Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When Bulls Fly

If you have to wait for the pilot car at a road construction detour, on a 95 degree day with no AC in your van, at least it helps to have amusing scenery.  Also helps to remind yourself that as hot as you are, those guys out there in hardhats shoveling asphalt are twice as cooked.  This was on a run to Northfield a few days ago, and along with amusing stuff like wondering if, to an alien, this would look like we worship odd gods, I also thought as I passed through rolling green farmland what riches we have here, despite our "tough economy".  We are so much richer than we realize.

Back in Belle Plaine, my main project of the week was finishing the gift shop sign.  I did not, needless to say, have any dinner guests this week.  As much as I appreciate having this project in August, the slowest month of the year for me in the decorating business, please don't recommend me as a sign painter. 

I didn't hate painting this, but I'm really not set up to go back into the sign business.  My basement workroom is too dusty for slow-drying sign enamel, so it means stinky, lead-heavy, oil-based paint in the dining room, dodging the chandelier to flip to the second side, while also watching out for the cranberry glass in the drinks cabinet.  I'm all for being flexible about repurposing rooms in my home as needed, but this stretches even my limits!

It came out pretty though, and the client is happy.  If you are out this way, watch for it in front of the old brewery building in Jordan, and stop in to see all the pretties, while you're there.  I'm especially fond of the black umbrella with the big pale pink flower, hanging from the ceiling...not that I'm dropping birthday hints or anything! :)

As for Belle's progress this week, I'm having loads of fun on the staircase, where crumbling rubber treads were held on with a billion brittle nails, and at least three different kinds of glue.  If I would just do something normal, like have the stairs carpeted, I wouldn't have to remove this sampler of adhesive techniques.  However, it wouldn't be a showcase for my offerings, then, would it?

McKinley spent most of last night supervising from his favorite spot on the center landing, while I prized out headless nails with pliers, and soaked and scraped glue until my hands would no longer grip the tools, and in fact would barely grip the lid of the Advil bottle.  Ouch. 

The exploits of English detective Maisie Dobbs on the CD player kept me company into the wee hours as well.  I highly recommend recorded books for those like me with the attention span of a two-year-old, and tedious projects that must be finished before the fun part can happen.  Four more stairs to go, so I best be off!  Really, I just want to find out who the villain is,  and how the intrepid Maisie, in her red convertible, using her knowledge of metaphysics, outdoes Scotland Yard to catch him.

Make something pretty this weekend, and however tempting, don't skimp on the prep.  After all, no one ever says, "Gee, I wish I hadn't bothered to do such a good job on the foundation".

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summertime Essentials

My idea of a perfect summer afternoon?  A big front porch, an ice cold drink, one really good novel (and one really trashy one), and a day off to enjoy it all...maybe next summer? 
Night time photos don't show what a perfect spot Belle's front porch is for hanging with friends on a summer evening, so I waited until this morning to photograph this post.
 There is a lot of custom paint work on the porch, including the columns I showed off a couple of weeks ago.  The original deck paint was gray, which didn't coordinate with anything but the cement steps.  Not wanting to highlight that less than charming feature,  I mixed a tan to compliment the sandstone pillars.  This was prettier, but still too plain, so I stayed up most of one night painting on a border detail.  I had thought about painting on a trompe l'oeil area rug, but I rearrange the furniture for different uses, so the rugs need to be the real kind that can be moved.  Instead, inspired by a rug in the Ballard Designs catalogue, I painted this scrollwork around the perimeter. 

  The front door was plain wood, but mis-matched paint grade, so I painted over most of it with black enamel, adding some pattern, allowing some of the wood color to peek through.  I love having pattern on the outside of the house, which although common in a lot of other countries, is pretty unusual here. Click and click again to zoom in on details.

I've lettered this for many of my clients in their foyers and mudrooms.  Unable to do anything so normal on my own house, I put it right on the front door.  My intention with the decor of the porch is to bring some of the inside vibe out, to greet people immediately upon arrival, and give a sense of what to expect upon entering.  The door paint alone would pretty well accomlish that, but you can't sit on the door, so...
This set of wicker furniture was a gift from friends who just moved to a different home and no longer have a spot for it.  It is from the very early 1900s and was given to them by friends, so they were particular about who they passed it along to.  I'm so pleased they chose me!  Over the last 100 years, it's worn several colors of paint, so I didn't feel at all bad about painting over the seafoam green with my signature color.  Although white is fresh and feminine, neutral and typical, black is my choice, for it's strength as a base note, and it's versatility. 

