Gaithersburg Police Department’s Sgt. Kathy Fairfield sees the workshop in her home as a place where the art of relaxation and creative imagination collide. In this space, she creates wooden bowls, boxes and wine stoppers, but her favorite pastime is pen turning.
Introduced to the craft by a friend who taught her the fundamentals, she took a class on the subject and has been creating on her own ever since. “I love working with my hands and creating something useful,” she said.
Fairfield initially started with creating natural wood pens but later added dyed wood, colored acrylics and “anything else I can glue together and shape on my lathe,” she said.
Using a variety of different wood types for her pens, Fairfield’s favorite is box elder that can have the appearance of flames, created by the trees’ stresses. She has been using a lot of dyed woods recently. “You can have the beauty of a box elder or buckeye burl dyed in an interesting color which really stands out,” she said. “People like to have pens in their favorite color or to match their school or team colors.”
Designing the body of the pen, she has come up with some creative materials to use besides wood, including cut-up colored pencils, spent .308 bullet cartridges, cactus, corncob and a buffalo horn. “I am only limited by my own imagination,” she said.
The Gaithersburg Police Foundation recently auctioned off a bullet pen as a part of a fundraiser held at Dogfish Head Alehouse. “I used camouflage or red, white and blue as the body colors, a clip that looked like a rifle and a bolt action mechanism,” she said. “These were a big hit with the police officers (she gifted them to) so I thought they would be perfect for the Police Foundation to use in their silent auction.”
Foundation member Elena Ingram said they got many comments from restaurant patrons about the pen. The foundation bequeaths the bullet casing pens as a gift to donors who give $1,000 or more donations.
Fairfield has given Ingram her pens as gifts. Ingram has also bought some to bestow as presents, including a bullet case pen to a friend who recently graduated from the Maryland State Police Academy. “(Recipients) can tell right away, it’s not something you get at the store,” she said. “It’s an excellent skill that (Fairfield) has. If somebody is looking for a non-traditional gift to give to somebody, I highly recommend (her pens).”
The midnight shift officer also has experimented with pen casting, which is where you decorate the tube with just about anything and then pour liquid plastic on top and wait for it to harden before turning the lathe. “With this method, I have used a map of Gaithersburg, watch pen parts and pictures of superheroes for the kids,” she said. “This is a very long and tedious process, so I don’t use it much.”
With the ability to make a couple pens in a day, Fairfield sells some but gives others away as gifts. “I have shared my love of pen-making with my friends, and we work in my little workshop in my garage,” she said. “We continue to learn from each other’s mistakes and successes and help each other become more creative.