Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Scrapbook toys and leather

Stacy got a new machine last year that cuts shapes out of paper, chip board, magnet etc. We have often wondered if it would work on lighter weights of leather and yesterday we finally tried it out. The machine is called a Cricut Expression (I think there are a lot better prices out there if you look). It has different cartridges that contain shapes, alphabets, etc and once you pick out your design, the machine cuts out the shape. There is software that allows manipulate the shapes or letters and gives you all kinds of options.

We first tried to cut 1-2 ounce goat skin with the machine and it worked pretty well. There was one small spot that we had to finish with a scissor but for cutting intricate designs, it sure beat anything I had tried before. Then we decided to try some 2-3 ounce veg tanned leather and that worked just as well. In order to run the leather through the machine, you have to stick it onto a cutting mat that has a light adhesive on it. The mat we tried had seen quite a bit of use already so the adhesive wasn't very tacky. A new mat might have held the leather down better and allowed the design to be cut out completely. We've got a lot of experimenting to do, but the possibilities for this are kind of exciting! Stacy ran the leaf on the left through one of her other machines that embossed a design on it. She then rubbed a little ink over it to bring the design pattern out a little. I did a little stamping on the other leaf . My design will need some work :o)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Stacy took this pictures last week when it was just COLD outside. Today it's a blizzard and it's supposed to keep it up through tomorrow. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is safe and warm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today's progress (or lack of)

I spent some time today working on this tiny picture again. It's beginning to get frustrating because I seem to be fighting the piece of leather I'm working with. I really like this stuff for some of the embossing work I do because it has a lot of stretch, but for this project, that's something I don't need. I tried "slicking" the leather before I started working with it to reduce the stretch. This is the first time I've ever tried that and I am not sure if I like the results. It seems to hold water really well at first, but later on when I try to add more moisture, it seems to dry out more quickly. I also can't seem to put in tiny details with the modeling tool like I want too. So, I think this is going to end up being a practice piece and I'm going to start over. I cut a piece of 9-10 ounce leather that I got in Sheridan a few years ago from Harry Boutin and Son's. It's supposed to be tanned in Germany and really looks and feels nice. Not sure if it will work better or not, but once I get frustrated with a project, I know that I need to move on. Fighting it just isn't worth the time and effort.

I'll show some of what I did on the piece today, even if it ends up just being practice. Even the tiniest bevelers I had wouldn't fit in some of the places I needed them to go. For the nostril on the horse, a dental pick did the job.

I tried to use my Peter Main modeling tool on the eyes of the small animals but it was also too big (as you can see in the picture). The dental pick was too pointy and didn't work here either. So, what to do? I took a sewing needle and filed one side down flat and rounded the end and I think that I can turn that into a really small modeling tool. I practiced with it a little and it looks like it just might work.

The small bevelers are going to work for doing the outline of the chickens body, but I'll need a modeling tool to get any details into the heads. Here you can see that I just couldn't get the leather to take the tiny detail that I wanted to get into it. I'm wondering if I can see good enough to make actual feathers on the chickens with a scalpel.

Here I started to bevel the little people in the background. Again, the small tools are going to work for basic shapes, but it's going to take a lot of work with the modeling tool to make it look good.

And finally, I wanted to see how putting the wood effects onto the sidewalk, the fence and the walls of the buildings was going to look. I tried to draw these into the leather with the modeling tool. That's what it looks like, lines scratched into the leather. I couldn't get the leather to take any kind of shape. If I have any time tomorrow, I'll try tracing the pattern onto a new piece of leather and start again. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A winter challenge project

A while back I received an email from Silva Fox saying she had a pattern for me to try on some cold, snowy winter days. She didn't include the pattern in the first email but said I could carve it and color it however I wanted, but couldn't change the size of the pattern. Ok, now my curiosity is up. The next day I get the pattern. It's an extremely reduced version of Charles Russell's "A Quiet Day in Utica" or what Charlie called "Tin Canning a Dog". I'm not sure what the original size of this painting was, but Silva's version is 3 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches!! You'd think that would be impossible to carve with any detail but she also enclosed a picture of her carving of this piece. It's amazing!

I started tracing and cutting this pattern a couple weeks ago, and since today is snowy and cold, I decided to start working on the carving. It's quite a challenge to work on something this small and I had to call in some favors. My friend Dave Peterson was kind enough to loan me some really tiny figure carving tools. These are tools that were made by Bob Beard for Robb Barr. So now I've got three of the most talented artists ever to carve leather involved in this project. How cool is that!!!

The first step to working on this was to trace the pattern and then transfer it onto leather. This was a challenge all on it's own since the pattern was so tiny. I traced it onto tracing film and then transfered it onto the leather using the tip of a mechanical pencil as the tip of my tracing stylus wasn't fine enough to get the detail into this pattern.

Then it was time to start cutting the pattern with the swivel knife. Every part of working on this project is made more difficult for me because of it's size and the fact that I can't see nearly as good as I used to be able to. I am using several light sources, my mini tech light from Ira Cooper, and my new favorite swivel knife from Paul at Leather Wrangler's. I tried to carve each line as carefully as possible and kept finding myself having to study the picture of Silva's finished picture to make sure I was doing things right.

Now it's time to break out the tiny bevelers that I borrowed from Dave. These really helped to get into these close places that needed to be beveled. I never would have imagined needing tools this small before but they sure came in handy here.

