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Thailand Memories

Heather, my latest spinner, took a trip to Thailand with her children. She commissioned me to make a wheel thar always brings back those special days in such an exotic place. She also gave me an extensive wish list! This wheel manages to incorporate most of her desires.

It’s pretty hard not to notice the elephant in the room! My thought was elephants are very big animals so in order to give the sense of such a creature, go large! The head is easily lifted off for travel. I grew fond of elephants as I researched and crafted this head. Heather and her two children took a balloon ride one evening. The top painting on the big wheel is from her photos. Below it are two painting celebrating the magnificent flowers found in Thailand. I don’t know if anyone else has ever tried this but I put a pond with fish and a water lily on the front leg. I poured resin over the fish and it has a really nice and natural feel about it. The family took an evening boatride to see the wonderful fireflies that illuminate the area at night. I painted a firefly on each hub.

On this side I painted a tea plantation, a cute little monkey, and a lake with a carpet of red lily pads – all very memorable facets of what makes Thailand so interesting to those of us who are enduring winter in our part of the world.

Here is a close-up of the treadles. Most of the wood used on this wheel is sapelle, which I felt was exotic enough to help carry the theme. I sculpted these little elephant designs to help remind everyone about about the big one up above, as if you might forget!

Here is a look down at the pond. The lily was crafted from aluminum and covered with epoxy. The fish are made of wood and seem pretty content blowing bubbles in their little pond. I guess that is a good enough tour of the wheel. Hope you enjoyed it!

Navy Memories

my latest spinner, Kelly, has many memories of her time spent in the navy. She requested a wheel featuring a number of special things. So, how to make a wheel with an octopus, sea turtle, shark, anchors, and a cat…..Here is what we came up with:

Uunderwater scenes with the anchors, a turtle swimming by on one side and a cruising shark on the other, seemed the best plan. I love the colors of the paint against the color of the wood.

Hard to see in this photo but the shark is accompanied by its little flock of toadies. I had been considering the purchase of a laser printer for quite some time. This wheel seemed to make the plunge easier and I used it in seven places on this wheel. In the center of each hub is a US Navy anchor. Inlaid into each treadle is a compass rose. The footman rods have laser cut starfish designs. One more spot I will note later.

The octopus that has climbed up onto the handle can easily be removed by a brave person. Just lift it off, assuming the tentacles don’t suction themselves to the handle. Originally I painted this critter red but discovered that an octopus can change color to suit the surroundings or mood. I changed the color to irridescent blue green. Below the octopus is the orifice height changing knob. It carries the tentacle theme. Below it is a little bronze octopus I found among my steampunk treasures. It adds interest to the front leg of the wheel.

Kelly did request a cat. It took some creative thinking to figure a way to add this animal to an undersea themed wheel. So naturally we had to put the cat in a vintage style deep sea diving suit and send him to the sea floor. The “water” is actually poured resin. Some bubbles happened because the temperature was too cold when I poured. This turned out to be a happy accident as they add to the drama of the ocean depths. I originally planned to pour the resin thru a hole above the cat. Disaster happened as my masking broke loose and resin went all over the place. Maxine and I had a frantic half hour trying to keep the resin off the carpet and salvaging what we could for another try. Maxine had her rings on. It is a wonder they were not permanently sealed in resin! Later I re-poured the resin while the frame was laying on its side. The hole above the cat was covered with a Gloforge crafted rank patch – another reminder of Kelly’s navy years. All told this has been a wonderful project. Thanks for sailing with me!

Ents Again

My new friend Nancy had quite a list of wishes for her new wheel. One of the main requests was ents and another was a raven or crow. On this side of the wheel is an ent visiting with a cat on a beautiful moonlit autumn evening. Sculpted onto the handle is a mischievous raven with a piece of lapus lazuli in his beak! You can also find places where I have filled voids in the natural wood with colored polymer resin.

On this side is another ent holding a little rabbit, another creature from Nancy’s list. The hubs and footman rods are rather different from others I have made. They have stones set in a pattern in the wood that complement the paintings. Between the front leg and the big wheel you can see a little disc. There is one on each side and they are Viking compasses – another request from the list.

A better view of the raven. Originally I had intended to sculpt the whole bird but it would have been fragile to put on a functional wheel. I actually like this solution as the raven seems fresh and alive and emerging unexpectedly from the wood. WordPress has upgraded for the better I am sure, but I have been left in the dust of ignorance. Just when I had it figured out! I have tried to create this post in one clumsy session and am not going to get too wordy lest everything disappears in a flurry of sawdust and feathers. Hope it reaches you!

Return to Egypt

When Kelly was reviewing all my past wheels in an effort to pin down what she might like in her own wheel, she decided that an Egypt themed wheel I had made several years ago was the one she liked best. She also chose to have me build a smaller model for her rather than the usual large model. I had to find Egyptian motifs in scale with the size of the new wheel. So, out with the big lion head and in with a little falcon! It still makes a pretty regal statement, especially sporting the Egyptian double crown.