 The trunk is from a garage sale.  Too musty to use indors, it makes a charming table out here, and has anchored several photo shoots.  (my front porch is the front porch for Front Porch Photography, which is just across the street. frontporchphotos.com).  The flamingo croquet mallets were painted for a trade show display, but are still perfectly usable, and yes, that is a lace table cloth hanging behind.  You'll find lace tablecloths in several places in my house, none of them tabletops...shower rods, valance rods, and even on a ceiling, but never on a table.
This is a great place to sip a cup of coffee, while working on bids.  Badmitton rackets store charmingly in plain sight under the table, and the croquet balls nestle in an old silver plated bowl, while coleus and impatiens grow in a discarded sewing basket.  The end table in the background is made from a thrift store lamp that looked like a chess pawn to me, topped with a salvaged table top whose legs gave way half a century ago, on which I painted a chess board.  Not just a great game table, but yes, another nod to Alice in Wonderland.
The hanging candle lanterns are light covers from the thrift store, suspended from copper wire strung with beads, embellished with wooden finials. The pier mirror took about five minutes to transform from white enamel to a rubbed red finish. Just a quick slick of self-priming red enamel, and as soon as that was (mostly) dry, a few streaks of Rub-n-Buff wax paste in gold, violet, and patina (verdigris) Perfectly imperfect.
The porch swing is original to the house, and the finish shows it.  I'll have to get a bit of spar varnish on it before the snow flies, but for now, a scrap of fabric from the sewing room and a couple of cushions no longer used elsewhere disguise the peeling shellac, and add a bit of comfort and color.
More old lace, this time a disintegrating crocheted bedspread that a good friend wisely rescued for me from a "free" box at a yard sale, and a huge plant block some of the wind.  I would love to take credit for the enormity of this plant, but a couple dozen garden club members would be posting comments to tell you the only thing I grow that big is weeds.  I love end-of-season sales at greenhouses.  The big box stores have straggly crap this time of year, but the local guys have well tended plants.  This 3' diameter plant only ate $7.99 out of the grocery budget, and by the time cold weather forces it indoors, it will most likely be about half this size, and fit perfectly in the living room window.  Somebody remind me to water this thing!

I've been hoping to get this light fixture, found for $10  at an estate sale, rewired for the kitchen, but not knowing when that will happen, I figured I may as well use it as a chandelier out here for now.  I painted some glass votive globes with Peebeo Porcelaine paint and just set them into the empty sockets.  A tassle made with another wooden finial, some scrap yarn, and embellished with a few old keys and trinkets tinkles merrily in the breeze.

This goose rocker is one of my original designs.  I used to build them myself, but I'm spoiled now, and have my friend T.C. Fogarty handle this.  He's a retired dairy farmer, and doing things like this, and repairing the antique wicker sofa, keep him busy and out from under his wife's feet.  Perfect situation for all concerned!

There is a vintage glass light fixture suspended in the middle of this wreath, which usually hangs under my porch light at Christmas, when the adaptor socket for the twinkle lights requires I remove the regular light globe.  I left it up too late in the spring, and a pair of finches built a nest in it.  Not wanting to risk baked finch, I installed a hook in one corner, and moved their home away from certain disaster.  Surprisingly, they didn't mind the relocation a bit.

Finally, to be sure the Universe and all hobos know that this is a house where angels and strangers are welcomed, and in honor of my own departed hobos, Great Uncle Gordon and GrandPaul, I've put this mark in a traditionally discreet spot.  The first time I saw a cat chalked on our garage, I was four or five, and sure one of us kids was going to get in trouble for it.  Not until years later did I find out this is the hobo sign for "a good woman lives here" (a place to get a meal without begging or inventing a sad tale). 

My mother's uncle Gordon, a cigarette-puffing, alcohol-soaked imp of a man would occasionally pop into town on a freight train, much to the chagrin of my parents, and the delight of us kids.  He lived in a converted bus, parked down a ravine on the Oregon coast, but didn't drive, so occasionally he reverted to his hobo days and hopped freights around the country to visit friends and relatives.  I'm fairly certain it was this magical friend of elves and small children who slyly left the cat chalked just outside our back gate.  The hobos of the 1930's are all gone now, but a householder is wise to remember:  "Be mindful to entertain strangers, for thereby many have entertained angels unawares."  (anyone want to remind me who to attribute this quote to?)

