Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Bits and Pieces

Here is a log of Dad's time in making seven marquetry pictures of the Tetons:
2 1/2 hours patching bottom part of pictures
3 1/2 hours sawing bottom part of picture
2 1/2 hours sawing bottom part of pictures
2 hours patching
2 1/2 hours sawing
4 hours July 31
2 hours August 1
3 1/2 hours Aug 3
2 hours

I am asked constantly about the amount of time Dad might have spent doing a picture, so I thought this might be of interest.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I have found a few of Dad's notes about his marquetry that I thought might be of interest. Some of this will be of interest to Steve, but other notes will perhaps be of interest to others. I have not changed Dad's spelling - what is shared here is as he wrote it.

"For 6 sided Lamp shade Frames, saw table set at 60 degrees. Fence set at 3/8-5/8 from fence does all the cutting - 1" x 5 5/8 cuts 2 strips moulding."

The following list is not dated, but it gives an incredible insight into how many pieces Dad made. However, there are some that are not listed here, i.e. the Norman Rockwell covers he did -the cowboy knitting, Dwight has one, and I am not sure who has any others. Where Dad has listed the date, there is an added value to the list - wish we had more of the dates, although he did note the date directly on some of the pieces I have, and possibly on some of the pieces you have.
List of Inlays:
1 Horse & Barn
1 Harbor Scene - Budd Inlet 18 1/2 x 21
1 Bucking Horse
2 Landscapes 12/15
1 Old Barn 20 x 17
1 New England Landscape 15 x 19
1 Landscape - Fence and gate 20 x 15
1 Ship 15 1/4 x 12 3/4
1 Winter scene 18 5/8 x 18 1/2 - Cabin and Barn
1 Gig Harbor 17 5/8 x 23
Indian with rifle 28 x 20
1 Castle 27 x 34
1 Venetian Scene 22 1/2 x 20 1/2
1 Cowboy 23 x 26
1 Stage Coach 20 x 34
1 Indian & horse 23 x 26
1 Landscape with fence 18 1/2 x 22 3/4
1 Landscape Mountain with small cabin 18 1/2 x 22 3/4
1 Small Winter Scene 10 3/4 x 9 "Silent Night"
1 Indian Head 3/4 " 12 1/4 x 17 3/8
1 Old Rancher 11 x 16
1 Indian Head 11 x 16
1 Mexican Bandit 11 x 16
1 Elk 13 x 15 3/4
1 Mt. Scene - From Country Gentleman made 1936 (13 x 16 1/8)
1 Headwaters - winter scene 12 x 18
1 Haying - Made in Penrose 1936 (16 1/2 x 12 1/4)
1 Mt Sheep Silhouette 15 3/4 x 13
1 Stage Coach 19 1/2 x 15 5/8 Penrose 1936
1 Old Mill 17 1/8 x 13 1/8 1940
1 Riders-Western from Colliers Magazine (Ralston 1940) 21 1/8 x19
1 Cape Cod Landscape with FiddleBack maple frame 17 x 20 1/2
14 Western Silhouettes
3 Covered wagon silhouettes
1 Castle Chilon (14 1/4 x 12 1/4)
1 Indian Head - Birds Eye Background 10 3/4 x 15 3/4
1 Elk Oval 11 3/4 x 9 1/4
1 Mt. Scene for tray unfinished 10 1/4 x 21 1/2
1 Town in the Mountains 9 x 21
1 Mt Scene Same as in trays 9 1/2 x 20 1/4
1 Indian in Canoe 10 1/2 x 12 1/4
5 Teton trays (15 3/8 x 20 5/8) Made in 1964
2 Oval Landscape Trays with boat in foreground ( 11 3/4 x 15 3/4)
2 Deserted house (14 5/8 x 17 5/8)
1 Harbor Scene - Budd Inlet 18 1/2 x 21
1 Mt Ranier (16 x 21 1/2)
5 Mt Scene trays long
1 Mt sheep tray
1 covered wagon tray
1 Mahogany cook book
1 Mahogany box with inlay Silhouette (10 x 12)
6 Walnut Jewelery Boxes with inlay (5 x 8)
26 pair inlay bookends

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Conclusion (for now) of Photos of Russell M. Blood's Marquetry Posted by Dwight Blood

