Tell us about your background.
When I moved to Colorado several years ago, I would collect sticks and distinguishing rocks along my backpacking journeys. I really loved viewing the Colorado waterfalls during my 2 to 6 day hikes so much that I began recreating natural looking waterfalls for my tabletops with my collection. People liked them so much, I began selling them.
I also love gardening (veggies & flowering plants). My wife at one point wanted a bird bath for our garden like yard. After considering the cost of new ones and how they seemed to lack much character, I knew that I could create one more personal, I just had to figure out how. So I made some concrete molds using a 5 gallon bucket and some large PVC pipe to create a mold for the base and pedestal. The bowl was made by forming concrete over a mound of sand. Along with concrete I added some rebar and wire with the concrete for strength. Then I had the bird bath. Now I just needed to cover it with mosaic tile. I found that to be somewhat expensive so I headed to garage sales and purchased any hard ceramic or porcelain dinnerware that I could get my hands on. Well, in about 6 weeks I had made the most beautiful birdbath. My wife likes sunflowers so I created a sunflower in the bowl, along with green vines crawling up the pedestal made from green porcelain dinner plates. I also made some matching pots to go along side of the birdbath. Needless to say my wife was very pleased.
About a year ago I wanted to get back to log furniture making, I had made some for our home in the past. That is the time our daughter asked if I could make a wooden rocking bi plane for our 5th grandchild soon to be born. Well, I had never considered making toys before but I figured I could make one if I give it enough thought and time to build it. I wasn’t really in a hurry. I had a couple of months before the arrival of our grandson. Well, it turned out great if I must say so myself. You can find a picture of the bi plane on my etsy shop. That plane shown on etsy is the original one. Although, I can make another if someone is willing to contract one from me. I loved making that plane so much that I decided to make wooden toys for children. (Toys fit better in my shop than furniture. My shop is only 12’ x 10’, but there is a lot of equipment packed in there, including a Scroll saw, drill press, workbench, and even a radial arm saw in which I had to cut a trap door in the wall in order to rip lumber. It works great!
Now, I love making nostalgic and vintage style wooden toys of high grade hardwoods and quality finishes. Although most of the styles are vintage or nostalgic, these toys are of my own design, which I love to do as well. Actually I love making sawdust better than designing but the shapes have to come from somewhere.
What inspires you?
I have a full time job which pays the bills. I love working with wood. I do this toy making in order to give kids a chance to be happy, if only for a moment. I want them to have something that will not only bring them instant joy, that’s really not the main point (although I do enjoy watching the kids play with them). I want the children to have something tangible that they can hold, look at, and ponder as they mature and recollect the memorable times in their own childhood. And as they mature and have children of their own, I would like the toy holders to have something tangible & special from their own childhood so that they can pass it down to their future generations along with the stories that they collect from their own adventures in imagination while growing up with these toys. These toys are designed and created to hold memories and the stories they tell, and as they are passed down to future children & grandchildren they my too also delight and remember the stories of their parents and grandparents. (Yes, my toys will last that long).
As I said earlier, I have a full time job to pay the bills, I really make and sell these described toys so that I can finance the making of more toys just to give away to children who may not otherwise be able to acquire them and for the children who may be facing very trying circumstances in their own lives. Circumstance’s that they or their families did not want or ask for. Examples are the children suffering from health or accidental related circumstances, such as the children in Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO.
Describe a typical session in the studio.
After the lights come on, then the music comes on. I enjoy old time music (Swing music is my favorite, especially Glen Miller and his Orchestra). Depending on the day, I may be designing a new series of vehicles, planes or trains (Trains are my favorite). Or, I may be designing a custom order for a customer. Either way, my shop is usually very clean at this point. It is after some of the penciling is done that’s when things begin to get messy. The real mess is when I am working on a large project such as a series of mini cars,(100 or so). This tends to make my small shop somewhat dusty. It is somewhat better now that I have installed a dust collection system.
As I am constructing a set of toys or an individual toy such as a locomotive train set I let my imagination just go. I can’t help but think as to where this particular toy may wind up and the stories that it too will tell to the children of the children for whom it was purchased for. After a project, whether it is a day or two weeks, it’s time to give the shop a thorough cleaning. This means sweeping, vacuuming, and then blowing the dust from the entire shop.
