Friday, February 4, 2011

Accessories for you - trending 2011

Interior Design is not the only trend for 2011 I can cover -

OK, In my last post I covered design trends for 2011. But what about things to wear / accessories ... well I can cover a bit of that too. And as a treat I have some items to share that are handmade at Wild Cat Leather Co.

I realized somewhere along the line that this blog was a bit masculine. I'm a guy
But when I posted the interior design post I realized that quite a bit of handmade as expressed on the web is also jewelry and accessories for the ladies. A little reading on Google and I started finding that the same sensibilities that apply to architecture and interior design apply to "fashion" as well. While I revel in a good interior design that includes natural materials like the wood I am so fond of, good design - executed well and with taste can apply to accessories as well.

I noted that even was comenting in a similar vein to the design sites I quoted in my previous post. You will note that I defer to places with a greater sense of fashion trending then I possess...

From (Author: Webka)

Though 2011 will see us move still further from the economic woes of recent history, don’t expect a massive change in the tangent of fashion: the major excesses of the last decade are gone, and 2011 will see us, rightfully, continue on with a drive of subtle consumption mixed with obvious quality. 2011 fashion trends will accommodate the fact that we’ll be buying less but spending more. That means less bland, and more quality. Fewer indulgences, but better statement pieces.

Now I read that as going along with the trends in spatial design.. we are looking to accessorize but not with the bling excess of previous decades. This relates again to economic uncertainty and a need to reconnect with natural, stable, and less flashy visuals. This does not mean however that 2011 is looking to reduce the quantity of accessories - but rather improve on both the statement and the quality.

In that interest, readers of this blog or those that happen by, will know that I support handmade artisans as the micro-business growth engines for turning the economy around. We have built the industrial age 20th century corporate global monstrosities that we now find ourselves less enamored of as they turn out millions of "cheap" copies of the same thing and our own sense of self is lost in our expression of how we live in our spaces or dress and accessorize.

The photos that are seperating the paragraphs in this blog are all of accessories from Wild Cat Leather Co. an Artfire studio operated by Cat Cichowski who has handmade all of the accessories pictured. These are all original work that you will not see anywhere else. Make a statement without spending a fortune. To see more of her work or purchase any of these that fit your fashion taste for 2011 or beyond please visit her artfire studio.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 - Interior Design Trending - Organic and warmer?


As noted in several articles regarding interior design published recently 2011 is predected to be a return to a simpler, more earthy, vintage look.  This is related to the continuing focus on "green" sourcing, and materials.  The economy is still attempting recovery and the uncertain future would lend a desire to "warm" spaces by using vintage, woods, and natural coloring.   It is about creating a more meaningful space, not so focused on Mcsuper-sized as it is on personalized.

Kathy Barlow:  (quoted from

In 2011, plums, purples, goldenrod and a greyed-down deep turquoise, will enrich a primarily neutral color palette. Natural and light wood tones will blend with found objects of character. Warmth will be added by colorful artisan creations, with more emphasis on reuse and recycling in art.

Spaces will reflect a thoughtful editing, driven by an economy that has made people question what they need, and the source of their decor. And manufacturers and suppliers will continue to give the consumer more control and participation in the design and customization of home decor and furnishings.

  Attitudes about decor reflect our values in the times we live in, as well as our reaction to the forces of the outside world.  We can both reflect the excitement of "new", and create spaces which allow us to escape or renew in the face of modern life.  As a result organic is used to balance technology, splashes of earthy color to reflect the modern speed and connectivity can be mixed. 

More evidence of this may be seen in this article:

As we decorate and purchase things for our homes we seek to reconcile the interior space with our perceptions of public life.  Work continues to be more technical, and change is a functional imperitive in the business of survival in economic chaos.  We see our home spaces as a place to get away, to reconnect with ourselves.  As the external world becomes more chaotic we choose surround ourselves with objects that reflect permanence - heirloom objects, or heavy wood peices, things that speak to memory and family.

