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!

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A miniature landscape

In the bathroom is a three door metal locker I picked up at a garage sale and cleaned up.  The bottom shelf I intend to keep as shelf, but the top two will be installations of some kind. I am making a landscape with water, rocks and snowladen pine trees in the first one. When I am done, I will cover the front with plexiglass.  Here are some of the trees:

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They are made with a skewer, some teased out felt, some scouring pads, a little steel wool, black spraypaint and green and black railway modelling flocking (comes in small bags, great stuff) which gets attached with sprayglue. They look convincing enough for the purpose. There is NOT a railway model nerd inside me at all… I just like making things. I have built up the landscape with papier mache, some gunky filler, some paint. Right now I am experimenting with the water. Will clear gloss acrylic medium look like water trickling over rock when it dries? I will find out today, as I squirted some on a couple of days ago and it was white, plus it dissolved some of the underpaint as it went on, making it look cerulean blue which is weird as the underpainting is mainly grey. Could be a disaster, will see when I look at it.

The art at the Pip

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See the fireplace on the left? It isn’t. In fact, it is papier mache and it is a lamp. In the 1700s in Sweden, there was no distinction between theatrical scenery and domestic decoration. I feel the same way. Many things at the Pip are not what they seem. Paintings in the background by Richard Baxter, Sulman Prize finalist 2014.

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 The sculpture in the bathroom wall is called The Digeftive Fyftem. It is a fair representation of your digestive system, from beginning to end, if you pardon the pun. Made from old plumbing, watchparts, hardware and miscellaneous bits. The removable appendix is an empty bullet casing.

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You might wonder why the kitchen cupboards are under the heading of ”art”. I do too, but the wooden teatowels are welcome on this page. I had been looking at the general doorlessness wondering what I could use. There was some already warped plywood in the shed and they made perfect sliding teatowels. The picture frame on the right was in an old wardrobe at the house when I bought it. It was easily the best thing in the house.

raeburn doorSince the kitchen cupboards have slid in here, I might mention more detail. The old filing cupboard is an ordinary one which I sanded and wire brushed using a drill attachment. I removed the old lock which left a hole, there is an old SA railways badge in its place. The gap left on top was covered with more recycled metal and furniture tacks. The old Raeburn doors were bolted together to make a whole. Inside is the only thing I kept from the old knackered electric stove: the metal oven racks. They make great shelves. Other cupboard shelves in the kitchen are made from things like wire fences. Have a look. It is good with see through shelves, you have no dark invisible back corners.

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Ok, I know. This is definitely not art. Yet… When the floor starts to creep up on the walls, where is the distinction? The copper I used on the floor is all from an old hot water unit. You know, the ordinary rectangular upright model which is so very common. When you cut away the square outer steel there will be the most glorious copper ready to use. It is soft and malleable. Cut carefully with tinsnips or drill with nibble attachment for instance. File all edges. Wear protective gear. Do not throw out your old copper!

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This is a little thing from the wardrobe floor. Guests are expected to open things and explore, but I find people are much more sensitive to obeying notes saying not to touch than I ever could have imagined. Regularly they ask on checking out ”What is in the trapdoor?”. I find it really nice and polite. Lovely. But go ahead, open it.

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Baron von Mueller features highly at the Pip. The walls and ceilings are full of him. Here he is bringing conifers to Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, which actually did happen in the 1800s. I have used him as my example visitor, to show what you can do in the region.

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Here he truffle hunting and visiting the Convent. In the kitchen at the Pip you can see one of the baron’s original specimen tags. He was an exploring botanist and a very interesting man. A young girl who stayed at the Pip asked when checking out ”But who WAS Baron von Mueller?”. This is a question I think we need to ask ourselves more often. You can find the answers to that in the old briefcase in the hallway, it has a few books and quite a lot of copies of the Baron’s letters.

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What is art and what is craft? Art is something which has no apparent purpose, perhaps. Craft does, for instance you could drink from a mug, or have your privacy protected by leadlight. I have a hard time separating the two and just want to fill all possible space with things which are mainly made by me in  any form or material. I find that when you create a space with uneven handmade things, the massproduced stick out as glaringly wrong. How to solve the mass produced crockery problem? I overglazed ordinary crockery. I can show you how, it is not difficult and can be fired in a domestic oven. It’s great fun and once you start you will not stop until your shelves are full.

