LMLL & LLS Illustration

I recently completed another fun project for a client. (Okay, it was really for my wife because I enjoy taking on projects like this.) She’s been meeting with colleagues outdoors (distanced, with a campfire) for the past few months and asked if I could do some sort of logo for the group.

The brief from the client said “Draw a hoe!” So I drew a garden hoe. Now, typically for these things I’ll find a few reference photos, load one into Illustrator (or Inkscape) and create a layer on top of it then do a lot of tracing and drawing to get the general outlines, then fill in some colors, then try to add some highlights and shadows.

Here’s the first hoe, which I was pretty happy with. The client saw it and said “Well, it needs to be a delicate hoe…” and described it a bit more, so we did some image searches until we found one she liked, and I modified things to match.

Here’s the first draft. Originally there was a plan to make these into patches or badges or something, so I kept things pretty simplified and blocky, but as we discussed things more we decided that laser-etched coasters might be better. That also meant the design could be more detailed.

Oh! The client said maybe it needed something else, a wine bottle perhaps? Back to the art board! I found an image with five different styles of wine bottles and asked her to choose a style, then I illustrated it and added it in, along with a nice scalloped ring that was more that just a plain circle.

I’ve made tons of laser-etched wooden coasters, but since we had a full-color illustration I first had to convert it to a one-color design, which I did.

Fun Fact: The text on the wine label is “Lake Mills Winery” translated from English to French, and the client (who does speak French) pointed out it would probably be “Vignoble Mills Lac” or something. I am not a French speaker. We left it as it was.

The request was for four coasters, but I ended up making eight of them, with the assumption that at least four would come out good, and I could ignore the lower-quality ones. In the end they were pretty equal. Sorry, no photos of the laser etching! I was in a rush to get this done. One thing I am not sure about is that I used water-based polycrylic instead of oil-based polyurethane, which… I don’t know. I’m a fan of the cleanup, but I’m not convinced polycrylic is as nice as polyurethane (especially when heat is applied.) Well, we’ll see how it goes.

This was a fun project, and I am mostly pleased with the outcome. (If I’m honest, I am never completely satisfied with how my projects come out, which is probably good because it means I keep striving to do better. Yes, let’s go with that.)

Oh, I did have fun doing this project and I managed to learn a few new things in the process, so that’s a win in my book!


Scrabble Coasters

Laser-etched coasters

I finally finished these Scrabble coasters I’ve been working on forever. There were so many issues with this project, I’m calling these beta and plan to completely redo them. This is all fine though, as I spent some time this weekend explaining to the kids that screwing up and doing things wrong is all part of learning. Fail faster and all that. I’m pretty sure that the next version of these coasters will not have all the problems that this version had.

Laser-cut coasters

So what were the problems? Well, for one thing, I’ve really got to remember to sand the wood first! Yeah, like, before I etch it. Not a huge deal, but I think they’d look better if I had sanded first. As for the backing, I first thought about using cork, but decided against it but then I had to use cork to cover up the mistake on the back of using the wrong wood stain. The cork was not easy to cut, and there are some rough edges. I used a lot of X-ACTO blades in the process, but I think this cork may have been aged a bit too long. As for the wood stain, the wrong stain nearly torpedoed this project. Lesson learned? Test the stain on scrap wood. Besides all that, I think they turned out pretty good.

Oh, while I was using the laser cutter at Milwaukee Makerspace Shane commented that the letters looked a little rough. I had to explain that I didn’t just type up the letters in CorelDraw, I actually scanned real Scrabble tiles, as I wanted these to be authentic replicas, only much larger. I probably didn’t get the color quite right, but again, I’d like to redo the whole project. A deeper/darker etch may be in order next time, and I’ve got another idea for the backing/feet.

Glass on coaster

But do they work? Yes! Surprisingly enough, the glass did not tip over or go flying off the coaster, though honestly I think gravity had a lot more to do with it than my skills at making things. Still, I’ll count it as a success. :)