Creator Community – Stoneworks Mill

Welcome to the newest aspect of my blog, where I bring attention to fellow makers who share my passion for small business, conservation, preserving the handcrafted and creativity.

Meet Kelli Fowler, Owner of Stoneworks Mill in Northern VA

How Would You Describe Your Process?

The process I use to create artisanal art supplies always starts with nature.  I find something that would make a nice paint. I see a color that I find inspiring.  Often I see a landscape and think of the colors of paint I would want to have in my palette to create that scene.

In terms of my paints, my most popular item, I always start with dry pigments.  Some of these pigments are purchased, some are created with rocks and clays I have purchased, and some are from items I have foraged by myself.

The pigments get mixed with my medium.  That medium is composed of hand-ground gum Arabic, the sap of the Acacia tree.  That sap allows the pigment to stay bound to the paper.  I grind it up and mix it with distilled water to create a solution.  The medium also contains raw honey from local beekeepers.  This works as a humectant and helps to keep the paints from shattering and falling apart.  I also add some high quality vegetable glycerin to my paints to help them with rewetting and dispersing in water on the paper. 

After the mixture of the pigments and medium is combined it is placed on a large slat of primed glass.  It is then mulled with a glass muller. The muller helps to evenly distribute the pigment throughout the medium.  The muller is also primed to avoid the paint just slipping and sliding between it and the glass.

Once the pigment and medium are properly integrated into a lovely suspension I place this mixture in small pans and allow them to dry.  The paint shrinks as it dries, so I do multiple pours into each pan to make sure they are full and lovely.  I then add a low-profile magnet to the bottom of the pan and a label to the side of the pan.  I use labels, instead of writing on the pans, so that artists can remove the labels and reuse the pan with other colors of paints if they wish to do so.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

I suppose my favorite part of what I do is foraging.  I enjoy the hunt and exploration.  I love finding iron oxide.  My favorite place I ever went was a Chesapeake Bay beach where I collected 50 lbs of bog iron. It makes a VERY pretty yellow pigment!

If you could go anywhere to forage, where would you go?

I would go to Australia!  I would love to see what I could find there.  I am not sure I would be allowed to bring back much, but they have the most amazingly beautiful minerals there!

How does transformation play a part in your process?

Honestly, transformation is the entire identity of my process. I take things that have intrinsic beauty and combine them with other natural elements to make something brand new.  The best part is that artists take what I have made and then transform that into amazing works of art, all while transforming their thoughts and feelings into something visual.  It is a very rewarding process!


How do you build community with your business?

I have spent a few years helping to build the online community of artists and makers involved in handmade watercolors.  I have done giveaways with other makers of paint, sketchbooks, palettes and paintbrushes.  I also feature artists monthly on my social media and website.  I like to promote other businesses and maker. I especially enjoy connect people that I think would really benefit from getting to know one another. 

Follow Kelli on Social Media!

Building and Using a Lichtenberg Wood Burning Machine

My husband and I were bored the summer of 2020 and decided to build this fractal burning tool. Since I was already working with epoxy resin, I knew that filling the burn designs with colorful epoxy resin would look amazing.

Fractal burning occurs when a conductive solution is applied to the wood and then electricity is introduced via 2 electrodes wired from a transformer (microwave). As the current tries to connect, the high voltage burns river like patterns into the wood. The results are absolutely incredible! No burn design is ever the same!

DISCLAIMER: Use of a Lichtenberg Wood Burning Machine is very dangerous. One mistake can seriously injure or kill you. We are not recommending that you make or use one of these devices. We are only showing you how we made ours.

We chose to use a microwave transformer for our Lichtenberg wood burning machine because it creates deeper cuts and grooves in the wood for resin pouring. This is also the most dangerous type of transformer to use because it has one of the most amps. You can also use a neon sign transformer but your burn designs will look different.

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An Unusual Rustic Wood Sculpture

I was passing by a yard in Pennsylvania with a newly cut tree, and I told them what I did, and they were nice enough to let me have a few large chunks.

I had always fractal burned only flat pieces up to this point, but I figured why not burn 3 dimensional chunks of wood? My husband cut them into smaller chunks for me. The best part about these pieces were the saw marks and unevenness, which I didn’t attempt to “fix”.

Below are the results!

Antique Dough Tray Coffee Table

I have always wanted to create a table like this but often these dough tray have round bottoms which you can’t attach legs to, or the well is too deep, etc. I have always loved dough trays since they are carved out of one solid piece of wood!

This one has a nice flat underside for table legs and a nice flat top side for a table surface.

I start by adding several coats of clear lacquer to give it a clear, shiny protective finish without taking away from its original patina.

I wanted the table to be unique so I decided to add removable, sliding trays to the top. I bought a piece of cherry for a contrasting wood color and cut it into 3 pieces.

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Card Catalog Coffee Table with a Barn Wood Top

[Buy this fabulous vintage coffee table – available now in my shop!]

These single row 5 drawer card catalog configurations make amazing coffee tables!

My very first card catalog coffee table

Often these card catalogs were part of a bigger system and therefore don’t have a top or a finished top. I recently found another (they are hard to find!) – this particular one also is a “newer” one with some lovely, groovy 70s yellow varnish, wooden drawer fronts, amazing hardware and plastic drawers.

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Live Edge Wood Wall Art

[Buy Live Edge Wood Wall Art now in my shop!]

I’ve always created live edge wood tables with fractal burning and epoxy resin, but then it occurred to me that smaller pieces would also look fabulous as wall, mantle or shelf art!

In the summer of 2020, my husband and I built a Lichtenberg Wood Burning Tool, also called fractal burning. Fractal burning occurs when a conductive solution is applied to the wood and then electricity is introduced via 2 electrodes wired from a transformer (microwave). As the current tries to connect, the high voltage burns river like patterns into the wood.

I always look for uniquely shaped wood for my one-of-a-kind live Edge Wood Wall Art. Depending on the wood type, wood grain and color, sometimes I add epoxy resin, sometimes I leave just the fractal burning patterns.

A Whimsical Christmas

I am always looking for ways to decorate with ordinary vintage and rustic items. After seeing bundles of sticks for sale at the local craft store, I had an idea to create a sort of “Dr. Seuss Christmas”. Since I live in the woods, I gathered a bunch of sticks (for free!)

I then spray painted some silver and some in a candy cane pattern. No need to be perfect with it, that’s kind of the point!

For the first set, I arranged them in a rusty bucket with some pine branches. But you can arrange them in any type of container!

I used these on my porch and I love the results!