Lessons with Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful

Over this last holiday weekend I was privileged to visit the studio of a fellow artisan.  I am going to introduce you to Jef (yes, it’s with one “f”) he is the proud owner of Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful .  Around 10-15 years ago Jef started playing around in his garage, at the time he worked at a furniture supply store and had plentiful access to higher quality moving pallets.  He started his journey in woodworking  by making custom boxes; jewelry boxes, storage boxes, even traveling bar sets.  Over the years his boxes went from simple construction to dovetail joints with exotic wood inlays.  I really don’t know what inspired his venture into lathe work, but once he started turning wood, he started producing even more unique and amazing pieces of art work.  I know his first item made on a table lathe was a wooden chalice, Jef said he made it for a wine tasting party (I told him it was blasphemy to waste good wood on wine and needed to use it for Mead sampling… he just smirked).  What inspired him to make pens, razors, and tablet stylus?  Seriously I think it’s his obsession with Harry Potter… he started making wands, and that’s what did him in.

So when I had elbowed my way into the garage to get a tour of his studio, I managed to talk him into showing me the ropes on a custom piece for my Husband.

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Of course I had to my camera with me… Now many of you who personally know, or *gasp* live with an artist, knows that any space becomes a studio.  And honestly it is amazing what comes out of this small space.

The first thing I had to do was select what exactly I was going to make, so we started at the center front desk going through all the hardware Jef has collected through out the years.  I chose to make my hubby a double edge safety razor.  For those of you who don’t know what a safety razor is, here is a link.  Next I needed to choose a wood.  This was the hard part, and honestly his stash was to extensive to get in one photograph.  He had everything from marbled acrylics to black palm.  These woods were amazing, but I knew my husband would like a wood with lots of grain to it, so I chose a bocote blank.

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After the initial stages of cutting the wood down to a relative rectangle, I had to draft out the shape I wanted in my head.  Now I will be honest with you, I have never been an artist that can think spatially.  I have always had an issue with 3-D sculpture, and when I looked at the wood in postition on the lathe I was very intimidated.  I did not want to waste this beautiful piece of wood!!!  We looked through Jef’s stock of finished razors to give me a goal to shoot for.  I knew I wanted to give the handle some curves, beautiful shape, not only to help bring out the textures in the wood but also to assist in a good grip.  After all this was going to be a sharp razor against my beloved’s neck.

I decided to make the razor  handle follow the feminine form, or the more “PC” term would be… I wanted to make it look like a voluptuous mummy.

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But first, I had to master the tools to make the handle round!  I asked Jef at this point how long it takes him to make one razor handle… start to finish.  He nonchalantly stated 20 min.  GAH!  20 minutes! In that amount of time I was still trying to get the rectangle to have round edges.   Jef even had to resharpen his large turning tool for me.

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FINALLY!  I was starting to get a round shape to my “mummy”  Now I got to move onto the smaller turning tool, allowing for greater ease of movement and design.  The entire time Jef was patiently coaching me through, reminding me to keep the tool positioned “just so”.

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He even managed to snap some shots with out my notice… the best part is my camera was set to full Manual mode, and he managed some great snapshots (see Jef you can take photos not in auto mode!)  You can see in this set up how small his work space really is, yet if you take a stop by his facebook page you can see the diversity of his work.

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Okay I will admit it, he took over on some of the more delicate parts.  But you can see the “mummy” started RIGHT?

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After about 1 hour of shaving millimeter by millimeter off, I was finally happy with the shape.  I was proud that there were not large discrepancies or gouges in the beautiful wood.  Now Jef walked me through the finishing stages.  There are so many finishing steps, from applying 15-20 layers of Acrylic to sanding through an ump-teen amount of grit.  I thought the coolest stage was buffing the finished product with the self-same wood shavings I had so diligently piled up under the lathe.

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Isn’t my “mummy” BEAUTIFUL?  Now comes the really fun part. Adding the double edge safety head to the handle.  But before that one last picture of just the handle…

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Look at that shine and grain.  Hipnotizing.

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First things first, Jef made sure that the hardware fit flush. Then onto the final stage of placing the sealing epoxy to make sure the head and handle become one.

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1.5 hours of handwork, and the steady yet patient coaching of Jef made this piece possible.  I could see why Jef likes to loose himself in making so many wonderful items.  There was something so soothing, and almost meditative about watching the wood shape under my hands.  Not knowing what it would truly look like in the end, the surprise at the very end once everything was joined.   It made me want to get back on the lathe and see what the next piece would look like, how it would turn out, and what it would become. Wood working is almost as seductive as pottery… almost.

