Framed Again!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Making,Pictures | Saturday 22 June 2013 10:48 pm

I feel as though I use this blog these days for nothing more than cataloging and showing off the stuff that I make…

I’m ok with that.

So, to carry on with that theme, here are the two latest pieces I have framed. They are two of the several Discworld maps that have been made available through the years, and they are two of the first items on the ever growing list of things I was going to frame once I had the tools to do so, and walls to hang them on. They are also two of the larger pieces I had as well, making them more of a challenge. They pretty much fill an entire wall.

Since the maps were designed to look old, and old-world, I wanted to make some very old-world frames. Something a little darker, wider and more ornate than usual. Both prints were also almost too large to get mat-board for, but I eventually made it work. I apologize now for the reflections in the glass on these photos, but no amount of lighting tricks I know — natural or artificial — were going to avoid that.

The first print is the Streets of Ankh-Morpork, and is my favorite of the two. It’s a nicely detailed layout of the city on the Discworld most frequently used as a setting. It’s practically a character in and of itself. I adore the aging parchment look, and all the embellishments around the border.

The second map is of the Discworld itself.


Skin Cups.

Posted by DmentD | Making,Pictures | Thursday 20 June 2013 11:43 pm

Continuing adventures in leathercraft!

A little background for this project: Steve Jackson Games, an Austin game manufacturer who has been producing well known gamer favorites such as Chez Geek and Munchkin, released a quick, fun, and addictive ‘press your luck’ style dice game a few years back called Zombie Dice. Knowing me, you know I can’t refuse many zombie themed things, and a fun game is always good to have around. I eventually bought two sets of the game (and it’s expansion, Zombie Dice 2) — one for the house, and one to keep in the car for impromptu game sessions.

The game itself is awesome, and my only complaint has less to do with the game, and everything to do with the game’s container. The game comes in a dice cup which is essentially a cardboard tube with a plastic cap at either end. It’s noisy as hell when you shake the dice, and we find ourselves playing in places like coffee houses where that dental-loosening rattle is more than a little obnoxious.  SJ Games sells a soft bag you can use in place of the cup, but there’s something a little sad about pulling dice from a bag. I filed away the desire to find or make something better for another time.

Fast forward to now. I’ve got a few leather projects under my belt, and it occurred to me that I could make a sturdy leather cup, lined with felt or velvet, and that would look good and muffle a good deal of the rattle. Even better, I can make it themed to the game… why not have the appearance of zombie skin, greenish, brown and mottled. But hey, this a game where you play a zombie — no self respecting zombie would use a cup made from zombie hide, oh no, they’d cobble something together from their victims. Which to choose? Oh, wait, I have two sets of the game, looks like I’m making both! *grins*

The cups are made from heavy vegetable tanned saddle-grade leather that is nice and stiff. They’re stitched together using artificial sinew for that ‘harvested from a corpse’ look. The cups are very roughly stitched together (that’s a feature, not a reflection of my neophyte status as a leathercrafter, honest!). The insides are lined with a deep red velvet, and the caps are not lined, but instead stained with a very similar shade of red (‘cranberry’ to be precise).

The zombie skin cup has extra stitching to suggest closing up of tears or wounds to make a solid vessel. If I were to make another of this style, I would either eliminate that altogether, or use the same ‘loop stitch’ I use everywhere else. I particularly like the dirty discolored effect that is a result of staining the leather, then softening it with alcohol to shape and stitch it.

The cylinder of the human skin cup is assembled from four individual pieces of leather that were stained different shades of skin tone, then stitched together. There is no straight line seam on the cylinder itself such as the other cup has. Again, that may be something I add to v2 of the zombie skin cup.

Lastly, the Zombie Dice 2 expansion adds three dice to the original game. Sometimes we don’t always feel like playing with the expansion included, so I made little dice pouches out of shaggy black suede to contain the expansion dice to keep us from having to dig them out every time. It fits neatly into the cup for storage.

They all turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I learned a lot more about working with leather from this project. Isn’t that the goal, after all?


Leather Pouch.

Posted by DmentD | Making,Pictures | Saturday 9 March 2013 6:28 pm

After an initial success making a leather case for a Moleskin notebook, I’d been itching to work on something else. I’d been promising myself that I would start making pouches and accessories to go with my Ren Faire outfit, and this season seemed like a good time for it. I had the better part of a large piece of vegetable tanned shoulder, and a few of the basic tools to get started, just needed some buckles, a catch, rivets and a nice rich brown dye.

Knocked out a few designs in cardstock to get a feel for the size and style, and also to have a cutting template when I was done. Went for a more organic teardrop curved shape, simple but attractive. Finished, it looks well made (if I do say so myself), but not “modern made”, which is important for a period piece. The bag is approximately 6″ wide.

I have added, since its completion, a fleur de lis embossing which I think may become part of all my costume pieces. It would have been a little nicer and deeper had I done it before I had stained the leather, and if I could have done it in wet leather as well, but it’s not too bad as it is. I am heartily encouraged by this success, and see myself happily making more, and possibly more elaborate pieces before too long.


Framed, You Hear!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Making,Pictures,Reflection | Thursday 13 September 2012 12:42 am

Since I’ve been regathering woodworking tools lost to Katrina, I’ve been able to get a start on what is likely to be a very ongoing project… picture frames. Sweets and I have been slowly gathering prints and posters and artwork over the last few years (with no apparent end in sight), and for the smaller ones that fall into a standard size frame that can be bought “off the shelf”, we’re doing just that. Anything larger, or oddly sized — and the majority of what we have falls into this category — requires a custom frame.

The few pieces I’ve had framed in the past, while being done well, are fairly expensive… especially considering our tastes and preferences. At this rate, we’d likely only get one or two pieces done a year and we’d never catch up. Even the cost of just getting a mat cut is stupidly out of proportion considering a typical full-size sheet of acid-free mat board costs ~$15 for a 32″x40″ sheet and it takes all of 15 minutes to cut it. Add to this the fact that you’re limited to the frame styles the shop has in stock — to be fair, while not a minuscule selection they do tend toward a variation on a small number of themes. Additionally, if I wanted something more stylized or thematic I’m pretty much out of luck. The materials the frames are made of is rarely ever solid wood (composite materials mostly), and far too many of them are hideously garish.

So, I decided to do my own framing… quite in the tradition of my grandfather who framed all of his own artwork. I have a full-size mat cutter, I have the tools at my disposal to cut, fit and assemble frames, I have the skills and know-how, and I can do it all for a fraction of the cost that a frame shop would charge me. This also affords me the opportunity to do many more pieces in a shorter span of time and not break my budget. I can also get faaaaancy.

Two recent pieces that I finished were prints by Terrance Osborne: Post Katrina Blues, and Hurricane Solution #3. Both purchased over two years during my annual pilgrimages back to the motherland. I wanted to do something special for these, but hadn’t any specific ideas.

While foraging around the local architectural salvage companies for materials for another framing project (that’s another post) I came across an old wooden white painted window screen. I mean old, and poorly repainted over the years — never scraped, so the scaly ‘gator skinned peeling paint from previous generations created a prominent texture, and of an old hand-made style not seen any more. I was instantly transported back to NOLA, and the ancient white houses with the hunter green trim that is still found in older neighborhoods today (I lived in one myself), painted and repainted over the years. This screen was worn, weather-beaten and a perfect representation of a home — both physical and spiritual — lost to tragedy. It was mine for all of $4.

I disassembled that screen, carefully so as to not dislodge too much of the flaking paint, and lovingly cut and assembled it into a frame. I lightly dusted the worst of the dirt from it and sealed the rest in with satin Polycrylic. I paired the frame with a hunter green mat, the entire assembly representative of the loss depicted in Post Katrina Blues. The funky weathered appearance may not be for everyone, but it strikes me profoundly. You can even see a white house with green trim to the right in the print.

The next frame is another find from my architectural salvage hunts. It’s pieces of chair-rail moulding, reclaimed from an old house that was obviously decked out in quite a bit of fancy millwork when it was built (the pieces I used came from a huge bundle apparently from the same salvage project). The moulding was painted with a high-gloss white oil paint originally — those old oil paints just had a way of sitting on wood that is unmistakable — but the paint had lost some of it’s luster and has faded to a slightly ivory off-white color over the years. At $1 per linear foot, I had more than I needed for a measly $25.

The trim was in fairly good shape (compared to the screen from the last frame) with just a few chips and scrapes in the finish to show its age. It reminded me of the loving restoration that is done in the very old houses in NOLA, where the original millwork, filigrees and fancy flourishes are painstakingly preserved, showing the wear of the years but still holding up — mostly — the the test of time. It spoke to me of hope, history, and carrying on even in the wake of destruction. That fancy, scrolly moulding was cut and assembled into a frame, and left as-is with no additional finish… warts and all. Paired with a goldenrod colored mat, it evokes the stubbornness, ingenuity and spirit of preservation in Hurricane Solution #3.

My intention hasn’t been to salvage materials for all of my frames, that style just happened to fit the prints I was working on. Going forward… who knows what I’ll be using, but I have the freedom and flexibility to do what I like. Just you try to get a frame shop to make one from an old window screen. *grins*

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