Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

painted folk art

Making a Parade Torch.

Folk Art, TinwareRob GorrellComment

A colleague of mine contacted me a while back about reproducing some parade torches for his reenacting activities.  He needed some torches that could be carried in political rallies and parades from the 1860's period.  This was an opportunity for me to learn something new and I was happy to take on the project. It took a series of emails and picture swapping to get to the design that seemed to work the best.  We settled on something similar to this antique design.

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I ran into a problem with the screw on spout.  The problem being that I don't have any idea how to make a screw on cap. Some other tinsmiths took a look at it with me and we threw around the idea of adapting an existing metal cap to fit, but didn't work out in the end. We ended up going with a corked spout on this batch.  if anyone is interested in teaching me how to make a screw cap I would very interested.  We also talked about a press on cap but were afraid they might leak.

The bodies were rolled on a mandrel and punched to receive the copper rivets that would hold the handles on.

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I did not get photos of making the rest of the parts. The tops and bottoms were cut and burred on a burring machine then touched up on a steel mandrel. The handle and hangers were a bit of trial and error to get right.  It's weird how simple these things always look on paper...

??????????The wicks for this series of lanterns were old smudge pot wicks I found in an antique shop.  They flame huge!  I ended up wrapping thin wire around the wick top to reign in the flame a little.  In the future I think I will try a smaller type of wick.

torch 2The torch shown above is the final design. This particular torch is made from hot dip tin which is a much more historic appearance than the shiny modern electroplate that is commonly used.

As always, I welcome any comments about the methods of construction, suggestions and opinions related to this post.

 

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.

Variations on a Parisian street sign.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Traditional woodworking, WhittlingRob GorrellComment

The Carnavalet Museum in Paris has a fantastic exhibit of trade signs made up of original metal signs saved as many sites in Paris were being torn down to make way for new streets and buildings.  One of my favorite signs was this all metal sign of  a trumpeting angel.  I have no information about the actual original use for the sign. To me she is a kick-ass messenger trumpeting some important message to passers-by.  I feel like the branches she carries might be some sort of olive branch, symbolizing the possibility of peace and joy.   I thought about this sign many times after we got home and eventually decided I wanted to make a folk art carved sign inspired by this street sign.  I wanted to combine some different materials such as copper, steel and wood to create my own version of this great antique sign.

I started out with a basswood blank and cut out the blanks for the wings and body of the angel.  I'm not much of a carver, so the carving is pretty basic. I was going for some sort of loose quilted look.  You can see where I planned to attach the wings and cape later on.

After I carved and sanded the wood parts, and put the parts together, it was time to base coat the angel.  I started with a sort of light mustardy color.  I did not want this piece to end up all dark right off the bat, so I did not antique the paint layers very much. This photo was taken early on in the painting process. And yes, I know the head looks a little Cro-Magnon at this point. Shelley helped me get it looking a bit more human before the sign was finished.

And yes, that is an awesome post vise.

I created a sort of flowing cape from some salvaged copper next and fastened it to the body behind the wings. The original sign had another apron of sorts in the front but I decided that I did not like the way it looked. So I left if off. 

It was at this point that I ran into a problem, the hair. In my mind I wanted to sign to have hair inspired by the way some girls wear their hair in big loose style like this (as a guy I guess I really don't know what the style is called, but this model is very pretty).

  My technique was to curl sections of wire and glue a number of them into the head of the angel.  Well........it did not exactly come out as I imagined. It looked more like a victim of a bizarre accident with an extension cord.  We worked on it later on in the project and got the "hair" under control. It isn't what I envisioned, but at least it is not demonic anymore. The foliage on the original sign was flat and cut out of the metal sheet with the rest of the sign. I wanted to give the sign work shape and movement with a copper garland.  It took a while to cut out all of the leaves, shape them on the mandrel and solder them to the twisted copper wire stems. I am happy with the way it came out in the end.  In fact, after seeing how the foliage came out I decided that I wanted to leave out the hanging sign that the angel was holding in the antique sign.  The trumpet is also copper as was pretty simple to work out.

The remainder of the project involved the wavy metal banner that supports the angel.  Rather than try to figure out some way to hide the bars that attach the angel to the banner, I decided to make them a prominent part of the design. Since it was a nice day when I was working on this part I used my smaller outdoor forge.  This required some creative fire management to get the large banner supported during the several heats needed to work up the banner and straps.  The hanging bars are attached to the banner with hand hammered copper rivets.

So at the end of it all we ended with the angel sign shown below.  I think it still needs a little work here and there to really finish off the project. The next project in this grain will be a scrolled metal wall bracket to support the sign outward from a wall.

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: