Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My house is a 1930s bungalow and the bathroom has the original mint and black tile. How to coordinate decor? The walls are a light beige-ish pink; the warm color balances the cold feeling from all the glossy tile. It is nearly impossible to find a green that goes with the tile. My towels are black and the curtains were cheap black fabric curtains that looked good enough.

Then one day I was in the home decor section of my local fabric store and came upon this fabric and knew it would go with my bathroom.  The green is not exactly the same but the color is the same temperature as the tile; matching color temperature while not having the exact same color makes the colors coordinated without being too matchy-matchy. I went straight home and made these curtains. The tab tops are cotton duck; it is a similar weight to the curtain fabric. I used a black satin grosgrain ribbon to cover up the hem stitching and to balance the black tab tops. Using black for the curtains helped to further tie the colors into the bathroom colors.

The tiebacks have small loops sewn to the back so that they can hook on to little hooks on the wall. I just hadn't installed the hooks when I took this picture.

Next: new kitchen curtains...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My first gallery display

From the previous post you can see the progress from rough beginnings to finished piece. This artwork was made for a "shadowbox" show at Warehouse 416 in Oakland that was shown in October and November 2011. Warehouse 416 is a nice gallery run by fab people! They also have a Saturday afternoon "drink and draw" with live models and cocktails; it is a fine example of the East Bay art scene. This was the first time I have had anything publicly displayed in a gallery and naturally I was very excited but too shy to brag about it until after the display was taken down. Making this project occupied all of my free time for a month but I enjoyed the process and learned a lot.

The case is constructed of wood, painted with acrylic gesso and then acrylic paints. The figures are made of Fimo clay over a wire structure with silk fabric garments. The accessories are made of Fimo clay and the furniture is made of wood. I made everything myself.

The front of the case holds a pane of glass in order to protect the contents. In the future I plan to remove the contents and the glass, install opaque doors, and convert this art piece into a cupboard for my bathroom. I'll keep the painting to remind me of the original purpose of the cupboard and post pictures when (eventually) I get around to hanging it up.

This is the frontal view of the finished piece on display in the gallery. It is hanging from eye bolts screwed into the top. I purposely designed the case so that it could be hung from the top, the back, or a French cleat; I wanted to give the gallery as many options as possible since I didn't know their requirements when I designed the case. I also felt it gave me more flexibility for display.

Here is a diagonal side view showing the side painting. The quote is from my favorite Shakespeare sonnet, number 18.

All of the figures are sculpted in Fimo clay. The Mary figure, being divine, is different from the others and sculped in black glitter clay. The other figures are sculpted in various colors of clay from my supply box and painted bone color. All have clothing I sewed for them.

These are the newspaper beginnings of the paper mache butterflies for decorating the sides. They are simple constructs of newspaper, tape, and glue made from flour.

There are four vignettes contained within the piece. Each display has particular personal meaning for me and is representative of a loved one who has died. This is the display on the lower middle. All figures, furniture, and accessories were hand made by me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New project

This little cupboard type object is for a specific project that I'll share more details about when it is further along. I was intimidated by the idea of making my first cupboard/box type object so to counter my insecurity and indecision I set myself a deadline of finishing the woodworking part in one afternoon/evening. Here it is, the product of only six hours worth of work. It is barely sanded, screwed together, and partially made with plywood from the scrap bin, but it is finished. it isn't as well put together as I would like, but given the time constraints and my inexperience I think it turned out pretty well.

The back has a french cleat to give me options for hanging. A hinged top allows for the insertion of glass in the front. The solid wood is all poplar; the sides and back are mystery plywood. If I were going to build this more nicely I'd use dovetailing, sliding dovetails, etc. Projects like that are still germinating ideas in the back of my head.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stripping and staining a door

Bad picture, I know. This is the door with one coat of varnish. I'll be keeping it in the garage until the next time it stops raining for a few hours and I can work on it again.

