Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vibrating "Curious Sofa" controller needs a paint job


The finished tabletop

An industrial arts organization for which I volunteer is making a vibrating sofa for this year's Edwardian Ball in San Francisco to go with the theme of Edward Gorey's "Curious Sofa". It has a variac and motor concealed in a nightstand to control the amount of vibration but the nightstand was boring so I was asked to paint it. The settings are from asleep (off) through orgasm (the big "O" where angels sing) to overload (off limits!).

Unfortunately I was asked to do it a week before the Ball and asked to finish as soon as possible so the device could be used for pre event testing. I had to come up with a design on the spot and execute it quickly.

The black and gold floral design is modified from a design in a Dover Art Nouveau black and white images book I own, the rest came straight out of my head. I wish I'd had more time to make it truly spectacular and more technically perfect, but considering the time constraints I think I did a good job.

First I rough sanded the existing stained and varnished finish. Next I primed with arcylic gesso and painted in the black areas except the top. I then drew the designs freehand in pencil and painted over that with black paint. After that I sponge painted the top with titanium buff acrylic paint. Next I repainted all the black areas on the top, including the lettering, floral design, and outlines for the angels and mushroom cloud. Then I painted the gold and color. To finish off the painting I retouched black on the angels and mushroom cloud. The next day I varnished with wipe on polyurethane, followed up with a second coat the day after that. Then I was out of time.

The gold paint was Pearl Ex powdered pigment that I mixed with Golden's GAC 100 Acrylic medium. If I hadn't been in such a hurry I might not have mixed it with a brush handle in an old yogurt cup; it was a bit lumpy from inadequate mixing. A few of the colors were professional grade acrylics but mostly they were student quality acrylics in big plastic tubes and tubs that I ordinarily use for cartoneria (paper mache).


The original tabletop

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Time for Sewing

I'm at home for 5 more weeks convalescence following major surgery. My jaw is broken and banded shut, but that doesn't impede my sewing ability, except trying to moisten the ends of thread in my mouth. Envelope licking is also not possible.

Meanwhile, being on disability means I have more time than money. And I am going to be spending Christmas with my bf's family, all of whom traditionally give gifts to every other person or couple. So we need a lot of gifts, and I'm not sure we put up enough peaches. I decided to sew tote bags, because I already had most of the stuff.

Next I thought how I go to the store and buy stuff like flax seeds and quinona from big bins, and wouldn't it be nice to not have to use a plastic bag?

These little bags are simple, made with lightweight cotton and minimalist construction to minimize weight. I think they're cute, and I can drop them into one of the grocery bags I keep in my car. I'm going to give them to the kind of people I think will use them.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mahl stick, homemade version


Now that I am occasionally drawing and painting larger, and using an upright easel, I can see the advantages of using a mahl stick. I looked at them in the store and they are ridiculously expensive!!! As has many times been the case I thought "I can make that!"

This whole project took about 10 minutes, including sanding the dowel. OK, it was 15 if you count the time I spent gathering materials. The cost was less than $2 (I picked up the dowel at an estate sale for $1). Way better than the nearly $30 the store wanted for a mahl stick.  Sheesh!

My version of the mahl stick cannot be disassembled for easy transport, but I do not care. I took a four foot long, 3/8" oak dowel I happened to have lying around for the stick. If you don't have one lying around your house you can go to the store and get one. Even places like Michael's and Home Depot sell these, maybe not in oak though. Or you could go crazy and use walnut! Just make sure it is not all crooked and wonky. I then took a scrap of old t-shirt from my rag bag and wadded it up for the filling. I traced a circle in a scrap of leather I had lying around, cut it out, and tied it around the end using some silk fingerloop braid I wove years ago.

I thought about staining and finishing the oak, maybe putting a handle on it, and also a loop at the end so I can hang it up. Maybe I'll do those things later, or on another version. This one is fancy enough for now.

The scrap leather came from the bargain scrap bin at Tandy's. If you don't have that available there are suede-like fabrics at the fabric store, or use a scrap of cloth or something. Also it can be tied with plain twine. I just got all fancy 'cause I could, and because I like it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I used an orbital sander as an eraser


I was commissioned a while ago to make a Dia de Los Muertos themed shadow box, and other than making the figures (similar to those for this project) for inside I've made little progress. Until now!

I started with making the box since I wanted to make sure it was going to all fit together after I put huge numbers of hours into the painting. Having decided to go all out and paint the inside with tempera, I then made and applied a traditional gesso base to the inside pieces. I then started painting the inside, but decided I hated what I'd painted and the project stalled...for months...

...until one recent day when I grew so frustrated with looking at my failure that I decided to try something to fix it. I put 220 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander and sanded all the unwanted paint right off. It worked! Well, almost perfect. There were some scattered spots where the paint didn't sand off but nothing that will make a big difference with what I am doing.

I am so totally going to use a power sander next time I make gessoed panels! One of the mental barriers to making panels has been my hatred of hand sanding. Power tools are certainly worth a shot! Next to figure out how to apply gesso with a sprayer...

The painting is going to be a miniature painted room divided into two sections: a simpler, floral patterned upper area, and a more detailed lower area. The person for whom I am making this loves peacocks, so there will be peacocks in the lower section.

For the color palette my goal is to do something that uses a few pigments only so it will be harmonious, and the overall scheme to complement the figures but not overwhelm them or be too distracting.

The graphic above shows some of my progress to date. I started by drawing out the basic design, then tracing it onto the gesso using blue Saral transfer paper. Then I painted in the lines and shaded the flowers with a greenish Raw Umber. Much of the vines will be lost when I wash in the background but I will just repaint it later. These lines are more for use as a guide for the final touch up.

Next I started laying the washes for the background. With tempera there is a translucence which allows previous layers of color to show through, so using multiple layers with multiple colors creates beautiful texture and depth. The Vagone Green by Kremer is a mixture of Chrome Green and an earth green, so it brings qualities of both colors. Next I used a mixture of Bohemian Green Earth, finer than some similarly colored earth greens, and Titanium Buff. I mixed the paint 2:1 because the buff is more opaque than the green, I also used a dilute mixture. I prefer to do multiple layers of a thinner paint so I can get more even coverage at the end and not apply the color too thickly or intensely too soon.

I have started painting in the peacocks but don't have the photos ready, so more on this project later.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An unexpected museum visit in Frankfurt



detail of shoe


St. Veronica, attributed to the workshop of Roger
Campin, circa 1428-30
Recently I went on vacation to the Canal du Midi in the south of France, finishing up with a weekend in Germany.  As it turned out I was there for Frankfurt's "Night at the Museum", a celebration of all the wonderful museums that are within walking distance of each other in Frankfurt. Admission was only 12 Euro for all of the museums, less that the 14 Euro for the State museum alone, home of some lovely Medieval and Renaissance artwork. My boyfriend and his friend were very patient with me and my long gazing at some of these fabulous paintings. There really is nothing to replace seeing something in person. 


For example, I had pored over the above image many times and never really took notice of the lovely little shoe St. Veronica is wearing. The painting is nearly life size, so there was a lot of detail to take in.
Since the museum trip was a surprise I hadn't done any research and didn't know what to expect. I was so happy to be able to take close up pictures of some embroidery details:

Portrait of Simon George of Cornwall by Hans Holbein
circa 1535-40
blackwork embroidery detail
And another Holbein, this time the Portrait of a Member of the Weiss Family of Augsburg, circa 1522. It looks to me like an embroidered band was stitched on to a smocked or gathered neckline with matching woven ties:








Friday, March 15, 2013

Fascinating fascinators, and other millinery bits

For half a dozen years or more I've been wanting to take a Beginning Millinery class offered over three Saturdays at a local community college, and finally I am doing it. The instructor is a wonderful milliner, Wayne Wichern, with nearly three decades of experience. Our class goal is to leave with three finished items: a straw hat, a fabric covered buckram hat, and a fascinator.

Due to time considerations we did not get to block our own straw hats, alas. We did watch the instructor demonstrate using one of his collection of dozens of hat blocks (in the photo also note the two blocks with a round and flat buckram crown blocked and drying). He also used some leftover straw to make a straw feather. A piece of straw is wetted, the edges are fluffed out, a wire is stitched on, the the feather is trimmed to shape and bent. The contrasting thread and wire in the photo are for demonstration purposes.

I made an extra buckram fascinator base at home. I covered a conveniently shaped object with plastic wrap to protect it from the buckram. Then I took buckram, wetted it with warm water, and stretched and shaped it; finally I pinned it down to dry. Here it is sitting in a sunny window to speed up drying.


Once it was dry I drew the desired shape of my fascinator base (photo below), cut it out and covered it with fabric. Photos were taken with my cell phone, sorry about the quality.

Also I have been trying to teach myself how to make fabric flowers. My experiments with that will be the subject of other posts. As part of that I am making my own stamens, because the commercially available stamens are expensive and not necessarily exactly what I want. Below is one of my experimental flowers posed under my first stamen experiment. The stamen stems are 28 gauge covered floral wire (I decided that is too thick) dipped in paint. I really like the iridescent green! A cooling rack ordinarily used for baking makes a great drying rack for the stamens; it is resting on two frying pans.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas ornament

Well, Hello!!

It's been so long since I've done anything "medieval" that I haven't had anything to post to the blog. That doesn't mean I've not been reading all of your blogs and staying interested. Also I am still making stuff.

This year we decided to get a really little Christmas tree, only 3 feet tall. It is small enough that I was able to decorate it entirely with handmade (not all by me) ornaments. It's a little more sparsely decorated than I would like, though, so...

Here's a little trinket I made the other day, partially inspired by my desire to work some tiny brick stitch on 40 count linen (because it looks great, or because I am a masochist?). It is a single motif, using 2 strands of Eterna silk on 40 count linen, appliqued to a piece of white wool. The wool is lightly quilted. The edges of the motif are finished with couching. The edges of the ornament are finished with a 4 ply kumi himo braid woven with 4 strands of Eterna thread per ply. There is also a faceted crystal bead just above the tassel.

I bought the Eterna years ago but never used it for some reason; maybe because many of the colors looked like modern dyes? I had forgotten it was filament silk so I was pleased with the sheen. I was not pleased with the way the thread kept catching on my work roughened hands. Using a magnifier lamp made using the fine linen pretty easy, although the magnifier did also magnify previously unnoticed flaws in my manicure. That was rather distressing!

This was a fun little project, and great to have a finished object produced in under 24 hours.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

First side of brick stitch purse finished


In a natural setting in all its glory, here is the finished side of a new purse. As usual (since I am still using up a large back stock) it is 3 strands of Soie d'Alger silk thread over 32 count linen. The size of the purse was dictated by the size of linen fabric I had handy in my stash, and I am going to make the other side in a completely different pattern. The colors will be the same and the source of the pattern will also be a Burgundian medieval tile roof. My reason for deciding to do a different pattern on the other side is that I wanted to be able to make an example of another pattern without having to wait until I finished an entire project. I am really not as patient as people sometimes think I am. : )

I'm so glad it is getting to be springlike! These flowers were really cheap at Trader Joe's and I couldn't resist buying them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Progress on the new pattern


I have been working industriously on the new pattern. As those of you with busy, demanding lives know, finding time for embroidery isn't always easy. I peck away at this a little bit at a time and I am getting much done although not as fast as I would like. I decided to finish the designs first without the background in order to post this photograph. It allows me, and hopefully those of you viewing it, to imagine different color combinations other than the yellow I chose for the background.

I am excited and looking forward to seeing this complete; it motivates me to continue. I am also trying to think ahead and decide how I am going to finish the edges.

Materials: Three strands of Soie d' Alger silk thread on 28 count linen. I'm still trying to use up my backstock of silk thread so I can change manufacturers, although I do like this thread. I just have something else in mind and wish I hadn't purchased so much of it back when I had more disposable income.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pattern #21



Here it is, the preliminary version of Pattern #21. Although larger than many other designs, it is a repeat. Once the first repeat is stitched, it is fairly easy to continue stitching the pattern.
The inspiration for this pattern is the tiled roof of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, France (part of Burgundy). The building was built as a charitable almshouse in 1443 by Nicholas Rolin, chancellor to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. The current tiles were recreated from 1902-7 in the original style.



While not actually German, the pattern and colors are very similar to those of German origin. I tried to stay close to the original colors in my recreation, but it would look beautiful in a variety of color combinations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New! Pattern #21 in progress


Has it really been two years since I last published a pattern? I guess so! Well, here it is: Pattern #21 in brick stitch. The pattern is based on a medieval tile roof from Burgundy as shown in the book I featured in my last post. It is technically not document-ably German in origin, but it is in the same style and it is a beautiful pattern. I tried to replicate the original colors, but I think it would look beautiful in a number of color combinations.

I am using three strands of Au Ver au Soie silk on 30 count (?I think) linen even weave. My plan is to make a purse that will have one side with this pattern and the other side with a different pattern (the planned Pattern #22), both from the same book of Burgundian roofs. There are extant examples of purses with different patterns on the two sides, although not to my knowledge are there purses with two geometric patterns; the examples I know of are pictorial. However, since the pattern based on roof tiles is purely speculative I don't believe it is too much of a stretch to make a purse with two different patterns. Plausibly it could be a purse made of two older embroideries cut down/repurposed as is demonstrated in other examples.

In this photo I show the embroidery completed in stages: the blue outline that defines the shapes, the patterns within the blue borders, and the completely finished areas of embroidery. I purposely did the embroidery this way in order to photograph it to show you the progress of my work process. Also hopefully it will stimulate your imagination for other suitable color combinations.

Look for the charted pattern at a later time when I have finished more of the embroidery. Thanks to all of you who follow my blog; I realize I have been remiss in publishing for some time and hope to be more active in the future.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming back at last!


OK, so what in the heck happened to me? I haven't really posted since March! My decade-plus relationship went kablewy! in a rather dramatic and unfortunate fashion and it took months to get over it. Not just the emotional stuff but also the practical stuff of moving belongings, doing work on my house, establishing a new social life, etc. A bunch of stuff happened at work as well, making my life even more chaotic and stressful.

I am finally back in the place where I want to turn back to my stitching and this book is definitely inspirational. I had a post a while back about one of these types of roofs. Imagine my surprise when in an architectural salvage yard today (shopping for a kitchen cupboard) to discover a small alcove with books and to find this little treasure. There are numerous examples of these roofs along with some other interesting pictures and I plan to make a pattern or two based on the examples.

Glad to be back!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Going to Germany

I will be going with my BF to Germany in May. He is going for work, so we'll be in Erlangen for the week and I will be at my leisure during the weekdays while he is working. Any suggestions for things to see for the medievally-minded tourist?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thinking about Spanish style furniture



I have a house whose architectural style is called "Spanish Eclectic", and this house needs furniture that fits it. A while back in the library I found a pamphlet published by the New Mexico Department of Vocational Education in 1933 called "Spanish Colonial Furniture Bulletin", a book of line drawings of extant furniture from the Spanish Colonial era. In the brief text the pamphlet states that New Mexico was settled by colonists early in the period (end of 16th century) and had minimal contact with outside influences after colonization, due to the discovery of limited exploitable resources. Thus, much of the furniture design is influenced by Spanish medieval and Renaissance design.

Note the mortise and tenon joinery and the spline that joins the boards that make up the seat of the chair on the right.

This will be one of the sources for designs for the dining table and chairs I eventually plan to build and which are just in the earliest design phase.



Another example of something Spanish I like is this table from either the 16th or 17th century, I'm not sure and the book (Great Styles of Furniture) isn't very informative either.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New painting, moving forward in time to Raphael


The third assignment for my art class is to recreate a painting from 1500 to 1700 in oil. Lots to choose from, right? I didn't want a painter who used a lot of impasto, I prefer layers of glazes. That eliminated a huge number of painters. I also wanted a portrait that looked reasonably anatomically correct and natural. That means most of the Mannerists are out. After much searching I selected "La Fornarina" by Raphael painted in 1518-19, not long before he died in 1520. The original is 63 x 87 cm (approx 28 x 34 inches) but my recreation will be 12 x 16 inches. The original is oil on wood panel, I will paint with oil on 1/4" hardboard.

I didn't have any large boards prepared with real gesso and I really didn't want to make up a new batch so I decided to experiment and try a product from Golden called "sandable gesso" which is an acrylic gesso that is supposed to be more like real gesso than standard modern acrylic gesso. Standard acrylic gesso isn't sandable and I was worried about getting too much texture with brush marks. Results: sandable gesso is better than acrylic gesso, but nowhere near as good as the real thing. It sands with difficulty because it still has some of that characteristic acrylic gumminess, but I was able to get some of the texture off my boards. Even when smooth it is nowhere near as soft as real gesso. However, I didn't have to spend two days preparing it; I merely opened the can. My boards have some unwelcome texture but at least it is better than using canvas so I won't be fighting texture as much as I would using canvas.

An additional experiment I am going to try is doing two copies of the painting. One will be my official school assignment in oil, the other will be a practice version executed in acrylic. Acrylic?! What the heck am I thinking?! Well, I am thinking that I will be able to work faster in acrylic than oil so I can get further in the painting process and discover mistakes before I make them in oil. As generally pleased as I am about how my Ghirlandaio copy turned out, there are a few things I would have done differently if I did it over. Plus it will be a challenge to see how much of an oil paint look I can get with acrylic. I will be using Golden's Open Acrylics, which stay wet a lot longer than regular acrylics. That will give me more working time and more blending ability. I am also using Glazing Liquid so I can apply glazes. Based on my first day's work I do like the open paints and glazing liquid better than trying to thin regular acrylics with water, but we'll see how things progress.

