LESSONS FROM GARY’S STUDIO: Do It Right

Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.

Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.

A few years back, I had a vision for my next body of work. Shadow boxes are not ‘new’, but I envisioned them to display not only my sculptural work, but my jewelry, too.

I was already a box collector. (Okay, no comments about all the stuff I collect.) I had some great little boxes I thought would work beautifully, except for one thing. They were from a tool manufacturing company, and they were black with smelly oil and grease.

I met up my friend Gary Spykman who works with wood to create furniture, cabinetry, even a new bed for his pickup truck. (See Gary’s new line of eco-modern outdoor furniture at Sebbi Designs.

I showed him a stinky box and asked him if I should use shellac to coat the wood.

He suggested I clean it thoroughly instead. “But I love the waxy black look!” I exclaimed. “It’s just the smell I can’t stand.”

Patiently, Gary explained why that was not a good idea. Now I can’t remember why. But I believed him.

“Once you clean up the gunk, there are better ways to get that old dark patina you love,” he said.

“Teach me stuff?” I said, a la Susan Sarandon in that great old movie, Atlantic City (See the quote in this clip at 54 seconds.>)

And an apprenticeship was born.

For the next four months, I was a guest in Gary’s woodworking shop. We worked out a rough gentlemen’s agreement, where in exchange for small sundries and chores, I would work on refinishing my vintage and antique wooden boxes as he guided me step by step on how to clean them up, repair them and restore them.

I have no idea what Gary gained from the synergy, except for someone to yak with during the day and who happily did the shop dishes each afternoon. (Why is it always more fun to do someone ELSE’S dishes??)

But I benefited hugely. And not just in how to work with antique boxes.

And so starts a new series, LESSONS FROM GARY’S STUDIO. In fact, I got the idea because I’m setting up my new studio based on certain principles, as much as possible, that I observed in Gary’s studio.

I was going to jump right in about that. But then I remembered the first thing I learned: “Do it right.” Don’t take shortcuts. Start at the beginning, and build from there.

And so I am.

(Actually, I guess the VERY first thing I learned was, “Ask”. Ask someone who DOES know. But I don’t want everybody calling Gary to ask him for help. Although I’m pretty sure he would. Help you, that is.)

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