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.
In my previous post I talked about how I used tin and wood to make this church influenced tramp art cupboard. At that time I was satisfied with the way the tin accents worked with the tramp art carved cupboard, but did not like how shiny the whole piece looked. I wanted to feel the influence of the weathered roofs and walls of the churches and cathedrals of England and France, that feeling of both resistance and decay battling for command. What I had was what looked to me like an Erector Set project gone wierd. It took several attempts to finish this cupboard. I couldn't seem to come up with a combination of finishes or treatments to get the patina I wanted on the metal. I started out trying to get a nice rusty look using salt water and time. But that was taking way to long and not getting the level of rust that I wanted. So I switched to diluted ferric chloride and man did that take care of the problem. It ate the tin off of the base metal in swathes. It actually did more damage than I wanted and I ended up with a very dull brown box with tarnished tin.
I have had several colors of bronzing powders in the paint cupboard since some time in the late 80's. They give a really nice metallic finish and are easy to work with once you figure out how much binder you want to mix in to the powders.
Gold was the first color I used and I thought I had completely ruined the thing. I hated it. So I started throwing green and blue (yep, the old load the brush and fling it technique) at it and things started happening.
You can see here how the colors and layers worked over the punched designs in the tin and wood. The brown is actually a little darker that what you see. The green, blue and gold metals, along with the corroded tin and wood work well together.
Overall I am happy with the results. Somehow my wife's first comment on seeing the end result was that it looked like a forest from a distance. ??? Oh, and it was her idea to put the ball feet on the box. That detail really lightened up the feel of the whole cupboard. Before that it seemed kind of flabby and bottom heavy.
This project helped me start learning some metal working techniques that are new for me, along with using the punchs to incise the wood. I can definitely see using these ideas in future projects. If you are interested in this piece it will be listed on my Etsy site.
I finally got a couple of evenings back in the shop to work on this little cupboard again. I got side tracked getting my antique blacksmith forges ready to use now that the weather is good enough to work outside. Hopefully in a few months I will have more to say about using the forges.
In the previous post on this project I added most of the tin except for the sides. Now for the sides I have added punched tin panels with raised beading along the edges. I used my bead roller for the first time on this project and it took a little tinkering to figure out how I wanted the corners to look. I know there is a better way, which I hope to learn when I take a tinsmithing class at Campbell Folk School this fall. After adding the half round beading to the cupboard I decided it was a bit smooth. So I took a small cross peen hammer and added creases along the length of the tin. It is interesting how something as simple as a series of hammer dings can change the look of a project.
The final part to be added was the drawer pulls. In this case I heated off the shelf eye screws in my forge and reshaped them a little with a small hammer. They are mismatched and twisty and I think look pretty good against the crimped tin.
Between now and the next time I post on this project I will be working on adding a rusty patina to the tin.
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.