knives & flasks

August 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Wood burned pocket knives and flasks. Drawn, burned, stained, and gilded by hand. I haven’t posted on this blog in while, in part because this was the year my crafting went pro again. I’ve been selling these through my Etsy Store, my Scoutmob Shop, and at a couple great indie craft shows like Renegade.

It started with finding the dead stock vintage wood knives in a wholesale warehouse. I thought they were great on their own, but quickly realized burning designs would work well on that wood.

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(all images by my very own in-house photographer Alec K. Redfearn)

It took a little learning since the wood is vintage and can burn irregularly, but I figured out a pretty consistent technique and set to work making them mythical and whimsical:

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These sold really well, especially during the holiday season, so I wanted to add more products to the line. I like the idea of making things dudes can enjoy, too, so flasks jumped to mind. Figuring out how to add wood to stainless steel took a couple months, but I learned all about real oak veneers and settled on that. The staining, sanding, and adhering take a bit of work but I’m happy with the results of the process.

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I started making things again, and cataloging them in this blog, as a way of remembering who I am and how I live after a fall down the rabbit hole when my decade-long marriage ended. I’ve been making things for as long as my memory extends. Continuity in identity was a challenge when my world went helter skelter, so this was a path from old to new. In the several years that have passed since I can see that, along with getting my band recording and performing again, it was a successful process. One thing I didn’t expect is that I’d also get over the memory of what a pain in the ass running a craft-related business (the headpiece company) was back in the early 2000’s, and find myself here older and wiser and ready to try it again.

peridot fern necklace

June 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

Peridot briolette gems twisted on silver wire on a silver chain with peridot rondelles and silver clasp. This is a design for my Etsy store, and it sold immediately so I’m making more. The wired fern method is something I came up with years ago when I was making headpieces for a living. Not having formal jewelry training back then made me pretty gonzo freestyle about the whole thing, and so I approached it from a sculptural point of view.

It started with wanting to add sparkle to my floral-based pieces. The whole totally impractical business plan for the headpiece company involved being a stickler about top quality, so I added actual faceted gemstones (like, carat weight) set in sterling and on sterling wire. Seriously, with metal market prices today you could sell one of my old tiaras for scrap and make back the cost!

So the wired gems started taking stylized shapes and the fern became a favorite. This necklace is a like a lone leaf from one of those headpieces, and is high on the fae and ladylike meter.

necklace & headpiece

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Antique brass necklace set with large smokey topaz drop and faceted metallic Czech glass beads/Garnet briolette and Czech glass headpiece. This was a super fun commission from a great patron of the arts and intended for a well-known glamorous torchy songstress. I was given free reign on what to make and I chose this from what I know of her: classy, a little regal, and in touch with an older lineage of quality. The design is rooted in the ’20s, art deco and etcetera.

I decided to make a necklace set – there’s two separate pieces here with common themes, meant to be worn together but also autonomous. The longer of the two rests down below the chest bones, and the shorter is a slender choker style. Very dainty and ladylike but there’s also an edge given the darkened color scheme. Like the recipient herself.

The matching headpiece is a mini-tiara, meant to be work at the crown of the head. It’s mounted on a comb and is in a classic style of mine from the headpiece biz days. Nice to use my newly sharpened jewelry-making skills (Thanks, day job!) with my own aesthetic and favorite techniques. All in all, a satisfying project. Here it is wrapped to go out to the mail:

yule gifts, 2011

January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pumpkin, sage, and brown butter breads. I made about 10 of these and gave them to the friends for the holidays. Time was short this year, as I’ve been traveling up a storm since the beginning of autumn. Even so, I knew I wanted to do another friend community gift. Coordinating groceries, baking, and drop-off times in the last week of December was tricky but I finally got it together just before New Year’s.

The first time I made the recipe it produced far fewer loaves than I anticipated, so I was forced to eat those myself and make a triple batch the next day:

Tripling the recipe made so much batter it only just barely fit in my biggest mixing bowl. A standing mixer would help in cases like this but damned if I’m going to buy one. If money is to be spent on a machine there’s a long list of guitar pedals that are way further ahead in line.

