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!!!

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

Maybe a new approach is needed?

Before the birth of my daughter I had never really had a desire to have professional photographs taken, sure I took part in the set up photographs on Cruises or at theme parks, but honestly I never thought of having nice photos done.  Then the motherly hormones set in and I wanted to document EVERYTHING including the pregnancy, luckily a coworker who was 4 months ahead of me in our pregnancies introduced me to a local family photographer.  Having never had a professional sitting before, and only minimal information about pricing based off of “glam shots” (remember those??? 80’s style hair and makeup, LOL), we went to a consultation regarding a wonderful “watch-me-grow” photography program.  For one fee the entire year’s worth of photo sessions was included, all the major milestones were covered, we just had to purchase the prints we liked.  I was totally stoked.  This was something we could afford and would not regret.  

So we began our sessions with a fun maternity shoot, an insane amount of  pictures were taken, including a plethora of different poses and outfits.  We had so much fun, and it was wonderful to just focus on our budding new family.   Our photographer was a joy to work with.  The anticipation of viewing the photographs was eating away at my attention span.  Luckily we did not have to wait long, it took 2 hours to go through all the pictures.  Ohhh-ah, I had never looked so good.  This made me feel so beautiful, and even more in love with my little family.  We picked out the ones we could not live without and put in the order, knowing that we wanted to save the biggest print purchases for our daughter’s newborn pictures.

I wish you could experience how amazing our new born photography session was, our daughter was not the most cooperative newborn.  She was more awake than not… so each of the “sleeping” poses were actually frames caught between screams.  But our photographer was incredible working with her.  Even the memory of that time makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I made outfits for her to wear, the photographer had a closet full of props to try out, and after a 4 hour session (YES 4 hours) we all left exhausted yet full of anticipation.

Then came the viewing.   Then unfortunately the reality sets in.

We live in a 57′ long 12′ wide trailer.  Each wall has atleast 1-3’x4′ window on it.  Our hallway is lined with closet storage.

As much as we wanted to buy the largest possible prints of our beautiful daughter in the most amazingly taken photographs, there was just no where to put them.   And this was just her newborn session… what about 3mo, 6mo, 9 mo, let alone 1-year?  Where would we put everything?  Even the refrigerator has pictures on it.   To this day I think back to all the photos taken, and how many we just could not fathom purchasing… and I miss those prints. 

Now that you have made it this far into my post you are probably asking: what the heck is this supposed to be leading to?

Lately in my facebook newsfeeds I have been inundated with posts, by multitudes of photographers that I follow, shouting the merits of purchasing the largest print for viewing.  Trying to prove that a large photograph over the couch is much more eye-catching than the smaller one.    I totally agree with this, but at every photo viewing I have been to in my short career of professional photography, the more prints we purchased the better.    Even purchasing just the modest 5×7″,  the honest truth is there is just not enough room.  I don’t have it, my parents don’t have it… heck my boss who lives alone in a 2 story mansion does not have the room for multiple large prints!

I am just putting a couple suggestions out there, maybe it will worm it’s way into someones business plan, but something needs to change.  Every person I talk to (and trust me I talk to a lot of people… it’s my part of my job to chit-chat) states the same grievances.  They all know that a professional photographer makes the majority of their money off the prints that are purchased. This is a universal understanding.  But this is also an old school of practice.  We are all in a technological age, and things need to keep up.    Most people have pictures streaming onto their TV, as a slide show of sorts.  Or they have an electronic picture frame, cascading through the families most loved pictures.  Ironically 90% of the professional photographers will not release a digital print.   This is such a HUGE market that is being missed out on.

In drumming up business for local photographers I now professionally work with, I get asked quite often if a CD of images is given to the client.  This has now become the demand.   It should also become the standard.

Now as a photographer you may ask: well how do I get paid.  INCREASE YOUR SITTING FEE, get rid of the marketing/print sales. Give a disk (or flash drive, pretty please!) with a set amount of images (10, 20, etc) with free use.  If they want more photos, charge for another disk.   Guess what? This gets rid of the headache of marketing, ordering, distributing of prints.  YOU WILL GET PAID whether the pictures ever leave that disk or not.  I will pay $250 for a sitting fee  if I get a disk with 25 photos on it, no questions asked.   But if my sitting fee is $50 I will not pay for $200 in prints.  So now the photographer has lost that $200 in sales. **

I am not alone in this.

Another suggestion, this has addled my brain with its simplicity.  Going back to my daughters watch-me-grow program, I absolutely loved it and I am sad at how many pictures are lost to me now.  I wish, with all my heart that we had an option to have the photos placed in a professionally made scrap book.   There was an option for a story board book, I admit that.  But what I am suggesting is a full year in book form, from maternity to 1 year.  All the prints together, so nothing was lost and we did not have to choose what would fit on our walls.  I know now, after working with some professional grade printing labs, that they have people on staff willing to put the books together for you.  I would have paid through the nose for that option.  Heck we would still be going for photo’s through out her second year… just to have another one made.  The coffee table book of family photos.

I know there are more options out there, but honestly these are the two that keep coming up.  I love that professional photographers choose to use their talent to help us document our families lives, and I am incredibly happy to have embraced their presence into our lives.   So instead of deleting those professional photography pages that post the irritating “buy the big print” pictures… I just hide that one post and hope that one day they will come around to a different way of promoting.

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**Worried about posting in the internet? Include a file on the disk (or flash  drive) with web-photos, with your logo and resized.  Make sure to stress that these photos are to be used for sharing on the internet not only for your protection but also your clients.  Stress pedophiles, magazines, or foreign agents “stealing” family photos for indecent use… that usually gets peoples attention.   Besides now you have FREE! advertisement.

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Interested in finding/contacting the local photographers that I love working with?

For the amazing “watch-me-grow” program, contact Christine at Dovephotos.com.  Yes, most of the fun photo’s in this post are from that program!  I highly recommend it.

For fun family sessions (more photo’s to come, so check back), mini-sessions, themed photo shoots, commercial photography, ect. Contact Amanda at Amandastarphotography.com.

Life time Student

My extended family is one of Life time students.  Going back to school, for any reason, has always been encouraged and supported.  Whether it was for a higher education degree or to just learn a fun new hobby.   Education was the best gift you can ever give yourself.  But taking classes and learning new skills does not necessarily mean needing to enroll at the nearest community college or University.  In every community there are hundreds of continuing education classes and programs offered by individual artisans and business owners.

In my quest to learn something new (and to cross it off my New years resolutions list!) I started taking photography classes.  Not because I want to become some world famous photographer, but because I wanted to take awesome pictures of my daughter playing at the park.  I was always a little disappointed with all my photos, it seemed that I was a pro at missing  “that perfect moment”… and just came away with a the back of a head, a blur, or worse a clip of a hand towards the side of the frame.  Putting together scrap books on Snapfish.com was disheartening.

sample pre-class photo. Still super cute… but not one to brag about.

Luckily a local photographer, and friend of mine, Amanda Star was putting together a fun year long class that she named Momtography.  This class is not designed for the budding professional photographer; but the mom on the sidelines of the game, in the audience of a dance recital, or just hanging around in the yard with a sprinkler.  This setting has made the whole experience a calm and comfortable one.  There are no silly questions, everyone there is happy to help work through problems, and we enjoy learning from each other.

Look it’s in focus! Centered! Great lighting! and it’s her FACE as I see it. First photo’s after the first class!

February 2012 marked the first class, and I decided to put together a fun little comparison of my photography skills pre-and-post.  Amanda started out the year by going through all the preset features in our wonderful point-and-click cameras.  We learned what each one was designed for, and how to incorporate them into everyday photos.  The best thing I learned:  do not feel silly taking “too”  many pictures.  The more you take the better! (Besides, there is a delete button for those you really don’t want seen.)

Full manual, you can even see the droplettes! It was fine as long as LJ was not moving

The second class she forced us all out of our comfort zone and turned the dial to MANUAL mode… yep full manual. Surprise: It was not as bad as I would have thought.  It has become my preferred shooting technique.

Since then everything has been a blast, from learning camera “tricks” to lighting to “Photoshop Elements”.  I am now posting, printing, and sharing pictures left and right.  The best part there are still 6 more classes!   Not only have I learned so much about photography, and how to use my camera.  All the extra research that I have done for the class has lead me down some wonderful venues that I can use in everyday life.

Learning composition, in an indoor setting, on manual

Picture on the move, can you believe that this was taken right after dusk?

Each time I pull out my camera I make sure to take way more pictures than I ever need, I try to do each of the techniques Amanda reviewed, and then sit back with a critical eye and wonder how I can make each shot better.  I have even been able to implement all these techniques into the photography used in my Sales listings, merging professional with personal.

I look forward to seeing the progression come January!  Now what will the next 6 classes bring?