  Wolf Creek Millworks is not slave to the whim of fashion.  We are not enamoured of the thinking of "so five minutes ago".  Natural and fuctional wood object are what we make.  We make them to be kept and passed on - to connect with the people who choose our designs for their homes.

  Our art bowls, candle-holders, shelving, mantles and other wood objects are both classic and timeless and in keeping with the organic, green-sourced, and completely unique decorating trends of our time.  Our items are all made by hand - by my family - and are sourced from environmentally preferrable timber that is found and/or harvested from urban or semi-urban tree cutting.

Please visit  to learn more about our items.

To purchase items we currently have for sale  -

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Finding Wood for Woodworking projects

A Different source for lumber and wood crafting

Many, if not most, people think that wood comes from the great wooded areas. Logged by loggers, and carted to hugh sawmills then distributed to retail lumber-yards or big box stores. While this is true for most construction lumber, much of the lumber used in production furniture, and most all of the products sold in sheets like plywood. There are small producers with private woodlots that cut, mill and kiln-dry hardwood for hobby and small furniture makers scattered about, but for the most part only woodworkers really search for these sources of wood and they can be rather expensive. There is however an alternate source - one which we use - and it is nearby to most of us. The roadsides, back yards, and farms all have trees (many are hardwoods) that for whatever reason are not wanted where they are, some may be vitims of desease or insects. Some are just not in the place where they should be, or have outgrown the place they are in. Getting this wood home to use involves some simple techniques and a couple of pieces of special equipment. Though depending on what you plan on making you may not need all of them.

The first step is to identify where it is OK to get this wood from. Public Rights of way, the edges of roads and navigable waters, and in certain places public state woodlands and etc. are the primary sources. To determine which are leagally OK to pick from in your area talk to your Natrual Resources department or state park employees and local ordinance enforcement or the road crews themselves if you are lucky enough to spot them doing easement clearing in your area. We also offer services to land-owners to remove unwanted, dangerous, or dying trees. Part of the service involves milling the wood or removing it for the customer....this is certainly a great source of "found wood".

OK, you have a tree or two laying on the ground - now what?

To get the wood home your going to need a way to either move it as is, or make it small enough to move it by what ever means you have. This brings us to our first and likely the most required piece of equipment. A really good chain-saw. Many homeowners have, and might even have used, a small chainsaw in the 20-40 cc engine size with a 12-18" in long bar and chain combo. While this might work for getting a few blocks or bits for is not likely going to keep you in the game for getting larger thicker trees carved up for moving, and will not provide you the ability to run our next tool - the mill. We have several chain-saws in the 50-100 cc range. These will run bar/chains of 22-48" and will also power the mill for making slabs and lumber. I will add that if you have very little experiance running chainsaws this is the time to seek some advice and do a little reading. These larger pro-grade saws possess the power to do serious cutting.....wood or you, and they have no particular feelings in regard to not cutting you. Kick-back and other dangers are magnified by the power of these saws. Read - get aquainted with the correct usage and safety equipment before you start using any power equipment. We use Stihl, Efco, and Poulan Pro saws.

To move and mill larger pieces you will need a couple of other things. There are many flavors of portable sawmill from hand carried minimalist rigs, to full on trailer mounted gas powered monster rigs that load the log using hydrolic lifting arms and log tuning equipment. Logistics may not mean much to you at this point - but they will when you are standing 50 feet away from your truck, and the log you are looking at is larger then anything you can lift. Choose your tools based on the production quantity that you will actually foresee using. The larger production mills will require the addition of support equipment to get those logs to the lifters on the side of the trailer. The smaller mills require much greater manual labor to set-up and use, but offer the ability to take the equipment to the log. Mill information is available from Granberg International, Logosol, and for larger mills.. Woodmizer, and Norwood as well as a host of others have sites where you can see the equipment in use and compare as well as learn about milling.

You will also need a trailer to bring home the logs -chunks - or slabs of timber you have cut. This is personal preference but the trailer needs to be at minimum long enough to carry your longest anticipated length safely.

We go with a lighter approach because huge production is not as important to us as getting the perfect log, and not doing damage a home owners lawn while assisting with tree removal. A portable mill that has a rather substantial rig to maintain a flat and consistant slab, large saw motors to power the milling bar are essential as pulling a 48 in bar chain takes a little horse power. I use an minimum of 87 cc (7 Hp) power head for this purpose. I learned the hard way that the saw will need to be run rich as milling requires longer periods of high RPM and will heat up and kill a saw that is running lean. (Most newer saws are set a little lean from the factory per EPA regulations). You will only need to seize the piston in the head once to learn this. The total weight of the milling rig is around #50 lbs. I can easily carry the rig myself to as far from the trailer as is necessary to get to the log and leave nothing but footprints behind. The lumber is much easier to move back to the trailer then large logs, and requires less investment in support equipment to move. There are few trees that are large enough to exceed our maximum cutting width of 36 inches and those that do can be trimmed with the standard bar and chain to fit.

To get it all home I have a 16ft landscape trailer with a few custom modifications. A cutting platform (check my bio page - my son and I are milling on top of the platform) was constructed on one side of the trailer. It is removable and can be transported to a cutting location remote from the trailer. A large truck tool box was added to the front of the trailer to keep all of the tools necessary to support the saws, sharpen chain, and repair or build things we might need. On occasion we find whole trunks that have blown over or been felled by the county road crews as a safety precaution. The logs need to be collected quickly (sometimes requiring blocking traffic) so there is a battery powered 4000 lb winch mounted on the trailer. We pay out the winch line to rope secured to the tree trunk and pull the entire log abord the trailer.

There are a lot more concerns to making use of this currently highly under-utilized wood resource. I will cover some of these in a later posting. If you have questions, or want to see things made from the wood we have "found" please see our store at

The contact artisan link will allow us to communicate by e-mail.

A trestle bench made from "found wood" Oak

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Crafting / Working wood - Gifts to yourself?

Gifts to yourself from crafting/making things -

     An Artfire forum thread asking the question "Do you love what you do" gave me pause to think about the fact that I do enjoy working with wood. I also thought perhaps in this season of giving we might pause to reflect of the gifts our craft returns to us.....moments, new freinds, ....a time and maybe even place where we find ourselves, and sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

Here is my reply to the question posted:

     Absolutely, I enjoy completely dropping a dead/dying tree that might even be dangerous to someone, and then making that first cut along the length of one side. It is like a christmas one has ever seen what God and mother nature have inside there, and it is very exciting to see gorgeous grain and color after the sawdust is wiped away. Getting a few blocks and slabs home and then waiting until they are stable enough to work gives me a chance to imagine what they will be, a bench, candle/holder, bowl, shelf is kinda cool.

     I often find there is some imperfection that was part of the life of the tree. A knot, unseen tension from holding the weight in the wind, rain, cold and heat. The wood moves - it presents problems that need to be solved in order to finish whatever I am making, and sometimes it just fails, or I fail to notice something that makes it come apart. I have had a few that simply blew up in the lathe, or cracked the length of the work, because I cut through a place that had this tension or a weak spot deep inside. I don't particularly love it when flying pieces are passing my head, or bouncing off the shop walls, or when I have to consign a partially finished item to the firewood pile. But, When I get those little surprises from a chunk that won't split right or a section left behind by the firewood cutters, I get one back in return, so it's all good.

