More tiled Ortelius

The bathroom will now be a place where you can lie and journey to places which indeed exist but not in our time. A time when Papua New Guinea was massively out of proportion, when ships were firing cannons at each other (oh, wait, they still do), when the Suez Canal had not yet been dug, and strange sea creatures surrounded Iceland. Magellan had just failed to return on his journey on the Victoria, pictured below. Or rather, the Victoria returned with all the information, but Magellan himself didn’t. You can’t have everything. The imagined coastline of Terra Australis in yellow underneath the Victoria, which connected with Tierra del Fuego in South America. Of course.

maptiles5iceland iceland2 iceland3There are explanaitons covering Iceland and it is needed. Such a complex place, with danger in volcanoes, poral bears on icefloes, animals which will kill you if you eat them, glaciers, seacows. Rudimentary knowledge of latin helps here. Pour more hot water in the bath, the perpetual nives is making me cold!

And no, I haven’t made any of it up. It is all a gridded copy of Abraham Ortelius maps, with maybe just a little rearranging of ships to fit, and cropping. The little fat thing with horns below, for instance. I take no responsibility, blame Ortelius. It is possible that I am repeating myself, I have written about the maps before and it will probably not be the last time either.

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Miniature, again…

I know I said I was done for now with the miniature landscapes but Wait! There’s More!

Just this little one, an old clock which was crying out for some timely sheep.

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miniatore19 The snow is actually sparkling a bit. Ok, I am done now.

Totally uninteresting

Over the last couple of years I have been gradually tackling the laundry. It is such an unimportant area for guests, as no one has any reason to go in there. Totally uninteresting. This is just as well, considering the huge mess it has been in. I am now thrilled to say it is showing a marked improvement. When you have reached the point of supergluing lambs to the walls, you know you are near the end, right? laundry2 I am extremely hard to please when it comes to furniture. I have been pouring over Ebay listings of chests of drawers for absolutely ages, and finally found one which I could buy though it needed a bit of work. Here it is, done. Great laundry storage, an Edwardian piece in pretty good nick. I painted the floor every second board white, every second board black. Yes, it will wear and scuff but will only improve. My friend the butler gave me an old wooden compartment thingy, here it is, screwed to the laundry wall. I think it shows just how tidy the laundry will become, and remain! laundry3I also have a beautiful ship on windowledge. It is in case the sheep needs to go somewhere (hard when you are glued to the wall, but all the same…)

laundry4Still, I am the only one who will use it, but if I can get some sort of pleasure from laundry and cleaning products, so much better. Why waste an opportunity to make a room more attractive? Why ignore the laundry? These are the Big Questions.

Bath & hall

I have been busy. Also, I have been excruciatingly slow, but in the end, I think it was worth it. I now only have a few minor things to do before the bathtub is complete. For now, here is a tiny preview. The gargoyle spout is a glazed ceramic head I have named Mr Tumnus, because he really does look like him. I made three heads when I was on the go, one was particularily fetching and rather looked like President Nixon. He actually exploded in the kiln during firing, breaking a number of things as he went. When you fire handbuilt stuff, any air bubbles trapped in the dried clay can have that effect. Shattering with violence. So, no Nixon for me. The third is installed in the wall of the library as the exit point for the speaking tube, below. bathtub3The speaking tube caused me massive trouble. The pipes are laid under the floor and once it is in, it is in and can’t be changed without enormous trouble. Too much trouble. Hence, I have been standing in the hardware plumbing department speaking into different pipes asking the staff ”Can you hear better with this? Or this?” I have had no answers. In the end I went with polypipe of maybe an inch diameter. Que sera. Well, it is now in and I can declare that it works, but you have to speak up. Your voice will appear in the library, sounding like you are sitting in a padded box.

