Monday, September 29, 2014

The Many Lives of My New Chair

Yucky green lumpy upholstery...
...and underneath THAT was even yucker!
...underneath it was this....
Someone's been chewing on the rails.
When we left to go see what the yard sales were offering on Saturday, I swore to Sparky; "Let's take YOUR car. If it won't fit in the back seat, I don't need it!" Turns out big things fit in the back seat.  I spotted this awesome chair, and the woman who sold it to me said, "It needs a lot of work", and I said "That's ok, I can fix it.  It called me".  She tried to sell me an end table too, and I said " thanks.  That doesn't call me" to which she replied, "I sure wish it would call SOMEone!"   No idea if it ever did, but it had nothing to say to me so I left it there.  Meanwhile the chair is in my living room all glued and clamped.  It's missing two of the bracing pieces that go under the seat, which had a really lumpy upholstery job on it.  When I took it off, I realized why;  underneath it were two previous upholstery jobs.  Neither of which, as it turns out, are original to the chair because even the seat board was a replacement!  I'm going to try to take this one right down to the bare wood and stain it, I can't really tell what kind of wood it is but although the finish is really, really banged up the wood itself is in excellent condition.  And check out the carving on the back rest!  The chair I posted about last time is going to have to take a back seat for a while...or who knows, maybe I'll work on both of them at once.  I did finish the table finally, and brought it to Bristol with me for the show I did.  It got a lot of attention and nice compliments, so that was fun.  I'm asking $75 for it. 

On the music front, many avenues seem to have opened up at the same time for me.  Trying to put a rock band together but having trouble finding a singer, but at the same time I have been asked to audition as bass player in a working country band and also have been asked to play keys and sing in another, almost-working rock band.  I've also been working on some acoustic guitar stuff, maybe down the road I'll hook up with someone who wants to do an acoustic duo or trio project.  So many directions I could go, so for now I'll just go in ALL of them and see what transpires.  It keeps my mind occupied so I don't have time to sit and think.

Next up is the show at Smith Castle in North Kingstown, this Saturday.  I've never done that show either, so I don't know what to expect.  If the weather cooperates, it should be fun!  If there are a lot of people, I always have fun regardless of how my sales go.  Of course ultimately this is a job so it matters how much I sell, but I meet a lot of nice people and compare notes with other artists so that counts for something too!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wood and Music

So the table is done, except for the sealing of the grout.  I had to go back and touch up the bleed spots where I used 3m painter's tape on the sides.  3m tape is crap, don't use it.  The first time I used it I had that problem, and I just assumed it was user error.  But this time I was very careful to seal the edges, and it still bled. Not a huge big deal (like last time when the paint bled onto a stained wood area and I had to remove it with a razor blade and a lot of colorful language) but next time I'll try some other brand.  Also the spray-on clear coat worked like a charm over the crackle finish.  A word about clear coat spray, I used to use Krylon or whatever was cheap, but I discovered that it's worth it to use Minwax, which costs at least twice as much, if only because the nozzle is much better and it gives a nice even spray.

About the sealing of the grout.  The bottle of sealer says to wait 48 hours after grouting, as opposed to EVERYTHING I found online which says to wait like 3 weeks.  I'm so conflicted.  So much drama! So I'm erring on the side of caution since my next show is not till the 21st.

Meanwhile, I started my next wood project.  Get me, using the big boy tools and everything!  Although I guess they're big GIRL tools now.  I tried to cut these 2x4s with the cordless Skil saw, which didn't work, so I ended up cutting them on the table saw, all the while with my husband's ghost screaming in my head "What are you DOING??!!  You don't crosscut on the table saw!!!  That's what the chop saw is for!!!"  except the chop saw was in the back of the truck in a parking lot in Providence.  Got to remember to take that out.  Anyway, no limbs were lost.  These are going to be candleholders, using mini jell-o molds for the cups.  I am not really in the habit of ripping off other peoples' designs, but I had the cups and was trying to figure out what to do with them.  It's not like I'm going into the candle holder business.  Here's where I got the idea.

 So next up, even though I have other things started, is this chair I picked up this week.  It's going to stay black, but other things are going to be done to it including a comfy seat cushion for which I already have the fabric.  As is sometimes the case, it just screamed at me what to do with it so naturally, I'm anxious to get going.

Had a band audition last night.  And it occurs to me that that was really my first ever audition.  I have auditioned other people for MY band, but never really auditioned for someone else.  It went ok, though, good bunch of guys.  But mostly it helped to let me know which direction I don't want to go in musically.  The music was nice, but I guess I'm not ready to stop playing Zepplin yet. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Best-Laid Plans

...would be accomplished if I could just stay home and carry them out!  But I'm easily distracted. So things get done when they get done.  I'm such a damn hippie.

