NEWFIELDS -– Artisan Duane Martin cuts out tiny pieces of wood to create images of landmarks such as the Portsmouth tugboats and the Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine.
Martin, of Newfields, is one of the Seacoast artisans using unusual materials to create one-of-a-kind timeless treasures with the woodworking technique called intarsia, which uses varied shapes, sizes, and species of wood fitted together.
Martin’s tugboats piece is marked for sale at $1,800. The Portland Head Lighthouse and Fort Williams Park piece he recently finished for a customer at the Exeter store where he sells his work is worth $1,200, he said.
Martin retired from Southern California Edison Company in 1996 after 32 years as an electrical and nuclear engineer. He says his training helps him take two-dimensional concepts and turn them into three-dimensional pieces which hang on walls.
“I use probably over 35 different woods and I select them for the color and the grain of the wood,” Martin said.
For his Portland Head Lighthouse piece, Martin used Bird’s Eye Maple for the boulders because of its feel, poplar for the grass because of its green color and Redheart for the famous red roofs at Maine’s oldest lighthouse, which is located in Cape Elizabeth.
“I start with a photograph, generally. I make myself a pattern and I make copies. When I am doing a lot of pieces, I number them on the back so that I know where they are going to go. When I’m gluing them, I want to get them together rapidly before the glue dries,” Martin said.
Martin has a shop in his house on Ridge Road and uses a scroll saw to make the precise cuts.
“You can’t rush it. The saw blade does its thing and the saw blade is rectangular, so it has to go at 90 degrees to the cut, so when I’m coming on a curve, I’m constantly checking the curve itself,” Martin said.
Martin’s wood designs include six that depict Old and New Testament Biblical events which form the backdrop at Lee Church Congregational.
He also participates in League of NH Craftsmen exhibitions. This year, “3 Tugs,” featuring the famous tugboats on the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, won an “Innovation Award” from the organization.
Fine jeweler Barbara Smith McLaughlin, of Stratham, is another Seacoast artist who worked in another field before getting hooked on creating pieces inspired by natural textures and patterns. She was a liaison for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope’s Fine Guidance Sensor team.
Smith McLaughlin remembers how much went into the project prior to the space telescope launching into Earth’s orbit in 1990.
“It was a very proud moment in my life and there were a lot of people that gave their all for that. There were weeks where we were working ‘eight days a week, 12 hours a day.’ The whole thing I am very, very proud of is that piece of equipment did exactly what it was supposed to do. Maybe not in the order everyone wanted, but it did it,” Smith McLaughlin said.
Smith McLaughlin moved to New Hampshire after spending eight years in sourcing management at General Electric in Plainville, Conn.
Today, Smith McLaughlin has a home studio on Portsmouth Avenue in Stratham and sells award winning jewelry using diamonds, opals and other gemstones which she sets into platinum, 18-carat yellow gold and sterling silver.
“I’ve never been happier. My husband says to me, if we’re doing stuff in the yard, or have to get another project done, or whatever it is, if I don’t have a couple of days, or a number of hours to create something, I get cranky. And he just says to me, ‘Go out and make something,’” Smith McLaughlin said.
Smith McLaughlin said a process she worked in during 2005, reticulation, is back in demand. Reticulation uses an alloy of 80% silver and 20% copper. Jewelers use it to create unique textures.
“Ironically, this fall, I found the piece I had made with a diamond from my aunt and I said, ‘I’m going to start wearing it. I really like it.’ So, I found three pieces in the fall that I brought back out and I sold all of them in one show,” Smith McLaughlin said.
Wen Redmond, of Strafford, taught home economics before eventually moving from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire. She started her art career locally by making folk quilts and decorative garments.
Redmond’s work developed over time into fiber constructions. Today, the artist uses painting and digital photography in her pieces.
Redmond’s book, “Digital Fiber Art: Combine Photos & Fabric – Create Your Own Mixed-Media Masterpiece,” teaches people her technique of editing photos and printing them on a variety of fibers so they can be displayed on walls.
Redmond has advice for traditional artists who admire her work and want to try something like it.
“I would tell them my approach, because that is what I know the best. You experiment. You just experiment. Not everything you do is going to be a success. But, that said, many of the mistakes I’ve made have turned out to be better than what I originally intended for the project,” Redmond said.
Suzanne Pretty, of Farmington, says her work has also brought her into the world of multimedia works. She hopes her tapestries make a social impact.
“The environment and its fragmentation have been a major focus of my work for a number of years. My focus has increased as the impact becomes more apparent,” Pretty said.
Pretty draws “on the images we see every day and block out. I work with the contrast between construction with powerful equipment and the many changes that impact our natural environment.”
Pretty, who graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree in painting, credits her grandmother, who was a lady’s tailor in London, for planting the seeds for her love of fiber.
“I still have many of her sewing things in cabinets in my studio,” Pretty said.
Martin, Smith McLaughlin, Redmond and Pretty are part of the League of NH Craftsmen, which has 700 juried members.
There are league galleries located in Center Sandwich, Concord, Hanover, Hooksett, Keene, Littleton, Meredith, Nashua and North Conway.