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Peacock Almost Finished!

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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.

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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!

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Peacock Struts His Stuff

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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 .

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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.

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Priest Lake Wheel Takes Shape

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I am deeply involved with this new wheel.  On the white gessoed section of the big wheels will be painted special scenes from Jessica’s childhood.  I will begin these very soon.  But for now the star is this little female cardinal sitting on her nest.  Originally I planned on  having a plucky little bird standing up on the handle but its spindly legs were a concern.  I think the nest is a good idea and since the wheel celebrates the joy and safety Jessica remembers from those cabin days on the lake, somehow it just feels right.  Also a female cardinal’s colors tend to harmonize with this wheel better than the incredibly vibrant red of the males.  Why a cardinal?  I don’t know the answers completely but Jessica wanted one, and one has landed and made itself at home.

One thing different about this wheel from all the others I’ve done lately is the use of oak. Jessica’s maiden name was Oakes, if I remember correctly.  It is a heavy wood with very straightforward grain patterns but it is a pleasure to use.  The accents will be mostly of walnut but there is more to mention when the wheel comes along a bit more. By the way, the nest/bird assembly is removable by simply lifting it off.  I plan to make a separate base for this little vignette when not needed on the wheel itself.

Thanks again for looking.  I appreciate you all!

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Iris Wheel Shipped!

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This wheel began as a way to fill time while the next spinner on my list worked out some details.  I got to play with some new ideas and in the process set myself up with some new problems.  I’m happy to report that everything seemed to work out fine.  The wheel is now in transit to Florida!

I like the play between black limba, maple and walnut.  It created such am appealing effect that the iris paintings had to be kept simple and strong in order to join the fun.

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The way I integrated the painting on the wheels with the rest of the wheel was to carry just a bit of painting onto the frame. You can see these two areas  from this angle.  It proved to be a great project. Now, on to the next wheel.  It is being crafted for a spinner from Oregon who wants to incorporate memories from her youth. She spent many happy summers with her grandparents in their cabin right on the shore of Priest Lake in Idaho.  As we discussed the design, she shared so many wonderful stories – I felt I was right there!  I can relate as some of my best childhood memories came from the years we spent living on a ranger station on the shore of Seeley Lake in Montana.  We both share a love for fishing and picking huckleberries! I’ll put up photos of this new project as it progresses.  Thanks again for reading these posts – it is a lot of fun to share with you!

The Selkie Finished and Something New

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Our selkie wheel is in the testing stages and we will miss it around here.  I’ve grown attached to that little seal. It reminds me of so many seal encounters I’ve had since we live right near the ocean.  These local seals, though, have never given me any hint that they are actually women in seals’ clothing!  Sheilagh wanted more critters as well.  I carved humpback whales out of Peruvian walnut and applied them to the footman rods.  It is hard to see in this photo but I carved a simple walrus design onto the toe end of each treadle. I like the balance of figured maple, cherry, and walnut.  The blue paint really shines against these wood tones.  On another note….

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Sometimes I need to wait before I can get going on another commission wheel.  Sometimes the spinner is deep in thought resolving design  issues and sometimes I need to wait for wood to dry enough to use.  Sometimes its something else.  Rather than twiddle my thumbs, I decided this time to start a project wheel using some ideas I have never tried before.  This frame really plays up contrasting woods and the abundance of laminations allows for a lot of strength without quite as much bulk.  The wood is walnut and light hard eastern maple.  The big wheels will be made out of black limba, which is a wood I have never used before. It looks a bit like myrtle but is lighter in weight.  The theme is a bit of an afterthought, as my main focus was the shapes and construction method.  But I am hoping to use these elegant streamlined shapes to be the beginning of an Iris themed wheel.  Not sure how to make this happen but it will be an adventure.  Since this wheel is not a commission, it will be offered for sale when finished.  If anyone out there is interested in this, please feel free to contact me at olympic.wheelmaker@gmail.com . Let’s talk!

Wheel From the Sea

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Sheilagh wants a wheel that captures some of the mystery of the northern seas.  Having looked at many of my wheels posted on this blog, she was able to tell me what appealed to her about certain ones.  I have used pieces of  a special  stained glass panel on several wheels because it so beautifully echoes the look of rippling water.  I had just enough to add it to this wheel in both the lower frame and in the upper assembly.  One of the creatures Sheilagh requested was a selkie.  (My spell check likes to change this to “selfie” but I am wise to it by now!) This creature lived life as a seal when in the water but when it emerged onto dry land, could remove the seal skin and expose the lovely young woman within.  Somehow I don’t really know if this is possible.  I have had difficulties in the past getting out of mummy style sleeping bags.  But then again….  Sheilagh wanted the selkie emerging from beneath the wheel rather than placed on the upper assembly as I usually do.  This required a bit of engineering, but at this point I am happy with the placement.  Blue is a favorite color of hers, so I am painting abstract wave forms in blue on the big wheels.  I’m using iridescent powders as well which shift color with the changing light.  These are preliminary paintings and of course she may request changes.  The footman rods will be carved sea creatures and the treadles will be walnut with some form of art as well.  You can’t see them in this photo but spaced along the rim of each big wheel are many little abalone pieces inlaid into the wood.  They carry the watery colors  to this area and catch the light nicely as well.  Sheilagh noticed this on another wheel I made a year or more ago. Good call! Most of the wood for this wheel will be cherry and walnut but the shell shape epoxied to both sides of the front leg is figured maple.  I thought this light wood might be a nice contrast to the other two.  The selkie has a woman’s face emerging from its chest.  I carved this out of tagua nut, which is a wonderful substitute for ivory.  I used to carve custom studio buttons for collectors and it is fun to re-visit this special material again. As usual, this wheel has quite a ways to go and what you see here will likely change.  But it’s been a while since I posted an entry and felt it was time to share.  Thanks for looking!

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