Tile floors

Impeccable book design by Giulia Garbin.

I noticed this book in the “New” section of the library, mostly because the design aesthetic is so similar to my own. Star Power, A simple guide to astrology for the modern mystic by Vanessa Montgomery, was designed and illustrated by Giulia Garbin.

Illustration by Giulia Garbin.

This figure in particular captured my imagination, and I decided to redraw it as a pattern, and see if I could get it into repeat.

Geometry is elegant and perplexing.

It was tricksy, but I persisted.

I added a six-pointed star to the hexagram center of the pattern to make it even more swirly.

The blue is near impossible to photograph true.

Inspired by a ceiling mosaic I once saw in Ravenna, Italy, I mixed up a nice deep blue, and painted the smooth side of cold press watercolor paper.

Metallic gold spatter is universally understood.

After printing out the pattern with 3 point-wide ground lines, I cut the individual tiles with my desktop cutter and pasted them up.

This was a fun pattern to build!
The finished floor.

I sealed, grouted, cleaned and finished the floor with a few coats of satin varnish. It is so pretty! But unfortunately, not at all in the scale or perceived style of its intended build.

Diamond squares. With dots.

So back to the drawing board. I eventually arrived at this design, and also with a new idea for finishing it.

The new floor base, with Bombas socks.

On multiple sheets of card stock a few shades lighter than the grout color, I printed out and taped together the pattern base.

Dots. And cut-corner squares. Or diamonds.

The individual tiles were cut.

And glued to the printed base with my signature glue pattern :)

All in all, it went much faster than I thought it would. And by printing the grout lines on an in-between background color to disguise any minor off-placements, I was able to skip the whole monstrous grouting process, and just finish the floor with a few coats of sealer and varnish.

I’m more than satisfied with the results, and feel like this is a new and simpler technique for future floor fabrication. There’s a satisfying dimensionality to the card stock tiles that is wholly appropriate to 1:12 scale, and all without the mess and dulling of a traditional grouting process.

I hope to use the blue-and-gold floor some where, some time, maybe as a patio?

Sea House Conservatory, Pacifica, Santa Cruz

Sea House Conservatory, in progress, February 2019

The Sea House Conservatory removable plexiglass and faux iron beam roof is assembled. It is supported by iron pillars and wood siding painted N-C16 Midnight Stroll by Clark+Kensington. I made new finials from wooden beads and toothpicks.

Brackets join and support the faux iron roof beams

Where the two corner beams met the center beam and roof ridge there was an inelegant gap, so I cut iron brackets and bolts from two layers of black card stock, to reinforce both the roof structure and the illusion :)

Wheelie at the fireplace end of the Conservatory

The fireplace and hearth underwent yet another color change. I wanted something more working/utilitarian looking, less living-roomy. Picture the chaise draped in reference books and aprons and a seaweed drying rack hanging from the rafters.

Sea House Conservatory leaded window design, 3 of 11

Turning my attention now back to the many windows, cutting the original kit grid mullions out of the frames with a Dremel. Tedious. Then sanding, painting, and fitting the cut leaded designs into the frames, front and back. Oh, and finishing (but not mitering) the outsides with 1/16-inch square trim. Ugh.

Pacifica sunset, between storm fronts, 15 February, 2019

We’ve been getting breaks between rain storms, glimpses of the sun, and some beauty clouds.

Ruby at 20 months, shopping in her sister’s vest for her mama’s birthday present

Spent a long weekend in Santa Cruz with my daughter and younger granddaughter Ruby, while her papa and older sister Maddie were in Lake Tahoe getting Xtremely snowed on. Ruby’s choice of outerwear was her sister’s vest. Ruby on the runway.

I like me. Print this out and hang on your refrigerator, lest you forget

Maddie, who turns six next month, is loving Kindergarten. Her mother shared some pages of the journals the children keep. The first remarkable is that upper and lowercase writing is still being taught — yay! So for Maddie, already proficient in capital letters, this manifesto represents challenge, learning, practice. And then the everything else: the sentiment, and the exuberantly joyful self-portrait. Perfect expression, I’d say.

