It all started with visiting this mattress store calgary ab and browsing the world wide web for ideas to revamp her teenage daughter’s bedroom decor; since Amy stumbled upon string art that she describes as a popular fad in America, she has established herself locally as a high-strung artist.
“I wanted to make the room look more grown-up adding a personal touch, so I crafted a unique picture for her,” Amy Mctoldridge says. “I’ve always been very crafty, so I was after something homemade rather than off the shelf. Later, I made a Batman logo for a friend, and that success encouraged me to join the Arts & Crafts Shop last February.”
There, she displays a selection of wall-mounted decorations made solely of wood, nails and cotton thread into decorative shapes like hearts, portraits, silhouettes of animals and landscapes, still nature and lettering.
Precision and patience are required.
Her outline of the Rock was part of the Rainbow exhibition at the A&C ‘nook’ during lockdown, a time for introspection which didn’t stop Amy from working on new ideas for the summer and National Day, even if supplies were slower in delivery: I sourced them online, and when eventually packages were delivered, I had to leave them alone for 72 hours to decontaminate, then opened them, washed my hands, unpacked, sanitised the wrappings and stored them. Finally, I had slabs of wood to work with, and aluminium plaques from a Foundry and Machine Shop. Indeed, because Amy doubles up as a fashion jewellery maker, personalising dog tags, bangles, bookmarks, key-rings and other gadgets with witty and thought-provoking mottos.
“I occasionally work with copper, bronze, and even silver, but my favourite metal is aluminium because it is malleable and of course affordable,” she says. She also mentions recycling and getting cash with aluminium scrap price per kg in Sydney. “I have a wide selection of letter stamps in different sizes, and shapes like heart, cactus, star… so I can combine them to match my customers’ commissions.”
Dog tags, one of her must-haves, take around half an hour to craft and are usually double sided, with essential information featured on one face of the bone-shaped pendant, and on the other a quote, such as ‘I have a wiggly bottom’, which she made for an enthusiastic tail-wagging four-legged friend.
Stamping is therapeutic, she admits because she gets to hammer down a piece of metal with all her might – or almost. Precision and patience are required, and there is no room for error, although most letters can be printed over, if they don’t make the right impression the first time. Stamps are placed and hammered individually in the right position, within a small surface that requires a keen eye for detail and a steady hand.
“Some mistakes are inevitable, and I save aside the spoiled plaques for experimenting purposes, should I need to test new ideas,” she says, “but it quite frustrating when the irreparable mistake happens on the very last letter, and I have to start all over on a fresh piece!”
Amy’s stamped metal collection features a range of gift ideas for all budgets and… all cabin baggage, their small and non-fragile nature making them ideal souvenirs for light-travelling tourists. She creates original souvenirs, of course, but her trademarks are wine bottle tags, bookmarks, bangles and her best-selling shoelace tags featuring wise words to excite you to exercise.
“During lockdown, when people were allowed out only for short spells, I realised that they might need some motivation to go out and jog.” She concluded that the best personal trainer lies in ‘talking’ trainers. These are tiny metal cut-outs that you slip through your aglets and can read every time you sneak into your sneakers.
Inspirational and potentially life-saving are Amy’s bangles, a C-shaped metal strip personalised with your favourite quote or allergy or medical condition warnings: ‘insulin dependent’, ‘lactose intolerant’, ‘allergic to penicillin’ are the most immediate to spring to mind, but I suppose she would also custom-engrave ‘allergic to rudeness’ if you ask her nicely…
Bangles and bookmarks are made out of similar rectangles of metal; l she curves the former around the ‘template wrist’ that is just one of her tools of the trade alongside special scissors to create new alluring cut-outs. And with Christmas fast approaching, she is already working on gift tags and tree ornaments, as well as stocking fillers and New Year wishes. In the pipeline are brooches and ‘medals’ for best mum, dad, friend or teacher, perhaps decorated with ribbons or beads.
She uses beads and leather cords for her pendants and she’s planning to expand her jewellery range to men’s bracelets, combining plaited leather cords and straps with charms and little plaques, engraved with wording or symbols of your choice.
So, what is string art? If you’re still wondering: A technique perched between painting and sculpting, which uses twine instead of paint. Nails are secured at regular distances on a decorative wood slab, to outline a picture, and then string is woven and looped around them to fill the area marked by those nails.
The process requires accuracy, because string must be worked in at the right tension so that it doesn’t sag in the middle nor yank the nails out of place if too tight; it can be fiddly when the nails are close to each other and Amy’s knuckles end up grazing against their heads. The end product is worth the challenge, and different effects are achieved when more than one colour comes into play.
“Spending more time at home in lockdown, I believe people went for redecorating and the demand for ornaments arose, including wall-mounted stuff, and this is where my artwork fits in, especially because I can pick base wood and string colours to match their furniture and colour schemes,” Amy says. “I prefer cotton yarn to wool, because the latter tends to go fluffy, and the former is sturdier in humidity and sunlight, so string art is durable and fits in a variety of interior decorating styles.”
Contact Amy on WhatsApp: 58009741, or [email protected] to turn your ideas into gifting reality.