Quarantine project: before and after

Spliced photos showing before and after of a desktop refinish

Over the weekend I undertook a project that I’d originally intended to do when I moved into my apartment, but I was on a deadline with a big project for a museum, and there was no time. Since then, well, I just haven’t thought about it except once in awhile.

Then last weekend I got a bee in my bonnet about it. I thought about waiting until Memorial Day weekend, when I would have three days before it would need to be finished, now that I work from home again. But nope! I decided to rush into it, if only for the feeling of accomplishment that such a project can bring.

It also doubled as a way to keep me from spending too much time on the computer over the weekend— successfully! Below are a series of process pics showing the stripping and re-painting.

So, it essentially went from whitewashed with a grid of metallic gold paper (squares cut from joss paper), to whitewashed with metallic gold stripes! But as the old polyurethane had long since gone yellow, it really does look fresh and crisp now.

As always, these projects take about four hours longer than I ever expect, so the total clocked in at around twelve hours. Below is the full photo of the finished desk, with all the tech back in place.

photo of refinished, white and gold striped  desk with computer and other desk items back in place.

For this project, I used some of the less dangerous, more eco-friendly (so they say on the label) varnish stripper, which is part of what took quite a bit longer than expected, and more elbow grease. My body ached for a couple of days after this, particularly because I was working on the floor, as you can see in the photos.

It was totally worth it though! Has anyone else done any big DIY or other projects while sheltering in place?

I’ve long been a collector of forks

photo of almost 200 forks, most of my collection

Above is a photograph of most of my fork collection, arrayed by size and type. I remembered, as I reexamined them for the first time in years, that I downsized and edited the collection once before; there used to be many more sets of little cocktail novelty forks and fondue forks, &c.

A reasoned edit was the goal yesterday as well, and I wanted to have a photo of as many as possible— see them all in one place and count them. (185 shown I think)

photo of the forks I've decided to keep, bundles for storage. (not including the strawberry forks, which are in a little box, as they are so delicate)

Here is a photo of the keepers, bundled to go back in the box, with the exception only of the strawberry forks, given me by a friend’s mother (they’re back in their box, as they’re so delicate).

another photo of the forks tied in bundles, from last weekend

Here is a similar photo from last week, when I initially laid them out to assess. This image shows them on a lumpy old sheet, and includes almost all of them, before I removed many of the busted ones and contemporary stainless steel ones.

The skills of observation are the same, whether painted or photographed

Edwardian portrait of a mother and child

Here is my other treasure from the Antiquarian Book Fair (which was fairly well-stocked with so-called Ephemera, that I obv adore)— a stellar and skilled portrait, the likes of this level I’ve rarely seen in my years of collecting Cabinet Card pictures as they’re called when mounted and ‘framed’ on cards like this.

This is a true photographic portrait; staged and lighted with an astute level of skill for the age of early photographs. Lighting and composition are informed by both Dutch and Renaissance masters, that much is clear. Mother was surely holding her breath (as well as her babe) to allow for such a sharp portrait. I’d wager they may have been situated near a window with a cheesecloth or similar scrim to diffuse the available light. Beautifully executed. A+

Twin angels, their bisque trepanned; eyes empty

photo of two bisque dolls heads

This image, a detail of one of my assemblages involving old porcelain dolls. Their halos are of sterling wire.

two assemblages, with porcelain dolls and metal bits

A Moominvalley morning in full sun

Photo of Moomin book and coffee in a Moomin mug

I love the world Tove Jannson created with her wonderful Moomin books. The writing and illustrations are top notch, full of subtlty and wistfulness and the complex emotions we don’t always allow children* to have, or forget they have. Her works are up there with Edward Gorey to my mind, and the beautiful animations made of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts gang (especially the Christmas special).

The other week I showed a friend my pencil animation in progress and he said it reminded him of Edward Gorey meets Peanuts; as you can imagine it made my day 🙂

Happy Saturday, readers!

.   .   .

*or ourselves

A solution for paper oddments and idle hands

decorated matchboxes
Including papers from Florence, Amsterdam, Chinatown, and pages from an old children’s dictionary!

I impulse-bought a bunch of match books from a local shop. Cause it sucks when you suddenly find yourself without a lighter (as your friends are all secretly kleptos).

When I got home, I couldn’t get past how unsatisfying the design on the boxes was, and how I didn’t want to look at them (scroll down). So I set myself a little project, inspired by the book cover matchbooks I’ve bought at Word in Greenpoint (scroll down). Gold paint, some paper and a glue stick. Voila!

For mine, I just grabbed a bunch of paper oddments from my drawer of same, and started cutting them up. Below is a batch of ten, complete; there are different papers on the obverse of each. I reckon I’ll do more, cause it’s an oddly satisfying occupation for idle hands.
decorated matchboxes
decorated matchboxes

Continue reading “A solution for paper oddments and idle hands”

The Comme des Garçons show at the Met

Comme des Garçons show at the Met
Some friends and I took a trip into the Big Town on Monday to check out a couple exhibits at the Met. One was the Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons exhibit of works spanning some decades. The gallery space was designed specially for this, a collaboration between the artist and the Met, and the whole experience was stunning and ethereal, and sometimes creepy (in a great way). We really enjoyed it, and I wish it had been less crowded even, so I may have spent more time sketching.

We also looked at the Irving Penn retrospective, also pretty damn wonderful and inspiring. Below are some photos from the first exhibit. Enjoy!
Comme des Garçons show at the MetComme des Garçons show at the MetComme des Garçons show at the MetComme des Garçons show at the MetComme des Garçons show at the MetComme des Garçons show at the Met

Sunset Swing beer can labels

Here’s a first for me: Beer can label design for the Sunset Swing annual gala, held by one of my clients (Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp.). Five Boroughs Brewing Co. created a brew just for the upcoming event, and this is the proof for the finished labels. So fun!

Below are some photos of the can and the ad journal from the event last evening. They were printed with a metallic gold for the lettering and silver for windows, which looks fantastic.

A treasure from Berlin!

Yesterday I received a wonderful surprise in the mail— this gorgeous piece of artwork by Luiza Mogosanu! This piece is in a celluloid frame from 1930s Germany, she told me in her note on the little card (a print of the same piece). I have already put it on the wall, next to another vintage oval frame. Thank you, Luiza!

This was a volley in return for some art I sent her a few weeks back. It’s such a delight to meet a fellow artist, and now I have an art pen pal in Berlin. Check out Luiza’s other artworks at her website! She is a gifted visualist, and full of light, of joy.


It fits in very well as I have a small collection of insects and bones on the shelf below all my paintbrushes.

Kitchen Nook, revisited


You may recall a post in which I talked about getting a new (to me) piece of furniture for the nook between the kitchen and the dining area of my apartment. The secretary in question arrived a couple weekends ago, a piece from the childhood home of a dear friend of mine. Before it arrived, I cleared that wall and painted it as per my plan.

It suits very well! And brings a gravitas to the space; still has plenty of room for the do-dads that were on the old shelves, plus room for stemware, a jar of creepy dolls, and the nested mixing bowls that belonged to my great aunt Dot.

Now I just need a more elegant solution to the cords from the lamps, and to replace the broken drawer pulls. I also plan to get a globe lamp to reside on top to illuminate the nook in general, in addition to the string lights inside.
Below is the composite I made in Photoshop last year to visualize the transformation:kitchen nook redesign