Conservatory, Cycladic, Tomato, Cats, Rust

I finished gluing the painted paper tiles to the pattern for the Sea House Conservatory main floor.

Stoic Albie helped keep them flat, as Stoics do.

I then spent a lot of time considering how best to make the floor fit the base and carry over to outside the walls in a way that pleased me. 

If I was a cat, this is how I might look pondering the options. “Why yes, that might actually work …”

As part of the solution, from quarter-inch birch ply I built a two-inch riser for the base and painted it medium grout gray. And — not because I want to relive the 1980s and feature wall faux finishes — I sea-sponged on a lighter warm gray. Mostly because I didn’t want to stare at a flat gray box. (My building process involves a lot of staring.)

Eventually, the weather/temperature/humidity cooperated and I was able to spray two good coats of matte sealer on the floor tile assemblies, prior to their grouting.

Also got a few more coats of satin antique white on the fireplace. (Built from this Houseworks Deco fireplace.) Here it is curing in the late afternoon sun, admiring its reflection in a glazed ceramic vase.

gluing_down

Gluing down the sealed tiles to the base. It will might make more sense in a few days when you see the whole idea. Are you really, really weary of seeing pictures of these tiles?

polkadot_towel

Then here’s a pic of Scarlett sitting next to me on the front deck yesterday, watching the sun go down (and grooming). (Her, not me. I was sipping a glass of delicious Double Brut IPA.)

cycladic_spirals

This is my current design inspiration for conservatory decor. It is a Cycladic terra cotta vessel from 2000 BC — ! — found on Naxos. I’m smitten with everything about it: the spiral waters, fish, the sun, or maybe a full moon? (From Art of Crete, Mycenae and Greece by German Hafner, 1968, public library.) 

floor_dryfit_00

A last peek at the conservatory in the night studio, with the standing walls. For now.

tomato

In real life, I’m working on a landscaping project on the side of our hillside house under the sunroom add-on. The soil is compacted and full of rubble, and I’m putting down flattened cardboard to suppress what weeds do grow, and adding top soil, compost and worm castings. There’s next to no direct sun, so I’m transplanting hardier succulent cuttings to see what will survive. They get a little leggy reaching for the light, but they’re doing all right. In September I noticed what looked like a young tomato plant growing at the back of the area, evidently self-started from the compost. When it put out flowers I was charmed; what hope and vigor this plant has! And then the other day I noticed it had made a tomato! A single, multi-lobed heirloom. In December! It’s like a miracle :)

rust_plancha

And finally, here’s one for your reference files. Look at the beautiful rust pattern and colors on this cast iron plancha, sadly left out in the rain next to the BBQ. (Left behind when our neighbors moved, it was already warped, but was still serviceable for outdoor cooking.) We’ll see if I can bear to scour it clean, or if it joins the Things That Are Rusting collection.

Doesn’t everyone have one of those?

Sea House Conservatory: More Floor Tiles

I added more pattern sections to the tile floor template.


To facilitate a smooth transition between tile colors, when I began to run low on the first set I glued them randomly further out on the template to integrate with the as-yet-to-be-painted new batch of tiles.

Using the same paints as before, I splattered up a new sheet to cut into tiles.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a working idea for the back fireplace wall, so I can alternate experimenting on that with setting floor tiles.

Sea House Conservatory: Tiled Floor

painted_paper

I painted a couple of sheets of 11 by 15-inch 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper with washes and splats of neutral gray, tan and yellow oxide acrylics, then pressed them flat between two drawing boards weighted with books.

pattern_test

The tile pattern and grout lines were refined through several test cuts and pasteups. I added a 3-point corner radius to the tiles to suggest age and wear.

final_tile_cuts

After a few more test cuts, I loaded the painted watercolor paper and began cutting tiles. Because this paper requires three passes of the deep cut blade for each tile, I used masking tape on the edges to hold the thick paper to the cut mat to ensure adhesion. (Lessons learned through bitter informative experience.)

pasteup_01

I’m gluing the individual tiles to prints of the pattern layout showing the grout lines. The process is far less tedious than I anticipated, a pleasant surprise. It *may be* that I won’t have to actually add grout after they’re all assembled and adhered to the subfloor. I plan to add one final light gray wash and some delicate speckling to the whole floor to unite the separate assemblies. And with pressing and a coat or two of matte varnish… we shall see.

in_place_01_

The final tile floor won’t be put in place for some time — so much painting to do! — and the ideas for its total design still floating need not be finalized at this point. Which is good, because I’m still kind of all over the place, design-influence-wise. Right now I’m trending from Art Deco back to Bauhaus, and how that might all fit in with the larger Sea House story, sea level rise, and a crow named Clary.

