We’ve been pretty excited about something around here. Not long ago a bit of unexpected money came my mom’s way and she shared some with my sister and I and saved some for her retirement. It was such a huge blessing for all of us. My sister and brother in law needed a working vehicle. And Jeff and I needed to get some tools to help us in our business. I wrote before about Jeff’s sciatic pain and also briefly mentioned his tennis elbow. Basically Jeff and I knew that hand carving and hand wood burning constantly, day after day, was not sustainable for his body. He couldn’t work his body like a machine any longer because it was taking it’s toll. So, with that in mind, Jeff and I talked a lot about what tools would be most helpful for us. Jeff did a lot of research. What he really wanted was a laser machine. At first we were both a little bit resistant to the idea. We love all the energy he puts into each and every piece, making them so special, the essence of handmade. But the more we learned about laser machines and the more we talked about it, the more it felt like the right decision for us. First he looked for lasers made in the United States, but the ones we needed were way out of our price range and as far as we could tell all of the parts were made overseas anyway. He found one overseas that was exactly what we needed and also in our price range. It was delivered in a giant crate to our house. (Our neighbor had to help Jeff lift it onto a table.) Jeff immediately started working with the laser and figuring it out. The one downside was that the manual was very poorly translated, so he’s pretty much had to figure everything out for himself. It’s been quite a steep learning curve, but he’s done an amazing job of figuring things out (a lot of experimenting mixed with some research) and has been creating the most beautiful things. It’s completely changed our business in such a short time. Jeff’s elbow and wrist that were in so much constant pain have now had time to rest and recover. What would take him days and days to create before takes so much less time to make now. And he still sands each piece by hand, spends lots of time on designs, sets stones… basically, there’s still a whole lot of handmade love in everything he makes. Only now he can have the help of a machine to create his art rather than using his body like a machine.
Above are some recent earrings in our market booth that he used the laser to burn the designs in the wood. Both Jeff and I have been having so much fun coming up with new designs, getting out our paper and pens and drawing away. Before I used to draw the words on every single one of our inspirational wooden magnets by hand and then Jeff would woodburn them. Now I can put a lot of time and energy into a single design that we can burn over and over again with the help of the laser machine. Jeff has been able to copy some of his old scrimshaws and burn them into wood. Many of our designs are original creations by us, but some are not (like some celtic knots and the flower of life design shown above, for example.) Jeff has been really inspired by old wood cuts lately. (The ‘All You Need Is Love’ hoop earrings were inspired by my mom. When I told her Jeff was making wooden hoop earrings, she said that she would love a pair with that saying on them. I drew the design with her in mind and the first pair was sent to her for her birthday. Her creative idea brought those earrings into being.) Today I just showed earrings, since that’s what he has been making the most of lately, but he’s been making lots of other things as well. I can’t begin to say how grateful we are for our laser machine (thank you mom!) and what a difference it has made for Jeff’s work. It feels like the beginning of something wonderful, it opens up so many new possibilities for us.