dichotomy

 

This table came about at the request of a client who asked me to make him a table with some wood he recently had milled.  The wood was a mystery burl from a veneer mill that had gone out of business about a decade before.  My best guess is that it is some type of redwood.  The ultimate design was the byproduct of a mistake.  I started the design process in my usual way — sketching ideas then taking my favorites and making quarter-sized models so that I could start to visualize the piece in 3D.  I had settled on a design and was starting to look at the wood that I wanted to use when I realized it wasn’t long enough to create the table I had designed.  Oops.  (Note to self… know the dimensions of your raw material before you start to design.)  Ok, so back to the drawing board.  I scaled the table down making the top as big as the lumber would allow.  The new proportions were not pleasing so I knew I needed to keep designing.  As I continued to think about ways to use the material I had, I stumbled upon the idea of a split-level table.  This design is much more engaging than my original idea and I would never have come up with it had I not been forced into it because of raw material limitations.

As I started looking through the slabs that would eventually become the top I was really intrigued by a portion of live edge.  As I debarked it I was delighted to find all of these great little protrusions that were the starts of baby branches.  I decided this was a feature I definitely needed to keep.  In fact, I did my best to maintain all of the features of that end of the boards, including the chainsaw marks.  I felt that these beauty marks told the story of this wood’s previous life.  I chose consecutive slabs out of the burl so that the grain, cracks and other features would be as similar as possible.  I book-matched the slabs and overlapped the live edge portions, creating an engaging negative space between the upper and lower shelves of the top.

This gorgeous wood was a challenge to work with.  It was very dry, had numerous cracks running through it and was quite fragile.   If I just looked at it crossways parts would break off!  But those black cracks were so beautiful and were part of the story of this wood.  In order to work with it I knew that I would need to stabilize it first so I decided to fill the cracks with black epoxy.  Aesthetically it matched the original cracks and structurally it gave me the stability I needed.

Another challenge of this piece was the serpentine curve down the center.  I wanted the curves to match perfectly when you looked through the space of the upper shelf to the lower shelf.  I was able to get the look I was after by a combination of careful layout to registration marks and a single router jig that was used to create the space between the pieces for both the upper and lower shelves.

I love to play with the illusion of parts hovering away from each other making you wonder just how the table is holding itself together.  For this table I decided to use clear acrylic dowel to connect the parts because I wanted the dowels to ‘disappear’ as much as possible.  Acrylic dowel is also used to connect the upper and lower shelves.

The leg shape is a new one for me and I designed it specifically for this project.  I wanted the table to have more visual weight towards the bottom and I wanted to create a volume of space inside the legs.  They are made of mulberry that was rescued from English Landing Park in Parkville, Missouri.  I finished the legs by ebonizing them.  This is a process that causes a chemical reaction in the wood to make it turn black, much the way a rusty nail leaves a black mark around it in old wood.  I used a product from the leather tanning industry to add extra tannins to the wood.  Then I took a solution of vinegar in which I dissolved steel wool and applied this to the wood.  The vinegar solution reacted with the tannic acid solution and caused the wood to turn a lovely, deep black color.  I love this particular finish because it allows you to see the wood grain through it.

I honestly feel that this is my best work to-date.  It met all of my requirements as a maker: it challenged me, I learned new techniques and I feel like I have created an engaging piece sculptural furniture that encourages exploration.

hickory #3

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  I believe it creates more of a bond between the owner and the object if the backstory of a piece is known.  This is the story of how this mirror came into being…

I work exclusively in native hardwoods and get my lumber from sustainable sources – small mills, ‘found’ trees, urban sources and companies that sell reclaimed lumber.  The hickory used for the handle came from a small, family owned mill in Butler, Missouri.  I personally selected the boards I wanted to create my mirrors.  The walnut used for the back was cut down in 1985 by two brothers clearing some family land in Lathrop, Missouri.  It was milled and air dried in their barn until they decided to sell it in 2010.

