Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

wooden folk art

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.

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.