These breads were particularly tasty, probably owing much to the large quantity of butter steeped with sage leaves. Giving holiday gifts is a good excuse to drive around the neighborhood and reinforce the mental map of the fine community we have here in Philly. Our lives may all diverge domestically as time glides forward, but the love and good intentions remain.

gem necklace

January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sterling silver necklace with pearls, crystals, and faceted citrine. I whipped this up for my mother for a Yule gift. She’s been getting handmade jewelry from me for gifts since I was old enough to string a bead, but I thought this year should be extra fancy. I’ve been making necklaces along these lines for a living this year, so this one is just a little more pro than my old designs. Cleaner wire work. Sharper technique.

The holidays came fast this year, since I was away for the month of November in Wales recording an album. Lots of prep for a trip, so the myriad smaller art projects had to go on hiatus for a season. December is always the zenith of crafting, though, so I jumped back into it feet first. I can make way nicer things than I can afford to buy right now so making it was! After about a decade of working my way through supplies from my old business I’m finally ready to acquire some new stones and chain, but there was enough left to make this sparkling number for my mama. She loved it, of course. My easiest-to-please audience ever.

summer brews

September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Red Stone Fruit (Satsuma plum & cherry) Cordial. I wanted to harness some of the August ripeness, all sun-soaked and with fruit sugars at a delirious high,  as it crests and collapses into autumn. My darlings from up north, Christopher and Courtney, were due to visit and so I started this brew a couple weeks ahead for our celebrations. Easy, as I still had materials on hand from the cordial I made for my birthday soirée at the end of July. That one was strawberry-basil and it went fast on that rollicking, sweaty dance party of a night:

When I first starting making cordials years ago in the Compound era, we followed recipes (Orange Coriander Brandy was a winner) and made giant vats that infused over a minimum of two months in my prehistoric earthen basement. These were bottled & corked for holiday gifts. I have a few books on the topic but those first recipes came from Food For Friends , a lovely little guide to what my life will be in retirement age. Making lavender cakes for the neighbors and space operas on vintage synths in my basement studio (not shown in book).

For this summer’s brews, though, it was shorter term and I just winged it. Plain spirits (vodka is a simple base) went in a glass container (food safe plastic is ok too) with about a third of the container filled with sliced and slightly mashed fruit. The basil I tore – you want to get the flavor to release as much as possible.

About 24 hours later the strawberries blew my mind – they were ghost white and the brew was bright pink! Plums stayed in for about 2 weeks but I learned short-term infusing can still work. The flavor was lighter so I mixed them into cocktails with mineral water and fruit purée or juice just to be safe.

This method of preservation also works for tinctures & tonics with medicinal herbs. A true cordial also usually has a sweetener added, so I’d say these were somewhere in between. A tangible sip of the spirit of summer, tonic for the soul.

silk-screened poster

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hand silk-screened black light poster. My band’s new EP was ready to go, and I was trying to choose the release format. Vinyl is preferable but prohibitively expensive. Digital is practical but unromantic. For many of us the listening experience is linked to the physical artifact…especially if we’ve been vinyl freaks. For me that’s certainly true. I want to hold something beautiful while I’m taking in the sound. In this weird new era when the music can transmit through a short download code, the artifact can be almost anything though, right?  I chose an art poster, specifically one with the parent’s basement/stoner contemplation demographic in mind.

“Where is my Roger Dean?” I asked. Kind friends pointed me to artist and awesome fellow musician Jason Killinger, and I commissioned him to come up with the image. I threw out a couple of reference points and definitely said something about the cosmos, but was still blown away by where he took it. Mind-bending space landscape! Originally I’d planned to have it professionally printed, but when Jason said we could do it ourselves my irascible DIY/art nerd self brushed aside all planning concerns and happily agreed.

That’s how Jason, me, and my friend David Brant ended up in listening to prog, drinking beers, and printing the first two colors, the flourescents, late night in a heat wave.

I woke up the next day looking like an extra from some electroclash video: totally covered in day-glo pink and blue ink. That said, it was really Jason who did the lion’s share of the work. From design to burning the screens to finessing the registration of the three screens, he made the visual side of this project come to life. Here’s the man of the hour holding the first finished poster:

We quickly turned out the lights and huddled giddily around it as I snapped on the black light bulb. Success! Torrents of pink lava & eerie blue illuminating possibly my favorite part of creative living: quality collaboration.