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

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where Feng Shui Meets Santa Claus, or not...

While my friend Cindy and I were clearing her barn for painting the other day, she came across a big plaster urn with too many chips to be charming, and asked me if I wanted it.  All of my friends do this when they have things that ought to go to the dump, but they are too cheap to haul them, or too sentimental to actually toss them out.  "Give it to Dawn-Marie!  She'll take anything!", seems to be the prevailing rule.  And, sucker that I am, I do say "Yes" to just about everything, on the condition that I can do with it as I please, including pass it on.  They are content with not having to decide the ultimate fate of this just-slightly-too-good-to-throw-away object, and I have a room in my basement, full of swell treasures to turn into cool new furnishings (or not).

Plaster urn with hand sculpted greenman face, as game table base

So, back to the urn.  I had been looking for something large and visually weighty for the base of a game table in my foyer, and had an idea that this might be just the thing.  As I'm trying to finish writing decorating book chapters, I have to finish decorating the rooms they relate to, so I'm working my way through Belle Ami, adding the final details to each space.  I've spent the past several days on the front porch and foyer.  Yes, I'm back at chapter one...of thirteen...cruising right along, thank you very much.  Don't rush a good thing, and all that.

One broken table + one crumbling urn + handsaw + paperclay + paint = one new table

So, really, back to the urn.  I hauled it in from the garage (It hadn't yet made it to the Great Trash Heap Below), and sure enough, I loved the shape and scale of it with the chairs.  Next, I went foraging down the rabbit hole for a table top.  I figured I would have to temporarily use an old window, while awaiting the appearance of just the right thing.  However, I had the top of a table missing it's little Duncan Pfyfe-style splayed legs, which although I was sure would be a tad too small, and a bit too clean lined, actually worked perfectly, once I patiently sawed off the remainder of the base.  Reminder to self:  handsaws and humid days are not a pleasant combination.  Whew!

I chose a more Pan-like version for my greenman, since I have a hard time imaging him being fat and jolly on a woodsprites diet.  I also nixed the fairly common branches growing from eyes, nose and mouth.  As for ears, which are often deer-like on greenmen, this one's a watcher, not a listener.

Next, I had to decide what to do about the chips.  Cindy had figured I could patch the bad spots, or maybe glue on silk flowers, but I had another idea.  I wanted to make it look like some fabulous antique European thing, maybe with a lion's head.  Problem is, lions are Cindy's motif, and she'd be trying to either steal it back, or talk me into selling it to her, if I did that.  My motif?  Well, I'm not exactly a fairy person, as in cute little Tinkerbell sorts, but I love the old stories of forest sprites and nature deities, like those remembered for us by J.R.R. Tolkien and others, so the idea of sculpting a greenman was obvious for me.

My fairies tend to be a bit more wildish than cute.  This one was an Art Group challenge that another artist gave us, based on the greenman idea.
The green man exists in nearly every culture, and is represented in almost all mythology.  He is usually a symbol of growth, death and rebirth.  I once read that the part of the Santa Claus legend about him knowing when you are naughty or nice, and meting out treats or tricks(that disappointing lump of coal),  is an old winter solstice tradition from somewhere in Northern Europe, where the Greenman, hidden in the trees, keeps an eye on you, to make sure you are doing your work and behaving, though I had no luck finding the source of that online today.  Still, since this urn will lose it's table top and hold my Christmas tree next winter, I like the connection. 

The finished face.  It is serious, but doesn't look quite so solemn in person.

I also like the fact that this watchful spirit is located in the part of my home that feng shui associates with helpful people and travel.  I don't rigidly follow feng shui practices, but energy follows intention, and honoring unseen helpers seems a good idea.  Besides, what I did find online about this symbol, which is frequently found in churches with carved or sculpted ornamentation, despite it's pagan origins, is that like the saints that replaced the earlier Gods of this and that, he's the patron of inspiration to the committed artist.  He can come as white light or a gleam on a blade of grass.  The sign of his presence is "the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one's normal capacities".  I wish I remembered from research I've done on Catholic saints where I read that description before!  At any rate, in a home full of symbolism, I really like this one right in the hub of things, watching the front door, positioned to keep an eye on me where I write in the adjacent living room, and where I can see him as I run up and down the stairs between the computer and the work table. 

The only bad thing may be its intended purpose as the base for a game table (mainly for Scrabble tournaments with my friend Carol).  See, feng shui gets all picky about where you store games, and probably has something against putting games in proximity to helpful people energy, as it might invite normally helpful folks to play games with me.  Well, hell.  This is why I don't rigidly follow feng shui rules.  If I did, based on the layout of the rooms in my house, I'd probably have to store Scrabble in the bathroom, and keep my lingerie on the back porch, which would make for some pretty awkward explanations when visitors come knocking at my door.  I'll play the trump card on this one:  If one consciously chooses to direct it, energy follows intention, and I intend this sculpture only to remind me that helpful people are always out there, cheering on my latest endeavor, and waiting to celebrate my successes...or maybe just waiting to give me their cast-off junk to play with.  Whichever!

Are you looking for furnishings that are a little more than just decorative?  Check out my portfolio of possibilities at theartofthehome.com, where you will also find all the info on how to hire me to create something absolutely one-of a kind for your home.

Want to try this yourself?  Use a concrete bonding agent, like Weldbond, or even just Elmer's Glue-All on the dust-free chipped plaster (or whatever at least slightly porous surface you are sculpting on-glass and tile are doable, but adhesion is trickier).  While it's wet, smooth on the air-dry clay of your choice, building up your sculpture.  Many sculptors like Creative Paperclay, but I prefer Das (Prang) Modeling Compound, which is a paper clay, but doesn't say so on the package.  You can order it through dickblick.com, if your local art supply store doesn't have it, though check the kiddie craft section, as it's sometimes there.  I use cheapie basic clay sculpting tools, and a few sizes of knitting needles for all my shaping, along with my fingers.  maureencarlson.com is a great resource for sculpting books (the techniques for polymer work just fine on any clay, and her instruction is the best for beginners!)  I learned all my technique from her, first by book, and now in person.  If you run into questions, feel free to email me, at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, and I'll do my best to clarify.


BRENDA said...




Mandie @Altar'd said...

I am SO impressed with your talent! WOW. Thank you so much for linking up at Altar'd. :0)