The overall shape of the handle is achieved by a process known as steam bending.  I love steam bending wood because it produces beautiful curves which the grain follows.  Check it out for yourself by finding a grain line at the bottom and following it all the way up and around the handle.  Cool, eh?  Although the handle could have the same shape if it were cut from a big piece of wood it would not have the structural integrity or the beautiful aesthetics that steam bending produces.  The process starts by cutting ‘blanks’ for the handles — long, narrow, tapered pieces of wood.  The blanks are then placed in a steam chamber for about an hour to soften the lignin, the ‘glue’ that binds the wood fibers together.  Once the blank has steamed, it is clamped into a bending strap that has a long lever attached.  As I slowly pull the lever I ‘wrap’ the steamed blank around a bending form so that it takes on the oval shape of the mirror and the slight back bend found in the lower part of handle.  As I wrap the form, I am causing the wood fibers to compress and slide past each other as they take on a new shape.  You may sometimes see evidence of this compression on the inside face of the bend where some localized wood fibers are much more dense than their neighbors.  Once the wood has been fully bent around the form it is allowed to rest in its new shape for about 10 days before I start the sculpting process.  I call steam bending ‘controlled chaos’ as it requires the rapid application and removal of many clamps during the bending process and it would be much easier if I had 4 arms.  Fortunately my husband contributes both of his and manages the clamps while I do the bending!

I need a bulky blank to withstand the pressures of bending but the finished handle is much more delicate.  I taper the handle in two directions — it is wide and thick at the bottom but becomes narrower and thinner where it cradles the bottom of the mirror. I remove much of the extra wood using a bandsaw and rotary carving tool.  Once the handle is roughly to shape I do all the final sculpting by hand using rasps, files, card scrapers, sandpaper and a whole lotta love!  I like to include ‘hard lines’ during sculpting because I think they add interesting visual and tactile elements to the final shape.

To protect the wood and enhance its beauty, the back is finished using a water-based acrylic and the handle is finished using several saturating coats of Danish oil.

~kelly

ash #2

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  I believe it creates more of a bond between the owner and the object if the backstory of a piece is known.  This is the story of how this mirror came into being…

I work exclusively in native hardwoods and get my lumber from sustainable sources – small mills, ‘found’ trees, urban sources and companies that sell reclaimed lumber.  The ash used for the handle came from a small, family owned mill in Butler, Missouri.  I personally selected the boards I wanted to create my mirrors.  The walnut used for the back and decorative plugs was cut down in 1985 by two brothers clearing some family land in Lathrop, Missouri.  It was milled and air dried in their barn until they decided to sell it in 2010.

The overall shape of the handle is achieved by a process known as steam bending.  I love steam bending wood because it produces beautiful curves which the grain follows.  Check it out for yourself by finding a grain line at the bottom and following it all the way up and around the handle.  Cool, eh?  Although the handle could have the same shape if it were cut from a big piece of wood it would not have the structural integrity or the beautiful aesthetics that steam bending produces.  The process starts by cutting ‘blanks’ for the handles — long, narrow, tapered pieces of wood.  The blanks are then placed in a steam chamber for about an hour to soften the lignin, the ‘glue’ that binds the wood fibers together.  Once the blank has steamed, it is clamped into a bending strap that has a long lever attached.  As I slowly pull the lever I ‘wrap’ the steamed blank around a bending form so that it takes on the oval shape of the mirror and the slight back bend found in the lower part of handle.  As I wrap the form, I am causing the wood fibers to compress and slide past each other as they take on a new shape.  You may sometimes see evidence of this compression on the inside face of the bend where some localized wood fibers are much more dense than their neighbors.  Once the wood has been fully bent around the form it is allowed to rest in its new shape for about 10 days before I start the sculpting process.  I call steam bending ‘controlled chaos’ as it requires the rapid application and removal of many clamps during the bending process and it would be much easier if I had 4 arms.  Fortunately my husband contributes both of his and manages the clamps while I do the bending!

I need a bulky blank to withstand the pressures of bending but the finished handle is much more delicate.  I taper the handle in two directions — it is wide and thick at the bottom but becomes narrower and thinner where it cradles the bottom of the mirror. I remove much of the extra wood using a bandsaw and rotary carving tool.  Once the handle is roughly to shape I do all the final sculpting by hand using rasps, files, card scrapers, sandpaper and a whole lotta love!  I like to include ‘hard lines’ during sculpting because I think they add interesting visual and tactile elements to the final shape.

To protect the wood and enhance its beauty, the back is finished using a water-based acrylic and the handle is finished using several saturating coats of Danish oil.