There were some places where even the smallest bevelers wouldn't fit, or do the job that I am trying to do so then I used another of my favorite tools. This one is Peter Main's famous modeling tool. This tool will be used a lot to clean up choppy beveling and also as a beveler in tight spots like the horse's mouth shown here.

Here's where I'm at tonight. I've included my pretty purple swivel knife in the picture to give you some idea of the size of this carving. More to come!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zach's wren

I just had to show you all a picture of Zach's wren from the class I taught in Fargo. Zach is 11 years old and he's showing tremendous talent at carving leather. I hadn't even attempted to carve leather yet at that age. If he keeps at this, I think he's going to be amazing!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some color on the goldfinch

Since it's still to cold to work outside, I decided to see what I could do with some color on the goldfinch I started quite some time ago. I am fairly happy with how this turned out. I tried some background color around the bird next, and well...
that didn't go so well. I'm on about the third attempt at it and decided to go and do something else instead. If it ever turns out, I'll post a picture of it :o)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fargo Leather Carving Class

Well, the class in Fargo is over now and it was a success. I had 4 students and they all did a great job on their wrens. It's always fun to get together with other leather carvers and work on projects together and I'm really liking being able to help them try new things and overcome their fears and intimidations.

Here's a picture of me with a couple of my favorite things, my big hat and my big Mountain Dew!

We started the class Friday evening with tracing, carving, beveling and embossing our wrens. I picked up a can of rubber cement from the store to mix up the putty for embossing with and never gave a thought to how the re-formulated cement might work. Rubber cement is rubber cement, right? Well, when we got back to class Saturday morning we got a little surprise. Some of the rubber cement had soaked through to the front of the leather. It looks like this was where the leather had been sitting on the marble slabs overnight. I guess that's maybe why Jan Schoonover always hangs projects up by a corner overnight to dry??

Here you can see the spot left on Zack's bird where the cement had soaked through. It made the leather really hard in that area and difficult to cut the feathers, but we worked through it. The next problem was that the putty didn't dry. Even after a couple days, it's still as mushy as it was when we mixed it up. That wasn't a real big problem with this project. We just used a modeling tool instead of bevelers. If it would have been a project where we needed to bevel in muscle contours and things like that, I don't know what we would have done. So, message to self, make sure you've tried all the materials you're going to use in class BEFORE the class!!! I decided to try Tandy's Block Out as an alternative to Feibing's X-1 finish as a stiffener on the feathers and sealer before painting and it worked really well. It's good to know that I have a replacement for the X-1 that you can't get anymore.

My good friend Dave Peterson drove over from Bismarck to take this class with me, and my new friend Bob Feakes is from Hawley, MN.

In this picture is 11 year old Zack Myers. I was really impressed with his skill at carving leather and his patience. We spent 10 hours working on this project on Saturday and he kept at it till the end. If this guy keeps at this, I predict he's gonna be a future master leather carver, and a great candidate for the Ann Stohlman award.

A lot of times in the classes I've taken over the years, when we get to the coloring part of the class, we are running out of time or people are just wanting to be done already, or for some other reason, the coloring part gets rushed through. I have always found the coloring part to be quite challenging and I hoped that in my classes, I could really focus on that part and teach the students some of the things that have worked for me. It didn't work very well at the first class I taught in Rapid, we ran out of time too. So at this class, we started earlier and ran longer, but I got to spend the time I wanted to on the coloring. I think it paid off when Dave came up to me and said, "out of all the classes I've taken, this is the first one where I've been happy with how the coloring turned out". It was getting late by the time we got the painting of the birds finished, so I just gave them a quick demo on how I painted the background.

Here's Mark Norquist, the manager of the Tandy Leather Factory store in Fargo. Thanks Mark for inviting me to do this class in Fargo. I hope we get to do more of these in the future!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Color can be SO frustrating!!

I decided maybe I should try and finish up the coloring on the wren I did in the class in Rapid City. I had most of it done except for the background. I figured now would be a good time to do that since I have another class on this project coming up this weekend. I started coloring on the background yesterday afternoon. I am not sure what was going on but it just wasn't working. The colors wouldn't blend, they just looked awful. So after messing with it quite a while, I decided to go in a completely different direction and use shades of blues instead of browns. That didn't go any better. Finally I just took out the can of denatured alcohol and scrubbed all the color that I had been putting on back off. It's yucky stuff to use, smells bad, makes a gooey mess, but with quite a bit of effort, I got most of it off. I put it away for the night in frustration. I should have taken some pictures of how awful it was looking, but I really didn't need any reminders! Today I decided to give it one more try. It started out going just as badly as it did the day before but I decided I was going to just keep going until I either completely ruined it, or it turned out ok. Next time I do this I think I need to video it so that I can remember what works and what doesn't and maybe if someone else watches it they can give me some pointers on how to do it better. Ok, I'm done rambling now :o) Here's how it finally turned out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wren Class in Fargo, Dec 11th and 12th (Update)

As of yesterday, we have 5 confirmed students for the Fargo class. Looks like this class is a go!! I'm busy printing out lessons and putting together bags of leather dust. Stacy picked up more scalpels in town today. About all that is left to do to get ready is to make up some more hairing knives and to pray for decent weather for that weekend. I'm getting kind of excited for this class.