Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

rustic furniture

History of the Big A$$ Beer Drinking Chair.

Painted Folk Art, Rustic FurnitureRob GorrellComment

One of the first questions  people used to ask me at crafts show was "Can I put this outside?"  My answer was always yes. Because, you can put your dining room table outside if you want to after all. The next questions were usually will it rot and will it get bugs. Again the answers were yes. This may have killed some sales, but was true. Then I would tell them that their dining room table would rot and get bugs outside also. In my experience the maple  and willow furniture that I made would get a little wobbly after two or three years in direct weather and would be in bad shape by five. However, under roof the furniture would last a long time. Just how long became apparent the other day when my wife and I tried to figure out how old the "Big Ass Beer Drinking Chair" that sits on the front porch was.  I got to digging in the files and found that it was made in 1997 or 1998. Here is a pre-digital scan of the chair in 1998. Man did I need to get a better camera and learn how to use it.We used the chair around the yard and on the porch for several years.  By 2005 it was showing some wear. We had been soaking it once or twice a year with a water sealer to preserve the chair. Here is the chair on the porch in 2005.

Well, by this time even water sealer was losing out to bugs and nature. The bark had held on longer than I thought it would, but was coming loose. We stuck the chair out in the yard on the bricks to let nature take her course with the chair. At some point we dry brushed some white paint on the chair, because as the glorious Dolly Parton says, "a good coat of paint makes any old barn look good".

At some point we just painted the whole thing white and put it on the porch. I don't know when that was, but there have been several coats of white.  One leg is a little short now and I need to replace a piece in the back, but the chair is still functional and will hold you up while drinking a beer or whatever.


Why did I write this rather pointless post? Not sure. I guess I was just surprised that the chair has lasted this long.

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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>When you've made a Dork Fish, Punk Fish must follow.

Painted Folk ArtRob GorrellComment

>Usually when I get on a kick to make something I will cut out parts for a few of the item. Part of the reason I do this is my more production oriented past with rustic furniture, and partly because I figure at some point I will screw up part of the job and have to start over.  Every now and then things go well and I end up with sort of a series of variations on a theme. In this case it is a fish series I guess. When I was making Dork Fish I kept thinking of this box of old nails used to fasten wooden plaster lath that I had been hoarding for years.  The idea of using the nails to make wild hair on something kept rolling around in my head. Then, while looking through some old guide books for England I saw photos from the punk period and, as they say over the pond, "Bob's your uncle", Punk Fish.

So after some more folk art style carving, paint distressing, and so on, here is Punk Fish:

I have to admit that we did not see anything quite like this in London, but it's a big city, we could have missed it. Oh, and if you are planning a trip to the UK, check the Iceland Volcano situation....
Here is a close up of our man Punk Fish:
This item is in my Etsy store .

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>May I present, Dork Fish.

Painted Folk ArtRob GorrellComment


 I finally finished the Dork Fish and took some decent photos.  In a previous post I described some of the construction of this project. It is made from all salvaged and reused items.  The fish is carved from salvaged poplar, the fins are parts of tin cans and the bobbers and lures are found.  The background is made from re-worked beer caps,  which I hate to admit, we made available ourselves.

Is calling a fish a dork politically incorrect? He doesn't seem to mind.  He has his pocket protector, pencils, glasses and is ready to go (sorry).

Here you can see some detail of how I put the project together.  The total dimensions are about 17 x 31 inches.

Dork fish is for sale in my Etsy Store .

>It's time for a garden party, rustic style.

WhateverRob GorrellComment

>The other night we had some of our friends over for a casual dinner in the garden. Shelley set a nice table under the dogwood tree and we put the jazz channel on the radio and we were set. It seems like we have to have company to get ourselves to quit working on the garden and just enjoy it. Does that happen to you? you can't really tell from the photos but we have been working for the past few seasons to convert more of our property into food producing space. We have replaced box woods with blueberries and a pathway with a variety of raspberries and blackberries. I guess we are becoming part of the urban farming movement on a very small scale.

We found that there was not enough light in the back yard for vegetables and moved them onto the driveway, which gave me another rustic project to build. I made these tripods from local willow.I guess I really don't have a point to make, just wanted to show off my herbs before they blister in the heat and croak on me.