~kelly

welcome

‘Welcome’ is a wall sculpture with a shelf designed to hold a single, special object.  It had started out as my interpretation of a cabinet.  I wanted to challenge what we think of when we think of a cabinet but even in my wildest, most minimalist imaginings I can’t consider this a cabinet.  I titled the piece ‘Welcome’ because the gestural nature of the shape invokes in me a sense of comfort, like an embrace, and feels welcoming.

The curves of the piece were constructed using a technique known as bricklaying.  Each rail is made of three layers of ash, stacked on top of each other like bricks, but made oversized so that I could sculpt out the final shape that I wanted.  These layers give the piece strength and allowed me to build up the thickness.   Once my ‘blanks’ were created I was able to start sculpting.  I cut the initial curves on the bandsaw and also tapered them on the bandsaw.  Once the parts had the curves I wanted, I cut the lap joint where the rails intersect one another.

Once the shape was locked in I could tackle how I was going to attach the shelf between the rails.  I knew that I would use dowels and leave a space between the sides of the rails and the shelf.  I love to create negative spaces so that light and shadow can interact in interesting ways.  Since the rails are asymmetrical and not in the same plane as each other, I had to build separate jigs to drill the holes for the dowels in the right and left rail.

Now that I had the shape and knew how the piece was going to assemble I was able to finish the sculpting. I removed as much wood as I could on the router table.  To achieve the final shape I used an angle grinder, rasps, files, custom-profiled sanding blocks and card scrapers as I worked toward my layout lines. Hardlines were sculpted along the length of the rails to add visual and textural interest.

The shelf was fun to create.  I started with a wide board and turned a shallow dish in it on the lathe.  I then ripped the board into three piece, got rid of the center piece and re-joined the outer pieces.  This left a football-shaped dish in the center of my shelf.  The final shape was obtained by cutting a gentle curve on the bandsaw with the table tilted.  This gave the outside edge of the shelf a curved bevel.

I had been wanting to use cobalt blue glass dowel in a project and this seemed like the perfect time.  The shelf is connected with the glass dowel, but a space was left between the parts.  A space was also left between the rails and the shelf, again to allow for the interplay of light and shadow.  A single glass dowel also pins the rails at the lap joint.

For the finish, I decided to bleach the ash because I wanted the wood to be quite pale to serve as a counterpoint to the intense color of the glass.

~kelly

walnut #1

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  I believe it creates more of a bond between the owner and the object if the backstory of a piece is known.  This is the story of how this mirror came into being…

I work exclusively in native hardwoods and get my lumber from sustainable sources – small mills, ‘found’ trees, urban sources and companies that sell reclaimed lumber.  The source for this lumber, however, was different than what is typical for me.  Both the walnut used for the handle and the box elder used for the back were a gift to me from a classmate.  He gave me the lumber and commissioned me to make a hand mirror for his wife from it after seeing some mirrors I had brought to a class that we both happened to be in.  I loved the color combination and made another mirror out of the same woods.

The overall shape of the handle is achieved by a process known as steam bending.  I love steam bending wood because it produces beautiful curves which the grain follows.  Check it out for yourself by finding a grain line at the bottom and following it all the way up and around the handle.  Cool, eh?  Although the handle could have the same shape if it were cut from a big piece of wood it would not have the structural integrity or the beautiful aesthetics that steam bending produces.  The process starts by cutting ‘blanks’ for the handles — long, narrow, tapered pieces of wood.  The blanks are then placed in a steam chamber for about an hour to soften the lignin, the ‘glue’ that binds the wood fibers together.  Once the blank has steamed, it is clamped into a bending strap that has a long lever attached.  As I slowly pull the lever I ‘wrap’ the steamed blank around a bending form so that it takes on the oval shape of the mirror and the slight back bend found in the lower part of handle.  As I wrap the form, I am causing the wood fibers to compress and slide past each other as they take on a new shape.  You may sometimes see evidence of this compression on the inside face of the bend where some localized wood fibers are much more dense than their neighbors.  Once the wood has been fully bent around the form it is allowed to rest in its new shape for about 10 days before I start the sculpting process.  I call steam bending ‘controlled chaos’ as it requires the rapid application and removal of many clamps during the bending process and it would be much easier if I had 4 arms.  Fortunately my husband contributes both of his and manages the clamps while I do the bending!

