugh after the day I've had!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Major score of wood

It all started when a fellow cabinetmaker told me about a local door company that had gone out of business, and was auctioning off their shop. On one hand, I've been seeing a lot of that, and it makes me sad. But the other side of the coin is that it does make the market tighten up a bit, with less businesses competing for the few construction dollars that are out there. Whatever. All I know is that I scored a major amount of wood, for a very nice price.

If you've never been to an auction, or bid on something online, I'm here to tell you that some amazing bargains can be had. I know a fellow who bought a load of white oak for $25. Well, not just a load, two semi trailers full of white oak. His biggest problem was where to store everything, since it was in sixteen foot lengths. So bargains can be found at auctions, no doubt.

Back to the local company selling everything. Honestly, all I was looking for was a dust collector.

But I noticed that they had some lumber up for bidding. Since I opened my woodworking school about three weeks ago, I've been looking for a good assortment of wood.

Be careful what you wish for.

It started out with me winning four of the auctions for pallets of wood. Now when I looked at the pictures and read the descriptions, I didn't really have a clear picture of what each "lot" contained. It just said "hardwood" but didn't mention the amount of wood included.

It started off with a van full of it.

I started stacking it neatly, trying to sort it by specie.

But the shelves quickly filled and I had to start new piles on the floor.

Every new stack revealed some gorgeous boards. Notice the 16" wide boards of mahogany above. The pile below contains some 2x10s and 2x12s of
mahogany, but there are some huge pieces that I can't identify. Bubinga? Teak? Rosewood?

Below is a very nice stack of red oak, which I used to love. But compared to some of the other gems in this lot, it's rather boring.

And I have no idea what I'm going to do with this stack of softwood, most of it is a gorgeous vertical grain douglas fir. This stuff is really pretty, but a little thin for my taste.

All this wood ended up filling my van three times, and my buddy Phil's truck (which is huge) took the balance I'm starting to run out of room, but at least it's somewhat sorted.

Now, I'm pretty good at wood identification, but even I was having trouble figuring out what some of the wood was. Luckily, some of it was labeled.

Even though they botched the spelling, I'm glad this board was labeled. There's no way I would have guessed this one.

Finally, all the wood is unloaded.

There are piles everywhere. Luckily, I have someone coming by over the weekend to help me get this organized.

About half of this load is longer pieces, so I'm sure I'll be building some very cool pieces in the coming years. But there are some incredible "shorts", perfect for using in the projects that we make at the school.

Now if I can just figure out what to make with that pile of softwood...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Furniture repair

Families with toddlers have my sympathy. Every bit of it. I remember a few years ago, I was at a client's home, measuring their dining room so that I could design a sideboard for them. They had a gorgeous home, modern and custom, and were filling it entirely with custom built pieces.

They were particularly proud of their kitchen table, a custom piece in fumed Cherry with stainless steel mesh accents. So they urged me to take a look at it, especially the aprons and underside, where the maker had included some very special details. As I crouched down to see the piece, I noticed a huge smear of peanut butter down one leg and all across the meshwork.


I can relate. Well, not really with peanut butter. But you probably know we have a puppy around the house. Life with puppies isn't for for weak of heart. Oh, the housebreaking went fine; it's the chewing that bothers me.

This is a leg on one of the dining room chairs that I made. If you read reports of a small tremor in the Las Vegas desert last week, that was probably me losing my mind when I noticed this.

Of course, when you have a face like this, you tend to get away with a lot of things that normally wouldn't be tolerated.

Thank god I know how to repair and refinish furniture.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It takes a village

This has been an emotional week.

To start, we lost our beloved Lily on Saturday. Losing anyone is painful, but pets just wipe me out, emotionally. Lily was smart, yet sometimes crabby, demanding, but understanding. She was the perfect companion, and her 13 years went by way too swiftly.

I can't tell you how different our home feels without her.
But the show must go on, so just 48 hours after her passing, the first woodworking class commenced in my new school.

Wow... it feels very odd to say "my school" but that's what it is. It's been a dream for a very long time of mine. See, I've taught in I-don't-know-how-many different woodshops over the last 15 years. In some cases. I've had to bring in my own tools, clamps and even a tablesaw, when the school's saw was broken. I've kept a running list in the back of my head - when I start my own school, I'll have this or that. Well, I finally have the opportunity to do that, and while it's still a work in progress, I'm finally setting up things the way I want them to be. It's WAY cool.
But on top of doing things MY way, I've had to rely on the generosity of friends and aquaintences. And let me tell you, these people in my life have been absolutely amazing. AMAZING. I'm blown away at their generosity, and I'd like to give some thanks here to the many people who have been great in my time of need. In no particlar order, I'll just jump in. Oh, I take that back, I'll sort of run through the list chronologically. It might be the best way for me to not forget anyone.

First, I really have to thank my family - mom and Jill, who have been there since the beginning, listening to my mania and whining, until I decided to take the plunge and actually get this thing going. They endured more discussions and played devils advocate better than anyone else, answering me honestly, and giving me a few "snap out of it!" Cher moments. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for putting up with me during this time.

Sharon Gainsburg has been a mentor, a friend, and a peer, offering her wisdom and encouragement in ways that only another artist and teacher could do. Sharon runs her own school here in town - a marble carving studio - and you can feel the love in her classroom. She's been invaluable for educating me about the ins and outs of the Las Vegas licensing system, not to mention giving me amazing support when I hit a few bumps in the road.

Dan Layman and his office manager Rick L'Esperance of Exotic Millworks used to occupy the space that I moved into. They were so helpful with tips and trivia about the space, names of people to call, and general support for what I was attempting. They said they felt like there was a good vibe in their shop, and hoped it would stay in the room for me and my tools. I think it has. Along the way, Dan loaned me everything from scaffolding to tools, shared misceallaneous remodeling tips, and even pitched in on a couple of tool repairs when he could see I was exhausted. These two run an amazing local cabinet shop that is growing by leaps and bounds. I wish them nothing but smooth sailing and continued growth in that endeavor, they're great guys.

My good friends Charles and Adrienne couldn't have been more helpful, or more supportive, and for that, I am so very thankful. Charles is a master electrician, and let's get this straight - you know that line about "diamonds are a girl's best friend?" Not true... electricians are. He was kind and patient, helpful and generous with his time. Adrienne was a constant source of encouragement from the very beginning, and kept us fed while Charles and I worked together. I don't want to think about how much harder the woodshop set-up would have been without these two in my life.

Larry Yule, of AG Yule & Sons Custom Woodworking, has been incredibly kind, helpful, and freely offered the depth of his experience to me, to which I am completely indebted. Larry is a great woodworker, he's a straight shooter and such a nice guy, I wish he was my brother. When I couldn't get my jointer adjusted correctly after knocking it around during my move, Larry was johnny-on-the-spot for me, stopping by and helping me out. Even sweeter, Larry presented me with a "studio warming" gift of an awesome H. O. Schumacher & Sohn Saw Blade. I'd never used one before, but now I'm a big fan. I've only known him about six months, but he's really one of those great no-BS kind of people that your rarely come across in life. I'm lucky to have met him.

I'd be forgetting a big part of my success if I forgot to mention my buddy, Dave Tome, back in Ohio. He's an electrical genious, and more geeky about tools than I am. I can't count the number of times I called Dave for advice, with an electrical question, or just to generally complain about life. Dave gets me, and I get him. Life would be a just a little more dull without hearing Dave's stories or speaking to him during our weekly bitch sessions.

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I'm especially grateful to Stacey Campbell, whose amazing artwork now adorns my walls. After our four day painting marathon, we were both exhausted but so invigorated by what she'd accomplished. Stacey's work is a treasure waiting to be discovered, and I know a gallery or two are going to snatch up her work and spring her headfirst into the LA art scene. She deserves every bit of that attention, her work is that good. While Stacey was in town, her family including Janet, Helen and Terry kept us fed, and gave us much love and support. Once again, I'm so blown away by people's generosity.

Speaking of generosity, sometimes out of the blue, someone comes along and just does something sweet "just because". One of my current students, Larry M. unexpectedly stopped in while Stacey and I were painting, with pizza and sodas in hand. I get a warm feeling just writing that, it was just such a sweet (and unexpected!) gesture.

And finally, I'd like to thank the students both past and present, that have enrolled in my classes. Without these current students, all of these efforts would have been for naught. It takes a lot of trust and a leap of faith to enroll in a woodworking class with a perfect stranger. I'm humbled by their trust, and pledge to make every class a great experience for every single person. I miss my old group of students, and it's testament to our bond that I still correspond and visit many of them when I return to Ohio. I can only hope to work with such a diverse, friendly group of people here, in Las Vegas.

So - here's a sincere thanks to all of you, you've truly made a difference in my life.

If I've forgotten anyone here, shame on me.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof passed away at his home in California last Thursday, May 28. He was 93. If you're a woodworker, you almost certainly know his work. If you're a fan of hand crafted furniture, you probably have seen his pieces.

Not sure why, but this last picture just really captures the essence of many woodworkers that I know.