Well, I finished the project, at least for now.  There are a few pictures with color casts or backgrounds that I don't like, but they'll have to wait for further fixing.  I'm glad, however, that I had this opportunity to take all of the pictures that have passed down to me off the walls where they have hung and study each one carefully and reproduce them in photography.  Without preparing this family archive of Dad's woodwork, much, if not most, of his incredible work would be lost to others and never seen or appreciated.  This task has brought home indelibly to me the incredible talent that Dad had and his lifelong devotion to wood and wood craftsmanship that began during the heart of the Great Depression in the 1930s and continued until his death in 1993.  As a youngster, woodcraft projects in various stages were always under way.  Even though Dad made our family living as a farmer and dairyman, his true love was art and marquetry.  Some how he found the time though working a grueling lifetime of hard farm work to generate a continual flow of work. 

When Dad died, we six siblings cast lots and drew numbers to see who got which pictures.  We all coveted the castle masterpiece that Ann was lucky enough to get, but the method was more fair than in olden days when I managed to fix the best easter egg transfers and valentines so that when my turn came around I was more lucky than others.

The greatest legacy we children received, besides the love and nurturing we received through difficult and some times heart wrenching years of our growing up , is our share of the inlaid pictures.  When they hang on the wall forever, they sort of become a part of the scenery and we take them for granted.  Then, when we take them down and oil them and study each one carefully for pattern and wood grain and fit and incredible artistic talent and craftsmanship, we are blessed once more with an acute awareness of how much Dad's talent meant to each of us.  He had hoped to make a living with his woodwork.  He would be incredulous if he realized how much some of these pictures are now worth.  Of course, none of them will ever be sold outside the family because their personal worth to us and to our descendants far outweighs any monetary reward we could ever receive from them.

And so my Dad sitting on the white stool in front of the scroll saw that somehow he managed to acquire even during the Great Depression and cutting out intricate pieces of inlaid picture after inlaid picture is an indelible part of my growing up.  And the legacy of the pictures I now possess is one of the most important gifts I have received in my life.

Small Mountain Scene with Moon

This small picture, measuring  5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches, is an example of numerous small pictures that Dad made.  I think probably he was using up wood scraps and also that it was fun for him to play around with something different and relatively simple.
These two pictures of mountain scenes with trees and a stream make a beautiful pair to hang side by side.  Each of these pictures measures 15 x 12 inches and were made in 1968.

Trees by a Mountain Lake with Boat

While one of Dad's least complex pieces, this inlaid picture of a peaceful mountain lake is one of his most popular inlays and portrays an idyllic scene to which everyone can relate and long for.  Measuring 10 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches, the picture is undated though you can see that Dad burned his name on the bottom of the oval.

The Pony Express Rider

The Pony Express Rider was one of Dad's most popular designs.  He usually paired this picture with the companion Cattle Roundup picture below.  The pictures I have were made in 1976 and measure 15 x 19 inches.

Riderless Horse in Mountain Scene

This inlaid picture of a riderless horse in a mountain scene was the second most difficult picture to get a decent shot of.  I'm sure more expert people know how to get a true square in a light box with a large picture, but I haven't figured that one out yet.  The picture measures 18 1/2 by 26 1/2 inches and was completed in October 1990.  Dad gave me this picture for some reason that escapes me now but which I wish I had noted on the back of the picture.  Again, study the wood grains and veneer patterns to appreciate what a tremendous accomplishment the making of a picture and work of art like this is.
This inlaid picture of a tree with bare branches on a snowy day with an ice-clogged stream is another of the most familiar images in our family.  Dad made many duplicates of this picture and it has always remained a family favorite.  The picture measures 12 x 18 inches and is undated, although Dad burned "Garland Wyoming" on the back.

What was involved in taking these photographs of my Dad's inlaid pictures

I have four sisters, and they tend to be bossy at times, and to hand out numerous instructions at other times.  Liz started this blog as a way to provide an archive of the incredible body of artistry through inlaid veneers that our dad created during his lifetime.  Ann, who tends to know a lot of stuff, opined that it was no big deal as she whipped out a light box and took a batch of photos, I presume, in a half hour or so.  It took me a bit longer as I had to make a big enough light box to accommodate the stagecoach picture which is nearly 36 inches wide.  I said a couple of words along the way, but nothing that Dad would not have approved of.  In my case, I bought 5 sheets of foam board by hazarding visits to the Hobby Lobby and hunted up a couple of shop lights at Lowes.  I used white foam board tape to put the miserable thing together.  The photos were shot with a Canon 7d camera which I confess I do not know how to use but intend to learn how it works in the near future.  My wife has been appalled at the mess my den has been in for the past 58 years or so, more or less, and now she is sorry that I took over the entire family room in the lower level of our house for my artsy craftsy stuff, as attested to in the above photo.