Anyway, so today I finally got around to putting the mosaic top on my table.  I was leery of the thinset hardening while I dinked around with the pieces, so I thought I'd be smart and lay them all out on a piece of paper the size of my table top.  Which worked ok until I actually go to putting them in place, at which point nothing lined up the way it was on the paper.  But I did get them all on there, so now all I have to do is wait 24 hours and I can grout them.  That's the fun part, I like playing with grout. 

The thing I learned about putting mosaic pieces in place is that they differ from actual tile in one important aspect; they have not much depth, so it's a fine line between using enough thinset to hold them in place, and using too much thinset and having it squeeze up between the pieces and not leaving enough room for grout.  So after I got them all on there, I had to go in with what we at our house call "the multipurpose tool" (a nut pick.  Seriously, everyone should have at least one of these hanging around within easy reach), and pick out the globs of thinset in between the pieces so the grout will have someplace to go.

I also decided I don't trust the paint on top of the "crackle medium" I used, so I'm going to give it a coat of satin polyurethane just to make sure it won't scrape off easily.

Lily and Melanie, my grandnieces!

 In other news, there was a huge family campout at our house this weekend, cousins and family from Preston's side who all live here in RI but don't get to see each other all the time.  So that was a lot of fun, and the weather was absolutely stunningly perfect. PJ and I even took a canoe ride, and I can't even remember the last time I did that, but the water is so low some parts of the river are pretty much impassable so we didn't get very far.  Plans were made to do it again one more time before it gets too cold, so I'm really looking forward to that. 

I actually remembered how to drive one of these things!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Busy Hands Are Happy Hands.

Blank canvas!
 Yes indeed.  Busy is the way to go.  Earlier this year I found this little table waiting for me at a yard sale.  Looks like someone had intended to do something with it, as there was a little evidence of sanding.  It also looked like it had been left on a porch or in a basement or something, as the finish on the legs was all but gone.  But it was a structurally sound, well-made little table, and I like the Shaker legs and the fact that it had this kind of picture-frame thing going on on the top. I don't think it's too old, but  the drawers are dovetailed and it looks like it was maybe factory-made before most factory-made furniture was crap.

The consensus here is that it's a sewing table, and who am I to argue?  It's got some sort of drawer inset in it, could be for spools of thread or could be for pencils, I have no idea.  It came to me with only one drawer pull, so the hunt was on.  But the first thing I found out was that the screw holes were too close together!  Modern drawer pulls have holes 3" apart.  So I had to plug them and drill them out again.

You can't really tell in this light, but the legs and outer edges are painted a very pale seaglass aqua.  The top frame is sandy brown, as are the side and back panels but those are going to be painted with a slightly darker aqua. The top surface is primer with a little sand mixed in, and I'll discuss that more tomorrow. I did the brown on the side panels because the plan was to use a crackle finish...and after a quick google search on how to do that without buying bottles of crackle medium, it turns out all you need is Elmer's glue!  How about that.  I guess it's all on the Elmer's page, but I found it here, in this really cool blog!
I don't think it's supposed to look like that.

So I got the glue and followed the directions--or so I thought--and the results were....well, see for yourself:

Here's what I think happened, so you can learn from my foolishness.  Combination of:
1.  Not waiting for the glue to get tacky.  The instructions clearly stated that you need to do the top coat before the glue dries, or it won't work.  I think I didn't wait quite long enough.
2.  Too thick top coat.  This was also probably due to the fact that the glue was too wet.  My brush kept disturbing the glue underneath, so i was using a lot of paint so I could just apply it on top of the glue without making a mess.
3.  Working on a vertical surface.  That was just plain stupid.  Everything just went south.
So I got a rag and a bucket and washed it all off and started again, laid the table on its side and did one panel at a time.  That worked much better. I had already done the drawer fronts, so I know the technique worked.
Also, check out those drawer pulls!  I looked all over the internet for pulls that would suit my nautical theme, but not only didn't I find anything that that seemed like it was going to match, they are bloody expensive! I would have invested a little more in the pulls seeing that I didn't pay all that much for the table, but then I found these wooden ones at the Habitat ReStore in Charlestown, brand new in the package. All I did was paint them, then get out the wood glue and wrap them in twine. 

