Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dancing Trees: A mesquite art project in the Texas Hill Country

Last month I mentioned the fact that we had spent the last thirty days looking at hundred dollar bills and images of money in order to paint our entry in the Trail of Deer Community Art Project. (Bidding on the Bucks has now started check it out here: Llano's Trail of the Deer) I said that it had brought us good fortune but I failed to mention that we had been contacted by what we expect will be one of our largest clients/projects to date! So YES! Working on Big Bucks brought in some big bucks!!

Our new baby Barney
And its a good thing because the newest addition to our household is a 97 lb, six month old, English Mastiff puppy we fondly call Barney. He is on track to eat us out of house and home!! I am afraid he does not know his real size and this problem is only going to get worse as he grows into his 200 lb potential.

He has brought the puppy bounce into our lives and his bark reminds us to stop, take a break and play.  We also have our hands full with housebreaking and socializing- every rug in the house has been out on the fence this past week.

While his addition to our life is a bit stressful we both have fallen in love and can't imagine a life without him. Welcome Barney!!!

Large Mesquite Slabs
This NEW  PROJECT is one that Lou can really sink his artistic teeth into.  It is a for private chapel in the Texas Hill Country and includes a huge mesquite slabbed screen to match the client designed, custom, curved window/wall, mesquite benches and lectern.  Lou had been looking for some direction on his artistic path. I feel sure this project came into being to provide that direction for his creativity as well as his soul.

Lou Quallenberg with Mesquite Slab
The Mesquite slabs are pieces that Lou has been saving for "special" projects.  They have been in the shop air drying for a few years,  after their initial time kiln drying.   The center slab he will use in this design is another sister slab to both Jackson and Jackson Sister which were both made into coffee tables and debuted together at the Western Design Conference in 2008.  Jackson Sister also won the Best Texas Style Furniture Award at the Texas Furniture Makers Show® in Kerrville in 2008.  So these Mesquite slabs have a great family tree!

Sketch Mesquite Screen
It almost always starts with a sketch.  Lou Quallenberg has sketches and doodles all over his many work areas. They provide ideas as well as inspiration.  When he begins a project he usually provides a sketch to the client just to be sure they are all on the same page. Most of his work ends up looking very much like the sketch. Somehow he seems to know in advance the many directions the pieces and wood will take him.

The size and scope of this project caused him to really want an accurate visualization, both for himself and the client. The actual slabs are very heavy and require extra hands to move them around. Even though the project is on a tight deadline, Lou really felt it called for a scale model mock up. 

In order to do that we took photos of each slab chosen for the project. A 12 inch tape was placed on the slab so that all pieces could be accurately re-sized and scaled down. He then placed the photos onto small pieces of mesquite and cut each one out.  He drew on some of the smaller cracks and holes in pencil. We ended up with what is much like a puzzle. He played around with the mini slabs until he found the right balance.

Model with seven Mesquite Slabs
Model with five Mesquite Slabs
As you can see in the photos, the design was changed from the original five slabs of mesquite to seven slabs of mesquite. This is why taking the time to make a scale model version for your client can really pay off.  Lou was very happy with the design at five slabs but the client chose to add two more slabs and it really did make a difference visually.

In order to finish this new piece before the approaching October Deadline, we needed to temporarily expand the workspace. Lou found what he thought was a great deal on an outdoor Garage/Canopy at Sam's Wholesale. We had hoped the canopy would be multi-purpose and serve not only as temporary workspace but also as a possible Show Booth at the Texas Mesquite Art Festival in Fredericksburg. We have been considering doing this show even though it is an outdoor show.

The canopy is now installed and is definitely serving its purpose as 200 square feet of extra work space, but the set up and installation challenges will probably keep us from using it as a booth. Maybe it can become my greenhouse? The lesson we learned from this whole canopy  experience is that Sam's does not always have the best price.  We found the exact same canopy (according to the manufacturer King Canopy-see emails below) at Walmart for $199 and Sam's has it priced $219.74.  So buyer beware always do your price checks before purchasing.
From: "Will Cowan"
Date: July 28, 2010 2:32:45 PM CDT
Subject: RE: [Contact Us] Sams & Walmart Canopies

Hi Lou,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you, we are running a backlog
on emails about 3-4 days long and are trying to catch up.

Yes, those are the same canopy. It is the BJ2PC (our model #). I am not sure
why Wal-Mart and Sam's have different prices, it might be for shipping
purposes that Sam's is $20 more, but I don't set their prices. Regardless,
they are still cheaper than what I could sell you them for.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

Thank you,
King Canopy Customer Service

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2010 5:45 PM
Subject: [Contact Us] Sams & Walmart Canopies

Lou Quallenberg sent a message using the contact form at

These two Canopy's seem to be the same? Are they? 9438 h
The canopy works well as extra outdoor space and the grinding has begun. Now cross your fingers that he will be able to get it done in time. I would prefer not to hear the call "All Hands on Deck!" I'm really not that good at sanding.

This project is one of the big reasons (a backlog on the schedule) we will be missing out on The Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole and Cody High Style (which Lou Quallenberg Studios was invited to for the first time) in Cody, Wyoming this year. We hope both Shows understand and will still consider us for their future shows. We enjoy our wonderful trips to Wyoming but it is a long haul.  It takes huge effort to get Lou out of the shop and away from the wood.

Lou Quallenberg refers to the Mesquite Slab Screen piece as "Dancing Trees" and by the time he is finished I think these seven little ladies will all be singing as well.