speaking tubeI had guests test it. You can say things like ”GIVE ME ANOTHER DRINK” or even ”TURN THE RECORD OVER”. There is a turntable just outside the wall, as I will soon demonstrate. The tiles are copies of Ortelius maps, with the gargoyle sitting right on the text for Terra Australis and its vague, loosely imagined coastline. Can’t get enough maps, especially medieval ones. bathtub4I am also thrilled to have a new lamp in operation. Wiring! Plumbing! The bliss of a modern world, even if the tiled maps date back to the 1500’s. bathtub2Here is where the record player sound will come. The recordplayer was a gift from a friend, along with the vinyl collection. Hence it is a little one sided but I might add to it in time. Gloria Gaynor! Village People! Can’t stop the music… The other side of this wall is a little hallway, where I have now built a shelf for things like Gloria Gaynor, Inez Jacobsen wellies (do go for a walk in the rain) and my father’s fez which he aquired in Egypt many years ago.hall3Since we have now left the bathroom for the hall, here is the butler who is most helpful with your every wish, as long as that wish is to hold your umbrella. Today I bought him a hat, but he will graciously let you borrow it. His name is James, after a friend with whom he has a resemblance. Incidentally, the very same friend who gave me the records. hall2Close up of his hand. I carved it out of construction pine, 90×45 and stuck a hinge at the elbow.

butler1I went hat shopping at Upstairs at Alpha, which is on Vincent Street. They sell new and vintage, mixed. Always something exciting to find. The bowler was not enough, I also picked up the black and white number below. Stylish, handsome! Maybe even a little suave. hallWhilst I was building the shelves, I also added a little seat where the kindling basket can live. Cushions from Sweden. hall4

A miniature landscape version 2

Fast forward several months from whenever I posted the image of pinetrees stuck in foam. I am done with the miniatures for now. I have a built in set of old metal lockers in the bathroom. There are three, two are landscapes, sort of. The third locker is just for general storage. Bath salts. There is a plexiglass cover at the front of the landscapes.

miniature 7Here is the top landscape, hard to see and needs a better picture really. The rock is sitting in a pool of resin resembling water, reflecting the dalmatian. Clouds are 3D. They are really not very great at all, but I have thrown my hands in the air at this miniature now and am leaving it alone. Here they are.

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They are painted in the background, and fluffy in the air. Well, that was the idea anyway. Basically I just teased out some insulation and glued it into place.

The second miniature I have put a lot of glorious time into. I loved every minute.

miniature 1My initial idea was to place a tiny white dog on a bald rock, turning his back on the audience. Tall dark trees, a light covering of snow. Solitary, but not lonely. As it turned out, I came across some tiny sheep and used them instead so now the point is entirely lost. It is sheep, looking into the frozen waterfall. Means whatever you want it to mean. Cold sheep?

miniature 4miniature 2The frozen waterfall. It is really layers of squeezed on acrylic gloss medium. I want to cover the world in acrylic gloss medium. Well, nothing could be further from the truth but it provided me with hours of amusement.

miniature 5Here we can see how tiny the sheep are. I had to use tweezers to get them there.

There are some astounding artists who spend their time doing this kind of thing. These were my first attempts and I am hooked. Have a look at the art of Thomas Doyle, for instance. Disconcerting, amazing.

Ceiling paintings

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Your ceilings are an opportunity for decoration. There is a lot of space up there, unfettered by windows and doors. Since it is hard to paint upside down, you can do it the easy way and paint on boards which you glue and screw when they are finished. Fit lights as normal if you like, just drill a hole and thread the wire through.

Here I am, painting a ceiling for the Pip. It will be of Ferdinand von Mueller bringing conifers to the Botanic Gardens, an event which happened in the 1800s. I like storytelling through images. Look at the little wombat on my left. She is a tiny story on her own.

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It was just having a little look at what was happening… I painted these on thin MDF (about the only tine I will use MDF). I have tried canvas in the past, and kind of wallpapered it up. Not so good, problems with bubbles and unevenness, since you can’t stretch it. You could draw on paper and glue it up too I suppose, anything goes. I put a couple of coats of gesso on first, then I paint with artist’s oils.

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painting20This is what my scetches look like. Very loose, more like ideas really. The rest happens on the painting itself. It I was to do a detailed sketch I would already be sick of it before painting it, and the element of surprise which I need will be gone, depriving me of pleasure. This is pretty much how I do most things, a loose idea in my head and then I work it through as I am doing it.

