A couple of months ago I met a lady who fearlessly decided to catapult me into the 21st century and onto the Internet via the website you see before you. After posting a couple of simple things — for example, a story about my first time woodburning a tiger — she then suggested it might be interesting to show how I arrive at a new artistic creation.
Since I’m presently designing a logo for her and trying to incorporate it into her business of making Native American Style flutes I decided to combine some of my current goals and document my efforts in her behalf as an example of the creative process.
My “Wrendition” of a Carolina Wren
First I made a few sketches to explore various ways her name or initials could be composed into a symbol that would be easily recognized.
Luckily she likes wrens, which happen to be one of my favorite birds, so I set out to see how many ways I could tie it visually to her identity.
An Essential Step: Gather Reference Materials
As always my work begins by assembling all the reference material I can get my hands on.
In this case it included one of my father’s old Virginia Wildlife magazines dating back to 1956.
I brought out wren photos I took in 1986 when I began to teach birdcarving.
I even found my pattern and couple of old carving blanks.
Unfortunately these reference materials were for life-sized birds and I wanted a wren carving small enough to be used as the “bird” on a flute. (It’s called a “bird” even if it looks like a buffalo.)
So I reduced the pattern to a tiny 2 inches long and made the beak and tail a little thicker than normal. By adding to the tail and beak this would lessen the chance of their breaking.
I love doing miniatures but this was so small I felt like I had three thumbs on each hand.
By the time I got the tiny wren carved and burned I realized this would be a complicated effort for someone who was newer to woodburning and carving than I.
So, I decided it might be wise to cut another one out of a darker wood that would give the impression of a wren without as much detail work.
I chose mahogany and the orientation of the grain lends itself to look like the tiny feathers of the wren. Any reddish brown wood would make a believable wren.
Finally the little guys were painted and ready to mount on a flute. But my work wasn’t done yet.
How could I leave that fine-feathered wren without a suitable habitat? I couldn’t.
The next two days were spent designing, cutting, sewing, burning, painting and beading the leather flute bag I thought would keep him nice and cozy.
Actually, the bag was more work than the bird!
Once again, I came up with a second approach.
No matter how attractive your design it’s useless if it can’t be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.
DEFINITION: Reasonable, in this case, means that if someone saw the flute bag and wanted to buy a dozen of them she’d be delighted by the extra cash but not frantic after the third one because they take so long to do.
My second design was much easier to make but still carried the wren theme. The problem here was that the soft thin leather that’s easy to sew doesn’t burn well and the leather that I use for burning pictures is too heavy for my sewing machine.
Different Media Require Different Amounts of Detail
I think it’s interesting to see how different a subject appears when you change the amount of detail or the medium you use with it.
For instance, a very basic wren designed to be burned on a flute as a signature or logo is very different to create than a more detailed version of the wren that would look nice on a letterhead or website banner
While the realistic wren takes more time to burn, the simple logo is actually harder to design. You must take away all the unnecessary details while leaving the essence of the wren.
Well, this gives you a look at the same bird from several different viewpoints. And this is just a small sample.
I taught birdcarving for ten years and the Carolina Wren was always a favorite in those classes, as well as a popular subject in my woodburning classes.
Wrens are cute, perky and elicit a smile whenever they hop around. It turns out that they’re addictive too.
Having those wren blanks out where I could see them was worse than putting a box of chocolates on the coffee table. I spent four hours carving today instead of finishing some more pages for my new book.
Oh, I know what to do, I’ll put the wren in the book ! That will fill 2 or 3 more pages and I won’t have to feel guilty about all the fun I’m having.