I've been thinking a great deal recently about the curious girls of mythology: Eve and Pandora. Here's a recent box effort: a Pandora's Box, with all the evils that plague humanity growing out of a hole in the top. Inside, of course, is what was left when Pandora shut the box: Hope, woodburned and goldleafed. The box is maple, woodburned (woodburning all those letters and leaves by hand took about 10 hours!) and painted, and the whole thing lacquered. It still needs some finish work, but it's fantastic.
Here is a new Eve woodburning for a box top- Eve holding the apple and spellbound by the snake. It's modified from a lovely painting by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer. Below, a new glass-topped box: an etched glass jellyfish painted and covered with colored epoxy. The sides are bubinga wood, and the base is silverleafed with sterling silver to reflect light behind the glass top. Also below, a pecan box with a woodburning on top modified from a Rossetti drawing- but I added a dog. These boxes will be for sale at Art City Austin this weekend, so come out to see them- and us!
Our newest box- another in our "story box" series- with artwork modified from Laura Barrett's illustrations. This is "Snow White" with Snow White and the wicked queen woodburned on the front. The queen, of course, is looking into her magic mirror, which is real mirror inlaid into the maple, surrounded by wenge and purpleheart framing and woodburned detail. The queen has a 22K goldleafed crown on. The top is framed in wenge. Inside is a woodburning of the wicked queen in disguise as the old woman, holding out the poisoned apple, which is painted in red epoxy paint. The box is walnut with wenge trim.
And below are two new glass etchings- a woman and dog at sunset (we love dogs but have no dog love boxes- we had to rectify this!), and a murder of crows. Both are painted black in the etch, and the dog glass is covered with colored epoxy for the sunset effect.
Our Boxes in an Austin Airport Exhibit! Also: A Finished Skull and Raven Box, and New Boxes Coming: Parrots and Dogs
We're proud to announce that some of our boxes will be on display in the Austin ABIA airport starting in February; our airport is very good about supporting local artists, and we're thrilled to have been selected for exhibition.
Also, here is a really pretty new box: the top is maple, with woodburned ravens and a 22K goldleafed skull. I surrounded them with brass coils, and set the whole top in deep epoxy. The top and base are rimmed in dark wenge, and the sides are ziricote with maple biscuit joints. It has a brass lock and ornate brass key, and the inside bottom is lined with red suede. It's our first locking box, and we love it. The ziricote is as smooth as glass. Below is a picture of the inside.
Also below are new box tops and bases. First, the pieces for our new glass-topped box: birds etched in a circle over a base painted like a sunset, with a 22K goldleafed sun. The epoxy paint is so glossy that the birds are reflected in it. This will have curly maple sides and top frame.
The Dead Pet Series Continues: In Remembrance of My Plan B Dog. Plus:The Octobox Is Finished (and is AWESOME), and a New Carved Box Is Underway.
This was my dog Molly, who died of a mast cell cancer two years ago. I got Molly because my most beloved dog Carlo was getting old, and I was succession planning. I knew that when Carlo died, I would never get out of bed unless I had another dog to feed and care for- the Plan B dog. So I went to the Pound to find Plan B. Molly was the saddest dog at the Pound. She was lying in a puddle of urine and had just given up. She wasn't selling herself or responding to overtures from anyone. The Pound workers said she was medically OK, but just heartbroken and waiting to die. So I took her home, and in 2 days she was a bouncy, obnoxious, completely submissive dog. She was always a second-class citizen in our house- Carlo was always everyone's favorite and Molly lived in her shadow. And poor Mo was abused badly by our lovebird, Humper (see picture below). When Carlo died, she fulfilled her function- I had to get up and feed her and love her, and she helped me be OK.
And then she got cancer and died only a few years after Carlo. We decided to put her down before she got really sick, which the vet said was only days away after the chemo failed (yes, we did dog chemotherapy. We're those people). She was days or weeks from an agonizing painful death from an angry mast cell tumor. So we had Dr. Death come to the house to do it. And Molly ran to the door wagging to greet him, and that felt awful. We had waited too long to put Carlo down, and she was miserable and scared and hurting, and we didn't want to do that to the Mo. But it was terrible- one minute she was a dancing happy dog and the next she was dead. And she had become so much more than Plan B. She was my sweet girl and I miss her. We made a box for her ashes, and it's on the mantel with our other dogs.
New Box News:
The Octobox! This one was tough- but worth it, I think. We attached the bottom legs (carving and sanding all those tentacles was a LOT of work) and the side tentacles, and then thought it needed a base for stability, so added a spalted pecan base to match the top, which is really lovely. It turned out even better than I thought it would, and I thought it would be pretty great. I'd love to put this one in the East Austin Studio Tour gallery show, but it is one inch too tall and wide to meet their small size criteria. The box and tentacles are grenadillo, base and top are spalted pecan (with some turquoise inlay in the top, and a bone lid lift.
