Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

I am once again accepting orders to be made in my new shop.

Tramp Art

Monkeys on a Weathervane? I call it "King of the Hill".

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp Art, WhittlingRob GorrellComment

For some reason the other day I got to thinking about the old "Barrel full of Monkeys" that we played with as kids. Did you have a set? It was a pretty simple toy, but fun.  At the same time I was thinking about the series of folk art weather vanes that I am working on in the shop. So here is how my mind tends to work sometimes. I am thinking of a new weather vane design and about monkeys, so the obvious conclusion is that I need to make a weather vane full of monkeys. Right? So I did.

Cutting out some of the planning steps, I ended up with a pile of monkey shaped blanks of basswood. I was going to hand-carve each of the monkeys, but decided to save time and effort and power carve them into vague, monkey-influenced shapes.

It was at about this point that I started thinking about how the monkeys would be climbing over each other to get to the top of the weather vane. Would the top monkeys be pulling the others up, or kicking them off the heap? Were the monkeys working cooperatively to achieve the summit, or were they trying to jerk the top monkey off of the peak? I did not know yet.

After loosely carving the monkeys I set them aside and worked on the copper weather vane parts. For the arrow and tail I used some salvaged copper sheet that I had in the shop.  Once the copper was shaped and soldered into shape I worked on the layout of the monkeys. Thank goodness for zip ties and wires. Getting wooden monkeys to fit neatly on a weather vane turned out to be quite a challenge.

Skipping forward again, I finished carving and painting the monkeys and fastened them together using a variety of techniques to get them under control.  For the base I used part of a salvaged pine beam, an old spool of some sort and a few chip carved pieces of a shipping crate.  A few layers of paint, some antiquing of the copper and I called it done.

King of the hill weather vane

In the end I decided the monkey on top was a mean looking dude and is trying to dominate the other monkeys. Maybe I'm just in a mood, but that is the way I see it. What do you think? [polldaddy poll=6717789]

I have listed this creation in my Etsy Store if you are interested in purchasing King of the Hill for your collection.

Pearl, Queen of the Sea.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob Gorrell1 Comment
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Looking back over the months I spent periodically working on this piece I think I really just needed to adding something goofy and fun to the world right now.  We are being bombarded with so much bad news and over sensationalized media crap that I think we really need to find more ways to laugh and have a little fun.  That being said, Pearl is my latest folk art creation.  It all started with an idea that involved making some sort of sea monster in the waves with button scales.  That was really all I had to go with at the start.  I sort of had this Tim Burton critter in my head, all odd and strange.  I also wanted sort of a Loch Ness situation with dark, brooding water and sky as a backdrop. Here is the shadow box part underway. I used more of the rusty roof tin I have for waves.  I started out with the blue sky, most of which gets covered with rusty smashed bottle caps.

Next, I needed the critter. Using more of the salvaged pine blocks that I have stacked in my shop, I roughed out this dragon sort of design.  I am a beginner when it comes to carving, but I think it gets the idea out there.

Now at this point things started to drift from the original plan.  When I went looking for a bunch of buttons to use I was thinking about muted colors, dark greens and browns, scale-like and all. But what I found was BRIGHT COLORS of many sizes.  Suddenly, Tim Burton was out, Elton John was in.  From here on it just got silly.

Have you ever tried to get the idea of scales across using buttons?  It sounds easy and started out orderly enough.  But as I got into the curves and twists the orderly nature of the button universe started to unravel. You would think that round sea dragon, round button would be a compatible pairing, but no.......

 What definitely was working was the bright colors against the rusty tin. This was starting to look like the most colorful creation I have made.  At some point you just have to let go and run with it. As Owen Wilson said, "let your freak flag fly".  Besides, I always knew those goofy 4-H camp craft projects would lead to great things (even though I think they all got burned in the trash later on).

So after hours and hours of nailing and glueing buttons onto a wood snake (high art I must say), we ended up at this point.  Maybe the purple eyebrows are a little over the top, but once you give a dragon gold spiral teeth who would have the nerve to stop there.

So here is the finished piece. I really don't know what to say about it at this point. My wife helped with the design so I have someone to partially blame. However, she love it.  We debated a long time on the name. One perfect idea came to mind, but it is not appropriate to print.  I ended up with Pearl because of the Pearlies, the Brits that sew the white buttons all over their clothes and party .  Do you like her?  Hopefully there is someone out there that will see this and realize that their life is incomplete without a button bedazzled sea monster with devious purple eyebrows and gold teeth swimming in a brooding sea of rust.

 

 I have listed this piece in my Etsy store.

Tramp Art Church Cupboard with Round Top finished.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp Art, UncategorizedRob Gorrell1 Comment
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Yesterday I finished making this tramp art cupboard.  I have been working on it for a while now and am glad that it is finally finished. I have a ton of other projects I am itching to get to.