I do want to thank Jef for a wonderful experience in his little studio. It was a pleasure to learn about a new craft, and I can say my appreciation of what he does daily has multiplied exponentially.  I hope all of you who took the time to read this have enjoyed the steps we went through, and if you want to learn more or see more please follow these links to Jef’s shop(s) and facebook fan pages.  If you get a chance tell him Ursula sent you.

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<——-  can you believe this

 

turned into this  ? ————->

 

 

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful ETSY STORE

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful FAN PAGE

Refined Pallet, Hollow Book Safes  (his other hobby)

 

 

How to turn the proverbial “lemon” into Limoncello….

We have all had those time pop up in our lives.  Times where no matter how hard you try to move forward, things just keep popping up that create a backwards slide.  It’s at these times, we generally have two choices.  We can choose to wallow in our misfortune; to bemoan the fact that our car died, that our hours at work were cut, AND and unexpected trip to the doctor all popped up at the same time.  Or we can pull up our big girl panties and realize that our car will now get better gas millage, we get more time to enjoy with our children, and our family is now healthy and happy. Yes, at these times it may seem over whelming but each and every day it gets a little easier until we look back and say “what was I truly stressing about?”

Each time this happens in my life, I admit I succumb to those dark moments of grief and regret but I also realize these moments are getting shorter and less dramatic.  Age has it’s perks.

So one of the perks of learning from the past is planning the future.  I have decided to follow a dream.   Each day I take one step closer, sometimes it’s baby steps other times I feel like a Kangaroo.  At this moment and time I feel like a hibernating Zombie toad, waiting for the warm rains to stimulate some movement.   There have been alot of recent obstacles popping up that need to be overcome.  The latest in my line of “what now’s?’ is this:

Compounding patchwork... computers should not be quils.

Compounding patchwork… computers should not be quilts.

My primary work station, the one I am delicately writing this little dialogue on, has lost it’s ability to open-close-even stay upright.  It’s one of those wonderful malfunctions that can not be fixed…  The screen of my laptop completely snapped off and is no longer attached to the base… it’s a 5 year old computer and is still running like a champ.   Luckily my absolutely wonderful husband rigged up this snazzy “cast” for my computer.  A wooden base to prop the screen up, complete with a little bit of Sugru and a rubber-band to keep the screen from falling forward quickly (my poor fingers sometimes get caught).

Now my husband is a master at building computers, but pre-fab laptops were not meant to be “fixed”.  He has put together a list of the parts he needs in order to build me a fully functioning desk top, that will not only allow me to expand my photography hobby- but will also allow me to have the ability to set up my own web store front!  I AM SO EXCITED!  I have been designing my web store front in my head for years, and I finally get the chance to do it.

Here’s the hitch(es):  Hours were cut back at my full time job AND we are in the slow season for etsy sales.   Among other things…

Here’s the solution:  I have yards and yards and yards of awesome, amazing, unique, colorful, and completely-ready-to-be-made-into-custom-awesomeness fabric and supplies.  AND at the beginning of august I have 1 full week off of my full time job.  You ask, so what does this mean?  If you would like to help me make my goal of getting a new computer built for my business, by my wonderful husband of course, and stock up your swag bags for the upcoming holiday seasons at the same time, this is for you:

  1. first: contact me to discuss what you would like to have made, it can be an existing design or a custom one.
  2. select fabrics from existing stock
  3. expect your item to ship by 8/11/13
  4. RECEIVE 35% off the price.

* as an extra perk if you order an outfit including a piece made from our wonderful ruffle fabric, receive an extra 10% off that ruffle item.

All items will ship first class, unless priority shipping is cheaper.

This discount is not available for orders through etsy, unless you would like to use a credit card (prearranged custom listings only).  All orders will be done via email,  payment with a paypal invoice.  Our email is ursulaglassgoddess@gmail.com.

Please contact me today to get your order started!  And thank you for helping us reach one of our goals!!!

The times, they are a’changing.

adult wing set

Play time

It is always in those moments of deep stress, self doubt, loss, or adversity that people look for support in silly little idioms.   We’ve all heard them, and when times are going great we snort with derision.  But when it is our time to make it through the trough in life’s waves, they stand out.  Everyone has been told:  “the greatest journey, started with a single step” or “where one door closes, another one opens” or my *favorite* “Just let go, the universe has a plan for you”.  Seriously?  Do you honestly think the universe really gives a crap whether or not I am alive, let alone if I can pay my cable bill? Get my car fixed?  I am sorry but that is just a tad too egocentric for my tastes.   In my short life, patterns have become apparent.  As fully functioning adults we need to embrace the patterns and work with them.

With the birth of our daughter, not only did we become an amazing family, but she also gave me an outlet for my artistic creativity.  I have always loved making things, I believe that everyone is unique and has the right to express who they are.  I do it through my craft. I especially enjoy taking old items, I call them “finds”, dismantling them and giving them new life. Either as a toy, an accessory,  a household item, or even clothing.   Since my youth I always collected these “finds”, even today I have pieces I collected years ago… still waiting for their ultimate purpose!

The amazing thing is, there were people who loved my designs (especially those I made for my daughter) so much that they bought them.  Lots of them!  Of course this has added to the  inspiration.

As my daughter grows (we are now into year 2) she continues to inspire the items I focus on.  Does she like to play with cars? or is she more interested in silk scarves?  What is she choosing to wear?  What catches her eye?  Well, for right now there is no absolute answer to those questions.  She will put the silk scarves on her hot wheels and push them around the floor, or she will have 5 socks on one foot, a headband around her neck… and nothing else.  She will crawl into my fabric stashes and pull everything out, just to bury herself in the softness.  But one thing for sure, if I make it for someone else, she wants it.

But times are changing in our household.  We grow and expand, we all learn and move onto bigger and greater things.  Recently I was asked, “if no one bought a single thing more from you… would you still continue to make things? new designs?”  My clear and instant response is “emphatically, totally,  and undeniably: YES”.  I made things long before anyone considered to trade or purchase them from me, and I will be here long after my shop closes.  (Granted I hope that this is a long way off!)

DrossinMethod

Cyprus Dreams

I do not craft my art with intent to sell, I do not redesign to fill the shelves.  I construct works of beauty, because that is what I do.

I love the challenge.

I believe in expressing myself.

And I know there are other people out there that have the same aesthetics as I do.

I do not want to become the next one hit wonder, I do not want retail stores across the world.  What I love most is the pictures sent of other little boys and girls happily playing or wearing my designs.  I love having friends, family, and even complete strangers send me stuff and ask me “what can you make for me?”

So yes, times are a changing.  A few big changes in our household will effect my ability to turn items out at a quick rate.  But I know, those who love my work will understand that what they get is well made, from quality materials, and unlike what you find elsewhere.  Even if for the foreseeable future it will take a little longer.

You see, I accepted a new full time job.  Our daughter will be going to school with her father.  The studio will be a footnote in our lives for the time being.   But this also means that my need for an artistic outlet will be in even greater need.  So I hope you will enjoy all the new changes to my Etsy shop and facebook fan page, and will enjoy all the new designs that flow from my head into reality!  Even if they take a little longer to make an appearance.

Sad Birdie

Sad Birdie

The times are a’changing, and we are looking towards these new adventures with open arms!

Bringing Handmade back into chic!

Ba hum bug.  It was August 30 when I saw the first Christmas decorations being stocked in the stores!  Labor day bar-b-ques had not even been lit, let alone their labors been digested.  The consumerism in the winter holiday season has just become ridiculous and unfortunately taking the magic out of the season.  I LOVE fall.  I LOVE harvest, pumpkins, apple cider, chilly evenings, the passing of mosquitoes, frost, costumes, CANDY, and enjoying family.  This is all being drowned out by that which is around us.

I understand there are a couple things that need to be done really early for the winter holiday season.  I mean you can’t take pictures for holiday cards on December 5th and have them sent out in time… hello!  I am not crazy. Also unless you are INSANE you probably can’t quilt an entire blanket in a couple days either.  There are things that take time… but buying ornaments, trees, or tinsel in August? Really?

Okay, so now off my soap box.  I know there are many of you out there who are in agreement.   But as I was walking through a local big-box store today, I was inspired:  my goal for this upcoming holiday season; is Once a week (atleast) I will share an awesome Homemade project that would help make some wonderful and thoughtful gifts.

The economy is slowly starting to turn around (it is really!!! look at the non-syndicated numbers!), ever so slowly, AND you have a choice where your hard earned money goes!  All I ask is that you be conscious of where your money is truly going ~ whether you buy local, support small business, or standard industry.  Just be informed.

The first homemade project that I am passing on, this is truly a fun one and you have plenty of time to make different versions.  How many of you have a loved one with an American Girl Doll?  Here is a FREE tutorial on how to make her some clothes!!!  http://www.libertyjanepatterns.com/2011/04/free-american-girl-doll-dress-pattern.html

Happy projects, and even merrier gifting!