Whew!  The porch is finally done.  Well, except for building new railings, which I will get to some winter day, as they can be built and painted indoors and then installed, and the aforementioned shellac on the swing, and washing the windows, and repairing the leaded glass sidelights, and repainting the peeling ceiling, and really the whole porch needs rebuilt and the one column straightened and...ahh  the joys of owning an old house!  I think I'll spend the weekend indoors, away from the incoming storms and returning humidity, working on the entryway.  Hopefully friends will drop by, and I can take a break to offer them icy cold lemonade and minted watermelon in the shade of the porch.  If you're in the neighborhood...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Starting my week with a little Faith

Silly me, to think I would actually have time on Monday morning to blog.  Of course, when I suggested you check here this morning for porch photos, I was envisioning finishing the porch before dark, getting it photo'd, and blogging it before bed.  The weather was perfect yesterday, but I spent a fair bit of my day in the basement, so luckily the weather was still beautiful last night, as I spent most of that working on the porch.  It's very quiet in downtown Belle Plaine at midnight on Sunday.

So, here's a sneak peek at what's coming up on Thursday...

Some wise words

some coded messages...and sooooo much more

Here's what I was doing in the basement.  I fixed that pesky leak, and not one bit of duct tape involved.  Mind you, there is this extra part, whose main function seemed to be to leak, but no duct tape.  And yes, all by myself, no  pe, ahem,   boy-parts required.  It's good to start the week with clean lacies...
 and a little Faith...

This is Faith, one of my art students, in her "Peace Girl" superhero costume from the parade a few weeks ago.  She'll be here in a couple of hours to draw some stuff, cut some stuff, and work on her fairy house creation, which keeps expanding.  I think we're building a deck on it this week, to compliment last weeks courtyard fountain. 

  Have a marvelous Monday, and check back here for porch photos at the usual time on Friday morning.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hot dawg, it's August!

I would love to show you pictures of all the projects I completed on the porch this week, but with temperatures in the 90's and high humidity, the heat index was well over 100 degrees nearly every day, so it was too hot to even drink morning coffee out there, much less cut, sand, build and paint.  It was so hot, our garden club cancelled this month's tour.  That's right, true Minnesotans that we are, we will brave blizzards and icy roads to meet at the library in February to watch a video on beneficial bugs (okay, I just have to brave an icy crosswalk), but we wimp out and cancel a real garden tour when the weather gets too hot.  Ya sure, you betcha.

One thing I did do is sign up for a very cool event.  It's called The Creative Connection, and it's put on by Jo Packham and Nancy Soriano.  Nancy is a former Editor-in-Chief of Country Living Magazine.  Jo is the President of Chappelle Publishing, and Editor-in-Chief of Where Women Create magazine, as well as author of the books that inspired it.  This is a Somerset Studio Publication, for those of you who are into altered art, art clothing, or art dolls, and may be more familiar with that masthead. 

The event is in mid-September and features keynote speakers, seminars, and workshops from some of Somerset's most popular contributors.  I'm signed up to attend one day, and got an email today saying they are still trying to figure out if they have a vendor's booth space for my portfolio display.  Check it out at thecreativeconnectionevent.com.  Even if you aren't an artist, the Handmade Market is open all three days for you to buy amazing handmade things from the artists who design the things that mega stores copy, so you should still plan to come.

Thus, in the spirit of Where Women Create, which features the work spaces of extraordinary women, here's where I create, when I'm not out slinging paint at client's walls:

The day starts here around four or five, with pages and prayers, then planning the day's schedule (which I mostly ignore, but it makes me feel in control to write it), and doing design work and sketches, all while still in pajamas.  I love working in my pajamas while morning traffic rushes by outside!
This is the official studio.  The tall table on the right is an antique drafting table, gifted to me by neighbors I had not yet met, but who guessed I was an artist by the stylish paint rags that pass for my wardrobe.  I tip it up when I need it as an easel, but keep it this way most of the time, as it gives me lots of room to spread out (lots of) projects.
This is the studio annex, also known as the dining room in normal people's houses.  A lot of my married male friends envy my freedom to use my dining table as sawhorses for projects that don't fit in the studio, and are a hassle to take downstairs to the wood working room.  This week's project is a sign for a gift shop.  Apparently I am no longer a former sign painter. (btw: the paint on the floor is from the previous homeowner.  Even though I haven't refinished the floors yet, I use drop cloths in my own home, just like on the job.)
I love pocket doors!  As you can see, my studio is quite appropriately located in what was called the "drawing room" (withdrawing room) at the time the house was built.  If I really need space, the front parlor is through another set of pocket doors, so with those open, and the oversized coffee table cleared, my workspace is tripled, and in fact the entry attaches to that with another set of pocket doors, and is large enough to hold yet another full size table, normally used for client meetings.  If the art thing doesn't work out, I could probably open a restaurant without rearranging too much furniture!
And this is where it ends.  I rarely stay awake more than two minutes after my head hits the pillow, but I always bring a stack of books and a sketchbook to bed, just in case.  Bear Bear is the perfect bed mate.  He doesn't complain about being buried under a pile of books, never grouses about pen marks on the sheets, doesn't snore and doesn't say a word about whether I do, is unfazed by mad scribbling at 2:00 a.m, and snuggles on command, though that's admittedly a bit one sided. 

