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

Notes from the archives

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While upstate over the holiday, I did some excavating and archiving of old art* and other things when I could find time. Often late at night, when the house was quiet.  The first night followed time spent watching old super 8 home movies from childhood. A natural progression, and something I’d planned to do this trip.

Time travel.

When I was in college my friends and I didn’t have our own phones, so we’d put sheets of paper on our doors for people to leave notes on. Inevitably some of them became elaborate volleys back-and-forth; sometimes we made random shit just for fun, or to say Hi to stick on each other’s doors.
notes left on my doors in collegeWe also wrote letters through the mail during summers apart because: 1. The cost of  “long distance” calls added up quickly, 2. We were all about visuals (what would delight and impress?),  and 3. The letters were things made just for you, delivered right to your mailbox.colorful envelopesOne thing that physical (analog) v. digital (instant) media has thrown into relief: When you know the recipient will not get your letter for days, and it’s already been days or more since they wrote you, you think about what will still be relevant by the time they read it. This tends to eliminate a majority of small talk.

What I mean is you tend to write about what’s important.

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A table restoration project | Process

Before and After: a Queen Anne style reproduction, restored
Before and After: a Queen Anne style reproduction, restored

A few weeks ago, as I mentioned in this post, I found a discarded table around the corner from my apartment. It’s a modern reproduction, a simplified (straight legs not curved) variant on a Queen Anne style (yay, more QA!). It’s a gaming table to boot, as the top flips over and the obverse is felt-lined. A really pretty and well-constructed piece.

The post referenced above has a few ‘before’ images, including ones in which the Gaming Table aspects are shown, all of which have remained intact after this restoration of the exterior (top and legs only).

Bottom of the table, showing the beverage rest drawers and the inner section that holds game pieces
Bottom of the table, showing the beverage rest drawers and the inner storage section, as well as the hardware and joints where the legs connect
Wood stripping and refinishing supplies
Stripping and refinishing supplies*
Queen Anne style gaming table to be restored
Ready to dismantle and begin stripping the finish off

Drop cloth in place, the top surface is ready for stripping. Heavy duty gloves and disposable foam applicators, as this stuff is destructive (it will eat through latex gloves, don’t use ’em).

I used the fast-working type of stripper (with windows wide open and fan on on a very breezy day). Slather it on the wood— thick so it doesn’t dry too fast. You have to scrape the coating off while it’s still wet or it gets hardened.

Table top slathered in first coat of streipper
Table top slathered in first coat of stripper

06This part is immensely satisfying, all those layers of old finish coming off. I learned as I stripped the piece that several types of wood were used, which explains why it was finished in such a way that looked stained and polished like an antique, but was in fact an opaque, painted finish to hide the discrepancies. That also masks places in which wood filler was used.

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A dilemma, revisited

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Funny little visualization in the sketchbook

After a week of percolating and indecision, an idea for this table hatched and I began the work (unironically) on labor day. I’ve stripped the top surface and all four legs, and have a plan to create a backgammon pattern on the top.

Having seen how beautiful the wood beneath the old finish is, I’ve elected to leave half of the diamond-sharp points natural, paint the other half metallic gold, and the remaining space will be completed with a dark stain— possibly dark walnut for contrast, or I may also try to match the existing finish still on the lower portion, where the legs connect.

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Stripped and sanded; as you can see, two kinds of wood were underneath

My primary concern: How to mask for stain? Stain is penetrating by nature, unlike paint which sits on top of a surface, so tape isn’t going to result in clean lines. After a bit of research, I found an ingenious solution: mask for where I don’t want the stain and spray clear coat there. Those areas will then have a kind of permanent mask, preventing the stain from soaking in.

I plan to polyurethane the whole thing when all’s said and done to achieve a unified surface (as well as for protection), so the ‘mask’ areas will blend away and not look conspicuously shiny.

I’ll not be sawing off its shapely little legs for use as a coffee table—instead leave it as a moveable table / island nearby the windows in the kitchen.

A find— and a dilemma

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This table may find its way to being my new coffee table. My brother and I came across it Sunday night walking home after dinner. As evidenced from the photos it needs some work— to be stripped, sanded, and re-stained. Also, it’s too tall, so the legs will have to be sawed off (as I did to my current coffee table).
002 The top lifts off, and its obverse is lined with felt. As you can see from what lies beneath, it is a gaming table. Two dice cups and a folding cribbage board were on the inside which is also lined with felt. On either side: slide-out drink rests, to keep condensation off the felt. Really nice details.
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A couple of potential problems: 1. It may be a little too large (about 4″-5″ wider than current table), and 2. It lacks the shelf underneath that the current table has, so where will my boxes of photographs live— and the wireless keyboard I use when watching movies or want to adjust volume?

Also of concern: my coffee table always has all sorts of things on it, so how often will the top of this new one come off? Perhaps only when we have a game of Euchre or French Tarot, but it’s a nice idea. I’m torn. I may just refinish it and sell it, or see if anyone I know wants it as-is.

Current coffee table with map of Rome
Current coffee table with map of Rome under resin

The mystery of the shallow bowls

silver plate objects
New acquisitions

Sunday afternoon was rainy, so our usual outdoor flea market was out of the question. We drove instead, a few miles farther to an indoor one, new on our radar.

On the whole, it was a bust. Few, if any, actual antiques, or even vintage items— unless you count things like toys and VHS tapes from the 1990s as such (which I do not; at best they are kitsch). Even the stall with loads of books comprised primarily the sort of titles not up my alley.

One of the outbuildings, though, had a single shelf of silver-plate; mostly tea items. The menagerie included the rather lovely late Art Nouveau butter dish and small bowl (above), for which I negotiated the price of a single tenner, inclusive of both. They were desperately tarnished, nearly solid black.

I recently learned that a similar vessel (of pewter, which I’ve used for some years as an ashtray) is an 18th century bleeding bowl, used in misguided attempts at relieving fever via bloodletting. A friend suggested, alternately, that it may be a porringer, or porridge bowl, When I googled, the same sort of images came up for both.

bleeding bowl, pewter
The pewter bowl

After a bit of research I’ve divined that a porringer is a sort of small, elaborate pot with handles on either side, very different to what we have here, although the word porringer is used interchangeably with ‘bleeding bowl’. The same interchange is not used, however, in reverse. Ergo, I’ve just acquired a second bleeding bowl— a silver-plate Queen Anne to be precise. Hurrah!