I really just get lost in my small shop, it’s sure not because of the size. I am lost in imagination. Sometimes I get so lost that my wife will have to ring for me, then I go clean up and we go out to dinner. We try to go to someplace nice, since I may not have seen her in a while.
Name some other artists or artistic genres that have been influential to your creative process.
This is a tough one. You’re making me think now. I cannot think of any one individual who has been as influential in my creative process other than my Dad. Although I would not consider him as an artist, I do have to say that he has given me and my siblings a feeling of self-confidence. Not arrogance, but the confidence to do whatever we put our minds to. He always told me that.
I have to admit that not all of my projects in life have turned out so well, but I did not give up. I knew that if others in the world can do something, well then, so could I, if I put my mind to it.
I love to learn new things. And I have to tell you that if anyone wants to learn something, there is no excuse not to learn. It used to be that ideas and learning was passed down through the generations, and then built upon. I say that still happens. But if it didn’t happen to you, then you could read books. Finances are not an issue when you have the library. And nowadays you have a world of information at your fingertips through the internet. That’s where I go to learn something I do not know. Places likeyoutube.com or instructables.com are great sources of information.
I have also been encouraged by looking at other artists and crafters on the internet, especially Etsy. What a plethora of art and knowledge. Many great ideas have come from my viewing of others on Etsy. I find that each artist has his or her own unique style of craftsmanship. Well, it’s like taking a stroll through a museum of art. Some people may or may not care much for what I create; I chose to focus on the individuals that do care about my work.
Describe the technical process for creating your pieces.
Well, I enjoy making things with wheels, so I make sure I have plenty in stock to make what I want to make when I want to make it. I try to keep a few hundred in stock if I can. I also try to keep some select hardwoods in stock as well as some pine. I search the used building supply places for reclaimed wood. I also purchase high quality hardwoods for the very special toys which I call heirloom pieces.
I begin by cutting the stock to length, using my 1970 Craftsman Radial Arm Saw which my father passed down to me. Then it’s off to the scroll saw which is approximately 3 feet away from the RAS. Once the piece takes its basic shape there, then I go to the drill press (approx. 18” from the scroll saw) which also functions as a drum sander to smooth out the rough edges. Then it’s time for some hand sanding and any drilling of holes that may be required.
Assembly is next, along with more hand sanding and gluing. I try to design my pieces so that no nails or screws are needed. I try very hard to use only wooden dowels and glue (The old fashioned way). Once the assembly is done then it’s time for final hand sanding and to choose a finish. I have some personal favorites, but I also try to have some toys that are all natural, using only mineral oil and beeswax.
I think too much worry is put into whether or not the finishes are toxic or not. A little piece of information that anyone can find is that most if not all finishes sold in the in the United States, although may have some toxins while the finish is in its liquid state, the toxins are released after the finish has completely dried. Depending on the finish itself, curing time may be only a few days or as long as a month. I do not sell or give any toy until the finish has completely cured.
After curing, then it goes on Etsy. That is unless the toy is for one of our grandchildren then I might show it on Facebook but I must be careful so the grandkids don’t see it there either before they receive it on a birthday or holiday. I think I’ll wait to show any gifts on facebook until after Christmas.
What advice would you give someone seeking advice about being an artist?
I believe that all of us are created to create. To create something, whether, it is a design, an item, or food, etc. comes from the imagination. I believe that many of us do not use our imagination for creation to its full potential. I also believe that the reason is fear. I know that fear can either be justified or unjustified. Fearing a grizzly bear is justified. Fear of creating something for fear of embarrassment or ridicule is unjustified. Embarrassment is an emotion, something you feel. Although emotions are real, only the individual who is embarrassed can feel it. Emotions come from thoughts, whether, negative or positive. The emotions from negative thoughts are unjustified.
Unjustified fear is not real. FEAR is the anonym for Fake Evidence Appearing Real. Although the fear seems real to the individual, I recommend walking through the curtain of fear and then you will find a boost of self-confidence. Do not worry what others may say or think when you create. You will feel better about yourself and as you continue creating and you will build upon the knowledge that you have acquired to create bigger and better creations.
In the real estate business they say location, location, location. I think any encouragement that I could give to someone who is considering art or creation is IMAGINATION, IMAGINATION, IMAGINATION. Then just do it! I really didn’t mean to get so philosophical.
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