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.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving (just a little late)

I was trying to think of something to post for Thanksgiving. I've never carved a pilgrim or a turkey, so how about a couple of Native American portraits. This first one is a project from a class I took with Jan Schoonover a few years ago. I have never had much success carving faces (so I don't even try very often) but this one really surprised me. It just goes to show what you can do with a good teacher leading you and Jan is one of my favorites.

This second picture is one I did from a Robb Barr video called Chief Plenty Horse. I was even more happy with the way this turned out and it did well in one of the spring leather shows a couple years ago.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Carolina Wren Class in Fargo, ND

I've been asked if I would teach a class at the fairly new Tandy Leather Factory store in Fargo, ND. We decided to do the same wren class that I taught earlier this year in Rapid City. The class covers carving, embossing and coloring the wren. The class is currently scheduled to be held on December 11th and 12th. If anyone would like to attend this class, they need to get a hold of Mark Norquist, the manager, before December 5th. You can contact Mark at:
Tandy Leather Factory #170
1617 32nd Ave. S, Suite O
Fargo, ND 58103
Phone: 701-235-4005
Toll Free: 877-322-8636
Fax: 701-235-2775

Here are a couple different versions of the wren picture.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tina Croff,

Following up on the comment by Stacy that I have a lot of very talented and generous friends, here's a holster that was given to me by Tina Croff. Tina definitely is a talented leather artist. She comes up with some of the neatest designs, and her coloring is some of the best I have ever seen. To top it off, she's only been carving leather for a couple years!!! I absolutely love how she did the roses on this holster, the depth of the carving, the little irregularities in the petals, the shades of color and the contrast with the black background. I'm really proud to have this piece in my collection of leather art.

Tina has also been very generous in sharing some of the patterns that she has come up with. A couple of them were used on when I was doing the monthly carving challenges. Actually, the idea for the monthly challenges came to me when I saw her "PMS Lioness" carving. The zebra was another pattern she shared with us all on LW and was also used as a monthly challenge. I combined these patterns and used them on a photo album that I use to display much of my leather work. (the Sheridan portion of the pattern was drawn and shared by Clay Miller). I made several photo albums using the zebra pattern and the one shown here took a first place and best of category at an IFOLG show.

A while ago, I was planning on making a purse for Stacy and I was having trouble coming up with a pattern. Stacy had seen a design on something Tina had done that she really liked. I asked Tina if it would be possible for her to draw me up a pattern for the purse, and she agreed. The pattern was a little challenging for me to carve, but it worked perfectly on the purse.

Tina is just a really great artist, and an even better friend. She just recently moved back from Michigan to her home, Sweden and it seems that her website is down but you can see a lot more of her work on her deviant art site . Thanks Tina for all your help, inspiration, and of course, the holster!!


My wife started doing "zentangles" a couple years ago. It's a kind of artistic doodling and they have a website that shows and tells all about it, One day I decided to try a zentangle on leather and it was kind of fun. My friend Kate asked me about these yesterday so I decided to share a picture of the one I did along with the website. It's always fun to try new things with leather.

Deer Season Update

Just thought I'd throw in an update to the deer season post. My kids have been hiking along with all our deer hunters since they were 4 or 5 years old, maybe even earlier for Jessi. She got her first license 3 years ago and has taken a nice buck each year since. Here's this years buck, taken yesterday morning before school. He happened to be walking in the pasture right behind the house and she didn't have any more time off from work to hunt, so she took the opportunity.

(and yes, those are her pajamas)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We temporarilly interupt leather carving for deer season

My leather carving time has been temporarily interrupted by deer season. Deer season runs for 3 weekends in November and usually we get at least a few visitors each weekend. The first weekend of deer season brought Dave Peterson back to the badlands and while he was here he dropped off my entries from the recent IFOLG show. Dave had picked them up from Kathy Flanagan when he went down to Denver to take a class from Bill Gomer. Bill had to cancel his class due to the big snow storm CO got, but he did meet Kathy while she was on a "yak exchange trip". I had given my entries to the show to Kathy when I was at her class in Rapid City and she had asked if I had any items she could use for the Columbine Guild display table at the show. One thing she asked to take and put on the table was the embossed bugling elk picture I showed her awhile ago. I told her she could take it, but when I got it back, I wanted it to be colored. I was just joking (well, sort of I was) but when I got it back, it was colored. Not "just" colored, but very beautifully colored! Kathy did a really great job. Thanks so much for doing that Kathy. When Stacy saw this, she commented that I have some very talented and very generous friends, and that is so true.

I mentioned to Kathy that maybe we could try teach a class together on this project, I could teach the carving and she could teach the coloring and she agreed that that would be fun, so look out Rapid City, we're coming back one of these days!

