Friday, December 13, 2013

Self-Employed Craftsmen Don’t Get Vacation Pay!

For me, things around here have revolved pretty much around preparing for and recovering from travel. In getting ready for NYC I had a ton of pieces to finish up before we left. (Self-employed craftsmen don’t get vacation pay!) When I got back I had to dive right back into it. This was partially to recover from being out of the studio for a week and partially to prepare for our next trip over Christmas. Seeing as we will be in WA at my parent’s place for a week and a half I’ve really got to work my tail off. Concurrently everything is setting into deep freeze outside now. Light frosts are behind us and the ground is now ice (at least for the first 6 inches). I would know.... I’ve been trying to finish up those lingering outside projects before they get any further buried in snow.

A table all topsy-turvy

Water damaged marquetry surface

Julia has been rehearsing for and is now performing in the Bagaduce Choral Christmas performance. It always takes a lot of practice and energy but she loves it so much. This year the director really set the bar high for them. I haven’t seen the performance yet but can’t wait to see it tomorrow afternoon.

The goats are fluff balls with these chilly days. This is their first winter and it appears to be a rude surprise to them. The chickens crossed their legs in protest a few months ago. We have 40 or 50 layers right now and are averaging about three eggs a day. Five would be exceptional. For the first time in years, we bought eggs from the store. It feels silly filling the feed bin in the chicken house only to go to the store and pay $3.oo for a dozen eggs. Molting. Hmmf.

Guess which one of these is the homegrown egg.

This is what happens when you wrestle a burdock plant

Kyle and I have done some more milling. We still have more to go. I’m making plans to convert my woodshed into a temporary workshop for cutting the joinery for the frame over the winter. I really really want to be ready to raise as soon as the ground thaws in spring. We’ll see.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

French Polishing with Mitch Kohanek

I miss this man. Mitch Kohanek was the instructor at my alma mater The National Institute of Wood Finishing. This video brings me back to my days in school. I recall it took me several hours of practicing to learn the delicate balance of alcohol, shellac, and oil involved in Mitch's method of French Polishing. Boy was it satisfying the first time I saw that "comet tail".

Thanks for sharing, Mitch!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

4 Museums in 3 Days

Last winter I made plans to take a trip down to NYC to meet with some friends from the Professional Refinisher’s Group at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Yale Furniture Study. The morning of my Greyhound departure Maine got blasted with piles of snow. I was snow bound for days.

Seeing as my ticket was non-refundable, I felt obligated to reschedule the ticket for a later date. After some figuring, Julia and I finagled a way to buy her a ticket, get care for Eden, and plan an extended version of the trip.So last week Julia and I spent five days down in NYC, New Haven, CT, and Philadelphia. I won’t bore you with a lot of small details but here’s the summary:

Day one: Eleven hour Greyhound bus from Bangor, ME to Port Authority in New York City. Hopped on train to Montclair, NJ to get Thai with our friends Marisol and Will and then we crashed at their place that night.

Day Two: Took the train to meet up with John Coffey, furniture restorer (and an astute furniture connoisseur) at the Met Museum in NYC. John took us through the exhaustive American Wing and led us through at our pace. We both felt like we were racing through the exhibits but barely got through the whole thing in time to leave. If you haven’t been yet, the place is enormous.

One of the cool things we saw was the case room. This had a lot of the furniture not on display in rows in glass cases. There was one chest of drawers set up in an “exploded” view. All the joinery was disassembled and exposed to show how these things are put together. It was a smart display. It was wonderful to finally meet John face to face after the past few years dialoguing in our professional listserv “Groop”.

From the Met, we hopped on a train down to Philly to stay with our friends, Lauren and Ryan. Had an excellent dinner and lots of laughs before bed. These people are a riot. Julia and I hadn’t laughed that hard in a while.

Philly at night.

Day Three: Julia spent the day with Lauren and the kids and I borrowed a car to drive down to The Winterthur Museum. After driving in circles for way too long, I finally got decent directions and made my way to the Brandywine Valley in Delaware. Absolutely stunning… Picturesque rolling hills everywhere. When I arrived at the Museum, I spent some time in the new Philadelphia furniture exhibit waiting to connect with Greg Landrey. The exhibit was delightful. I was particularly interested in the “Regional Characteristics” display comparing details on New York, Philadelphia, and Boston pieces of the same form. It was great to see them all together for comparison.

Just as I was subsumed in the gallery, Greg Landrey came over to find me to give me a tour of the Dominy shop and the Conservation Department. Greg was incredibly generous with his time in an already busy day. I am very grateful for his willingness to share with me. (And thanks to Freddy for connecting Greg and I!)

Shots of the Dominy shop.

Some of the extant Dominy pieces with the patterns mounted next to them!

I also took one of the house tours. Winterthur has always been hyped as the “Mecca” of American furniture collections and I was not sure if it would live up to that hype. All I can say is that it far exceeded my expectations and it was the highlight of the trip. I had never seen anything like this before. The house is made up of 175 opulent period rooms assembled into one building and was more than fully furnished. To say DuPont was an obsessed collector would be a radical understatement. I was nothing short of astonished during my time at Winterthur.

After I arrived back at the house in PA we went out to get yummy greasy food at King’s Corner. Old Rasputin and Fish and Chips. What more could you ask for?

Day Four: Left PA on an early train headed up to New Haven, CT to visit the Yale Furniture Study. We were blown away again at the generosity of the staff. Eric Litke gave us an hour and a half of his day showing us through this delightful collection. This one is cool because it offers something a little different than the others: all of the pieces are organized by form in long rows. This gives you a really great sense of the progression of change in design over time. Also of note was that it was mixed high style pieces right alongside “middle class” pieces. (Or as in the Sack system, it had “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” examples.)

Look familiar?

Beautiful Dunlap carving

Original surface "mahoganized" maple chest.

After the Furniture Study, we met up with my friend Jim Young to go the Yale University Art Gallery. (More furniture!) You would think after all this museum time I would be tired of looking at Historic American Decorative Arts. Nope. I wish I had more time to look a little more closely. We crashed at Jim’s place that night.

Make no mistake: This one's Nancy's.

Day Five: Early train to NYC to walk around Chelsea, etc before catching our bus back to Maine. Two more food recommendations: 1. UR Cup Coffee in Chelsea. (Went on a recommendation. Incredible.) 2. Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It’s a gourmet hipster burger joint. Pricey but worth it. We were even able to pick up a Mast Brothers chocolate bar there. Never heard of these $9.00 bars? Well I never thought I’d honestly believe it but they are worth the nine bucks. It changed the way I think about chocolate. I’ll be able to afford one about once a year but… dang, they’re good.

Fat squirrels like fast food.

Caught our one o’clock bus out of Port Authority and made our way back home. The bus ride wasn’t exactly comfortable but what can you expect? Made it home by 2:30 am Saturday and snuggled our son before collapsing into bed.

Talk about a full trip. Friends, food, and furniture. As I write this post on Sunday evening, Julia is passed out on the couch. It might take us a little while to fully recover from this one. Rest is in order but oh my, I can’t wait to get back to these places.