On the left is the original. I printed it out at desired size to use as a cartoon, rubbed the back with raw umber pigment, then traced the cartoon onto my board (middle picture). On the right is as far as I went today with raw umber underpainting. The glaze dries slowly so I have to wait an hour or so before I can rework areas without messing them up. At the point where I was starting to make it look worse not better by continuing, I stopped.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghirlandaio portrait progress, close to finished


Here is the new progress! I worked a lot on the face, using a dozen or more colors and working the light tints into the midtones and the midtones into the shadows. I used a thin lead white to paint the translucent fabric on the bodice. I've mixed several different colors trying to find perfect mixtures for the hair but so far I am not satisfied so the hair is the most unfinished area. In a raking light the black background shows the areas where my sanding of the gesso was less than perfect and the effect is enhanced now because the paint is so matte. I think that once everything is finished it will have a soft sheen and scratches won't be noticeable.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What my painting setup looks like


Here is a picture I took yesterday of my setup for painting. I put my painting on an old towel so I can wipe my brush on it, it is really very handy to do that. Also on the towel are brushes, glass rod for mixing paint in small palette wells, droppers for egg mixture and distilled water, container for brush rinsing water, old jelly jar with egg mixture, and (in a plastic baggie) the dish of shell gold paint. On the right are some of my pigments in jars, the porcelain palette with lots of tiny wells for mixing up many colors at once, yogurt cups for distilled water, and the drill I used to put some of the Halloween decorations together. In the background are bits and pieces of other projects: can of varnish for the chair I am refinishing, paper mache cat in progress, and a Halloween butterfly in progress sitting on top of jars of acrylic paint.

I am posting this picture because I think it is fun to see how people work at things. If I was interested in painting (or any new skill, really) but totally new to it I would not only be interested in seeing finished work and stages of progress, but also in seeing the setup for doing the craft as well as sources for tools and supplies.

I continue to make progress with my painting; yesterday I worked on the face mostly. I mixed various colors using white, raw sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, celadonite, red ochre, vermilliion, and yellow ochre. I could have made the skin look smoother but the original showed so many hatch lines and I wanted to keep close to the original style.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ghirlandaio portrait copy progress


This photo was taken indoor, at night, using a flash, so the painting looks a little different in person. I have a lot more work to do on the face and especially on the hair, but the bodice is mostly done. The last progress on the bodice shows it more cooly green, but I warmed it up with washes of lemon ochre and raw sienna. Now it is much closer to the original, at least as viewed on my monitor.

The clasps on the bodice are painted with homemade shell gold.

The skin and hair were painted with mixtures using raw sienna, lead white, raw umber, celadonite, with vermillion and hematite also on the face.

The painting is due next week so it'll be done by then!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recreation of an Old Master in Tempera

For my current art class assignment I had to choose a 15th century tempera painting and do my best to copy it. My choice is this portrait by Ghirlandaio from the late 15th century.



I printed a full size copy of the original, then used tracing paper to get a cartoon of the major lines. I colored on the back of the cartoon to make the cartoon function as transfer paper, then traced the lines of the cartoon onto my board. My board is tempered Masonite which I chose because I could not find untempered Masonite that was smooth on both sides. Everything I've read says untempered is better because tempered Masonite is tempered with oil but we'll see what happens.



I roughed up the Masonite with sandpaper then applied a coat of warm rabbit skin glue. After that dried I applied several coats of warm gesso made with chalk and rabbit skin glue. Once the gesso dried overnight I sanded the board smooth.

Once the drawing was on the gesso I used non-waterproof black ink to make a value drawing. I used non-waterproof so I could correct mistakes easily. I sealed the finished grisaille with a light coating of egg yolk and water mixture so the ink would not be lifted by succeeding coats of tempera.

Next I started working in color, using verona green earth for skin, and yellow ochre and umber for clothing and hair. In this picture I have started the skin and hair but not the clothing. The white chemise has undertones of other colors so I started with a darker color.



The clothing in the finished painting is green but has a definite yellow cast which is why I chose to start with ochre. This picture also shows that I started to color the necklace.



Here I have been focusing on the clothing. I decided to leave the face to last as working on the rest of the painting will give me practice handling the paint so I will be "warmed up" when I get to the face. I am still going to work on this some more because I am not completely happy with the green. On top of the yellow ochre and umber underpainting I used celadonite and lead white to render the green cloth. Then it wasn't yellow enough so I mixed another set of greens using celadonite, lead white and Naples yellow with almost pure white and yellow for the highlights. This is better, but still not quite what I was going for. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the different layers so I don't have the progress to show. This last picture shows where I am with the painting as of this evening. I reached a point where I was only making it worse by continuing to work on it so I decided to take a break until tomorrow.

Also note that in this picture the necklace and white chemise are more finished.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spam, blech

I find the word verification feature for commenting kind of annoying when I comment, so I removed the requirement from my blog. Less than 24 hours later I received 4 spam comments! So, I put it back, sorry. I hate spammers.