Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I’m watching the snow fall, the very snow I’ve been waiting for all year. I understand, people in other parts of the U.S. scoff at Oregonians’ inability to drive in the snow, dress for snow or, let’s be honest, think in the snow. Snow starts coming down and we flee the workplace by the thousands convinced it’s the end of the world and we’re all going to freeze to death. On the other hand, what group of people knows more about seasonal affective disorder than Oregonians?

Although we’re only getting our snow now, we had a savage cold snap in early December. The lows were in the single digits. And again, I understand, this is nothing for you folks in Montana (Stacey Jean Barron of Missoula, Montana, I’m talking to you) but for us it was unexpected, especially for beekeepers. A friend lost two hives, and we have no idea whether our bees are still alive. Anyway, it’s still pretty out there:

Sculptures in the snow.

Lee Kelly sculptures in the snow. The one in the foreground is from the 1960′s. The lonely table in the background is where The Theory and I had lunch during the reno. It was sunny and warm then. Seems so long ago now.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead. I don’t want to talk about it.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales. That’s Akbar’s Elephant in the background, a stainless steel sculpture by my father. Sculptures always look great in the snow.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

Well, I need to get the hurricane lamps set up in case we lose power. A happy snow day to all… and to my bees, good luck.

Caprice

For Christmas this year (no doubt as part of his therapy), The Theory made me a little book of pictures entitled Caprice. The images are from our kitchen renovation and show details of old wallpaper, textures and other strange follies we found under the wall board. For instance, we found newspaper pages glued to the wall as insulation, which looked like photo transfers in contemporary mixed media art. In other places, we found layers of paint (probably lead-based) dripping and flowing over one another in fantastical shapes. In other places, someone patched holes in the original walls with old Folgers coffee tin lids.

You can just make out the words “drip grind” along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

The Theory photographed these occurrences as they came to light not just to document the reno, but also in stunned amazement at the activities of our house’s previous owners. Who were these people?

About the title
A caprice is a kind of architectural fantasy tableau made up of buildings, statuary, archaeological remains such as columns, arches and  broken sculptures looted from ancient sites, all combined in a landscape setting to tell the story of some fantastical, imaginary past. Merriam-Webster also defines caprice as a sudden, impulsive, unpredictable and seemingly unmotivated notion or action. I’m not sure which definition I like best to describe what we found under the walls of the kitchen. Evidence of a mysterious world long gone certainly, but also it was just so random, so… capricious.

Some of the images in Caprice seem like art waiting to be made. I can see building up a dense layer of impasto on a board and working in layers of wax and sand and charcoal to make a grid of squares and circles like what we found under our kitchen tile. And if it caught my imagination, others might want to try it too.

Detail of counter substrate.

Detail of counter substrate.

So I asked The Theory if he would make a pdf copy of Caprice (with all the private bits removed; use your imagination) that I could share with other artists for inspiration. So here it is, take it and use it. I also have a link to the file in the Free Box on the upper right side of this page where it will always be available for download. Keep in mind that it is a large file, over 8 mg, and might be slow to transfer.

And before anyone asks (by anyone, I mean John) why I didn’t just save a step and keep the grotty old 1979 plywood and call it art, I confess, it did cross my mind. But what’s the fun in that?

There and Back Again

Hello! Yes, friends, I’m back from the Reno Recovery Unit at Bellevue Oregon. This is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. When last we spoke, I had petrified albino rats on my mind and not much hope that the renovation of our kitchen would never be finished. I wasn’t far wrong on that last one. Still need to do some touch up wall work and some painting.

We moved back into the kitchen in late September, after the rains started—September was one of the wettest months of the year. There’s nothing like grilling in the rain, or washing dishes on your knees in the bathtub. Whoa, flashback! The doctors at RRU said there’d be days like this. [BTW, there isn't any such place as a recovery unit for crazy DIY-ers, it's just wishful thinking on my part. If it did exist, The Theory and I would still be there, eating soft-boiled eggs and watching daytime television.]

I offer some before-and-afters as proof that it wasn’t all a dream:

Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Sink wall before. Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood sheet of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Here's the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Here’s the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you'll note the lived-in look.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you’ll note the lived-in look.

Before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It's acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stove wall before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It’s acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that's NOT an improvement.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that’s NOT an improvement.

Where’s the art?

To be honest, it’s taken me three hours to write this post. That’s how un-creative DIY has left me. For instance, I spent my xmas vacation curled under the duvet watching Wallander and developing a weird crush on Kenneth Branaugh. I think it was because he cried during season two, which is something The Theory did often during the reno. <sigh> Now that I’ve seen all the Wallenders I’ll have to think of something else to do. Art, anyone?

I’m feeling melancholy today as I enter my last few days of vacation. I’ll miss the electrician coming on Monday, the water heater installation and a bunch of other really great landmark activities! No, really, I mean it. I love this project.

I admit things got rough when the temperatures dropped and it rained while we were waiting for the floor stain to dry. It turned the floor rehab into an Epic. This morning, The Theory and I are arguing over who gets to add the second coat of polyurethane. I think I have a more even hand, but he thinks I am “disempowering” him. This is the kind of gender hate-speech that causes relationships to founder during DIY home improvement projects.

Here’s what he should have said: “K, you tend to apply too much poly, that’s why the first coat took 14 hours to dry.” And I would have said, “Remember what happened with the stain.” And he would have said, “In the spirit of revolutionary self-criticism, I accept your words.” This is what an argument looks like at our house, and it’s very hard to know when you’ve won.