Peacock, Pacific, Sea House Conservatory

Maddie_peacock

There is much to appreciate in this drawing, presented to me by 5-year-old Maddie. No hand turkeys for that girl; a peacock is more compelling. This avian’s boisterous tail, for one, is a breakthrough in both interpretation and technique. Vibrant life radiates in the rich purple effortlessly confident strokes on wings and body. Its feet hold firmly to the bottom of the page. Not least is the pathos of the bright pink worm; its expression reminds us that outward beauty is not a sure sign of good will. Be inspired.

manor_bluff_112518

Had my first opportunity to walk outside today (!), along (what remains of) the paved Manor Bluff trail, and even on some hard-packed sand atop the bluff. It was breezy with rain-moist air, and felt so good. Another milestone in my recovery, almost eight weeks post-op. Yay go me, and she was.

working_on_bed

Still somewhat working from my bed top, but I have made progress in cleaning the various surfaces in the studio proper. Sad and ridiculous, I know, but just what is. It’s like I’m growing up all over again.

both_halves

The other half of the conservatory is in rickety dry fit, and I’ve decided on a layout and also that this might will be the new (former) home of the small local business, Modern Miniature S___ & Sundries, est. 1921.

MMSS_retro_uomo

It of course had a different logo (and maybe name) back then. Backstory, in media res.

floor_idea_00

I’ve given a great deal of thought and research to the floor, and have arrived at this pattern. Still undecided between watercolor paper or egg carton for the pavers.

floor_idea_01

A closer approximation to the tonal contrasts. The interior walls will be a warmish white, perhaps with Art Deco-y botanical stencils on the lower panels.

floor_idea_02

The floor pattern with the top grid removed. I’m torn between simplifying the amount of work it will be to cut and lay the more intricate pattern with the simpler design.

floor_idea_03

Current thinking is to break the rigidity of the more complex pattern with setting “whole block” units randomly into the design. The amount of work required is not appreciably less, but the overall effect is more pleasing to my eye.

As always, your input and reactions are welcome, for yay or nay or… other. Lively discussion encouraged! (I’m still not getting out enough :)

 

W: Weaving, Waxing, Waning

baskets _091518

W is for weaving. I’ve been playing with hand-tinting the looms of the round basket kits in spectral and hombré shades. I started with black weavers and rims, then went to a medium warm gray. After a few baskets, I thought the offcuts would make good banners or samples of the colorways, and then the idea was born for the Basket Circus + Exposition.

BCE_sign_v1

Many thanks to Keli for participating in the totally legitimate focus group which determined this name.

black_weaver_warm

What a difference between black and gray for the contrast. I love them both.

gray_weaver_greens.jpg

gray_green_basket

sunset_091418

We’re getting to the glorious sunset colors time of year here in foggy-summer Pacifica. I remain in awe. Nature, you know she don’t mess around.

Albie_sunset_091418

Albie joined me a short time later on the front deck. This picture is significant because it answers the question, “What phase is the moon in?” Each September, my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our marriage on the full moon. This year, it seems we have 10 or so days to go. (Hope we remember.)

gravity

And finally — as if you’ve ever doubted — here is proof that cats can defy gravity. Even when they’re sleeping.

V: Vagary

V is for Vagary. Fluctuation, variation, quirk, peculiarity, oddity, eccentricity, unpredictability, caprice, foible, whim, whimsy, fancy.

I can’t think of a better word, or set of synonyms, to describe the new 1:12 scale echeveria kit available now over at MMS+S. There are no fewer than five leaf sizes and shapes that combine to make three sizes of a charming pointy-leaf echeveria. I’ve redesigned the build method, too, to start on a fine paper-wrapped stem wire (included in the kit), which is perfect for armatures (gnarly-armed structures) and general ease of shaping the plants.

