Tina Lewis always wanted to start her own business, she just never expected it would be all her life experiences culminating in creating gorgeous, unique fly fishing nets.
In 2018, Lewis was working in proposal development at a pharmaceutical company, a corporate job that wasn’t artistically fulfilling. Growing up in a family that owned a small business, she always dreamed of starting her own.
She inherited her creativity from her parents, her dad was interested in comic books and her mom was a poet and illustrator. She spent a lot of time with her mom doing projects around the house, so she learned about using various power tools while drawing her favorite comic book characters.
Above: Tina Lewis’ custom fly fishing net for TotalBoat | Article by Leah Kossak, TotalBoat Social Media Coordinator
Her dad and her Poppop were both very outdoorsy, and Lewis has many memories of fishing when growing up in Pennsylvania, a hobby that came back strong during the early days of the pandemic, when she found herself outside a lot.
Above: The first net Tina Lewis created
In early 2020, a friend asked her to make a custom fly fishing net. With a history in woodworking and art, Tina jumped on the opportunity and was pleasantly surprised by the reactions from family and friends. The design was a simple one, a bear inside a fish, and Lewis executed it with the TotalBoat epoxy they had lying around for a boat restoration.
Soon she was getting more requests from the community, and The Wayward Trading Post became a business. It wasn’t until a reorganization was happening at her company in August, 2021, that Lewis decided to turn her passion into a full-time career.
Lewis states she wouldn’t have known how to use epoxy without help from TotalBoat. While it was what they used throughout the boat renovation process, using resin as an artform is a whole different process. She reached out through Instagram with all her questions, learning more about the differences between the epoxies.
“Imagine painting with mustard and ketchup, neither one wants to stay put. It’s a very fascinating medium and I was intrigued by the chemical component.”
Above Top & Bottom: Increased detailing – the first dog portrait design compared to the latest
After quickly learning that bubbling occurs without it, she uses TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy to seal the wood and fill cavities. For the design itself, she uses MakerPoxy, preferring the thicker viscosity and full 60 minutes of working time for her intricate designs. And to finish, any net that’s going to be used in salt water gets coats of TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish to protect it.
Above: Lewis pouring TotalBoat ThickSet hardener into a mixing cup
“Epoxy can be a very intimidating medium for artists. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support from the TotalBoat team, they’re always giving me tips to bring my crazy ideas to life.”
Above Top to Bottom: A work in progress, to the final product
Over the years, the designs became more intricate because Lewis wanted to challenge herself creatively. After gluing up the wood for the net, she begins sketching the design in black and white. She then inverts the image and runs it through her laser. However, she found that as the designs became more intricate, this wasn’t enough, so started incorporating a Dremel tool into the layering process. She even uses a hot glue gun to achieve color separation. After a delicate sanding of the design, Lewis does touch-ups with more epoxy.
Above: In this landscape scene, Lewis used TotalBoat Pigment Dispersions to dye the wood
TotalBoat Pigment Dispersions are another important product in her process. Not only does Lewis use them to tint the epoxy, but as a base to tint the wood itself. She loves to use pigment dispersions as a paint, and wants to use these pigments in an epoxy-filled handle, painting them on while the epoxy is still curing
Above: Lewis gluing up a net
Since going into her business full-time, she’s been able to attend more fly fishing shows. “To walk into a space and have people embrace me and my art is liberating. This whole community is into what I’m doing.”
Above: A coin encased in the net with TotalBoat ThickSet Epoxy
Experimenting is what keeps Lewis inspired, she has a “never say no” attitude when it comes to the custom nets. “If I can’t do it, I won’t charge you” is a frequent refrain. So far though, there hasn’t been a request she couldn’t achieve, albeit with some trial and error.
Above: Lewis used High Performance Epoxy to prep the fabric, then encased it with ThickSet Epoxy
Above: A net made with purple heart wood, with a medal inlay at the bottom
In addition to the portraits and engravings, Lewis has also started adding inlaid objects in her nets. From making a nickel float in TotalBoat ThickSet deep pour epoxy, to military medals, and even a bronze star with the recipient’s badge.
Above: The epoxy-filled handle Lewis completed recently
Lewis always wants to have a passion project going, and continues to push her creativity. Her nets usually end up being a part of a raffle or giveaway. This has allowed her to do some of her favorites, including a Jimmy Hendrix psychedelic portrait. She has even started using TotalBoat ThickSet Epoxy to fill in the majority of the handles on a recent project.
Lewis’ favorite part of the whirlwind has been the continual support from her family. “I feel my parents in everything I do, this business is a cumulation of all my experiences put together. I feel my family in my work now, keeping me grounded and connected to each individual bit of it. Like it was all meant to be.”
Above Top & Bottom: A tribute net for Jimi Hendrix that inspired Lewis’ “Icon Series”
Since she’s been running the business full time for less than a year, her long-term goals aren’t quite all developed. But she just launched a new “Icon Series” where she’ll be doing the portraits of rock and roll legends, including Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, and more!