We chose to use cherry for some of the wheel and sapelle to add some authenticity as it is an African wood. A bit of walnut here and there for interest and color. I decided to use a lot of irridescent powders to my paint to give the sense of stones. This is so much easier and lighter than trying to add real stones. And very much cheaper too. Neither Kelly nor I have the treasures of a Pharaoh to invest in this wheel!

just a close up of the falcon. You might also notice the caps at the top end of the footman rods. Rather than my usual wooden caps, I made these from brass tubes with blue epoxy filling the ends. Not real gold but I like it and will add this little option to other wheels in the future.

I have used this design for treadles before but felt that it has a very Egyptan feel to it. I did use contrasting woods to make the design pop. I guess that’s about all I need to say. Now on to testing! Thanks for looking!

How I Lost My Mind (on purpose)

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This latest wheel is my attempt to honor the wishes of my spinner, Esther, by setting aside all I thought I knew about painting. Her favorite artist is Marc Chagall, of whom I knew practically nothing up until about a month ago. She fell in love with Chagall as a girl when she saw some of his original work. Her child’s mind recognized a kindred spirit. At first I could not get over the idea that this artist was probably crazy.  Through a lot of study I came to understand that he was not crazy but just having a darn good time throwing caution and every known art rule to the wind. Gravity? Don’t need that.  Top and bottom? Not important.  Perspective? What is that?   In this photo you can see some of Esther’s requests put into paint. She has a dog named Lola. On the handle I have sculpted Lola offering Esther a bouquet of plastic flowers. Chagall’s paintings often featured boquets of flowers. The painting on the big wheel reflects Esther’s memories of adventures with Lola, including meeting a white buffalo in Montana. I snuck a comet in the sky because when I was painting this a comet was dominating the news. Esther wanted me to craft a sort of mosaic and I actually glued on aluminum pieces in a casual pattern and painted on them.

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Esther lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, for a while and that is where she met Lola. During the scorching hot weather she and Lola would go to the beach at night. Lola would swim and frolic. To make the memory even more joyous I put a Chagall fish offering Lola a bouquet of flowers. How can a fish hold a bouquet of flowers? Give the fish a hand – literally.  Chagall did, I know cause I copied him!  Thankfully this is one wheel where anatomy is immaterial and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In reality Esther is much better looking than this!

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Esther sent me molds of Lola’s footprints and through a lot of effort I was able to cast them in epoxy and inset them into the treadles. Walnut is the wood for this wheel. So pretty.

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Here is a close up of Lola. Hopefully when we deliver the wheel I will get to meet this charismatic canine. Still details to finish on the wheel but I felt it was time to dust myself off and report in with you good folks. Thanks for looking!

Harry Potter Wheel

2020-06-28 12.31.03I might be one of the few who knew virtually nothing about Harry Potter but these past few weeks I have tried to make up for my ignorance and craft a wheel for Stacy, who is a huge fan. Some of you might recognize the Burrow.  And there is a flying Ford Anglia just touching down nearby.  I am told a Phoenix bird is featured in the story as well. Mine is removeable (won’t fly but can be safely stowed apart from the wheel if needed.)  The hubs feature sculpted golden snitches, and the wings are sculpted onto the footman rods.

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This painting is the Hogwarts castle. I enjoy the colors of the paint against the rich tones of the walnut.

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Harry had a lightning shaped scar on his forehead and I felt it would be a nice addition to the treadles. My scars are copper. I kept them simple so the beautiful figure of the walnut would not be diminished.

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Stacy identifies herself as a Slytherin and requested a nice snake on her wheel. Since the theme of the story involves magic, I let the snake magically slither through the frame elements, with a grin on its face.  There are a few more surprises to add to the wheel but all told it is nearly finished and came out quite well, considering it was made by a muggle.

Lemonade Wheel

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Just as I was finishing up the bobbins for the Pegasus wheel my wood supplier shut down due to safety concerns caused by the virus. I had to put that project aside and find something else  to do. Since I have a small shop and since every commissioned wheel is unique with different wood choices I am unable to stock a supply of wood just to have ready. So, I decided to look through my shop and uncover all the small pieces of wood that I had stashed away because they were simply too beautiful to burn. I found some parts from old wheels I had made in the early years that were intriguing. I decided to make my smallest model, the Marmot, as I figured I had just enough wood to make that size. The base was modified first and it set the tone for everything else. I never in a million years have come up with a base like this if I had just drawn out a plan on paper. It was a challenge to cut it down and then build it back in a new form.  From there I just started building up from the base. As each new part required my attention, I turned to my collection of volenteers and see who was saying “use me!” And thus I have a happy wheel made from cherry, walnut, figured maple, sapelle,  myrtle, purple heart, and probably one or two others I can’t remember.