I will have a few more things to add later to the blog.  Each of my children have several pictures, some of which are not duplicates of what I have shown here.

I suggest that siblings who have comments on the pictures do so under "edit posts" rather than the comments section, which many people never look at.  Especially, Steve, and maybe Liz, you may have comments on veneers and technical aspects of how these pictures were made that should be of interest to anyone who looks through this blog.

Small Wall Plaques

Dad made many, many of these and similar small wall plaques over the years.  The care and effort that went into these small inlaid pictures was just as skilled as were the large inlaid pictures.  Note especially the beautiful veneers in the bottom plaque just above.

Inlaid Tray with a picture of the Teton Mountains

This picture of the Teton Mountains inlaid into a tray (the handles have been cropped off) was our wedding present from my parents in 1952.  Since I had reached the advanced age of 20 when I got married, that means the tray is now 58 years old.

The Mexican

The Mexican picture was usually paired with the picture of an old rancher which, regrettably, I was not able to purloin over the years.  The picture measures 12 1/2 by 17 inches and was completed in 1974.  Dad made a number of pictures of these two memorable characters over the years.  You can see what the picture of the rancher looks like by scrolling down to an earlier post by Steve Blood titled "Old Rancher Revisited" as he was planning to use the picture on some cupboard doors.

The Big Horn Sheep

This inlaid picture of a Big Horn Sheep's head is one of the most familiar pictures that we children remember because it was on our wall at home for so long.  Dad drew the design based on the Big Horn Sheep's head printed on a bag of pinto beans, one of the largest crops in the Powell Valley where we grew up.  I took the above photo of the pinto bean bag at the Homesteader Museum in Powell WY.  The picture measures 13 x 16 inches.  Dad burned "Ralston Wyoming" on the back, so it would have been completed between 1941 and 1944.

Victorian Mansion

This incredible marquetry art was completed by Dad in 1976 during his "Victorian home phase."  Dad liked to pursue different topics, and when he started on one new picture featuring a new subject, he often searched for and completed several others of the same general kind.  How many hours would it take you to cut each individual piece of veneer for each window and structural detail and then piece them all together?  Not to mention sorting through piles of veneer to find just the right shade and pattern of wood.  This picture measures 19 x 22 inches.

Elk in Mountain Scene

This picture is worth studying carefully just to appreciate the incredible choices of veneers and veneer patterns.  The veneer in the frame is incredibly beautiful.  Dad completed this picture, which measures 20 x 26 inches, in 1988.  When we were young and lived near Ralston WY during WWII, we children shared a large room for a time that was originally intended for a garage.  Dad's scroll saw and work bench were on one side and in one corner of the room, and I remember going to sleep at night while Dad was cutting out intricate patterns of pieces of veneer on the scroll saw far into the night.

Winter Farmstead Scene in Moonlight

This scene is much loved by family members, showing a farmstead in winter under a full moon.  The picture is 18 x 18 inches and was completed in 1989.

Bookends with Cabin Scene

Dad liked to play with different woods to present different views of the same scene.  Here are five different bookends portraying the same scene but with different veneers in each bookend.

Lovesick Cowboy with Victrola

This inlaid veneer picture by Russell M. Blood completed in 1976 was designed by Stephen M. Blood from an illustration by Norman Rockwell.  Apologies if it is a copyright violation.  We can delete if necessary.  However, the ingenuity of using many different shades and patterns of veneer to portray Rockwell's lovesick cowboy is certainly worth studying.  Again, the quality of the marquetry is impeccable.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Clipper Ship

This inlay of a clipper ship is one picture, and perhaps the only picture, that Mother made.  Mom's name "Minnie Blood" is burned in the lower right corner, and Dad labeled the back as "Russell M. Blood, Western Woodcraft, Ralston Wyoming."  This labeling means the picture was completed between the years 1941 and 1944. The clipper ship hung on my bedroom wall all the way through high school and when I left home in January 1950, I just assumed this picture was mine and took it with me.  That was a regrettable oversight, as Dad and Mom searched for years to find it.  Once I told them that I had it, Mom very kindly just said that as long as she knew I had it and had taken good care of it, that was fine with her.
The marquetry in this picture is flawless as, of course, Mother never accepted any job that was less than perfect.  It holds a special place in my life because I have had it for nearly 65 years and because it was such a priceless gift from my mother.  It has hung in my bedroom, wherever I lived around the United States, for all of these years.  I have seen it every day, a reminder of days gone by and of the hours that went into the completion of this inlaid picture.