MUAH

Ursula

art appreciation

This last May, my dear husband presented me with the most unique, incredibly beautiful, and mystifying birthday present.  A girl will never complain when she is presented a stone that is 449.4 carats, a deep green, and sparkles like crazy.   But there was only one problem, it’s not an easy stone to wear… Unless you get to wear a coronet all the time.  I mean seriously, can you imagine this around your neck, let alone your finger?

So after much ooh-ing and awing, this little beauty shunted it’s way around my studio work table and eventually started to collect dust on the bookshelf- top shelf to be exact.  I kept looking for fun settings, a bracelet, a pendant, or possibly a staff topper, to no avail.  So for a couple of months, unfortunately- it became forgotten.

Recently I was searching around Etsy.com for some supplies,  ironically  probably for something benign- like bais tape or some such, and I came across this fun little artists shop that specializes in Fimo Clay sculptures: Clay by Kim.  As I was scrolling through her pictures,  intrigued to delve deeper into her shop further, I came across mermaids, fairies, and DRAGONS.  SQUEEEEEEEEE! I was in heaven.  After searching through all her sales listings I started snooping into her sold items.   I came across this fun OOAK listing for a dragon wrapped around a stone. HA-HA!

I did not hesitate- I dropped her a note.

Not to bore you with the details, all I can say is that after 15 messages back and forth… all in an incredibly timely manner… I am the proud mama of my very own little dragon “Lucia Bella”.

I know there are lots of artists out there that specialize in Fimo, each one has their strengths and talents.  But if you are looking for the fanciful, with incredible attention to detail, and amazing personalization I highly recommend talking with Kim.  Even if it’s not listed in her shop, she will happily make it happen for you…

Can you make that for Me?

Hello dear readers, no I have not forgotten to grace the web with my unusual and highly intriguing thoughts recently.  Frankly I just have not had the time.  No complaints from this end, needless to say a busy Ursula is a happy Ursula!  Recently my little family was lucky to win a fun mini-photo shoot from the amazing  Amanda Star Photography.  She had held a fathers day photo contest for her Momtography group, and after much deliberation I decided to enter one of my favorite shots from a family vacation.  I was super stoked to be the grand-prize winner, after all you should have seen the amazing photos that other Momtographers had entered!   For the photo shoot I decided to finally make a little something for me to wear.  Remember, I am trying to rebuild my wardrobe… and this was the perfect time to add something a little fancy.

Fancy, but fun.  Simple enough to wear out to an early dinner or nice enough to go to a holiday party.  I love the silhouette of the 1950’s, it shows off the woman’s body with out being vulgar yet has a fun flirty aspect to it.  These dresses also give you an excuse to pull out the petti-coats, thigh highs, and of course your pearls! I found this amazing fabric, black background with HUGE blue and gold butterflies.  It is so hard to find large prints, I just had to scoop it up.

Now that I had the perfect fabric I drafted up a sweet pattern, then I attached a full circle (and a half) skirt, and topped it off with a thin silk belt… of a contrasting color of course.   I knew that I wanted this dress to be a little more modest than most people are used to seeing me in, so the neckline is higher creating more visual interest.  As you can see this dress does not disappoint!  Yet it is so easy to wear.

And oh-so fun to twirl in.  You know there truly is nothing like a full circle skirt to bring out the little girl in you!  My daughter also loves to play with the puffiness of the skirt.  Super silly and creates fond memories.

Now, after posting some of these pictures on my fan-tabulous facebook page, I have had a few inquiries as to whether or not I will make outfits for my adult fans.  The answer to this is yes, with a bunch of caveats.  First and foremost:  I will only make them for those who are available to do fittings.

If us women have not figured it out by now, here is a shocking revelation:  no two women are built exactly alike.

Now if you want a nice dress, that fits… go to JC Penny’s or TJ Maxx and try a whole bunch on.  You will eventually find one you like, that fits relatively well, and probably your favorite color.   You can even have it altered, for a minimal fee.

If you want a dress that fits YOU, custom is definitely the way to go.  How many of you have one breast larger than the other?  Scoliosis?  One leg longer than the other?  Your booty is wider than your hips?    I can tell you, I have many of these issues… and more.

To start out with, what a seamstress does for a custom design, is called a “body block”.  All your measurements are taken (some you probably never thought of) and a 2-D flat reproduction of your body is made. From this your outfits are designed, following the curves that best fit you.  When a seam lies flat and in the right spot, no one can tell your right breast is smaller then the left.  If the panels are constructed correctly no one will see that your left butt cheek is 1/2″ higher than the right… It is a play with seams.  Nothing distracts from the eye, so a vision of perfection is achieved.

