February 2014 archive

Painted Canvases Decorated

I held onto the three painted canvases for a while, trying to decide what to do with them. I knew I wanted some texture on them, but that they would probably not be able to support having anything heavy glued directly to them.

I ended up deciding to wrap them randomly in white raffia, and for one of them, the yellow one, I also glued that air clay flower I made earlier to the raffia. I painted the flower first, because the white clay got stained and dingy as I worked with it.

I tied the raffia behind the canvas, rather than gluing it down, so if I ever change my mind, I can remove it easily without damage to the canvases.

yellow painted canvas with clay flowerpink painted canvas with wrapping of white raffia

How to Sculpt Plaster

The title of this post is a question, definitely, not an answer. I’ve been in love for ages with all sorts of Moroccan design… such amazing patterns, colors, tiles, fabrics. But oddly, for me, the very most amazing things are the incredibly detailed white plaster carvings.

Apart from just a couple of videos of artisans at work, using the Internet to learn to carve plaster, even crudely, is not a good method, since it’s such a tactile thing to learn. So, with nothing much to go on, I just plunged in. I bought some craft plaster and some cheap carving tools from a local shop and gave it a whirl.

plaster carved celtic knot design

My first and rough effort at plaster carving

I mixed the plaster according to the package instructions, put it into an empty metal lid left over from a package of food, cut out a simple Celtic knot design from card stock, added some crushed green chalk into an old sock, laid the pattern on the plaster, and pounced the chalk-filled sock on top, to make a color ‘tracing’ of the design.

I then carved and carved, using the card stock design as a reference for when the ribbons of the knot should go over and when they should go under. The lack of an outer edge of my pattern was a challenge. And I learned that once the plaster hardens completely, it’s obviously hard to work with it, ha, ha, but yet perilously easy to carve too much from the wrong spots.

I really want to keep trying to learn this craft properly, but I’m at a loss as to where to find a teacher.

The New York Times had an article in 2001 about how the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired a crew of artists to create a Moroccan courtyard, which features just stunning video and images of the artisans at work. Obviously, to become a master at this would take a lifetime that I do not have, but I’d still like to learn as much as I can.

The Clawed Paw of Doom and Other Challenges

photo of catI was thinking just last evening that it’s odd, but the biggest obstacle, the greatest challenge to completing any projects in my home (especially ones involving sticky substances like glue or paint) is in fact my cat.

Yes. A tiny tortoiseshell domestic American Shorthair is my Nemesis.

Meet Elemauzer the Terribly Inquisitive.

General Mauzursky the Crafty Strategist and Destroyer of Projects.

Mauzer the Beloved But Often Annoying.

Wherever there is activity she’ll be there and right in the middle of it. Is it crucial that a drying piece not be disturbed? She’ll find it and knock it askew.

cat hiding in wrapping paperIf I’m working on something, she’s there, walking all over the gold leaf, brushing up against the wet paint to smear it, shedding into everything. She’s like a kid that wants to scrawl her name in wet concrete.

If I lock her out of a room to work, well. There is a reason the word caterwaul exists, isn’t there?

Other challenges to getting things done include:

  1. Fear of failing.
    I’m always worried that I won’t be able to complete the project correctly and will waste money and time. I always have to remind myself that this will indeed happen with some things, but that there will also be fun successes along the way.
  2. Dislike of shopping.
    I really dislike shopping, hate going to stores, and I find that in order to do projects, well, there’s a lot of shopping needed. I need to really gear up to go in search of any needed supplies.
  3. Lack of patience.
    I always want to skip a step or hurry things along. Waiting for the drying, the sanding, the curing, the application of many thin layers is a challenge, because I like to work fast and have things done, but, of course, there are almost never any effective shortcuts.
  4. Laziness.
    I used to be a Type A person, and was always doing something. But after years of that nonsense, I really feel quite lazy and tired. Once I start a project and get absorbed into it, there is that lovely sense of time slipping away and being totally present in the job at hand, but getting started is the tough bit.

It’s a good thing that I generally enjoy myself once I’ve gotten past these hurdles, or I’d never get any stuff finished. And it’s a good thing the cat can still manage to look dignified, even after rubbing against wet paint and coming away with half her whiskers purple.