When I moved into my house four years ago, I knew I was interested in stripping some of the painted wood to reveal the beautiful Douglas fir beneath. In my vintage neighborhood, most of the houses were built in the 20s and 30s and are finished in different ways on the inside. Some have all painted woodwork, some have all stained woodwork (except kitchens), and some have stained woodwork in the front rooms - living room and dining room - with painted woodwork for the rest of the house. Some of the better houses (mostly from the 1920s, builders were a bit cheaper in the 30s no doubt related to the Great Depression) have mahogany woodwork in front areas with Douglas fir in back. I have all painted woodwork and that may or may not be how it was originally. At least I have oak floors throughout instead of oak in front and fir in back.

Having once stripped a door using chemical stripper from the local home improvement store and desiring to never repeat the experience, I tried a different product. It promised minimal effort without discoloration of wood. You just trowel the stuff on (like frosting a cake), cover with special paper to prevent drying too quickly, then hours later scrape off and voila! paint all gone. It did remove much of the paint, but not all; I still had to do plenty of scraping; and worst of all it discolored the wood, aging it as if I had fumed it (except where the paint didn't come off - that wood was a nice light color, yikes). It was a very basic product, just like ammonia for fuming so I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. The discoloration went deep enough into the wood to make sanding it away impossible. Despairing of how I would ever get the door to match the surrounding molding, not to mention the other door, I gave up and put the project aside. Or should I say outside, which is where I left the door to rot. I don't have space to store a door inside (as can be seen from the photo) but I could have at least covered it up. Bad me.

Fast forward almost two years. The dang door was eventually moved to a better place and sanded, then abandoned once more. I still didn't know what to do about the discoloration. Finally this month I decided I would just finish it and see how it turned out. I did a light sanding, mostly to scrape off dirt and dust, them applied a sealer/conditioner. Next I stained it using Minwax Gel Stain in "Early American". I really like the gel stains. I feel like I have more control, they don't drip or pool, and are very easy to wipe on with a cloth. The Early American is a nice dark brown with some golden tones but not too much red, just what I was looking for. One coat made the door nice and dark so I stopped there. I am hoping I can get the other woodwork to somewhat match by using a second coat. Once the stain dried I used Circa 1850 Antique Paste Varnish to varnish. At this point I only have one coat on because it keeps raining and since my workshop is wherever I set up my sawhorses outside, I can't work when it is raining. So far it looks surprisingly good and I am very pleased.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

More butterflies for Halloween

Variations on creepy...

Every year I add at least one little piece in pursuit of building something really elaborate and fun.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Setting up for Halloween

Here's the house decked out for Halloween. I still have to decorate the porch but the yard and window are done. At night the crosses have electric tea lights to make them visible and the window is lit; it is really pretty.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New cartoneria cat for Halloween!

A friend of mine posted a picture of a miniature Dia de los Muertos inspired cat figurine on his Facebook page and it inspired me to make a full-size cat skeleton. I wasn't going to do a cartoneria cat this year; my first priority was butterflies followed by another pair of cartoneria skeletons. I have been unusually unmotivated this year and have now abandoned the idea of the extra skeletons, but the cat will satisfy my craving for paper mache.

To start I made the wire frame using 16.5 gauge wire sold in the hardware store as "tie wire". It is cheap but has a greasy coating that will quickly turn your fingers black from handling it.

I learned my lesson from my first experience making skeletons: it is much harder to go back and try to force wires through a finished piece of paper mache than it is to incorporate the wires in the first place. If you are going to make something that will be suspended in the air, go ahead and plan for that from the start! For my skeletons I made each piece separately for flexibility in posing and ease of storage but with this cat I don't think that will work, so I am making a fixed figure that will likely have to be stored outside of a box. Oh, well.

Then I built up the figure using well-crumpled newspaper and pieces of masking tape.

Next will be the application of glue soaked strips of newspaper...