I need a bulky blank to withstand the pressures of bending but the finished handle is much more delicate.  I taper the handle in two directions — it is wide and thick at the bottom but becomes narrower and thinner where it cradles the bottom of the mirror. I remove much of the extra wood using a bandsaw and rotary carving tool.  Once the handle is roughly to shape I do all the final sculpting by hand using rasps, files, card scrapers, sandpaper and a whole lotta love!  I like to include ‘hard lines’ during sculpting because I think they add interesting visual and tactile elements to the final shape.  The decorative details on the back of the handle are added by a technique known as pyrography.  This technique burns as well as engraves the wood creating an additional tactile element to the handle.

To protect the wood and enhance its beauty, the back is finished using a water-based acrylic and the handle is finished using several saturating coats of Danish oil.

~kelly

tethered

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this sycamore box came into being…

The sycamore used to create this box came from my favorite mill, Elmwood Reclaimed Timber, a small, family-owned mill in Smithville, Missouri.  Sycamore is a particularly striking wood, especially when it is quarter sawn.  This method of cutting the wood perpendicular to the growth rings is what reveals the beautiful, shimmery ‘leopard spots’ for us to appreciate.  I really enjoy working with this gorgeous, uncommon wood.

All the wood used in the box came from a single plank — the sides, the bottom panel and the lid.  The box body was constructed using traditional mortise and tenon joinery.  Each side of the box was cut sequentially from the plank so that the grain flows harmoniously around the corners.  I made the bottom out of solid sycamore, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of sycamore into two thinner pieces, ‘book matched’ them, joined them and cut the panel to its final size. I selected this particular part of the plank for the lid because I liked the contrasting colors in the wood.  I sliced the lid into three sections and re-joined them using glass dowels.  Glass dowel was also used for the pivot hinges and the handle.  To embellish the box, I created grooves in the sides and lid and painted them using milk paint custom blended for this project.  The final shaping of the box body and lid was done by hand.  I prefer to do the final contouring, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit sandpapers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is crafted by hand rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it with three coats of ‘Tried and True’ wood finish and hand rubbed it to a soft luster.

This box is one in my series of exploring negative space and color.  I want the separation of the lid pieces and the color between the sections to invite you to explore the box and question whether it has any other surprises.  And, of course once you start filling it with your treasures it will be full of surprises!

~kelly

horizon

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this walnut box came into being…

The walnut used to create this box was cut down in 1985 by two brothers clearing some family land in Lathrop, Missouri.  The lumber was milled, stickered and air dried in their barn until they decided to sell it in 2010.  Because of the intense purple coloring I suspect that this was a standing dead tree, rather than a live tree that was cut down.  The tray is made of reclaimed ash, a wood commonly used for baseball bats and bowling alleys.

I made the majority of the keepsake box out of a single plank of this walnut.  The sides, the lid and the bottom all came from the same board.  Even the hinges (yes, they are wood!) and the plugs in the hinges came from this wood.  If you look closely, you will notice that the grain flows harmoniously around the box as each piece for the body was cut sequentially.  I selected this particular part of the plank to be the lid so that the natural edge of the log could serve as the handle.  I like the texture of the edge and contrast in color between the heartwood and the sapwood.

I chose to use big box joints to construct this box.  They are strong and decorative and the square edges are repeated visually in the square edges of the ‘windows’ used to decorate the box.  I made the bottom out of solid walnut, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of walnut into two thinner pieces, ‘book matched’ them and joined them.  The wood hinges were a lot of fun.  I cut out the basic shape using my bandsaw.  I further refined the shape using rasps, files and sandpaper.  I like my wooden hinges to have a lot of texture.  To achieve this look, I used a technique called pyrography (wood burning) and custom-made wire tips to add the texture.  To make the plugs in the hinges, I first created a long, narrow square strip of walnut.  I turned the square into an octagon using a hand plane.  Once I had an octagon, I used a hand plane and sandpaper to turn it into a dowel.  I glued the dowels in place, cut off the extra and added texture to them using pyrography.  I chose to embellish the box by creating ‘windows’ and then using pyrography to engrave a design of dandelion fluff.  This design was inspired by the view out my studio window one lovely spring morning.  I do the final shaping, sanding, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand rather than using some sort of power tool.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit papers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is hand crafted rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it in three coats of Tried and True Original Wood Finish, a non-toxic blend of linseed oil and beeswax.