Cowboy with Rifle Mounting Horse

This picture of a cowboy with a rifle mounting a horse is one of Dad's larger masterpieces.  The picture measures 22 x  38 inches and was completed in 1976 in Olympia, WA.

Old Barn

RThis picture of an old barn is 18 x 21 in size.  Dad burned his name and date of completion on all of his completed inlays.  The date on this one in the lower right hand corner is very dim but I believe it is 1969.  It is worth your time to double click and study the different veneers and shades of wood to see how skillfully the picture was designed and finished.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cabin in Mountan Scene

This inlaid picture is a beautiful piece of work.  The choice of veneers and the patterns they make in the final picture are perfect.  The pieces are tight with little gap.  No date on the picture, but probably in the 1950s or 1960s.  I'm still learning about light.  I've finally figured out tight cropping.  My pictures still have a bit of a cast, but I'll keep working on it.  Not as easy as Ann implied.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Stagecoach

I had to start out with the largest and most difficult picture I have just to see if I could do it.   Dad gave me this picture in about 1963 when I received my Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan, so it is especially treasured.  One can only imagine how many hours it took to choose the veneers, cut all of the pieces, and put this masterpiece together.  I took at least 150 photos of this picture before I got a decent one without light flashes and extreme color cast.   The picture is 34 x 20 inches, necessitating a light box large enough to accommodate it.  I finally came up with the above photo which is reasonably true to the original.  I doubt if anyone ever got a graduation present that involved such a labor of skill and love.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Owls Marquetry

Dad made this marquetry for Ron's birthday in 1984. It may have been the beginning of his series of bird marquetry pictures. (Ron has a small collection of owls.) This is another experiment, following Ann's lead, to see if I can get better color definition.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Small Piece of Marquetry

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Sweet Memories

This picture hung in my little bedroom in Penrose. When I left home, it went with me. I don't think I even asked. It has moved with me more times than I care to count, and has always given me a sense of peace, a corner of home, and a sweet memory of Mother and Dad. The ironic thing is one day this picture disappeared. I couldn't imagine what had happened to it, but with all the moves I suspected it had become one of those move mysteries. Then, when Beth and Jerry moved into our basement apartment, there magically appeared on the wall the missing picture. She laughed and said that when she left home, she just quietly wrapped up the picture and took it with her - a piece of home - that has kept her company for several years. I suspect "Silent Night" (at least that is what I have always called it) was needed to keep someone else feeling connected to family and home.
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Ralston, Wyoming 1942

This piece was done the year I was born. On the back, there is a woodburned note that says "Russell Blood, Western Woodcraft, Ralston, Wyoming". On the front it says "Russell Blood 1942".
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The Castle #2

I will leave the other castle photo for comparison's sake, but I believe this is a better photo. I have used the 70 watt full color spectrum bulbs from Lowes (cheap) and they have made a difference from the first photo that is currently on the blog, where I used two, more expensive flourescent full spectrum bulbs (60 watt). Please try printing both and let me know what you think. Criticism is welcome. Once I get this down pat, I can take all of my photos and cross this off my to-do list.
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The Castle

This piece was completed in 1961, the year I graduated from high school. The Castle, as it has been known in family circles, was truly a masterpiece. It hung above the piano in the Penrose house, and as visitors would come and go, there was a lot of admiration for Dad's work. I must admit I really wished for this marquetry piece, so when I found my name on it at the Cody house, I felt a twinge of guilt. But I quickly got over it! Dad was a true master of this art.
Note: This appears slightly faded on the blog. Please try printing and let me know how it looks.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fight

This is the second "older" piece Dad gave me many years ago. AT the time it had some damage in the lower left hand corner, and that is still there. I can't seem to repair it, no matter how much I try - probably need to consult the experts! This piece has the remnant of a sales tag on the back, but the price is missing. However, I recognize the tag because Steve (I think) and I would play with them over in the shop. This also has the Russell Blood, Western Woodcraft, Garland, Wyoming stamp on the back.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Early Piece