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Starting a different one. The long bits on the left are to extend my cornices, making them more impressive. No, I don’t stencil. I find it just as quick to paint straight on, and give me the bonus of a general unevenness which is something I always strive for. I have looked very hard at Albert Pictor for my borders and general style. He was a medieval church painter and pearl embroiderer in Sweden, and he did borders JUST like these. Being a church painter, he also filled all the wall space with stories.

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Starting a fill of greeny-yellowy tendrils, with leaves and exotic blooms. Yes, I have changed clothes, twice now. It takes a little while to do a ceiling like this, I usually keep several things on the go as you have to wait for oilpaint to dry or you put your hand in it.

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I have roughly scetched out the tendrils in pencil. I use a coloured art pencil as a lead one will dissolve and smudge into the oilpaint, leaving it dirty looking.

painting9The nuances and colour shifts in the paint are very simple to achieve. Simply squeeze out a little of three colours or so, along with a little medium (dilutes the paint), Put some on your brush without mixing with any great intention, go back for more, brush it out, repeat. Every time you go back for more the paint gives you a little different look for those strokes as you brush them out. Oil blends easily.

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The ground looks far more yellow in the photo than in real life. The men are two gold panners having a conversation. What about? Gold, of course. I attached the tendrils to the ground next to the miners, to grow out from them and take flight in their fancy gold dreams

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Here is another one, again with the same borders. Though I vary the insides, I feel it gives greater cohesion to maintain a similarity of theme. I have changed clothes again, and appear to have lost my hat. What’s the inside of this one? Who knows! I do round ones too, for more images head to the permanent page of ”the art” in the menu.

You need help putting them up if there is wiring to pull through. I can do them by myself unless they are very big and if there is no wiring, but usually there is a central ceiling light to navigate around.

Use liquid nails or similar building adhesive, have a long stick handy with a cloth at the top end to jam the painting to the floor with and work fast.

Map coffee table

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I like the current coffee table in the living room, but being round, is not the best shape for the space. Also, I find I am scrabbling around with a tiny paper map every time I check in guests, to show them where things are. The solution is to get a longer table and a map of the area in one go! Here is how I made mine. The only material which isn’t recycled is the trims around the table edges. The top is what I cut out of the kitchen counter for the sink, and all the wood is the old lean-to floor (which was badly rotted and needed replacing, but I have cut off all the bad bits). Here is a piece of the wood, before trimming.coffeetable9First I trimmed, painted and put three coats of varnish the table top, then I cut and sanded all the wood. I will have a crossed over leg, a little like a picnic bench, and I need to make a join to make the legs sit flush. I set the circular saw to half depth and ran it over the wood several times. A handsaw works too. To work out good sizes and heights for any furniture I make, I use the IKEA catalogue. It tells you exactly the dimensions and proportions of anything you can think of. A perfect design accompaniment. Also can answer visual questions like ”how do you support a chair leg?” I wouldn’t be without it.

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Chisel out the joins. You can make it easy for yourself and simply use two bolts and overlap the legs instead but I think this looks better, less ”picnicky”. When you have checked that the two halves fit into each other, use some woodglue and nails or screws to get it together. I am using clouts, which is a nail with large flat head for the visual effect. There is no need at all to use five, as I have done, but it forms a pattern. My nails reach almost all the way through both layers. Check that you don’t use too long nails (or too short…).

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Now I need to attach the top and bottom wood to the crosses. Because I am using hardwood, I have to predrill everything. I also have to make sure the screws will countersink. If you are doing that, use a large drillbit to make a short hole and check by holding the screw in the wrong way. If the head fits, you are ready to screw it in.

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Attach top and bottom.

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Time for the trim on the table top. Because I am using a composite material for the benchtops, nails won’t take to it very well. I am using a construction adhesive, the nails will only hold it temporarily. This brings me to a great trick I have. It is magic. Usually, when you use a tube of building glue or any other tube product, you will lose some or the whole tube between uses if you don’t use it all up very quickly. I have a remedy! Keep the tube you just finished, unscrew the nozzle and jam the next tube straight in it. You will find it acts as a perfect lid, matching product with product airlessly. It will still go off but much much slower.

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Screw the crosses to the table top.

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I also added two bracing planks, cut at 45 degrees. This makes the structure free from wobbles.

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All done!