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Things Are Looking Up!


Deborah commissioned a wheel with the heavens as the theme so I have been looking up lately.  It’s hard enough to find room for animals and such but the idea of suggesting the majesty of the heavenly bodies and the vastness of space was really a challenge.  This wheel is not finished and unfortunately the resolution of these photos is too low, but I really do like the way things are turning out. The frame is a union of regular hardwood lumber and natural madrona forms. Embedded in the treadles are pieces of laboradorite, designed to echo the feel of meteors.  The painting on this side is a nebula with its gasses and stars. Above the main painting is a view of earth from space. In the center of the hub are little crystals glued in place to resemble the Pleiades.


This side features the Orion nebula in the main painting with another view of earth above.  The stars of the Orion constellation are “crystallized” in the hub.


Along the front part of the handle is a carving representing a comet.  I patterned it after artwork from many many years ago.  A little natural crystalline structure represents the body of the comet.  This view also shows off the front foot crafted from madrona. Most of the painted areas use a generous helping of my wonderful metallic powders and maybe a pinch of stardust too.  This has been a challenging project. I promise better photos when it is finished. Thanks for viewing!





Bug Nouveau Review


This new Foothills size wheel is coming together pretty well, though there is still much work remaining.  It is made mostly from walnut with a bit of cherry and myrtle to add interest.  This side has a painting of barberry branches.  Ellaine requested this as the plant relates to her son’s name, which is Arlo.  I can’t remember the connection, but it is a beautiful plant.  I had never actually looked at one close up.  After I’d started the painting I was sitting in the truck waiting for my wife and there in front of me was a barberry bush!  I sidled up to it and plucked off a branch to take home.  I found out that this plant really does come equipped with big thorns – ouch! The usual hub has been replaced with a more elaborate style to accommodate the silver butterfly at the top.  It was too large to fit anywhere else on this small wheel.


Along the side of the frame facing the spinner I crafted a couple of leaves out of Peruvian walnut.  Another nest for another silver bug.


This painting is of water lilies, specifically night blooming water lilies.  Ellaine’s daughter’s name is honored in this painting. The beautiful dragonfly pin is set in the wood overlay.


Along the front of the wheel are two more bugs and they each are content on their leaves. The color used on the leaves and carved portions are made using my special powders mixed into the varnish.  This allows for the wood to show through the shimmering color.  I love this effect! Now its on the the flyer assembly, flyer, and bobbins.  Also the knobs and caps and testing.  The nice thing about this wheel is that it has a lot of art but is still very light weight.  I’m happy!





Saying Goodbye to the Toucan and Hello to Bugs!


Amy has been busy testing the new wheel as you can see from the bobbin and flyer.  I hated to disrupt her project so tried to make my usual instructional video as you see the wheel.  Not a great idea, but I have confidence Tamara will figure it out in spite of my less than stellar speech. There are stones inlaid into the treadles and I used padouk liberally as well because the color is so much fun.  Mahogany is the main wood and it was a joy to use. Such a cheerful and warm wood!



I have grown quite fond of the crazy little gibnut.  Some spinners like to name my critters.  Tamara will have a big job on this wheel!

And so it is time to get busy on a new project.  Ellaine has requested a wheel that is smaller and lighter and made with an art Nouveau flair.  And she sent me a collection of beautiful silver pins crafted to be insects.  They have enamel work as well as gems  that are her family’s birthstones.   I’m taking the liberty of naming this wheel – “Bug Nouveau!”   Thanks again for looking.





A Celebration of Color!


Tamara’s husband is from Belise and she requested a wheel using elements of the area. I, as usual, began to research all the ideas she offered and was totally blown away with the color and energy of the country!  The main thing she requested was a figurehead carved to be a toucan.  What a great bird!  I built the bill up using a piece of plate aluminum as a core with layers of wood overlaid.  Then my handy dandy epoxy to finish the look.  I had to do some scrambling to locate colors this intense.  This little fellow is quite likeable  and suspect others will think so too.  The other critter living on the wheel  has a more limited appeal but he has grown on me a lot too.  Ever heard of a gibnut?  Well, down on the front leg below the bird is where you can see a gibnut.  It is a large rodent and is considered a delicacy by the hungry people of Belise.  In fact there is a story about feeding the Queen one when she came to visit.  Lucky woman, I guess. Belise has the second largest barrier reef in the world and I painted some of the residents on this wheel.   The color below the surface of the sea  certainly rivals that of the toucan!


The second big wheel has the other thing Belise is known for – the jungle.  And Tamara likes monkeys.  So here we have a couple of spider monkeys.  Originally I had planned on only the one at the top but the other monkey just happened to photo bomb the wheel.  I am glad it showed up.  There are still many elements to add. The treadles are finished and so are the footman rods but they will keep for another post.  I think this is enough to show for today.  Thanks for looking!




Peacock Almost Finished!


Valerie has been very kind by allowing me to take this wheel where I felt it needed to go.  I used a bit more paint than planned but it was the best way to go.  The idea of using peacock tail feathers on the big wheels was a core premise, but sculpting them from wood or crafting them from stained glass would have produced heavy unrealistic feathers.  It amazes me how the real bird  can exhibit such a huge display of color and yet it is mostly  just air!  Valerie also requested abalone and I have used it in a number of places. You can see four discs on the big wheel. three on the orifice height knob, and barely visible from this angle is a row of abalone squares along the top of the handle behind the peacock.

Another thing different in this wheel is that Valerie asked if I could modify the wheel to use her own bobbins and flyers.  It took some engineering and has not been tested as yet, but I believe it will work just fine.


Here is another angle and it shows off the treadle and more of the wood .  Each treadle, as well as both hubs, have a crystal inlaid into the wood.  If there is anything more elegant than a peacock is is faceted glass.  This has been such a wonderful project and I am thankful for the chance to make it.  And thanks again for looking!




Peacock Struts His Stuff


I seem to be on a bird thing lately, having just finished the lady cardinal on the nest.  Here is a new opportunity to really stretch and grow!  Valerie raises peafowl, among a lot of other critters, and has commissioned a peacock wheel.  Before I begin a new project, I do research on the net.  There is so much great reference material right at our fingertips these days!  I have been blown away by the beauty of peacocks.  Colors, textures, everything is just over the top.  And I eventually stumbled onto photos of these birds in flight.  That was the sprinkles on the frosting on the cake!  When they fly they show colors that I never knew they even had!  The wonderful copper feathers , while not depicted in the art so far, are echoed nicely in the natural wood tones of the sapelle and cherry.  Got lucky here as I had fabricated these wood parts before I knew about this second level of coloration.  The head and neck of my peacock can easily be lifted off for travel or storage.  The crest really makes the bird.  Even though it is a bit frisky for a spinning wheel, it was so much a part of the bird, it had to be made.  I used music wire and epoxy to craft this.  And the bird just came alive!peacock2

The peacock is such a flamboyant character and it almost seems like a dare from the bird to even try to fit all these wild elements within the constraints of a spinning wheel.  At the base of the bird’s gigantic fan of tail feathers is a equally beautiful array of smaller feathers.  I am working on using these as the idea behind this curved panel along the frame.  Still work to do and of course the colors will continue to be a work in progress.  The photo above shows little of the colors.  I am digging out all my magical powders to simulate peacock blue, gold, copper, green, and who knows what other ones remain to be discovered!  The big wheels will be made of steamed cherry and will in some way try to serve as a base for art using the tail feathers as a theme.  Valerie sent me a few of these for reference.  She had to actually bend/break them to fit them in the box.  Even the Post Office is hard pressed to contain this bird!   So, back to the shop for another round with this challenging subject .




Memories Wheel

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Jessica’s wheel is coming along just fine.  Still some details to finish up like screw covers and wood caps to cover the upper end of the footman rod axles. It has been a delightful project and I sincerely thank Jessica for sharing her special memories with me.  She has given me permission to share them with you also.  This way you can see how her memory was transformed into a painting:

“I had long golden blonde hair (past my waist) when I was little, with bangs.  My mom put a kerchief on me a lot when we’d go into the woods, so my hair wouldn’t get caught on bushes…..I remember that the berrying cans were just old coffee cans that my grandpa poked holes in and threaded wire handles on, so they looked like paint cans. My particular can was an old brown MJB coffee can, and it was little, like me, maybe 8 or 10 inches tall, and about half the diameter of a normal coffee can…….The butterfly was yellow, not quite buttercup yellow, but not dandelion yellow either…..I think the stump was a foot or so off the ground, but I’m not positive. It’s very hazy.”

Jennifer told me her grandfather saw her, singing to the little butterfly.  What a joy this has been to paint!

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I have apparently (for the second time) been outwitted by my devices and have lost Jessica’s letter regarding her great memories of boating on Priest Lake.  The boat was a Boston Whaler and it was the vessel into freedom and adventure for this young lady.  The boat’s name was DingBat and even though it is a small part of this painting, it is a memory trigger.  The rocks along the shore were placed there by her grandfather, as was the sand.  What a great place to spend summer days!  The biggest rock in the foreground was a special one to Jessica. She was happy to see it in this painting.

A few other details – Jessica sent me some stones she had taken from this place.  I used three of them on the various knobs. She also sent me some tiny acorn caps from her grandfather’s property and I placed them in the nest with the cardinal.  Some of the lighter wood, such as the center of the hubs and the wing shape on the footman rods, are made from tamarack.  She remembers this wood from her childhood, especially as firewood.  She asked if I could incorporate it into the wheel.  I went to my trusty wood supplier – Edensaw- and asked John if they had any tamarack, otherwise known as larch.  Seem its rare in these parts, and John had to think about it for awhile.  Finally on a hunch he went upstairs to the offices and I didn’t see him for a while.  Eventually he descended with a thirty inch board in his hand.  It was larch indeed and had been used to keep the resident cat from using a potted plant for a litter box!  Hopefully they found another board to deter the cat.  I so much appreciate the folks at Edensaw.  They have always treated me and others with respect and are so generous with their time.  And when I finish new wheels I enjoy taking them out to show the staff.  My little way of saying thank you. And thank YOU again for letting me share my new memories of building this wheel.