Here is a bushel basket of prototypes, using both of the base colors — white or apple green — colored with alcohol-based markers. (If you want true reds and yellows — or blues and purples — order the white stock. If you’re good with more muted tones and want to spend less time coloring, choose the green :)

Possibilities of color combinations are endless (and fun).

This is a versatile kit, and a form to make a succulent wreath is available soon!

Let Scarlett’s tail and rabbit feet, seen here in complete repose, be your inspiration.

I recently re-found this unfinished Henri Rousseau-inspired collage panel, and glued it to the side back of the Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries set.

The MMS+S set is in disarray, like many aspects of my life, but potentially still functional.

Zoom out now, please, to 1:1. The former owners of our house built this charming, funky wave-topped gate (seen here from the back). But, inexplicably, they painted the front of it the same dispirited brown as the rest of the decks, and completely ignored the back. For four years, it has *nagged* at me.

Yay go me. Here it is finished in four shades, by the light of the silvery security beacon.

Albie and I survey the change. You can just see that sad brown deck color peeking out under cat and mat.

This is the old hardware, atop the treacherous birdbath pedestel, for those of you/us interested in these things.

And finally. Keli and I have been challenging ourselves to … not let the bastards drag you down draw a random thing and post it on Instagram, until, for each of us, momentous events transpire. (For me, that’s undergoing replacement surgery of both hips, on 01 October, 2018.) I have chosen Crayola and ink as my drawing medium. We are #messy_k_enge and #curlymuenich, if you care to follow along (+also under our regular names @iseecerulean and @nancy_k_enge). We are expecting phat coffee table art book publishing contracts to swamp our respective agents.

How could they not?

 

Q: Quandary

Q_quandry

Q is for quandary. Where to next? How do I get there? The signs are not clear. What to do?

Things have been a bit unsettled in nancyland of late. Not in a bad way, but in a way that hasn’t necessarily been conducive to working on the Sea Rise pavilion project, or the miniature protea kit, or posting … anything. So it goes. (Thank you Kurt Vonnegut, for that all-expressive phrase.)

Slow progress — and regress — on the studio reorg, but the end *is* in sight.

reorg_030718

Got the bookcases installed along the half-wall upstairs, and the reference library culled and organized. There’s happy Scarlett in her old-cashmere-sweater lined new-location fleece bed.

mama_goats_030718

One of my favorite places on Earth is Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, perfectly located halfway between Santa Cruz and Pacifica. On a meandering birthday drive home, we of course stopped there to check in with the mamas and babies. These are some of the very pregnant mamas in the loafing barn, waiting to give birth.

K-2SO_plant

K-2SO is fully functional — with articulated thumbs! — and has begun work at Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries.

painting_with_maddie

Spent a recent morning painting and drawing with Maddie, who just turned five years old. If you’re looking for artistic inspiration and to question and push your boundaries, I highly recommend the company of a child.

hardware

Or you could just go to the hardware store.

 

 

 

O: Organization Orchestration

reorg__00_022318

O is for Organization. Lack thereof in these photos, because I am completely reorganizing my studio and office. Moving everything off and out of every cubby, shelf, drawer, bin and pile. Going through everything, purging non-essentials. Beginning to make new piles and groups of like things, so I can see what’s what. Sorting bits and bobs back into their storage boxes. Making sure I maintain a walkway through the chaos.

reorg_01_022318

O is for Other Side. This is the left side of the room. I’m pulling my reference library out of the two bookcases (partially visible left foreground) and moving them out of the studio into three new bookcases, dusting, sorting and divesting as I lug them upstairs. This frees up lots of shelf space for things used more frequently. (Fortunately, I have a separate space where all the wood cutting and sawdust-generating tools live, a wee shop on the back of the garage. It means a lot of back and forthing, but computers and sawdust don’t do well together.)

reorg_02_022318

O is for Ongoing, OMG. The disarray is total, the only clear spaces being my main workstation (not very visible behind the bookcases), and the emptying shelves. This is a challenging project, but it will be so good when it’s done :)