    Then (often much later) when the making it is done, and I hold the finished piece in my hand and see all the grain and color, smoothed, enhanced by stain and finish, the warmth and beauty of the wood shows through and I get to realize all over agian that nobody has ever seen this thing before. Nobody has ever seen it hidden inside the previously living tree that looks just like all the others around but yet is different. It is comletely one of a kind because of the experiance of the life of the item it was made from.  The weather year to year, damage, attack form pests, and the struggle to repair itself and live all contribute to those little lines, rays and other subtle coloring and marks that make wood look like wood. It's kind like inside out people - the lines on our hands, face, and heart are from everything life has thrown at us and it is that that can reflect our character and experiance. Getting to turn that out for all to enjoy is a wonderful thing - and I do love to do it.

Thanks for asking...


    I did not really have space, nor would it have been appropraite to lauch ever further into the metaphysical in the tread. But in reality, we all get gifts back from what we do to make, or find, items to sell here. The handmade sellers get to look for supplies and imagine what to make or paint, potters get to feel the clay and the reward when it emerges from the kiln and is not broken...little surprises that are gifts from above...given because we are creating - not destroying.

    The vintage sellers also partake in getting these gifts. A surprise find at an auction where by chance one life has ended and the things they kept around them are now for sale. There ...perhaps ...might be found "one of those" ....why I have not seen "one of those" in a dogs age..the momentarily stunned vintage seller might say. This too is a gift, a recollection perhaps brought to mind....a moment you did not have to pay for, it was given because you are not simply walking in this auction to get anymore, you're there sharing because we all have things that not only bring memory of the item, but of the times and people that maybe time has stolen from us.

     How could you not love to make or find objects that other people will get to look at  and enjoy or even purchase, it is the first job of the artisan.....and a connection to the metaphysical, the enjoyment of beauty, design, and function.  Art imitates times. Asked the question what is art - I would have to reply that art is anything that connects you to something else....a painting that captures the lines that life has left on an old man's face....or an abstract sculpture that may be differing things to differing people...but yet each connects to it though the sharing of a thought or experience. Seeing the world though the eyes (and perhaps the heart) of the artist connects us with the thoughts of another and maybe we are all not so far apart as we imagine.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Trust and the Micro marketplace

Too many people lookin back (Bob Seager) -

OR maybe not - a little web crawling revealed this bit of history...

"Etsy is a good example of an emergent business network that creates trust within a specific market. That trust enlarges the market by enabling transactions to happen. Then more suppliers come into the network to meet growing demand and the range and quality of products improve; and so the consumer demand improves and so on….

Just don’t try shoving mass-produced junk through these networks. It won’t work. These networks have a very good junk filter!"

Written by Bernard Lunn / February 27, 2008 1:42 AM pulled from

Wriiten while Etsy and sites like 1000Markets were the new "happenin" thing. I don't think the author had any idea how big it might get, or that it might have similar problems other sites have had once they are infiltrated by the mass marketers, and beholden to investors....

So in the harsh light of today, does this rose colored glass view of the future - posted long ago - hold true? How does it relate to the several marketplaces like 1000Markets/Bixbe, Neerg, the newly emergent Cargoh?

The article written in the year 2008 still reflected a strong economy, excitement over anything web like, Ebay was flying high and everyone was in love with the new economy. Reading the article is both inspiring and perplexing, what happened. As the statements concerning the purpose of this site imply, sites like this and our shops would be or are the drivers of the NEW - new economy. But this has been both incredibly succesful for some - but not clearly understood by others. It all seemed a grand dream - this market transformation prior to 9/11 and the housing/banking mess of a recession, but is it slow to happen, or are we slow to actually buy into it? Or did something that happened in between alter the path of everything? Reading that old blog (from when blogs were not flippin' everywhere) the sense of unlimited possibilities and exuberance seems almost otherworldly in retrospect.

I think it still has relevance in historical context specifically the bit about trust expanding the it just the economy that raises some of the questions in my list of posts above? Or is eroding trust eroding all the markets (Macro and Micro) where is the lack of trust coming from? The world in general being less trusting and trustworthy (BP, Government in general, business models we were all tought in college) Did the new wear off this NEW -new economy too fast? Or is it all pent up in some holding pattern waiting for the breakthrough?