And I've been away from carving boxes for a while (too busy playing with glass), but I had a gorgeous piece of spalted maple with some pink streaks running through it, and it felt like time to pick up my mallet and chisel again. I shaped it into this teardrop-like figure, and filled all the natural little worm holes with turquoise. It's on a base of spalted maple. I know it's easier to get symmetrical round shapes with a lathe, but I can't seem to like lathe work. It's not as satisfying as whacking at wood with a mallet until a shape emerges, and the imperfect symmetry is sometimes really quirky and pleasing in the carved boxes. It's all coming together like it always seems to do- it's just hard to remember that when you're looking at a beautiful solid block of unique wood and thinking, "all I can do is eff this up."
I also thought it needed some texture, so I studded the base with agate beads with some blue in them to bring out the turquoise (they're still rough, as you can see). I definitely like this effect. It will get a colored glass top to highlight the pink in the wood and the turquoise.
I mentioned Humper, our long-gone lovebird, in my last post. Humper was the tamest bird in existence. He loved people, and especially loved to crawl in women's shirts and perch on their bras, poking his head up occasionally above the neckline. He came when called and had a lot of freedom, and would have died being caged all the time (we actually had to put a real lock on the cage door, since he could figure out how to open all hasps and click locks). And oh, did he love to get in bed with Tom, snuggle in, and go to sleep with him. (This is my favorite photo I ever took)
But Humper hated our dogs and would try to kill them and intimidate them. He only weighed a few ounces, but he was a mighty force of nature. He would get in their food bowls and chase them away. He'd wiggle under doors to get at them. He'd fly onto them and ride them. He'd drive them into the kennel and refuse to let them out. Here is a picture of our dear old dog Brittany being cornered. The dogs were good girls, but sooner or later, one of them was going to fight back, so our options were to cage the Hump (if you're wondering about the name, think about it a sec. Yep.), or to find him a new home. We found him a new home, and although it was great for him, it felt awful- I had never gotten rid of a pet before, and I loved Humper. But he just couldn't live with dogs.
Then Carlo died, and we had one box on the mantel (see last post for this sob story). Then Molly died two years ago, and we had two. Our beloved Britt went last year, and we are now three boxes old (here is Britt's box- it has a light blue marble set in the top because that was the color of her eyes). We have two young dogs now, and sometimes I wonder why I am so foolish as to keep getting attached to dogs. And our parrot, while a cranky jerk, isn't at all interested in the dogs (a great relief). Anyone who doesn't routinely give her nuts is not worthy of her attention. Hopefully she will outlive us and we'll never have to make a tiny box for parrot ashes.
And here's a new box that would make a gorgeous cremation box. It's rosewood with a beautiful purplish metal lid lift (I'll have to see if I can identify the metal). If you're looking for something urn-like, but with some flair, this is a great choice. It's now for sale under "Constructed Boxes."
And to be completely random: don't forget, folks, the new season of The Walking Dead begins IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! Now THAT'S a happy note to end this post on.
In Remembrance of my Soulmate Dog, or: The Reason I Want to Believe in the Rainbow Bridge and Why We Make Boxes
When I was 21 years old, I found a dog on the side of the road in a small Texas town. I brought her home and took her to see a vet, as she was in bad shape. She was terrified of people and had been abused horribly. No one was optimistic about the outcome, since she'd cower and pee in fear every time someone came near her. Even my mother, dog lover extraordinaire, wondered if maybe the kindest thing to do was put her down. Mom also thought I was too young- "It will never work out," she said.
(A note on the bird in the photo: this was Humper, who terrorized all the family dogs until we had to give him away.)
But with love and patience and a dog shrink, Carlo (whom I named for Emily Dickinson's beloved companion, although she was a girl dog) became my heart. I was for her and she was for me. We were best friends. She was my constant and faithful companion. In my whole life, before or since, I have never had such a friend. She was the dumbest, but also the sweetest, creature I have ever met.
Sixteen years after I found her, we had a vet come to the house and put her to sleep, and it broke my heart. We waited a few days too long and she was in fear and pain as she hadn't been since I found her. When she was gone, I cried for months. I discovered that pet death makes it OK to cry in the grocery store line, because everyone around you knows how it feels and will comfort you.
We're atheists in our house, but sentimental ones. I know if I had been able to ask Carlo what she wanted after death, she would say she wanted to be near me as she always was in life. So we made a box for her and put her ashes in it on our mantel, and there she is, some years later (Link to box).
And that's how we started making boxes, and being especially committed to making cremation boxes for beloved animal friends. If there's any religious idea I wish I could get behind, it's the Rainbow Bridge. If you don't know the Rainbow Bridge story, here it is:
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
This sounds great. I fail to see why a major religion has not formed around this idea.
And I'm still waiting for my mother's apology. It worked out.
Tom Beach and Amanda Walker