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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I got a chance to work on the new sewing box for another couple hours. I am almost ready to start putting a finish on the box. If you missed the earlier post where I started the box, click here. I had been putting off working on the back of the sewing box because I was not sure what to do about the way the lid opened. I finally decided to go ahead and put the floral cutouts on without wrapping a full frame around them. This seemed like a decent way to keep the flowers the same all the way around. It's not a perfect solution, but I went with it. Here you can see the parts cut out. The difficulty is that when the lid opens the back of the lid rotates into the box, so I can't put anything on the very back of the lid.
The plan is to add dowels to the top to hold spools of thread. This was pretty straightforward with a walnut dowel rod and one more layer of pine. I got to use my favorite little low angle block plane. A low angle block plane is great for planing end grain and for taking very fine shavings on small parts. This particular plane is made by Lie-Nielson, but there are several companies that make them.
I cut out and camfered the edges of the spool bases and added them to the box lid. Ahhh, nearly ready for the tray and finish. I made a small tray, nice and square, to fit inside of the tramp art sewing box, which turns out, is not all that square. After a little benchtop sander work it fit.
So here is what the project looked like at the end of the evening:
Do you ever get nearly finished with a project and have one of those "Oh crap" moments? I do....
In this case I neglected to notice that the side of the lid are not the same width as the ends. So when I stuck the spools of thread on the top to see how it looked the dowels were to close to the middle on two sides. Crap. Luckily the glue had not dried and I could pry two sides off to be fixed next time.
One of these days I will learn to draw out a project before I start. More later.
Ages ago I had started to build a tramp art clock that would have flower cutouts incorporated. As it often happens, I changed the design mid-stream. So I ended up with these flower things cut out and laying in a box for a couple years. Since I sold the little green tramp art sewing box, I wanted to start a new one with a larger box. Here is the nice fancy cigar box that I started with.
This piece will be have a lift out shelf inside for supplies and a pincushion incorporated into the top. I have not quite worked out how I want to do the top yet. You can see a few of the flower cutouts to the side. I found this particular floral design in one of Bernard Mason's books from the 1930's. He lists this design as one used by native americans on birch bark basket decoration.