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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.






Priest Lake Wheel Takes Shape

PriestLake wheel

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!




Iris Wheel Shipped!

Iris wheel2

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.

Iris wheel1

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!