~kelly

embrace

The top for the table is a study in nature and nurture. The overall shape is that of a redbud leaf, which is one of the first things to turn green in the spring in Missouri (nature) and the crescent graphic that I created in the veneer is evocative of an embrace (nurture). The top was made out of olive ash burl veneer and edged in solid walnut. I am able to create graphic images in a veneered surface by micromanaging the convex and concave areas in the boundary between the heartwood and sapwood.

The column was made of two halves that are mirror images of each other and separated by 3/8″ to create a negative space. The faces are copper gilded and the two halves are connected by three copper dowels. The columns were sculpted out of solid walnut. I chainsawed the blanks out of a tree that originally lived in downtown Peterborough, Ontario. The side profile shape was cut on a bandsaw. Once I had the side profile, there was still a lot of material to remove to get to the final shape. I cut away the bulk of the remaining wood on the outside of the curves on the bandsaw, taking controlled cuts off of each half. Once this was done, my columns were roughly the shape I wanted, but they were just that: rough. I started the smoothing process with an angle grinder. From there I did the final shaping and smoothing using custom contoured sanding blocks, a Japanese curved file and card scrapers.

Next up was the pedestal. It was made from a walnut tree reclaimed from downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The lumber from this tree was quite dense and had beautiful grain. To soften the hard edges and create some visual interest I added a wide bevel to the pedestal. A roundover that intersected the bottom edge of the bevel completed the profile that I was after. Somewhere along the way I decided that I wanted the inside faces of the columns to be copper gilded. My inspiration came from my fireplace. I have a hammered copper wood box next to the fireplace and it shines when the smallest amount of light hits it. I thought it would be a beautiful effect if the negative space between the two columns would glow in the same way. It is really quite delightful to walk around the table and see this flash of light come from the space between the columns.

~kelly

innocence

For me as an artist, the story behind a piece is almost as important as the piece itself.  This is the story of how this mulberry box came into being…

The mulberry used to create this box was rescued from English Landing Park in Parkville, MO following a microburst that came up the Missouri River in March 2010.  The storm had winds of over 100 MPH and blew down many trees.  I made arrangements with the Parks Superintendent to take possession of the tree and had it delivered to my mill where it was planked and kiln dried.  I was intrigued by the bold yellow coloring of the wood.  As it ages the intense yellow color will mellow to a warm, golden brown. This is one of the first projects I made using this beautiful, uncommon wood.

All the wood used in the box came from this mulberry tree — the sides, the bottom panel, the lid and the pivots for the lid.  Each side of the box was cut sequentially from a plank of wood so that the grain flows harmoniously around the box.  For the lid, I selected this particular part of a plank so that the natural edge of the log could serve as the handle.  I knocked off the loose bark, wire brushed the edge, then shaped and sanded till I was happy with the look.

The box body was constructed using traditional mortise and tenon joinery.  I made the bottom out of solid mulberry, rather than plywood used for most boxes.  To make the bottom, I sliced a thick piece of mulberry into two thinner pieces, ‘book matched’ them, joined them and cut the panel to its final size.  To make the pivots, I first made a long narrow square of wood.  I used a hand plane to turn the square into an octagon.  I used the plane and sandpaper to turn the octagon into a dowel.  Finally, I cut the pivots to length and shaped the ends.  To embellish the box, I decided to carve ‘troughs’ into the sides and lid.  I used grain lines to determine placement and shaping of the troughs, wanting them to be informed by the wood itself rather than be imposed upon it.  I used a technique called pyrography (wood burning) to cut in the vertical lines, again using the grain as a guide to determine where to terminate the lines.  I chose a brown leather gel-stain to blend with natural colors found in the wood grain.  The final shaping of the box body and lid was done by hand.  I prefer to do the final sanding, shaping, rounding over of sharp edges, etc., by hand rather than using some sort of power tool.  This is when I can get up close and personal with the wood and see its beautiful grain emerge as I sand with finer and finer grit papers.  I also like the slight variations that tell you this item is hand crafted rather than made impersonally, at a distance, with power tools.  Finally, I finished the box by saturating it in three coats of Tried and True wood finish and hand rubbed it to a soft luster.

~kelly