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Below are a couple of paintings I did in the style of Chaim Soutine just to try to learn something new. They look deranged but are old favourites.

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Below is a chess board, if you open the painting up. It comes from a gallery in the Barossa where I used to exhibit many years ago. My remit was making objects, as pure paintings belonged exclusively to a different artist. Hungry to paint, I chose to make objects and then paint them. The best of both worlds! Most of the art at the Pip can be bought, but not all.

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Here we have the Baron again, running away from a wombat on the bathroom wall. This is the first one I did, and he wasn’t friends with the wombat then. In later wall paintings he actually shares his day very closely with the wombat so things must have gone ok after a shaky start.

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Half a Rhino. No more, no less. Just half. I likes rhinos a lot.

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Here I am, painting the repetitive trim which ties the cottage together. It is as close as I can make it to Albert Pictor’s most common border, a medieval church painter in Sweden. I am a huge fan of his work. Look him up if you have a minute.

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Below is a self portrait. Busy Being Good. My paintings start at around 300 for small ones, goes up to around 1000 for a bigger one. I mostly do prints at the moment which start at 25 for unframed prints. Visit me at Sister George if you want to see my work.

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One of our many local artists is Jackie Gorring. She is a printmaker of great critical acclaim. You can visit her studio a short drive away. You just need to ring first. The one below is almost totally obscured by the telescope and reflections on the glass, but I cropped the image from the larger image of the living room. She usually has quite a lot of images for sale in her studio and it is really worth a visit.

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Guests usually think this is another Baron image but it’s not. It is really me, walking a little white dog who is having a ride on a trolley. It is called Felix Doesn’t Like Snow and hopefully shows how small we all are. At least I am, the forest is big and dark yet I walk bent into the wind, pulling my little white dog. The lamp is not painted on, just in the way!

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And now for some ceilings.

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All the ceilings have their own decoration, this is the red bedroom. The words are from a Swedish song by Evert Taube called Nocturne. ”Sleep on my arm, the night hides, under its wing your blossoming cheek”…

Guests sometimes wonder if my neck is ok from all this painting but the answer is simple. The skies on the ceiling is done in situ as there is no precision involved, but all detail work is done on the ground and stuck up after completion. Anything on the walls is painted straight on. My neck is fine!

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Here is another one. The cloud painting is very simple. Here’s how to do it: Paint your ceiling any colour you like the sky to be. Could be dark and moody, sunny, pinkish or grey. Look at the sky for inspiration. Then, using a diluting medium from an artsupplier and a tiny bit of white artist’s oil paint, brush the clouds on thinly and unevenly. I use an artist’s brush, not a wall paint brush. Not too big either, less than one inch. Brush and rub, push the paint to its limit. The colour you painted the ceiling will show through giving you three dimensional depth. Add a little thicker white in places for added shape. You can do the whole job with white alone. I have added a very tiny (and I mean tiny, a little goes a long way) dab of Payne’s Grey and Vandyke Brown but it is not necessary. I suggest painting a board with the ceiling paint and practise on that before climbing the ladder. If you visit Sister George Studio Gallery, you will see a different, darker version. The best thing with clouds is that they actually make your ceilings disappear. Also, there is no right and wrong with clouds. They are all perfect.

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Here is another one, in the kitchen. It says ”Bibere Aquam”, drink the water. Sound advice when you are in Daylesford.

There is a little Danish money box on the wall in the kitchen. Open it and you will see the tiniest of origami birds. I didn’t make this, I used to keep an emergency last box of matches in there. It was a surprise from departing guests. I was touched, it was like they were contributing to the evolving surprises. It is still exactly how they left it, as is the little yellow horse left by someone else. Then, a few weeks later, another departing couple left a tiny portrait of themselves in the very same money box. Makes me laugh, still. Have a look if you come to stay, it’s worth visiting just for that. Thank you!

There are also a few works by Richard Baxter, Sulman Prize finalist 2014. The landscapes are by him, as is the enormous tree painting in the main bedroom. They fetch rather a lot more than mine do. All I can say is if art excites you even just a little bit, buy a piece. Any piece. It will lead to another before long. Suddenly you have a collection.