The second weekend of deer season we have a group of hunters that come out each year and camp in our yard. Our whole family has come to look forward to this weekend each year. We figured out that we have been doing this since 1993. Our kids grew up hiking the badlands each fall looking for mule deer with "the hunters". This year we had wonderful weather and got to spend a lot of time hiking the rough stuff. In the evenings we eat in the tent and sit around and catch up, tell stories and learn all kinds of "useful" lessons. Deer camp is over now for this year, but there is still one more weekend of deer season. Then maybe I'll have more time to get back to carving leather again. I've recently been given some great patterns to try out so all I need now is some time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

First holster finished

I finished up my first holster this week. It's made for a replica of a 44 mag. My son Jake is hoping to get a real one someday to match the rifle he recently purchased, but he bought the replica gun so we could practice making the holster. He worked up the pattern himself from pictures of different holsters he found on the internet. Jake also cut out the leather and helped with getting the design stamped on it. I did the stamping and the actual construction. It's made out of 5-6 ounce leather, also lined with 5-6 ounce. The finish is just a coat of neatsfoot oil followed by a coat of Neat Lac and then a coat of Skidmore's Leather Cream. I don't know much about holsters, but it fits the gun really well and I am happy with how it looks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When you care enough to send the very best...

I've attended a few classes at the Tandy store in Rapid City that Clay Miller (aka Bert)manages. Bert sometimes nags at us when someone pulls out a "black" tool at a class, saying we should only be using Tandy tools when we are at a Tandy store. Now I've got nothing against using Tandy's tools. I have LOTS of them, and I use them all the time. But, I like the few "black" tools I have too.

When I was taking Kathy's box making class at the store, Bert's wife Debbie told us she was planning to have a surprise party for Bert's upcoming birthday. So, I started putting an idea together incorporating the leather boxes we learned to make and those "black tools". For those of you that don't know, the black tools are (IMO)the finest custom made leather tools available, made by Robert Beard at Pro Series Tools. I decided to make up a leather box with the Pro Series Tools logo on the cover. What could possibly make a better gift for your leather carving friend than a custom made box full of custom made tools? Nothing that I can think of but... (there's always a "but" isn't there?) Well, Bert's a good friend, but Bob's tools are REALLY expensive and there is about a one year waiting list to get them. So here's what I came up with.

I wish I would have got decent pictures when Bert opened up the box but all I had with me was my phone camera and they didn't turn out well at all. Even without any black tools in the box, he seemed to enjoy the gift. Happy Birthday Bert!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Projects with my son Jake

One of the projects I'm currently working on is a holster for my son Jake. This is my first holster so it's kind of a learning deal. I've done a few projects for Jake in the last year or so as he always seems to have a thing or two he wants made out of leather. When I work on these, I've been trying to get him to do a lot of the work on them. He has done the cutting, edging, lacing and other things get the projects started and finished. For this holster, he worked up the pattern entirely on his own and so far, it seems to be working just right. We'll have to see what happens after it's all sewn together.
Here's where we are at so far on the holster.

A couple other projects Jake and I have worked on are a set of saddle bags for his saddle, and a matching scabbord. It's kind of fun to see him show a little interest in this type of stuff. So far, he hasn't wanted to get into the carving part, but he has talked about maybe trying to build a saddle one day!

Here it is on a saddle I made a few years ago. The saddle was made through a grant program with the ND Council for the Arts and saddle maker Rex Cook from Dickinson, ND. Jake quickly snatched up the saddle as soon as it was finished.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A weekend visitor

My friend Dave Peterson stopped by Saturday for a visit. For those who don't know Dave, he's married to Robb Barr's sister Cheryl. I met Dave several years ago in Sheridan and when we started talking, we realized that we lived fairly close together (by North Dakota standards anyway). Dave comes out to my side of the state a few times a year to hunt and when he does, he usually stops in to talk about leather projects he's working on. Dave got interested in carving leather after Robb passed away, so he never got to learn from the master, so when he gets stuck on something, he has to settle for me. He always brings along lots of goodies to show, and usually leaves me a gift or two. This time was no exception.

One this trip, Dave was hoping I could give him some pointers on carving shrubbery. Dave won a carving by Silva Fox a few years ago at the IFoLG show in Texas and brought that along to show me an example of what he wanted to try. I have seen pictures of this carving before, but this is the first time I had seen it in person.

I was really surprised at how SMALL the carving is. It only measures about 5 inches high by 13 inches wide. The detail on something that small is pretty amazing. I guess maybe that's why Silva has always been one of my favorite leather artists. Now I'm supposed to teach him how she did this???? Well, I tried, and he was fairly happy with my attempt. We also went over some techniques to do some hair, eyes and grass.

Dave continues to improve his carving techniques every time I see him. He brought several of the carvings that he's currently working on with him to show me. It's always fun to see what he's working on, and some of the new ideas he comes up with. He's always changing patterns and doing things a little bit different and comes up with some really interesting ideas.

When Dave left for the evening, he asked if he could leave most of his stuff here since he plans on coming back again tomorrow. Um....... sure.

I had a box full of Robb Barr's black tools to play with, a couple really cool swivel knives, and a Bob Beard mallet that you can't get anymore. It was like Christmas came early, even if it was only for an evening. There is just something really cool about carving and tooling on a piece of leather with the same tools that were once used by one of the real masters of the craft.

Dave came back again on Sunday afternoon and we started again where we had left off the day before. I've got a piece of Silva's work myself and it has quite a variety of different grasses, brush and trees carved on it. We spent some time studying this piece and trying to figure out what tools Silva had used to create it. We tried many different tools and combinations of tools and found quite a few that worked fairly well. Once again, it was a fun afternoon and I think we are both looking forward to the next time it works out for us to get together.

One last picture, some of the different things we worked on during the visit.