It's midnight, and that pillow looks mighty inviting.  I still have to pop over to keystone and write something there.  Check in here on Monday.  I'm hoping the storm that rolled through here tonight will have chased out the heat, and I might finish up most of the front porch project.  Lots of fun details I'm itching to finish and photograph. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

This was a really good week.  I went up to St. Cloud (a couple hours north of Belle Plaine) on Saturday, to paint a kitchen for friends who recently moved.  We quickly settled on a nice golden tan leather effect, and I finished the job in a day...whew!  A very long day!  Funny enough, the paint colors were "peanut butter" and "honey butter", so quite fitting for the kitchen.  It's one of those finishes that only shows well in good photos, and between my (lack of) skills and the quality that shows on blogspot, well, suffice it to say the pictures don't do it justice.  However, if you have white walls and beautiful 1920's woodwork, do consider adding color, as the wood deserves to be paired with walls that show it off.

Another great thing that happened this week was a call from a favorite aunt and uncle, saying they were 300 miles away, and planning to stop in to visit.  These people live half way across the country, so a call saying they are in the neighborhood is not exactly expected...but very welcome, even if it did mean emergency housecleaning measures.  You have to meet my Aunt Rose!

Top:  Mom, Dad, me, sister Robin (bride), b-i-l Dave, Aunt Rose, Uncle Dwayne, cousin Debi on Maui
Center:  Aunt Rose
Bottom Left: Mom and Dad, in love as always. 
Bottom Right:  I look a bit like all of them, but mostly Dad.
click to enlarge, click again to show detail.

I have very creative parents.  My mom is a chef, and my dad, a retired forester, is the kind of guy who goes to fix a corner of the foundation and ends up building an addition on the house, complete with passive solar wall water feature and mosaic tile floor (this is where my hikes through the brambles come from, no doubt!).  However, in my childhood, they were seriously busy, and it was visits to Aunt Rose and Uncle Dwayne that reassured me that the stork had not accidentally dropped me into the wrong nest.

Aunt Rose sewed designer clothes, though in quadruplicate for all us girls, so being the youngest, of course I wore the very same wardrobe for my entire childhood.  Maybe her sewing skills weren't always my favorite thing.  I just loved that she got me.  She didn't bat an eye when I painstakingly colored my face with crayon, (no easy feat to get that wax warm enough to cover!), and she cooed appreciatively over every pom-pom owl and painted strawberry I presented her.

When I spent a summer in Baker City in my early thirties, I got to know her as an adult, and see her gorgeous watercolors: exploded views of sunflowers, Oregon grape, and trout that showed the unexpected iridescence and complexity of their colors.  You might have expected that on fish scales, but a black sunflower seed in the sun has a full pallet in it's velvety surface, and Rose Fisher shows this beautifully.  She gave me a benchmark for my own work.

Having her tour my home, Belle Ami, this week was admittedly a huge ego stroke, and of course a good dose of family love.  She and Uncle Dwayne, the straight man to her fabulous sense of silly (Yes, my sense of humor comes from that side of the family), only stayed two nights, but we packed a ton of catching up into those few hours. Most of it was descriptions of who had painted which color where, and things like whether Mom had rearranged what Rose and I did on the sly one day in her living room.  Uncle Dwayne was a very good sport, letting us chatter while he chauffeured us about.  He also kicked in a little of his own creative advice, expressing dismay that I hadn't continued the kitchen paint job to the inside of the cabinets...good thing he gives such great hugs, or I might have had to smack him!

Hopefully I convinced Aunt Rose to finish her website, so I can show you photos of her work one day soon.  No photos of mine this week.  I've touched up the porch floor paint, sprayed the rest of the wicker furniture black, and plan to do some detail work and staging on Saturday.  I've also been working on a proper website of my own, so look for that to launch by next week, if I can figure out how to get the domain name loose from the original host...very complicated directions in lingo I do not speak...yikes.

Oh, which side of the family?  Both!  Mom and Rose are sisters, and Dad and Dwayne are step brothers.