It has been a minute or two since I last shared an update! I’ve been enjoying a long break from the small biz side hustle. Much longer than anticipated in fact. I was planning to re-open the shop early in the new year after our little family holiday, but as well as having a few issues with my lasercutting machine (which is now fixed), I just found I needed to rest some more, recuperate after a long and busy year, and re-gather myself before diving back in.
After an initial burst of activity at the start of the summer holidays, clearing out and cleaning up to get set for the new year ahead, my energy levels waned and are only just starting to recover. To be honest, while our little household has so far somehow been spared from Covid, I think pandemic fatigue has taken a toll, along with some significant stuff that has been happening in our extended family – some great things to celebrate but also big challenges, including serious health issues affecting loved ones in both my family and hubby’s, which I can’t help but worry about. Thankfully things have improved a lot now. But all this to say that I just haven’t had the energy to do anything much beyond the regular day job – school run – family life routine, and I’ve been trying to be kind to myself (which will also help me be better at being kind to those around me). In between never ending washing and other household chores, I confess I spent fair amounts of time reading in my hammock on the back deck while it was still warm enough (finally having embarked on the epic journey that is War & Peace!) and goofing off on my phone (yes I have jumped on the Wordle bandwagon), rather than spending my days off working on Little Button Blue.
I think I just really needed a break from needing to feel productive and allow myself some time to just be.
But I haven’t been completely slacking off.
I was actually commissioned to create a series of wooden door/wall signs featuring a range of animals.
The speech pathology clinic where I work renamed its therapy rooms after animals and asked me to design and make a sign for each room. So I spent weeks designing, lasercutting, sanding and painting these cute wooden wall art pieces, which I’m pleased to show you now. Originally there were eight designs: three flying insects and five wild animals.
First up was a tiger. Here’s what he looked like before painting, just the raw lasercut (and sanded) wood.
And here he is all painted up. I like how he looks like he has a cheeky smile. What is he thinking do you reckon?
Next, a bumblebee. I’m loving the antennae on this one. I ummed and ahhed over the wings but decided to keep it simple. Maybe not anatomically or scientifically correct but easily discernable as a bee right? I almost left the wings unpainted but decided they’d look better painted white.
Then a hippo. I chose to go with a whole-body hippo instead of just the head, probably to ensure it was instantly recognizable. You’d never suspect hippos are one of the world’s most deadly creatures by looking at this cute fella don’t you reckon?
The elephant turned out pretty cute I think.
I considered doing a whole-body elephant like the hippo, instead of just the head, but wanted to keep the ears and trunk as big as possible while still fitting on the size wood I use.
(Each animal plaque is almost 30cm tall/wide depending on the orientation).
A ladybird was a good challenge in achieving the shapes I wanted while keeping it simple. He turned out not exactly symmetrical but I don’t think many people will notice if we don’t tell them (shhh!)
Then came the giraffe. The creation of this one wasn’t as straight forward as some of the others. It took a few re-designs to get the pattern on the giraffe’s neck to a design that I was happy with, a lot of fiddling and adjusting the shapes and placement of each one, before settling on the final look.
Then the lasercutting didn’t go so well. I tried a new etching technique to speed things up as the total cut time of this fellow was really quite long (just like his neck! Sorry). But it didn’t look great. And for some reason other sections where I used the regular usual etching command didn’t turn out well – sometimes the wood just doesn’t receive the laser very well in patches, and despite going over these parts a second or even third time the result was still not awesome.
I had a challenge with the paint on this one too. The colours just didn’t look right. The brown was too dark and the beige colour too yellow.
So I ended up lasercutting a new one. The re-cut meant I could fix the etching issues and start over the painting with different shades of terracotta and tan. Here’s the end result of the re-do:
Next I made this butterfly.
Again, the shapes within this one challenged me a bit and I ended up completely redesigning the wings.
Then I couldn’t decide what colours to paint it. I avoided pink as I didn’t want it to look too feminine, keeping in mind that a lot of boys would be using the butterfly room as well as girls (not that there are girl colours or boy colours, but you know…). The blue and purple still ended up making it a bit girly I guess. If I was to do it over again I’d make it black and blue in a slightly brighter shade.
The zebra is my favourite!
I don’t know how he managed to turn out more realistic rather than a bit cartoonish, but I think that’s what I love about it. And the simple colour palette. In fact just one colour as I painted only the black stripes and left the ‘white’ sections raw wood.
I’ve been quite partial to zebras since seeing some of these gorgeous creatures up close at a local wildlife park, and I love how this handsome fellow finished up.
After these eight animal plaques were completed and delivered, I was asked to create two more – an eagle and an orca. The brief was to make these more realistic, mature designs. I hope I achieved that with the orca. Many of the images of killer whales I saw while browsing for inspiration did have a kind of cartoonish look. I hoped the monotone palette would help avoid it looking too childish. It took a while to decide which direction to point the tail but in the end here’s what I went with…
The eagle was a good challenge. I wanted it to be a Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, an endangered species native to our island home.
Some of the lines and shapes took a bit of finessing to look right and I started to get bogged down in ‘drawing’ too much detail. Eventually I decided to pare it back and just keep a simple shape, that would still convey the eagle image even if it wasn’t necessarily accurate. Hence the few feathers, rather than outlining that detail all over.
Same with the colour. Although some wedge-tailed eagles in the reference photos I looked at have more white around the head and tips of feathers, and others seem to fade from brown to black, my keep-it-simple mantra was adopted to apply an even brown all over.
So here’s a peek at a couple of these beauties in their new home, installed in the clinic. I hope the young clients especially enjoy visiting the elephant / giraffe / tiger etc room when they come for their appointments.
I think some of these would make great wall art for kids bedrooms, schools, or anywhere else animal lovers want them! The designs could also be adapted into a number of other products in both raw wood and painted. Stay tuned for some new products featuring some of these animal designs!
Which animal do you like best? What items would you like to see these animal designs featured on? Let me know in the comments below!