One of Tom Hutchinson’s toy trains takes about 8 hours to make. It’s not just all the cutting and measuring that is so time-consuming. He must visualize how all the pieces fit together once they are assembled so that he doesn’t sand the sides of the wood that must eventually be glued to another piece of wood. (If they are sanded smooth then they won’t hold glue well enough). Multiple sandings are the most time-consuming aspect of making a toy — there can be no splinters for little fingers and all the corners must be rounded and very smooth. Nontoxic mineral oil coats the wood and any small pieces are permanently attached to prevent a choking hazard.
Tom has only recently “branched” out (pun intended) into making toys. He has been mentored by former VAM member/toymaker Warren Stoker for the last year or so and feels he has elevated his toys and they are now a superior quality to sell. Tom uses native wood like oak, poplar, walnut and cherry for his woodworking, which he purchases each September at the wood auction through the Adirondack Woodworkers Association, of which he is currently president. His toys include airplanes, dump trucks, trains, tractors, cars, tops and even yo-yos for older kids. But, of course, he also continues to make bowls, cutting boards, peppermills, pens, rolling pins and other wooden objects. He also welcomes special requests from customers looking for something particular that he doesn’t have for sale or a specific change to what he does offer. (And speaking of special requests, he was recently commissioned by the Saratoga County Fair to make 100 pens with “175” engraved in them for the fair’s 175th anniversary.) We hope you will stop in and see everything created by Tom, one of multiple talented woodworkers at Valley Artisans.
Naomi Faltskog has only recently learned her whimsical craft. Her felted wool creations sprung from her daughter’s time attending the Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs where artistic expression and creativity are deeply explored. But Naomi has been heavily involved in art ever since high school and is drawn to many media. Felting is the easiest because it is accessible and compact and she doesn’t need extensive time, space or concentration to do it, which is in short supply since Naomi home-schools her daughter.
Naomi creates her work with needles, by repetitively stabbing the wool to tangle and felt it together. It is a labor-intensive process and, you guessed, a lot of pin pricks in unwanted places. Much of the inspiration for her work comes from children’s stories. The piece she has at VAM with tree roots was inspired by the German tale, “Story of the Root Children.” Her intention for the play set was as a lap toy for long car or plane trips without electronics, so that a child’s imagination could be awakened. (There are also no little pieces to be lost or bothersome electronic sounds or electromagnetic rays.) Naomi recently began “wool painting,” a process where she builds up layers and layers of wool to create a picture, just like painting with oils. She hopes to explore this art form more in the future as well as wet felting. Naomi is proud that all of her wool is locally sourced, some of it already dyed but some that she dyes herself. She uses onions skins (for flesh tones) and turmeric (for golden-red hair) – and we imagine it is a great science home-schooling lesson, too!