I was inspired by the cathedrals and churches of Paris to make this table-top cupboard. I am fascinated by the interplay of eternity and decay in the old churches, the rusting of roofs and railings, the souring Gothic arches, the massive strength of the Romanesque vaulting, and the way things sparkle out of the shadows. I love the way builders kept updating styles and forms alongside the old, allowing the old and new to coexist.  There are some earlier posts that show some of the techniques used to build this piece.

This cupboard is made from salvage pine, and old crate, beer caps, rusted roof tin, tacks, salvaged furniture elements, and lots of paint. The cupboard is 21 inches wide, 35 inches tall and 7 inches deep.  It is currently listed in my Etsy store for sale.

Here are some other shots of the piece:

Tramp Art Church update.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tinware, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

The proportions of this cupboard have been puzzling me for some time now. As it sits without any layers of applied wood, it looks kind of odd. I have convinced myself that the finished project that sits nebulously in my head will balance out as layers are added.  Along the way I have tried some different ideas on the sides and back. This shot shows a couple of ideas that I tried out for the space on the sides.  The problem arises when the door is opened.  Anything added to the sides cannot interfere with the full opening of the doors. In my vision of the project, the doors will be left open.  In the end, both of these ideas were scrapped.  The bottom section is going well and is pretty straight forward.  Here you can see that I have added the carved borders, notched the shelves and added the church door influenced center drawer front.

Tramp art church cupboard with bottom notches

The majority of my time was spent working out the top section.  I am working on combining punched and distressed metallic elements with the traditional tramp art carving.  After I get all the individual parts cut out and notched, I will begin painting the background and etch the metal elements before final assembly.  Here is where I left off:

My point and shoot digital camera had no idea what to do with this setup. I may set this aside for a while because I have had a couple new orders pop up.  Also, there is another piece started that I want to post that involves sea critters and buttons.

As a little preview....

Starting another tramp art church cupboard.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

I keep coming back to the inspiration provided by the cathedrals and churches we have seen on vacations over the past few years.  There is something about the interplay of eternity and decay in the metal stone and paint of the structures that affects me deeply.  I haven't sorted out what that all means, but I definitely feel the need to work it out in my recent folk art and tramp art work.

     The previous cupboard that I made in this vein was the Tramp Art Cathedral. It had tall pointed spires and a number of drawers. I tried some new ideas to incorporate used tin cans and other metal into the wooden tramp art carving which I think added a lot of interest to the piece. This time I want to play with the round and pointed arches and doors from places like Notre Dame in Paris. These first few pictures show where I was when I started on the piece a couple of weeks ago.  At this point I just have the basic body blocked in, no carving or applied pieces yet.  The proportions are a little off right now with the doors closed, but I think it will be fine once I all of the layers of carving and metal.  

Tramp Art church cupboard finished at last.

Painted Folk Art, Tinware, Tramp ArtRob Gorrell2 Comments

Tramp art church cupboardIn my previous post I talked about how I used tin and wood to make this church influenced tramp art cupboard.  At that time I was satisfied with the way the tin accents worked with the tramp art carved cupboard, but did not like how shiny the whole piece looked. I wanted to feel the influence of the weathered roofs and walls of the churches and cathedrals of England and France, that feeling of both resistance and decay battling for command. What I had was what looked to me like an Erector Set project gone wierd. It took several attempts to finish this cupboard. I couldn't seem to come up with a combination of finishes or treatments to get the patina I wanted on the metal. I started out trying to get a nice rusty look using salt water and time. But that was taking way to long and not getting the level of rust that I wanted.  So I switched to diluted ferric chloride and man did that take care of the problem. It ate the tin off of the base metal in swathes. It actually did more damage than I wanted and I ended up with a very dull brown box with tarnished tin.  tramp art church top closeup

I have had several colors of bronzing powders in the paint cupboard since some time in the late 80's. They give a really nice metallic finish and are easy to work with once you figure out how much binder you want to mix in to the powders. 

Gold was the first color I used and I thought I had completely ruined the thing. I hated it. So I started throwing green and blue (yep, the old load the brush and fling it technique) at it and things started happening.

You can see here how the colors and layers worked over the punched designs in the tin and wood. The brown is actually a little darker that what you see. The green, blue and gold metals, along with the corroded tin and wood work well together.

Overall I am happy with the results. Somehow my wife's first comment on seeing the end result was that it looked like a forest from a distance. ???  Oh, and it was her idea to put the ball feet on the box. That detail really lightened up the feel of the whole cupboard. Before that it seemed kind of flabby and bottom heavy.

This project helped me start learning some metal working techniques that are new for me, along with using the punchs to incise the wood.  I can definitely see using these ideas in future projects.  If you are interested in this piece it will be listed on my Etsy site.

 

Tramp art and tin church cupboard nearly finished.