The web is prevalent in most all of the world markets and allows even micro business like our shop to have the global reach of the larger global corporations with the cost structure and lightning fast customer service and response time of smaller more adaptable business. So why are we not experiancing enormous growth percentages in our shops. Some are doing OK I imagine, but for others it is fleeting and a struggle with the zietgiest of Macro-econ pressure, and as Cargoh has illustrated, the lure and fikle nature of the poparazzi affected buyer.

Have we come as far as we thought with the web-enabled, wold market theory and it is just the Macro-mistrust that affects our sales numbers and revenue generation?

Or is it something else?

Are buyers just so saturated with professional photos of the items in web catalogs that our products pale in comparison?

Are there trust issues related to experiance from more mature sites like Ebay where those out to make a quick buck are selling items made in third-world sweat shops for pennies over cost and making it on volume with absolutely no customer service etc.?

Will the world choose to shop at a web enabled- global equivilent of Wal-Mart over the resurgent sole-proprieter workshop our shops replicate that existed since the dawn of towns and cities, historical American and European mainstreet, and now in the global market of the web?

Time may tell, I hope we have the time to make it work.

To purchase from The Wolf Creek Millworks:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Artfire - small business or artisan business - pricing stuff...

The point:

My supplies are inexpensive (not cheap -which implies less then stellar quality) because most folks don't really seem to know where things come from anymore. I can pick them up and sometimes even charge folks to have me take it away. Wood come from trees - but folks leave them laying all over the place.

Meat comes from animals - I have never seen a field of nicely wrapped pork chops in Styrofoam plates..but let the supper market disappear and I'll show you a mess of folks that will be looking for 'em.

I think folks are spoiled by the availability of things produced in the "lowest cost supply chain" and don't really plan on having heirloom items, or worry much about actual quality. Thinking instead about the fact that they can simply throw it out when they are done or bored with it, and get a new one at next to nothing in cost. They don't realize how much it actually costs - I.E> them buying items over and over again, the extra load on resources and places to put all the throw aways.

I shop at wally world. I can get consumable items (food, trash bags, etc) there for cheap. I have also purchased tools from high-end wood working tool stores.

Here's the deal... I can get a plane that works -OK, for a little while but requires a lot of tuning and re-sharpening, from the big box store for 32.99. I have also seen planes at the high end store (and as soon as I can afford one I'll buy it) that are made from much higher grade materials to really tight tolerances and they will last forever,and work hard with less maintenance, and they cost 320.00 (a price factor of ten). The high-end plane is desired because I can get more done over time with a tool I can keep forever and get very used to the feel of, that works better. That is value and worth the 10x greater price.

Relating that to Artfire:

     My items are made from what some think is junk - but the truth is most trees that are taken down around here are older then the trees in the commercial forest and have a much more interesting tale in the grain then the stuff (that is still too expensive) that they call fine wood at the big box stores.  I turn, plane, and mess with the wood. I cut it not for the best profit margin, but for the showy grain. It is the production vs. crafted difference that makes these items have more value to the people who own them.

I think there are thousands of other Artfire sellers that think the same way about whatever it is they make/assemble/print/throw/turn/embellish/sew/knit/ .... insert your thing here...........and need to price accordingly without a fear of having to compete w/cheap supply chain stores.

Then there are folks that just do stuff they like with whatever they do ... and they sell at cost or below only to support doing more and not have stacks of 'em all over the house... OK - but my guess is they will not have the investment in machines and else that I do, and unless they are buying the wood from me (or specialty wood stores) - they won't see the same grain cuts etc. So I actually don't compete with them either...

Neither equates to "garage sale" - and neither should price that way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

  We beleive that using resources wisely is part of making the planet better for all.  We are glad to provide the following link to others that share our passion for making use of the trees in our urban, suburban, and rural areas (not just our forests). 

See more at