Would you like your waist to seem smaller?  Place the waist line seams above your true waist (which is above your belly button)!  Would you like to look longer?  Drop your waist line seam to your hips… but keep the true-waist loose.  Etc.  All of these can be achieved within the silhouette you are looking for.

The best part about a body block, if your weight is maintained within reason, you can have multiple outfits made just for you!  No question as to the fit or design.  When you pull it out of the closet it will be like a second skin, comfortable, elegant, and most importantly you!

Every woman deserves to have at least one item in her wardrobe that makes her happy, is fun to wear, and makes her feel absolutely stunning.

So to end this little infomercial on custom made outfits, yes I am happy to make custom outfits. From a simple shirt to a full blown evening dress… I do have a rule against “wedding dresses” (sorry! but spend your money on the honeymoon instead).  But the client has to be personally available to do fittings.  If you are elsewhere in the world, I might know a great seamstress to refer you to… so you won’t miss out.

Happy sewing!  And I am always happy to share resources on how to make your own body-blocks… you just really need a second pair of hands to do the fine tuning.

MUAH!

A continuation of mini-top hats and other fascinators

I love hair accessories, I always have.  Unfortunately up until recently I had always worn my hair short or slightly past short.  It was practical, easy to care for, easy to style, and the biggest factor was my hair just did not grow long.  Though with the shorter styles all I had to do was wash and go, being blessed with slight body and interesting coloring, it was easy-peasy.  During my pregnancy my hair grew, fast and thick, not uncommon for a gestating woman.  But it was incredibly uncommon for my hair to actually grow past my shoulders.  You see, no matter how I tried, no matter how long I waited, my hair would never go past my shoulders… it just stopped at that length.  It has been two years since the birth of my daughter, and I have only trimmed my hair twice.   It has managed to make it just level with my shoulder blades.   I don’t expect much more length, but that is fine. It is the perfect length for adornment!

Mini-top hats have come back with a vengeance, helped in part by the interest in Steampunk.    But, luckily, most people who take part in Steampunk are also incredibly intelligent and love to learn.  So not surprising mini-top hats are just one facet to all the fun hair accessories finding a revival.   A while back I posted a tutorial on how to make fun little mini-top hats, actually that tutorial comprises 70% of the hits on my site.

I love the fact that so many people have seen it, and many have implemented the techniques.  I have written this fun little post to encourage divergence and imagination.  Take what you learn from that fun little tutorial and transform it into something new and exciting!

Facinators can take many forms, from a flat round base decorated with feathers to a fun embroidery headband.  Heck I even have the sweetest crochet octopus with fun googly eyes.  You can even make them into mini-sculptures.  Let your imagination run, and find fun materials to make them with!

Recently I have been having some fun, and I just wanted to share some inspiration with you.  This amazing pillbox hat, has a unique design.  you would think it’s just the mini-top hat shortened with out a brim.  If you made it that way you would end up with a fez.  What makes this design sit perfectly round on top of the head?  It is an oval.  Simple as that, a human’s head is not round. It is misshapen, oblong, oval, and protruding.  The secret to a well fitting hat: expect the unexpected!

Now, onto some less structured inspiration.  Facinators do not have to stick out of the head. They do not need to provide shade or protection.  Their main function is to keep hair in place… either helping the hair to frame the face, or to pull it out of the way.  So to make this most utilitarian of functions more pleasurable we can add a bunch of sparkle and pizzazz.    Here is a fun example of a simple facinator adhered to a metal headband.

Simple, elegant, and incredibly useful!  Again making this fascinator uses the same basic steps as outlined in my tutorial.  There is a buckram base to help with stiffening the glitter fabric (yes. FABRIC not glitter foam from walmart), and giving a great base to build on.  Another example of a flat fascinator, but this time it is attached to a hair comb instead:

This piece has a couple layers to give it’s unique shape. Underneath the glitter fabric, but right above the buckram base is a couple lines of millinery wire. Strong , flexible, and yet incredibly resilient material.  This wire can be gently formed and re-formed without breaking.  It will hold any shape, for as long as it’s allowed.   And it is resistant to corroding.   Granted if you want to frame large top-hats or Bowlers, you will need to invest in some basic crimping tools. But for simple facinators, a sturdy wire cutter is sufficient.

I hope that these pieces can give you some inspiration in your projects!  The age of elegance is sorely needing a comeback.  Bring personality and style back into the world.  Just because everyone else has a certain piece, does not mean you have to have it too, join me in standing out in the crowd!  I’d love to see what everyone is up to.  Please feel free to post links to your projects below, find me on pinterest, or stop by my facebook page and drop a line.   Happy crafting!

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