Painted Folk Art, Tinware, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

I finally got a couple of evenings back in the shop to work on this little cupboard again. I got side tracked getting my antique blacksmith forges ready to use now that the weather is good enough to work outside. Hopefully in a few months I will have more to say about using the forges. 

In the previous post on this project I added most of the tin except for the sides.  Now for the sides I have added punched tin panels with raised beading along the edges.  I used my bead roller for the first time on this project and it took a little tinkering to figure out how I wanted the corners to look.  I know there is a better way, which I hope to learn when I take a tinsmithing class at Campbell Folk School this fall. After adding the half round beading to the cupboard I decided it was a bit smooth. So I took a small cross peen hammer and added creases along the length of the tin.Tramp art church ready for patina It is interesting how something as simple as a series of hammer dings can change the look of a project.

The final part to be added was the drawer pulls. In this case I heated off the shelf eye screws in my forge and reshaped them a little with a small hammer.  They are mismatched and twisty and I think look pretty good against the crimped tin.

Between now and the next time I post on this project I will be working on adding a rusty patina to the tin.

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Building a tramp art and tin church box.

Painted Folk Art, Tinware, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment
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A couple of years ago I built a series of three small cupboards. Each cupboard was based around some salvaged wood drawers that I have used in a number of projects.  As it usually happens, two sold right away at a gallery show at The Wheeling Artisan Center. The third languished. I tried repainting the piece and was nearly at the point of burning the whole thing. But I held off and stuck it away for future inspiration to strike.

In late 2009 my wife and I went on a trip to Paris, a place that oozes with inspiration, history, art, graffiti, flowers, crazy traffic and great crepes.  One of our favorite things to do is to go to the weekend flea markets to shop.  There was this one table that had two large folk art churches, one metal and the other some combination of toothpicks and other small wood items. At the time I did not give the metal church much thought, to much to see and do. But later on I got to thinking about combining tin with the stored away church box.

One of the many irons I have in the fire is to learn some tinsmithing. I have been aquiring and refurbishing tin tools and occasionally fiddling around with a little tin.  I haven't really made much of anything useful yet, but have been learning more about how the various tools can be used. So I tinkered around and started adding some kinked and curved metal accents to the church.detail of tramp art church with metal accents

This went pretty well. I have plans to rust the metal later on.  We decided that the look I am going for will be post nuclear appocolypse rusty church meets Chrysler Building.  Time will tell.

As the metal went I kept rolling ideas around about what to do with the painted wood flat areas.  I thought about fitting tin inserts, too hard, then gold leaf, too expensive, then settled on punching.  Using my tin punch tools I started tooling the areas much like you would leather or tin punch panels.

This is really starting to look OK to me.  I have raised tin panels cut for the sides that still need to be tin punched before being applied to the sides of the box.  I know what I want to do for drawer pulls and will do them as soon as I get my forge ready to fire up for spring.

One of my many goals is to use less energy resources in my creations.  This tramp art church  is leaning more in that direction. All of the metal work is done by hand, no electricity.  When I forge the drawer pulls I will be using renewable natural charcoal instead of coal.  Granted, a lot of energy was used to produce and transport the tin plate and paints and that is something to work on. But I think it is progress over my older, all power tool method of producing rustic work.  I hope that in the near future I will be adding more hand tool work and less power tool work to my creations.

Stay tuned.....  

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Green tramp art sewing box finished.

Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment
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Over the past couple of evenings I finished the tramp art sewing box that I have been working on lately.  I had pretty much finished the woodworking part in my last post. Now it was time for the finish work. I try to start out with a color or shade that is a good bit lighter that where I will end up. Tramp art sewing box with first coat of paint.

At the layers build I take a heat gun to the piece and try to bubble up and crack the finish. I also add stain every so often. The number of layers really depends of how it looks as I go. At some point it will either seem right, or get kicked around the shop and burned. This is what it looked like near the end of the finishing process.

We had some faded yellow wool that I used to sew up the pincushion. I am not sure if the antique versions had removable cushions or not.  I like the idea of being able to switch it out with something new later on if I want to.

I sometimes through in an odd color to mix things up. Have you ever picked up an old painted piece and noticed it had once been painted some now horrible color? I have seen twig stools painted with what looks like aluminum roof paint. I suppose that looked good to someone back through the years.  I'm sure that years from now someone will pick up something that I painted and say "what the hell was he thinking using these colors?"  I like to add an odd color in that might peek through the upper layers just a little.  But not on this piece.

In the end this is what I came out with.  It is about 8.5 x 8.5 x 5.5 inches tall. The opens to reveal the removable wood tray.  The pegs on top will hold smallish spools of thread.  There wasn't room to allow for large spools.  The next few pictures show the finished tramp art sewing box. I listed it in my Etsy store this morning.

Green tramp art sewing box with yellow pin cushion.Green tramp art sewing box with lid openTramp art sewing box with yellow pin cushionClick here to see previous post on this project.

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