Thursday, February 18, 2010

Signature Ornate Crochet Hooks

Greetings everyone! I've just posted six new crochet hooks yesterday and five more today on eBay! Check them out!

I wanted to tell you a little about what goes into my Signature Ornate Crochet Hooks -- a very special segment of the fiber arts tools I create.

Each is different, often inspired by my own life, what is happening around me, the seasons, etc.

Even before turning begins, I specifically choose each piece of wood to become one of my special hooks. As I turn, I carefully measure to make sure that the area of design is out of range of hand holding. (There's nothing worse than using an uncomfortable tool!) All of my hooks are designed to be extremely comfortable and delightful to work with.

After finishing the crochet hook on the lathe, then carefully carving and hand-polishing the hook, I take in the character of the wood -- what does it want to be? I then drill a carefully-sized hole where I would like the gemstone to sit, then walk inside to the studio...

Once comfortable, with bright lamps turned on, I look at the hook again, and start doing the hand-carving. I accomplish the wonderful texture in the carving by using a pyrography tool. (No, it's not a dirty word! pyro- = fire, -graphy = drawing/writing.) I literally burn the design into the wood. This has the advantage of burning off the finish (allows the paint to stick), and also creating a wonderful dappled texture, like beaten gold, or copper.

I do all of my pyrography work freehand, without a template. Natural woods are much more conducive to pyrography than the Dyed Hardwoods I sometimes use. (And smell MUCH better!) After burning, I then take up my paintbrush and go to it!

I like to use metallic acrylic paints because they shine, have a little bit of sparkle, and add extra visual texture to the already-stippled "canvas." I add between 3 and 10 layers of paint, different colors, in order to give the hook a more jewel-like appearance.

After all the paint has dried, I then set the gemstone into a Sterling Silver or 14k Gold setting. Remember the hole I drilled earlier? The setting fits EXACTLY into this hole, and besides having this tight jam fit, I also secure it with epoxy. This allows the stone to have a proper countersink with which to sparkle beautifully! (I wish I could capture the sparkle better in my photos!)

After the hook is completed, I then sign it with my artist's mark, a double-K/snowflake symbol.

When posting them on eBay, or Etsy, I also try to include a story about the piece, what inspired it, or a story that the hook itself inspired.

These hooks represent a huge amount of time and effort to create a piece that is truly special, and something I hope their owners will cherish through generations to come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Posting Day and Airbrush Class

New, new, new! Four brand new hooks on eBay today! (And some fancy ones tomorrow!)

Greetings everyone, last Tuesday I had the incredible privilege of taking an airbrush class from world-renowned artist David Nittmann! All I can say is "Wow!"

"Sweet Surrender" by David Nittmann
Used with permission

Seeing his breath-taking artwork, I've always thought of David as an incredible artist, almost in a different world than us mere mortals. However, David is a very down-to-earth person, and a fantastic teacher! With his years of expertise in woodturning and painting and dyeing wood, every morsel of information he passes on is an absolute jewel! (It is impossible to overstate how much wonderful knowledge I gained from his class -- there's nothing like learning from a Master!)

We began the class by learning every piece and parcel of the airbrush, including the all-important cleaning process. Then after discovering how to hold the tool properly, and working some beginning exercises, David moved on to mixing colors.

This might seem fairly self-explanatory, right? Red + Blue = Purple, maybe.... It's more difficult if you have to match a color on a magazine photograph. Red is not merely red any more... it's the color of candied apples, or a Russian lacquered box... a color not found straight from the bottle. To achieve that precise match requires much skill in observation, and good guesswork about how much of a particular color to add to the mix.

David took time to give me his expert advice on achieving the colors I needed, and now I'm home, happily mixing and painting away -- the perfect colors in hand! (And with the knowledge to create ANY color I need!)

"Mandarine" by David Nittmann
Used with permission

Another very cool thing I learned is that David has spent countless hours, days, months, experimenting with and researching the very best paints and dyes to use on wood. Not your standard buy-at-craft-store-paints, David carries E'tac brand, which are the most light- and color-fast available today. They work especially well on wood because they are slightly stretchy, and won't "break" if the wood moves, (as it always does... even slightly). They're archival quality -- for the finest art pieces.

David Nittmann is an absolute treasure! I would encourage EVERYONE to take his classes -- he's a wonderfully creative and inspiring teacher, with a huge amount of knowledge to share. Thank you David for the very valuable and personalized instruction!

Now I get to practice painting with this fabulously fun tool. (I can't wait to take more advanced classes!)

On a very personal and professional note: I absolutely believe in taking classes from Masters of their art/craft. You can learn more in a single moment with a Master than in days with a someone who only practices their craft as a hobby. Masters use and improve their skills every working hour of the day -- there's NO substitute for their expertise. David Nittmann is one of the finest of these professionals.