Here are some good things to remember:

  • The sheet rock is up and mudded.
  • The floors look great.
  • Dennis, the tool rental guy at Home Depot, says that finding an unbelievably large cache of rodent crap behind the walls is perfectly normal in older houses.

I haven’t shown any images of the stove wall because it seemed dull compared to the L wall. But it had some great wall paper.

Here’s the stove wall after the demo:

See how there are two different wall papers?

See how there are two different wall papers?

Closeups of the two competing wall papers:

This wall paper had the bright colors of old Fiestaware. We guessed it was from the 30's or 40's. Water damage made it impossible to preserve any of it.

This wall paper had the bright colors of old Fiestaware. We guessed it was from the 30′s or 40′s. Water damage made it impossible to preserve any of it.

Much less attractive paper from a later era.

Much less attractive paper from a later era.

How the wall looks with sheet rock in place:

Stove wall with sheet rock. Order from chaos.

Stove wall with sheet rock. Order from chaos.

The day started out beautifully. The stove and dishwasher arrived on time and, without flinching, the loader guys hauled away the old stove. They didn’t mention the smell in the kitchen, but they were distinctly ashen-faced as they departed.

Then the electrician arrived. When I first called the electrician, I thought of it as a kind of courtesy. You know, the guy would show up, look at the plugs and say something like, “Looks good to me!” Okay. That didn’t happen. Why doesn’t it ever happen?

What the electrician said—or the only words I could understand—was, “We need to bring this place up to code.” Then he rattled off a battle plan that included pulling circuits “off the box” and drilling holes through walls and no, we couldn’t sheetrock anything, and no, he wasn’t coming back any time soon. And yes it was going to cost something.

As he ran to his truck, hand over his nose, he said, “See you next Thursday, Friday or Monday!”

In the afternoon, The Theory removed the rest of the sink. In another ingenious innovation, one of our farmer-husband had  actually constructed the sink base cabinet around the plumbing. The Theory had to get in there with the saber saw, wielding it like a surgical scalpel until all the bits and pieces were removed. As he removed the final pedestal, he discovered the source of the smell.

I just want to pause here for a moment and confess that I didn’t actually SEE the dead rat corpses. The Theory claims they were strange, albino creatures, many decades old. But let’s just think about this for a moment, okay? I raised two children in that house. With those rats.

Under the dead rats were layers of insulation and rat feces. Think of it as a 14-layer torte of disgust.  But under all that, guess what he found? Floor boards—actual floor boards!

The best part is that smell, that funky dead rat smell, is gone. And no, there aren’t any pictures.

Mulder? Is that you?

Scully and Mulder peering in the window.

So The Theory and I were sitting around after work on Day Three. From the patio we could see into kitchen, with an excellent view of the fridge-stove wall. Shreds of rotted sheetrock and mid-century wallpaper hung from the ceiling. Our dead stove hulked inside, greasy and abandoned. Neither of us wanted to go back into that house. The bad smell we first noticed on Day Two had gotten steadily worse.

The Theory was the first to say it. “It looks like that episode of the X-Files where the family has been interbreeding for generations.” For the record, he didn’t use the word “interbreeding.”

That day, The Theory had removed all traces of the Russian stacking doll cabinets. We hauled out 720 pounds of detritus, most of which was little more than splinters with nasty old nails sticking out in all directions. We shoveled out a hundred years of mouse (and rat, yes, rat) feces. All that was left behind was the sink unit—we still had running water for one more day.

Sadly, we discovered there weren’t any floor boards under all that. Oh well! Who needs a floor? The underlayment the floor boards were supposed to be attached to was still there, and seemed okay. But that smell! That funky smell!

Here’s our pathetic sink, last bastion of civilization.

Our sink on Day Three.

Our sink on Day Three.

And here’s the left-side of what was once an L. But we just call it The Wall:

Strange, yet oddly beautiful wall. We suspect this was part of the original, original, (deep breath) original house.

Strange, yet oddly beautiful wall. We suspect this was part of the original, original, (deep breath) original house.

So back to the evening of Day Three, after we realized that something might still be living in there. The Theory snapped a few gloomy shots. But first, here’s the X-Files house for comparison purposes:

Home

Home

And now our house:

The ressemblence is amazing!

The resemblance is amazing! And to think, we get to sleep no more than ten feet from that every night.

More trace evidence:

Paint...or is it?

Paint…or is it?

And here is one of the two coffee can lids we found nailed to the wall. I’m thinking it might have something to do with mice:

You can just make out the words "drip grind" along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

You can just make out the words “drip grind” along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

Intermission

Back to encaustic for just a tick. Here’s a good post from Pistrucci Artworks blog, source of many ingenious art material solutions. This post offers several recipes for cold wax paste as a medium for oil paint, including one using a citrus oil solvent. Two of these recipes want the user to melt the wax and add turpentine to the heated mixture. Conduct yourselves with caution if you choose to try it this way!

Here are some images and random patterns we found under the counter and boards in the kitchen. If you don’t think about what they actually are (mold and rot and chaotic paint splatters) they can be quite beautiful.

Decades of paint.

Decades of paint.

Colors are quite clear after being boarded up for so long.

Colors are quite clear after being boarded up for so long.

The counter from our era, after the tiles were removed.

The counter from our era, after the tiles were removed.

Detail of counter substrate.

Detail of counter substrate.

DSC_0085

I can see replicating this with wax and graphite.

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers

%d bloggers like this: