St. Austin’s Catholic Church on Guadalupe Street in Austin, TX, now has two female saints (St. Phoebe and St. Mary Magdalene) joining St. Peter and St. Paul on the walls of the sanctuary. Due to the efforts of Women of Faith Unbound (WOFU), the project was approved. WOFU began looking for the artist to create these sculptures. We were asked to help guide the group in their search and offer our technical and artistic advice. The group finally decided on The Sculpture Studio from Phoenix Az., to undertake the project. WOFU flew the sculptor to Austin in January 2019, so he could see the church firsthand and especially see the St. Peter and the St. Paul statues which would establish many of the parameters for the statues of the new female saints. But the trickiest part of having St. Phoebe and St. Mary Magdalene look congruent with their male predecessors would be the staining and the finishing which we agreed to tackle. The statues had several different colors of boards of basswood glued together, which had to be stained to blend into one final color – a color as close to Peter’s & Paul’s aged patina as possible.
Finally in December of 2019, we installed the new statues up on the limestone walls. Since the statues would hang over the steps leading up to the altar, we had to first create a platform to set on the steps in order to create a level floor for the erection of our scaffolding. Then we could drill into the limestone and set a custom post for hanging the statues. Now St. Phoebe and St. Mary Magdalene are home with hands raised and ready to welcome the congregation each Sunday.
In early 1982, a young couple came to our studio, then called The Wood Joint before we renamed our business Landers’ Studio, and they asked us to turn four posts out of maple that they would provide. They wanted these posts to first serve as the chuppah for their wedding and then they planned to have us make them a 4-poster bed afterwards. Mark turned two posts as headboard posts and two posts as the footboard posts, but added length to the square ends to make them equal in height for the chuppah. We all laughed when I looked up the original receipt from 1982. We turned the four posts for $210 plus tax! Mark admits he would not even turn one post today for that price!
We would continue to see this couple periodically in our circle of friends over the years and they would laugh and say “Someday we need to bring those posts back to you and have you make that bed for us!” Well, 37 years later with kids grown, the posts have returned to finally be made into a bed for them. To add to the story, they wanted a carved rail in the headboard that echoed the design of their wedding rings which were based on illustrations by William Blake. The wedding rings were made by Generations of Jewelers, three generations of Mexican American jewelers, once located in the Arboretum. As an unrelated overlap of this story, we had also made all of the display cases for Generations of Jewelers.
After 37 years of storage, the aged and darkened posts had to go back on the lathe and be sanded down to reveal the original lighter color. We have been making slow progress on the bed as we will turn to quicker, more lucrative projects as they arise……but we will not take 37 years to get this bed to them! Stay tuned……..
Clients brought a painted black table base to us to have a new table top made for it. The base had significant emotional and historical meaning to the wife as it had been in her family for generations as seen in this picture of her in 1949 standing next to her grandfather holding her cousin with the original mahogany pedestal end table in the background. The clients had adapted the table over the years to now function as a breakfast table for their spacious and inviting kitchen area.
After looking at wood samples, they chose a highly figured Curly Maple wood for the new table top. Since they were also wanting to increase the diameter of the table top, Mark worried about the “moment of tilt” factor with just the original base if someone used the edge of the table to hoist themselves out of their chair. Mark recommended that a base be attached to the bottom of the pedestal to increase the table’s stability.
Mark searched for the most highly figured maple and ended up ordering the wood out of a company in PA. It was indeed beautiful wood, but when Mark put a moisture meter to the wood, he was getting moisture readings of 12% which was just too high for him to trust how the glue joints would hold up once in the HVAC of the client’s home. He consulted with many wood drying experts and finally decided to build his own mini-kiln in the shop with a tarp, small dehumidifier, heat, and a fan to keep the air moving around the wood. This drying process ended up taking two months to finally reach an acceptable 8.5% moisture content and the clients very graciously accepted this delay in production.
The treasured pedestal now has new life as a very functional table where the owners will share many a meal and conversation with friends in their warm and hospitable home.
If you have been in our studio in the last year, you will have seen this 1932 Packard 900 Coupe Light Eight (referring to engine size) car body in our studio. In the view above, you are looking in the back window just over the rumble seat. Click on this in order to see a picture of a restored version of this same Packard. There are only a few existing coupes since the majority of these Packards had their roofs cut off when the wood structure began to rot in order to be converted to roadsters or open-air models. Originally, these Packards had a wooden framework over which canvas was stretched to form the roof. As you can see in these pictures, much of the original wooden framework was badly rotted or missing. We had to reconstruct these supporting elements and hand-shape the correct curves and angles so that the window would fit properly and a canvas top could be attached accurately. This may sound simple, but the re-creation of this interlocking structure took 285 hours to complete.
The Light Eight was intended as Packard's price leader at the entry level of the luxury car market. The marketing objective was to add a new market segment for Packard during the depression. It was attractive to buyers, but it failed in its main reason for existence, which was to lure away buyers from its rivals. Instead, it hurt the sales of Packard's more luxury and higher-priced models. A Light Eight 4-door, 5-passenger Sedan was priced at USD $1,750, compared to $2,485 for a similar Standard Eight Sedan. The three other Light Eight body styles cost $1,795 each. Packard managed to sell 6,785 units of its new model before discontinuing. Today, the restorer we worked with said he only knew of 6 existing models of this particular coupe.
The front of the car body was not in our shop as the engine is being totally rebuilt. The original upholstery will be artfully duplicated for this interior with leather and canvas dyed to be historically accurate and including wool cloth from a British company which has been supplying materials since this car was first produced. The final product will be a breathtaking reproduction of the original Packard 900 coupe as it rolled off the assembly line in 1932 – ready roll again in another year after other artisans painstakingly apply their craft. We were just thrilled to have been a part of this re-creation of one of the finest products of America’s past.
Clients, Tom and Carol, brought us some 4-inch thick Myrtle wood that had been in storage for the last 40 years. Tom’s father had owned a saw mill in the Pacific Northwest and had set this wood aside. Even with all this aging, the wood’s moisture level was at 14%. We had to arrange kiln drying to bring the moisture level down to 8% for the furniture to be in the home’s HVAC.
Designing the table and figuring out how to best use the “live edge” posed many challenging and exciting possibilities. Mark had intended to “average out” some of the rougher areas of the live edge so it could be sanded completely smooth, but Carol liked the dramatic look of the edge, so we used flexible flapper sanders to remove splintered wood while maintaining the effect of the ring debarker. We also had many hours of hand sanding. Tom jumped at the chance to work on the table to help transform the live edge from extremely rough to smooth and user-friendly.
At first, we chose a spectacular board for a possible trestle-style table base. But ultimately, artist John Christensen (www.christensen-oko.com) created a stainless steel base for the dining table and the exceptional board became a coffee table top for which John also created a metal base. In fact, in the course of the 9-month birthing process of these tables, there were many lively discussions and exchange of ideas between Mark as artisan, Tom as engineer/artist, Carol as designer and John as artist.
The tables are full of interest and character due to many cracks that were created by the wood’s shrinkage over time combined with the stunning figure around knots and the lustrous curl in the wood’s grain. After all these years in storage, the wood has new life as two very distinctive and unique tables in Tom and Carol’s showcase home.
A client brought a bronze eagle sculpture to us asking for a wooden base to showcase it. Although she could not define exactly what she wanted, she knew she wanted the base to be very natural and organic. After some thought, Mark remembered this holly stump he had tucked away. Selecting the ideal section of the stump to create the base, he cut away the extraneous parts. After sanding the top and bottom of the base only, he oiled the base to bring out the natural color and give it new life.