Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

painted furniture

Tramp Art Church Cupboard with Round Top finished.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Tramp Art, UncategorizedRob Gorrell1 Comment

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:

Building a tramp art cupboard.

Painted Folk Art, Rustic Furniture, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

Tramp art hidden drawer cupboard. I made this painted tramp art cupboard a while back but have been wanting to show the process of how it was made.  Like many things I make, this one changed several times before I came up with something that I was really happy with.

This whole thing started when I bought about 1000 reject drawers for router cabinets from my local Woodcraft store. I figured they would be a good starting point for lots of different projects that required small drawers. One idea was to make a small cupboard that would hold several small drawers. I wanted this cupboard to be plain on the outside, and a bold surprise on the inside. Dan Mack once said that you should not explain your piece to the viewer, but instead, let the piece open up and allow the viewer to discover the story for themselves. I wanted the story to be inside of this cupboard, waiting to be discovered.

My brother was remodeling and old country post office building that needed a new roof. The old roof had really cool pressed tin panels that were rusted nearly to the point of falling apart. I also had a stash of reject walnut lumber to use for the case.

Tramp art cupboard roughed in.

Here you can see the cupboard being roughed in. I decided to use some birch plywood for the doors to keep them from warping. You can see that I am going to have to piece together the tin panels to cover the doors completely. Getting the old rusty tin to form neatly around the door panels was a bit challenging. The old paint kept flaking off where I did not want it to.

I added chip carved fronts to the drawers and matching chip carved panels on the insides of the drawers. I added only simple edge-carved side panels on the outside.

Here is what the primitive cupboard looked like with the doors attached and the tramp art carving completed.

Tramp art cupboard ready to paint.
Tramp art cupboard ready to paint.

Ok, here is where I ran into trouble.  My plan was to have the inside be very bright and decided to go with an americana set of colors. I should add that I usually need to consult Shelley about colors to get something that looks good. I did not do this.... So here is where the paint job ended up for a while.

Red white and blue tramp art cupboard.

Now this is with my old camera, and the red did not look quite this bad, but it was close.  It did not take long to realize that this cupboard was not finished. I let it stew for a few weeks to see what would happen.

This was about the point where I started adding metalworking tools to my little shop. I also found some patina solution in our supplies that put a copper patina over a base metal, in this case, tin.  So I fiddled around with crinkled tin panels that followed the lines in the tin on the doors, and added the patina in several layers.

For the inside I went with a sort of new age-y green with metallic blue, gold and green speckles.  It sort of ended up with a green night sky sort of feel that I was very happy with.  By adding the door panels and repainting the inside I came up with a neat little cupboard that I am pretty happy with...for now. Here is the finished cupboard. It is about 14 inches tall and about 5" deep.

Hidden drawer tramp art cupboard

Hidden drawer tramp art cupboard, open


In retrospect, 1000 drawers was about 950 more than I really needed. I ended up giving them away by the case. The last 450 or so went to the local school art department.  At least they did not end up in the landfill.

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I've started a new tramp art sewing box.

Painted Folk Art, Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment

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.

Cigar box for tramp art sewing box
Cigar box for tramp art sewing box

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.

This next photo was taken after the first evenings work. I had the front design pretty well worked out.  I wanted to have the flowers sort of go behind the layers visually. When I am finished there will be another layer or two on the flowers. I am using more of the pine from previous projects for the decoration on this box. It carves really easy as long as I am careful not to over cut and split off the points.

Tramp art sewing box at the end of day one.

The next time I post on this project I should have the front and sides ready for whatever finish I decide to use.

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>Hidden Tramp Art Tin Cupboard

Tramp ArtRob GorrellComment


For a while now I have been playing with the idea of surprise, the finding of the unexpected, the light under a bushel theme. I wanted to design and create a tramp art piece that did not look like a tramp art creation at first glance.

The design came to me as I was working on the church box that I posted a while back. I decided to hide the tramp art in a box.
Shelley and I have been talking about working the idea of a church triptych into a tramp art or folk art design. We like the idea of a three-panel design enclosed in a cabinet that would be opened on special occasions. This project seemed like a good place to try it.
The cupboard shown is made from salvaged walnut. the drawers are more of the discarded router cabinet drawers that I have used on other projects (I still have hundreds to use). You can see that the tramp art elements are on the drawer fronts and the inside of the drawers, and can only be seen when the cabinet is opened and presented.

The doors are wrapped in some very rusty roof tin from the old Grape Island Post Office. The layers of rust, paint and dirt add a wonderful patina to the tin.

The inside of the cupboard needed to be bright. I decided to use red, white and blue with a little bit of weathering. I wanted the opening of the cupboard to be a blast of color.

Now that the cupboard is finished I look at it and wonder what it is about. Is the red white blue buried under a layer of decay? Or is the spirit symbolized by the colors bursting forth through the darkness? Hmmm. That's for someone deeper than me to figure out.

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