Monday, September 21, 2009

A functional project for a change

Once in a great while I actually make something useful instead of just artistic. When I was getting ready to leave for Rapid City a couple weeks ago, I found out that the track phone I have been using for the last couple years quit working. I don't know why, I keep it in my lunch box and only turn it on about once every couple months. Anyway, Stacy decided maybe I should have a real phone, that it might be cheaper than paying for minutes I never use anyway. I decided that if I am going to have a "big boy" phone, I better take care of it so I decided to make a case for it. I remembered a pattern for a pancake style knife case that I always wanted to try, and decided it might just work for a cell phone case. First step was to make up a replica of my phone out of a couple pieces of scrap skirting leather shaped like the phone. Then I molded and stitched up the new case around the leather model. It was a fairly simple project and I am happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Box

A lot of times when you take a class, the teacher will tell you to try and do the project again at home as soon as possible. I usually don't do that, but this time I had some time and really wanted to make sure I don't forget how to do this. So, I finished up my second box today. I tooled this one in the traditional carving style, colored the background with dark cocoa brown eco flow dye followed by oil and neat lac, a coat of med brown antique and finished it off with a coat of Skidmores leather cream. The lining is a forest green velvet suede.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leather box making class in Rapid City

This past weekend, Clay Miller at the Rapid City Tandy leather store hosted a leather box making class with Kathy Flanagan as the teacher. Kathy is a master leather carver as well as a good friend so I just had to attend. Kathy's classes are a lot of fun and she's getting to be a popular teacher at the Rapid City store. She had 8 students in this last class, one she brought with her from CO, several members of the Dakota Territories Leather Guild, and I drove down from here in ND.

Class started Friday around 6 because Kathy had gotten tied up in road construction several times on her way up. She started out by explaining how she designs a box. The boxes she taught us to make are constructed out of one piece of leather. She had the leather pre cut to save us some time (and probably some leather too). Then she gave us a simple (maybe for her) pattern to carve on the leather. We spent the rest of the evening working on the carving. We worked on this step until 9 or so and then called it an evening. Clay Miller and his wife are always a great hosts to the out of town guests and Kathy, her friend Lisa and I all spent the night at the Miller Motel. It's a great place to stay, Clay's parent cook us great food, we get entertained by the triplets and the puppy, and we get to play around in his shop too!

Saturday morning we continued to work on the carving of the project. Once that was finished, we moved on to the construction portion of the box. Kathy then had us scribe a stitch line and go over the edges with an edge beveler. Next we folded all the different areas of the box, and creased them with a glass slicker.

She had a variety of colors for us to pick from to add color to our boxes, most of us chose mohagany. We used Tandy's Eco Flow Gel Antique and I really liked how the product went on and the color it gave the leather.

The next step was to add some cardboard stiffener. Then the liner was carefully glued in place. Wax paper helps to keep things from sticking before they are lined up just right.

Stitching holes are punched and then it time to sew it all together.

Here are some of the finished boxes.

And finally, a couple pictures of the class.

This was a really fun class. The people down there are great. Kathy is a wonderful teacher, and Clay Miller is a wonderful host. If you ever get a chance to take one of Kathy's classes, do it, you'll be glad you did. (she's teaching this class again at the IFOLG show in a couple weeks)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another swan photo album (finally finished)

I ended up having this whole week off of work due to a serius illness in my boss's family so I decided to try and finish up a project that I started on last winter. In an earlier post I showed the photo album that I made in an attempt to show my friend Crystal how I would carve this swan pattern. Only problem was, I didn't really know what I was going to do when I carved the first one, or how it was going to turn out, so I didn't bother to take pictures. So, this one was my second attempt, mainly so that I could take pictures as I went along to use in writting up a lesson. Once I had the pictures of the steps taken in carving it, there wasn't any big hurry to finish up the project so it sat on a shelf.

The carving of the album ended up looking pretty much the same as the first one, but the coloring ended up quite a bit different. I used dark cocoa brown eco flow dye for the background and was a little surprised at how DARK it really is. Then, since a judge at one of the shows I entered the original one in didn't care for the antique job I had done on the first one, I decided to go ahead and dye everything outside the border with the dark brown also. I didn't know what color to use for the border until I found a bottle of metalic bronze paint on one of my wife's shelves. I tried it on a piece of leather and found it was a pretty close match for some metalic bronze kangaroo lace that I have. I decided that maybe they would compliment each other, and along with the dark background, might make a very rich looking album. I spent almost 2 whole days painting on this album and was getting pretty frustrated with the way it was looking, but once the lace went on, it really seemed to tie everything together (really bad pun!) Anyway, here it is.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Buggling bull elk in 3-D

When I was working on my first version of the bugling bull elk, I had to really fight to keep from trying to emboss him. I knew that sooner or later, I was going to have to do another and see how 3-D I could get him to look. It wasn't long before I cut another piece of leather and started on him again. This time, I wanted to use all the techniques I have learned from Jan Schoonover and from Robb Barr's videos, and from the last few years of practicing.