So the painting is all done now.  What's next is going to be to apply the mosaic top.  That's why the sand in the primer, research about mosaic revealed that the surface to which you apply the Thinset should be rough.  And sealed.  So that accomplished both.  This is why I was excited to find this table, the top with it's picture frame edge just screamed mosaic, and my favorite mosaic material is seaglass.  The challenge was to find enough seaglass that was flat, because being a table top I thought the least I could do was to make it level so it could actually be used.  So that's what's on tap for tomorrow, putting on the top.

Other than the table, and trying to figure out just how many projects I already have in various stages of completion, I have been working on this baby afghan using the diamond stitch that Sue taught me.  It takes me forever to crochet stuff, whereas she can bang out 6 or 7 hats in a day AND make dinner. 

This is just one "square", I guess you call it.  The whole thing will probably consist of a dozen of these, with a border.  Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Begin Again

Over a month since my last post.  It's hard to know where to start.  First of all, my husband's cancer progressed SO quickly that I lost him on 8/4.  Thanks to all of you who have reached out to offer your sympathies and prayers.  I found myself too overwhelmed with everything to answer you each personally, but please know I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

I have come here several times meaning to post, but I am not a person who puts everything out there for the world to see, so I never got started.  Same thing happened when my dad died; I feel like there should be some deep meaningful tribute or wisdom or SOMEthing to relate, but I close up.  I have been thinking a lot about it though, so here's what I came up with.

Preston and I were together for 32 years.  Sounds like a long time, but no matter how long you have it's not enough  It's never enough.  However, I count myself lucky because some people search their whole lives for what we had and never find it.  So I do appreciate that.  During that time, I liked to tell everyone I married well; there was nothing Preston could not do.  Everything that broke, he could fix.  Electronics, cars, plumbing, wiring, carpentry, painting, masonry, landscaping....just everything.  And for 32 years, I was his right-hand woman.  Hold this, fetch me that,point the flashlight over here,  reach up in there cause my big hands won't fit, etc. etc.  Apparently a lot of women don't do that, which baffles me.  I've never minded getting my hands dirty, which was good because I spent a lot of time under cars.  Didn't really enjoy it a lot of the time, it was cold, it was hot, it dragged on into the night because nothing works the way it says it will in the manual, but he needed another pair of hands and how could I sit inside doing whatever while he was out there trying to fix MY car? Or his, for that matter? We were partners.  We played music together.  We volunteered in Little League and Pop Warner together. We watched football together. We tiled the bathroom together. We got a PlayStation and played Batman and Far Cry and Portal together. We tended the garden and did yard work together.

Anyway, here's what I have gained that a lot of other women haven't (and maybe they don't care).  Now that I am alone, I feel well-equipped to take care of myself.  I know how to build and repair stuff and how to use power tools. I know how to clean out the chimney.  I know how to do plumbing (and have had to use that knowledge already).  I know something about wiring.  I know how to mix cement and quickrete and what kind of wood to use for different purposes.  I know soffit, fascia, drip edge, roof vents, tar paper, and how to shingle a roof.  How to install J-channel and the basics of vinyl siding. How to install tile and how to use the wet saw. I know stuff about car repair, but that is something I don't care to do.  Let's just say I know enough about car repair to not get screwed by an unscrupulous mechanic...which fortunately for me, I don't have to worry about anyway because I have a mechanic I trust.  Does a woman need to know these things?  You betcha.  We need a new mailbox and post, and it will be done right with a cement footing and a pressure-treated post.  Mom needs a step replaced, and that will require nails shot into cement with a .22 Ramset.  I can do that.  Our old plumbing is starting to give out here and there.  I can deal with that.  My kitchen floor needs to be ripped up and replaced.  I can do that too.

I learned not to buy the cheapest thing, because it won't last. Wait until you can afford a better thing. I learned to measure twice, cut once (the gospel according to Norm Abram).  That any job worth doing is worth doing right even if it means it takes you twice as long.  That you should do it well enough to be proud to put your name on it, even if nobody is ever going to see it.  Because if you try to cut corners, it will always, eventually, come back to bite you in the ass.  Always.

These are things I learned from my husband, and I wonder if he had any idea that he was teaching me to fend for myself all that time.  Probably not, I didn't realize it myself until recently.  Of course there are other things in my mind; how close we were, how perfectly suited for each other, inside jokes by the mile, I could go on and on but all that stuff is too personal.  It's for me. 

