Covid Inspired Trays

Covid Strikes

When the Covid virus made its unwelcome appearance in the world, something had to give. Personally, I think the world was saying, “People, you need a BIG Timeout! Go home and think about what you’re doing to me. It’s unsustainable! Things have to change!” For me, the new dynamic forced me to rethink how I was going to earn a living. What if I couldn’t deliver my furniture, or secure raw materials? This weighed heavily on my mind. None the less, it forced me to reconsider my sources of income and ponder new ones. As a result, My Covid Inspired Trays came to life.

Life on a Daily Basis

As you can imagine, virtually everyone had to rethink their daily routines. Myself included. But unlike so many who were stuck in their homes, I had the luxury to head out the door each morning, walk to my shop and continue producing the orders I had. After all, I work by myself. Of course some projects had to be put on hold, but for the most part, things proceeded much like before. Albeit a little quieter.

The most pressing issue, however, was that my NYC clients weren’t allowing deliveries into their buildings and furniture was piling up in the shop. If this continued for more than a few months, I’d be up creek. Sure, I could have freaked out, but I paused and realized that spring was upon us, the tulips were showing and the birds were still flying. Winter had turned to spring, just like every other year. And yet the new found silences gave me time to think and reassess what I was doing. I’ve always said, “As I get older, I’d like to build smaller.” So making smaller, high value items, like My Covid Inspired Trays, would be a step in the right direction.

How my Covid Inspired Trays Came Be

As an artist, I find limits challenge me to be more creative. They hem me in and force me to think, “How can I utilize what I have and create something of value?” Thankfully, I’m pretty much of a pack rat and save my wood scraps and veneer trimmings. They’re beautiful, and hard to part with. So I hang onto them thinking, “One day they will be put to use.”

Well, that day arrived in the spring of 2020 when I pulled out my boxes of veneer and said, “what can I make?” As I’ve said before, one never knows where the source of inspiration will come from. In this case, a small fabric purse my wife owns caught my attention and encouraged me to create my first Covid Inspired Tray.

Purse Inspiration

As I studied it, I thought, “What would a panel look like if I replicated the pattern in walnut, ebony and maple?” So I gave it a shot….. As the piece evolved, however, I slowly became disenchanted because my squares weren’t “square enough.” And no amount of effort was going to improve on my hand-cut results. So I glued up what I had, took a look at it once it came out of the press, and then chose to set it aside. My first Covid Inspired Tray is shown below.

Unfinished Covid Inspired Tray 1.0

Covid Inspired Tray 2.0

Even though my technique was subpar, it didn’t mean the concept was bad. I just needed to adjust my design and try again with version 2.0. The Covid Inspired Tray shown below consists of Black Walnut, Cherry and Macassar Ebony.

Unfinished version of Carol's Tray

I liked my idea and stuck with the parallel bands of veneer, but got away from the squares and rectangles. In my opinion, the randomness of this piece creates a lot more visual interest and enhances the overall design.

Like everything else, the support frame was reclaimed from the scrap pile and came from a cherry project. The handles are a combination of cherry and black walnut.

I gave this piece to my wife for her birthday. The process had gone full circle.

Covid Inspired Tray 2.0. Carol's Tray

Covid Inspired Tray 3.0

As soon as I finished building my wife’s tray, I charged onto the next one. I wanted this piece to “pop” and so chose Macassar Ebony and bleached Birds Eye Maple as my veneers. The layout remained pretty much the same, only the angle cuts were replaced with curves.

Once each row of ebony and maple was taped together, it was laminated onto a layer of white veneer to hold the pieces together. They were then trimmed and assembled into the layout seen below.

Ebony and Birdseye Maple Veneer Panel

The whole package was then laminated onto a full sheet of veneer so it could be applied to the tray’s surface. Once completed, I pulled it from the veneer press and set it aside as I shifted to making the base.

The Covid Frame

Once again, scraps to the rescue. The curvy shapes came from the trimmings of a mirror I had done and seemed to naturally lend themselves to My Covid Inspired Tray base.

Walnut Frame #1
Walnut Frame #2

Finishing the Frame

As I continued to work the frame, the rough edges and imperfections gradually disappeared through repeated primings and sandings.

Sanding out the white Covid Inspired Tray frame

Eventually, I had what I wanted and several coats of tinted lacquer were applied to create the final results. The tray’s surface and the ebony handles received a polyester resin that was buffed up to a beautiful high gloss finish. It achieved the “wet look” I wanted.

The finished white Covid Inspired Tray 3.0 frame

Attaching the solid Macassar Ebony handles and the tray’s surface were the last steps in this very satisfying project.

Covid Inspired Tray 3.0

This Covid Inspired Tray went to my big sister for her birthday. 2020 marked a big year for her, so something special was needed for the occasion. She displays it in her home, along with some other things I’ve made for her over the years. Glad she likes it.