Starting out on this project was no different than on the flat picture. It's carved and then beveled as any normal project. One thing that I found interesting in both of these projects was how well the beveling showed up on the backside of the leather. This is something that is necessary when doing embossing because the dark lines from the beveling show you where the embossing putty (rubber cement mixed with leather dust) goes.

Here after the beveling and some of the backgrounding has been done, it gave a really interesting image on the back side of the leather. This is something that I might have to explore further to see if it could be done to create an entire project.

The next step is to do the actual embossing. For a leather project the term "emboss" can mean different things. When creating 3-D projects, "embossing" means to stretch the leather from the backside. This causes the image on the front to protrude out from the background. Carefully slicing into the leather in selected areas, or completely through the leather can give even more dimension. This has been done on both the mouth and the ear on the elk to allow these areas to stretch to different levels.

Here the embossing has been done, creating the muscle structure on the elks head. The mouth has been opened up, the ear and horn cut slightly loose.
The cavity created on the back side is filled with putty and when that has dried, it will hold it's shape, but is still soft enough to be able to mold.

The next step is to add the hair texture to the elk head. Attention has to be paid to the length and dirrection of the hair in it's many different areas. The longer, coarser hair under the neck is tooled in with a narrow pointed beveler that I got from Bob Beard (Pro Series Tools). This was the first tool I ever got from Bob and it's still one of my favorites. I use it quite a bit when I am working on hair textures. The other hair on the face is done with a multi blade knife and a scalpel.

A coat of leather sealer is applied to the hair, and while it's wet, it is lifted and shaped. When the sealer dries, the hair will retain its shape.

The next step is to color the elk. I have several elk pictures carved and they are all awaiting color. One of these days I'll get around to tackling that (hopefully!!)

Carolina Wren with background color

When I was preparing for the leather class I tought back in July in Rapid City, I carved the project for the class a couple extra times, trying different techniques to see what might work best. On one of the attempts, I used a regular hair blade instead of the multi blade knife I normally use to create hair and feathers. My thinking was that it was a tool that could be purchased at Tandy if the students didn't already have one. I later decided to make up simple multi blade knives for the students to use. Having the project carved different ways was still a good way to show examples of different techniques that can be used to get different textures onto leather. When I carved this piece, it turned out ok, but it was just a little different than what I normally do these days. This bird's feather looked very well groomed as opposed to the more ruffled look I get with the multi blade knife. I also used another Tandy product, super shene, as a sealer on the project. My normal sealer is X-1 which is no longer available and I wanted to use something in the class that people could easily obtain. It left the backgound area in the picture natural colored with a bit of a gloss. I didn't care for this look much so I decided to color the background in with acrylic paint. In my first attempt at doing this, I tried using shades of blues gradually getting darker and ending up with purples and black. I have done this before and liked the effect, but didn't like it at all on this picture. So I hit the "undo" button. That normally doesn't work well on leather, but the super shene had sealed the leather, and by wetting the acrylic paint, I could carefully scrub most of it off. Then after talking with a friend, I decided to try again, this time using shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. It took awhile to figure out how to get the different shades to blend into each other, but when it was finsihed, I was happy with the look. I wasn't sure if the background color was too overpowering for the bird, but I found a frame and matt that I think really ties it all together.

Bugling Bull Elk

Seems like I didn't get to do much in the way of leather carving this summer (I'm not sure that's true, but it feels that way). A couple weekends ago I thought about carving myself a new belt, had a strap cut out, cased it, put it in a bag to let the moisture do it's thing, and then um...... I forgot about it for several days. When I finally remembered it and picked up the bag, I had grown some of the funkiest mold ever. I should have taken a picture before I tossed the belt and the bag.

Last weekend I decided to try again, but not with a belt. I don't know what got into me the time before, I HATE making belts. This time I decided to try and carve a picture (big surprise there). Earlier this summer we had stopped in Missoula MT on our way home from family vacation and visited the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation visitor center. They have some really cool displays there and I picked up a couple new wildlife books. One is called Rocky Mountain Elk Portofolio, Photography of Donald M. Jones. This guys books are full of great pictures of wildlife in Montana. For a while now I've been wanting to try my hand at carving a bugling elk and this book had a great close up picture of just that.

This project was fairly quick to do. I traced the outline of the elk from the picture and then attempted to recreate all the fine details onto leather. The International Federation of Leather Guilds' annual show is coming up quickly and one of the catagories in the show is for flat uncolored pictures. I decided that I would use this as an entry in that catagory. This elk was just begging me to emboss him and it took all I had to keep myself from doing it. Here's how my first bugling elk turned out.