What's next for me is to take my business in a different direction.  Having been a tailor for the last 6 years, and having decided even before all this happened that that wasn't really making me happy, I am getting back into doing art/craft shows with my work.  Because if all this ugliness has taught me anything, its that life is too damn short to spend it doing something that doesn't make you happy.  That will also allow me to spend more time with Sparky, as I won't have to be anywhere away from home all day every day.  I have already booked some shows, and am working on some new projects.  Went to Mystic Village the other day and scoped out some shops I might seek to do business with.  Trying hard to focus on the new and not spend too much time thinking.  So tomorrow I will begin more regular posts here, beginning with the current woodworking project.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Lot Can Happen in a Month...

...and so it has.  SO much stuff has hit the proverbial fan, that I almost don't know where to begin.  If you're here, though, it means you're either my mom (hi Mom!) or you got here from my website, in which case you may know some of the story already.

Since I last posted, our entire little world here has been turned upside-down.  My husband of almost 30 years has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  He started feeling yuck at the end of April, as he does every year, and went to his doctor and got put on antibiotics for "that bronchial thing" as he does every year.  However, this time they did not work and he just got worse and worse, until he went to his pulmonologist, who ordered a CT scan.  And to make a long story with a lot of tests and a 10-day hospital stay short, that resulted in his diagnosis.

I can't say enough about our fantastic family and friends.  You hear catch phrases like "support system" so many times that they sound trite and lose meaning in and of themselves.  But to have one is just such a blessing.  Not only our family and close friends, though; friends we haven't seen for years.  Customers I barely know.  My landlady at the store.  My pharmacist. My mother's pharmacist. The guys at the garage who fix our cars.  The guy at the hardware store.    Just everyone is pulling for him, and of course they all have been through this or something like it or know someone who has.

Our son is here.  It was not in his plans to move back to RI, but circumstances other than his father's illness combined to make the decision for him.  It's funny how things work like that. And his job situation worked out just fine too, enabling him to go right from one coast to the next in the same company without missing any time at all.  My sister came back for a visit too, coincidentally just days before Preston had to go to the hospital.  I literally don't know what I would have done without her.  Sure someone else could have kept Mom company and fed and talked to our dog, but that's thankfully not how it worked out.

So life has been one doctor's visit after another, radiation treatments (which are done now), chemo (which just started), questions to be answered, prescriptions to be filled, dietary needs to be considered, welcome visits from loving friends and family, and a little work in between, when there is time.  I have closed my store, and I'm just fine with that.  Whether or not I will re-open it and when is something I don't need to think about just now.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Small, Small World

Yes indeed.  Even smaller is my world lately, the one in which I stay home almost all the time for reasons I'll get into maybe next time.  But while I'm here I really, really appreciate the window Preston and I decided to add to the east end of our house last fall while we had it all apart anyway.  Through it comes a great breeze, which in the late spring is much appreciated since the air in the house is so stale after the long winter and chilly early spring.  Also, through it I have lots of things to see, like this guy at my window feeder:

Sparky gave me the feeder earlier this year, but for some reason I've had only this chickadee and a pair of purple finches who stopped by a few times.  Probably because I sit right here and my movement freaks them out.  Also appearing in my backyard:
Bunnyrabbits.  I almost can't walk across the yard without practically tripping over rabbits this year!  Myah doesn't even really bother to chase them, and they know it.  Sometimes she makes a halfhearted attempt, but they are much too fast.
Speaking of small things, I did finish some of the molds I was painting:
I decided to make a set of three in baby colors, so there's a pink, a blue, and a yellow.  The outer ridge that you can't see is sage green.  Then when they were done, maybe because of the years of ceramics I took when I was in my late teens, they seemed to just BEG to be antiqued; blue seemed to be the color to go with, and I'm happy with the result. I sprayed them with acrylic sealer (these were NOT painted with the enamel paints, just regular acrylics), then mixed some blue with some grey and a little white, and thinned it out and voila, antiquing.  I have some started that are sunflowers, which I will antique with brown, and some that are red which I will antique with black; those are part of a larger project I've only just started, more on that later.
I have several large jobs to do which required me to purchase enormous amounts of fabric; while I was shopping, I decided it was time to replenish my stash of fabrics suitable for ribbon shirts so this happened:
Now all I have to do is find the time to actually make shirts.  They've sold really well this year, and I only have two left.  But first things first, got to catch up on the orders!
Nothing to report on the refinishing front, although I did finally finish a project 30 years in the making:
In my defense, it wasn't MY project; when my dad remodeled their bathroom all those years ago this was the last thing, these wood pieces and columns on the half-wall.  I'm not really sure why he never finished it, the spindles were in the closet and the two wood pieces have been sitting loose on top of the half wall ever since.  I guess he just moved on to other things.  I can understand that, that's probably where I got it from.  Anyway, I sanded, stained, and poly-ed, and Sparky was pretty happy to have it done!