There is no date on this piece and there is a little damage on the left side. One day when I was spending a little time with Dad in his shop in Tumwater, WA., he pulled out a couple of the old pieces he had done years ago, and asked if I would like them. I suspect he never quite knew how important each of his marquetry pieces were to each of us, no matter how old or what little flaw he may have seen in a piece. Whenever I look at this piece I am reminded of two things - first, the event that is depicted in this silhoutte and the sacrifices that were made in the early years of our country, and second, the time frame in which these were made. On another piece I will post, there is still the remnant of a price tag, back in the days when Mother and Dad were selling these pieces for a minimal amount of money, in hopes of putting a little money in the survival fund.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

One of my favorite pictures

Dad completed this picture in 1983, according to his signature on the back.
Here's wha'cha do. Use a tripod and use the timer on your camera. I did make the white box, so the picture stands inside the white box. It isn't hard to do - just a little foam board, or cardboard painted white, lots of white duct tape, and two little lights angled just right to keep the glare off the picture. I did not use a flash, and had the inside lights off, so the only light was from the two little lights. They were set so the light bounced off the sides of the white box, but did not create a glare on the picture (almost - I have just one glare spot on this picture). It was tricky to get the picture level, but with a little measuring and watching the angle of the camera, that issue was solved. Have white box, will travel.

Russell Blood Marquetry

I'm not sure why I have the photo of this picture in my files, but here it is. I think this was at my house for awhile, but it lives at Elizabeth and Ron's house. History?
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Old Rancher Revisited

While laying out the OLD RANCHER to make a couple of cupboard doors I thought that I noticed something different in the pattern that I was using.  I went to the files and dug out the original pattern and here is what I found.  Father had doodled on the pattern, trying to decide how he should sign his name as any young artist would.  More importantly on the bottom he wrote "1937," was this the year he introduced the rancher to Molesworth?  That would be my guess.  You'll probably have to blow it up to get the details.
By the way my pattern was slightly different for some reason so I dug deeper into the files and found several copies that Mother had dittoed off, probably at the church.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Russell at work on another project

If I am not mistaken this is the old scroll saw Dad used from the very beginning . Steve, please correct me if I am wrong.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Russell M. Blood (Dad) Working in his Shop

Dad never had an adequate shop all his life until his retirement years.  He worked with an absolute minimum of tools (usually old and battered), but he produced magical works of creative woodwork and craftsmanship with what he had.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Proposed Rules of the Blog - Or How Can We Make This Fun and Effective

Because there will be some grandchildren posting to the blog, and because all 6 of the original (aren't we though!) group have administrative "opportunities", I would like to suggest that, in order to be consistent in how things are posted, and to not discourage the amateur (me) postee, that parameters are discussed briefly here at the beginning. Then when we have found that wonderful common ground, someone who knows how, or can tell me how, can post this information on the right side of the blog so those of us (me) whose memory doesn't hold important information longer than in the moment will have a point of reference. So here goes my attempt:
The purpose of this blog is to give all of us a place to post photos we have taken of the marquetry we have in our possession. This can also be a place to post any historical information, stories, etc. so there is a complete story for the next generations that will add to the meaning of the pictures as they are passed on to them.
In taking photos of the marquetry, my private researcher suggests that we should set the digital image size to 1600 x 1200, which should allow us to print an 8x10 at 300 dpi and get a clear picture. 200 dpi may still work. Truthfully, I don't know how to do this, but I suspect there is a way to find out. Dwight? Elizabeth? Judy? Steve?
This blog may build slowly because everyone has lots going on, so for me, it is just important to stay with it and eventually it should pull together. Because some people are more familiar with posting stuff on a blog than others, I would like to suggest that if one of us posts something it should stay as originally posted, that way those of us (me) who may do something a little cockeyed won't get discouraged.
So here you have it. Please add your comments and then we can all post our photos so they can be printed in a way that the prints can be framed and hung.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This was Dad's first attempt at an inlay in 1935. He used a utility knife and embedded the veneer in a piece of fir plywood. This piece knocked around the back room of the old shop in Penrose for years. The back of it was used as a cutting board for trimming veneer or cutting leather strips. Ann and I used it as a serving tray for her dishes at a high tea in the back room. I was totally surprised to find out that this primitive piece that I have always loved was appraised at a higher value than some of his newer pieces.