Here at Etsy, we believe that the story behind an object is often just as fascinating as the object itself. Short Stories is our series dedicated to telling the tales behind extraordinary pieces found or created by Etsy sellers.
Some people start with pencil or pen and work their way up to painting — I did the reverse. I liked painting with anything from children’s watercolors to wine and coffee, building up layers of color to make dense areas that almost changed the composition of the paper, adding contrast to the areas I left untouched. But mobility, simplicity and necessity brought me back to plain old black Bic pen on paper drawings. I found the simple contrast between the dark of the pen and the light of the paper so satisfying that I had no desire to add color.
So when my sweetheart and I walked into a Stinson Beach artist’s loft many years ago, I was primed to appreciate the fine details and natural darks and lights that visually made up the Farley-Mowat’s-curio-cabinet appeal of Chris and Judy’s nature-inspired working and living space, filled with rich collections of natural ephemera, finished pieces, and sculptures in progress. Painstakingly carved and decorated water birds rested amongst intricate pine needle baskets in many stages of their multi-helixed glory. Looking closely, I was struck by dark feathery markings that were both intense and delicately organic — they looked as though they’d grown there.
Judy explained about wood burning (for this was how those wonderful dark marks had been made), and it captured my imagination; I was compelled to try it. I found it pleasant, meditative and rewarding in many of the ways I found drawing and painting to be, with many new and interesting differences.
Over time, I learned to burn only clean, well-sanded wood, and I learned to use different wood burning tips in different ways, like using specific paintbrushes to get certain effects. I drew just what I wanted to right on the wood — I like simple organic and sometimes abstract forms, but I’m always trying to learn something different. Today, I always have two wood burning pens ready for action on my work table, in stands anchored by heavy sea stones. Additionally, my work area is never without a pile of fine sandpaper, a Swedish hacksaw, and as many secondhand wooden housewares as my family and friends can bestow upon me.
My Etsy customers were the ones who suggested monogrammed spoons. At first, I doubted my ability to make spoons that could be both legible and beautiful, but once I decided on a font that worked for me, I was off and running. Over time, I learned that my customers did not want housewares that are just pretty, so I started using hard-drying organic food safe oil to coat pieces that might come into contact with food. It feels good to do that extra step to protect my work and further enhance the beauty and usefulness of a spoon before I send it out into the world.
One of my monogrammed spoons has traveled all the way to Russia. A young man wrote to me and told me he wanted a name spoon for the girl he loved, who once upon a time had been in possession of a spoon with her name burned on it. Being a romantic type, the young man immediately did a search for a wood burned spoon with her name, but how many wood burned “Ekaterina” spoons can there be out there? I feel lucky he thought I might be able to make it for him; I’d been doubtful that her whole name would fit nicely on the spoon, but once it was decided the name could be on the handle, everything else fell in place. I was rewarded after Christmas by a photograph of the lovely Ekaterina smiling widely with her spoon.
Have you created or come across an object with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!