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When I started to look for wood for treadles I actually found these two treadles already finished! They had been made for the first Marmot wheel and then replaced with others made from different wood. Score!

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When I started to work on the upper assembly that drives the bobbin and flyer I could not for the life of me how I had made the first one! My notes and plans made me feel a bit stupid as they mocked me for being so dense. I spent hours scratching my head but eventually figured it out. What a clever system!  Even though the two big wheels are only ten inches in diameter while my standard model has fifteen inch wheels, the use of a very tiny drive wheel makes the speed comparable with its big brother.

As I worked through this wheel I remembered contacting a spinner at the top of my list. She had requested a small wheel make from recycled parts! So without realizing it I had made just the wheel she had been wanting. Sometimes when all you have is lemons you can make lemonade! Enjoy!  Oh, the two big wheels are made from canary wood. I knew I forgot one!

Pegasus Wheel

1588113004097_1588113001085_2020-04-28 15.10.13Debbie, from Abby Normal Farm, requested an interesting wheel. Natural wood forms, her favorite farm animals, and …. Pegasus!  My dilemma was how to harmonize a celestial horse who serenely rides the night sky with chicks, dogs, alpacas, and goats. Part of the answer was the green glass crystals in the footman rods. They help tie the two worlds together. On this side are two twin alpaca babies, which Debbie says is quite rare. She had posted videos of them hanging out together and that really helped me get a sense of who they are. In the center of the hub is the constellation Pegasus created with little sparkly crystals.

2020-04-28 14.58.26This side of the wheel features one of Debbie’s Newfoundland dogs. I felt it best to place him out in the moonlight guarding the farm. Painting him almost caused Maxine and I to lose our minds and go buy a puppy! We actually filled out an adoption form for a golden retriever but decided at the last minute we have enough animals to keep us busy for now.  Who says art isn’t a powerful influence!2020-04-28 15.08.27The sculpture of Pegasus took quite a while to make but I really like the result. Debbie requested abalone on her wheel too and I have placed a row of abalone squares on the horse’s neck and also between the wings on his back. This sculpture fits into a socket and can be easily lifted off  when needed.2020-04-28 15.04.11Here is the front leg of the wheel. The chick is painted on the orifice height adjustment knob. Small bird for a small space.1588112928947_1588112739729_2020-04-22 14.10.28Debbie had some wonderful photos and videos of her baby Angora goats. I fell in love with these photos and did my best to replicate them on the treadles. All in all this has been a wonderful project. I hope she enjoys it for a very long time.

Alaska Memories

2020-02-20 17.58.13 Every wheel I make represents my best attempt to match the spinner’s wishes and fulfill her dreams. it is rare that my own experiences can factor so heavily in the creation of a wheel. Whitney lived in Alaska during many of the years I did and we even might have been near neighbors (by Alaska standards!) She had a cabin on a lake, and about ten miles away we lived near a lake as well. I took a canoe trip on the lakes very near her cabin. So I mined my memories to pull up favorite things. Whitney wanted a moose and northern lights. I felt snow was a good setting so that is how this painting evolved.

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Whitney loved taking her kayak on little voyages of discovery and used it as a fishing platform as well. Here she is with a typical cabin in the distance. She asked for fireweed too. I love fireweed and have painted it countless times.

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A loon was on the list as well. I felt it would be fun to use one as a figurehead and even better to put a chick on her back.  The space was a bit cramped.  I used some of my artistic license but the result I feel is worth it. There is a piece of stained glass below the loon. It is my favorite way to celebrate the feel of water.  You might have noticed the paintings on the treadles. Whitney loved picking low bush cranberries. Even though they are a distant memory for both of us, she can look down at her feet as she spins and remember reaching down and picking these little tasty treasures.

This wheel is not yet finished but it is close. I need to varnish a bit more, add a painting of a cat’s paw print, and of course the scotch tension line. But I felt it was time to share our memories with you. Thanks for looking!



A Wheel Headed for Germany

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Lydia, a spinner and keeper of Angora goats from Germany, requested a a wheel with no paint but that would celebrate the wood itself.  I used a variety of species and each brought its own color and qualities to the wheel.  One interesting requirement was the need to send the wheel in pieces in order to be under the Post Office size limits.  There are four screws holding the base to the main frame. It should be quite simple for Lydia to assemble it on her end.

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The design of the two big wheels is similar but not identical. I tried to work with the unique patterns of the wood and let each piece dictate its ultimate shape. You can see the integration of natural madrona branches with the more formal pieces of cherry, walnut, and myrtle

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Just one final look at this wheel. I took it out to Fort Worden this blustery January day as I felt the sea behind it is a little foreshadow of its big journey ahead. Enjoy!