Sharing Experiences and Discoveries

I thought that I could use this blog as sort of a tutorial.  One on how I came to use favorite rocks and hides to make weights that feel lovely in the hand.

Gian Frontini spent a couple days in my studio in the fall of 2018 showing me how to stitch parchment onto a rock. He was lovely that way. Once he’d get an idea and perfect a process, he would come over to spend time in the studio showing me how it all went together.  Like the book that opens six different and individual books in one volume, and how original marbling was done with earth pigments, and making a leather bound box that looked just like an old book, this was one more thing he wanted to share with me.

The rock must be smooth. the covering is cut to size keeping in mind there is a top and bottom that must pull together tightly with stitching all the way around the rock.

The above images are the top and the bottom views. I made holes in the top piece before stitching. It takes very strong hands to pull the stitches tight and they can not be very far apart. My first attempt left gaps in the seam because I did not cut my pieces large enough. It took practice!

Once I got it in two more parchment covered stones, I went on to using some of my kangaroo hide but leaving most of the “top” open to expose a large rock that I textured with my Dremel tool.

Working like this in the stitching, I was able to leave the rock out until quite a bit of the stitching was completed.

Then I thought, “What about other skins?”…cane toad for example. I had already used cane toad to cover the spine of a book textured with earth pigments.

The book is on the left and to the right are four rocks going clockwise from upper left, one using strips of kangaroo hide,  next a fish skin from Iceland, cane toad with a last strip of parchment woven through and finally kangaroo hide with cane toad interwoven over the rock.

Here are some close ups of some of them.

The hide ends overlapped on the bottom and were stitched tightly with waxed linen and another small piece wrapped over the stitching to hide it. Here is another using a cane toad strip with its sides folded under.

All of the hides were brushed with a very hot corn flour paste. It soaked through and shrunk the hides to the form….somewhat.  After Gian was satisfied I had learned what to do, he left me unsupervised and my mind began to wonder how I could make the bonding tighter, make the separate pieces really, really marry together. I took one of my parchment stones, a relatively small one and thought why not just pop it in the hot paste solution for a bit…maybe even give it a bit of a boil.

I loved how tight the skin clung to the stone. So naturally I put each finished stone into the hot paste bath until the hide and the stone became so close, it would take some serious knife work to separate the two.

Once out of the pot and the paste dried off the stone, I let them dry completely before using a paste wax over the entire stone, hide and all. The next day I buffed them with a shoe polish brush to make them look a bit polished with the grain and pattern of the stone more exposed and looking like the reason I picked it up in the first place.

Now they sit in an old foundry mold piece on my work table.

I use them to hold down pattern pieces when I am cutting out fabric for clothing, holding down one end while I braid or twist shifu threads or grasses together, or just sit there quietly while I draw them.

I like the ones with the stone revealed more than the fully covered ones. They remind me of times hunting, picking up and holding the stones I could simply not put back. As for the parchment covered ones, they will never be the quality and perfection of Shanna Leino’s covered stones. I succumbed to buying two of hers at $85 each. I keep those to simply hold in my hand and admire her craftsmanship.

Likely someone will read this, pull out some smooth stones and bits of hide to give it a try. And before you know it, be teaching workshops. It is where we are now. But I like to think that I am sharing with the same enthusiasm as Gian Frontini…a very fine friend and mentor. Find a stone, a scrap of leather and give it a go.

I will leave you with pictures from yesterday’s annual car show on the square. Hard for me to resist old men with old cars.

This old truck would require a step stool for even the tallest of farmers.      And its backend…

A picture of Sadie resting a cloudy day away.

Last night I cooked dinner for a neighbor…lots of good old fashioned talking. And this evening I go over to the young couple’s house here in the neighborhood. Both in their early thirties, one being a doctor and the other a home care therapist. A good addition in this retirement village. Think I will take a bottle of red to replace whatever I have said yes to.

Til later….