Sea House Conservatory Water Feature

Bolinas, California

Although this photo was taken during high tide, this is the water feature look I want to emulate on the Sea House Conservatory low tide build.

Sea House Leadlights

After watching countless hours of video demonstrations from a variety of sources, I started my experiment with a small area at the front of the Leadlights landscaping that seemed natural for a water incursion. I glued a 2-inch tall length of acetate to the project board to form a dam, several inches longer than the intended 4-inch-wide pour, reinforced with masking tape below and tape holdfasts above.

First pour

Several deep breaths and I poured a scant quarter-inch of Realistic Water ™ from Woodland Scenics into the prepared area. Recommendation is an eighth-inch, but hey, it pours fast. So far so good.

Not any different 5 minutes later

I did the same prep on the Conservatory project board.

Constructing a dam around the Conservatory pier

One tricky situation encountered is when any element of the landscaping extends past the base, even a little. I had some time to consider ways I will do it differently next time, as I held the acetate to the base while the glue set adequately.

The indispensable Hand Clamp

When the glue seemed set, I boldly yet delicately poured the first course of water into the prepared base, altogether 5 or 6 separate individual glugs into each tide pool or basin.

The first pour

Unsurprisingly, as I looked and marveled at the swampy effect and the no-going-back-nowness, a few small, very slow leaks began to develop. I used wide painter’s tape to further seal — more on that later — the dam to the base. I checked again about two hours later, added more tape, and also noticed a few small areas where the glue I had used to attach the gravel and boulders seemed to be turning opaque white. Hmmm. The recommendation is to let each layer dry at least 24 hours. It was very late by this time, so I called it a night very early morning and went to bed.

Hmmmmm. Should I be concerned?

Next morning, not 24 hours later, I was encouraged to see the water was mostly turning clearer, but the small white areas were still present, noticeably in the transition areas of gravel I had applied a few days earlier.

What is causing those weird areas of white in the gravel?

I re-read the product label instructions.

What?!

Not for use with PVA glue. I’ll shorten my whole lengthy tirade — who doesn’t commonly use PVA glue? Why wasn’t this the very first caveat on the label, and why was this condition never mentioned in any of the company’s instructional videos on use of the product, etc. and lots of swears and unkind, even rude assumptions and declarations. And then there was the offhand “Cure above 70°F.” Thankfully I have a wise and patient bitch buddy to vent to with whom I can vent. You know who you are are.

Then I calmed down enough to decide that since there was nothing I could do about it, I’d wait and see what would continue to happen. After all, it had not been even 24 hours yet, and it is a rather larger area and blah, grumble, blah.

I wasted more time did more research on pouring water, this time with a variety of mediums and preparation techniques, and even grubbed around in some forums, which I detest, and learned yes/no there are some/not any problems with PVA glue that can be gotten around by sealing everything with — and here again suggestions vary — some sort of varnish, and, most valuably, some clever ways to build and seal dams for water feature success. One involved swamp water.

Time passed, and my water problems with this product mostly resolved themselves. I continue to steep myself in the experiences of others.

Leadlights water feature, with live edge!

I did a second pour on Leadlights, and a second and third pour on areas of the Conservatory. Above you can see the dam removed to reveal the fully cured water. (One of the plants bled a little color into the water, but I don’t mind.) I wanted a “live edge” to the water, and used an Xacto knife to carve away the lip. The project base itself will be edge-banded with thin basswood for a finished look :)

I have made a water effect!

All in all, I am happy with and consider the results a success. I’ll know so much more on the next one.

Check out the light shimmer on the right pier piling, a reflection from the late afternoon light. Magical realism, which validates my efforts :)

I’ll leave you with this image found in Bolinas, on the estuary marsh/riparian transition on a winter afternoon hike at low tide. (Very low and long ago for this guy.)

Old skiff, seen in Bolinas, California

Rocks, Cobble, Water Features, Sunset Light

Sea House Conservatory Pier, ready for her water feature!

In preparation for creating the tidal water surge under the Sea House Conservatory, I mixed up a nice ocean green base color and painted it generously on the project board. I made sure the whole 26 x 20-inch base — foam cliff landslide, boulders, cobble, gravel, old tiled patio — was well-sealed with glue or paint to prevent water leaks. Two-inch tall heavy acetate strips were cut, ready to glue to the base to form a (removable) perimeter dam.

I estimated an area about 18 by 18 inches would be covered an inch deep, then used the Woodland Scenics water estimator to see how much product I needed to buy. Two, maybe three bottles?

Um, no. No, no, no. Depending on whether I chose “Realistic ($24 for 16 ounces)” or “Deep Pour ($30 for 12 ounces)” the estimated 180 ounces required 12 or 15 product bottles, costing a total of $288 or $450. For a feature, however awesome, mostly obscured beneath the Conservatory deck, this makes no sense. Back to the proverbial literal project board to drastically reduce surface area.

More cowbell! I mean, more reefs and rocks!

After fashioning more florist foam into reefs and rocks, I glued them to the project board.

Black Model Magic rocks and cobble

Starting this time with black Model Magic, I forged another batch of accent rocks.

Rocks, mid-wash and spray process
The open water feature base is realistically and financially reduced.

The foam shoreline formations were generously sealed and detailed with a few shades of warm and cool gray acrylic and stabbing holes with a pointy thing. All base edges were given a transitional application of gravel, cobble and accent rocks. These were allowed to dry, excess gravel brushed out, and the process repeated.

Barnacles make everything better.

“What are those white cone things?” I can hear those of you looking at this photo on your phone exclaim. What, yes! Those white things are perfect barnacles, crafted by Keli of iseecerulean.com.

Rocks to Keli

(I am not ungrateful. We have a longtime water-influenced exchange going on.)

Sea House Conservatory, under the pier

I did a final brushing and shaking off loose gravel after the glue dried over my (1:1 life) front deck, just as the sun was setting.

Kansas remembers me now
The lunatic is on the grass

You know how it is when maybe you fall a little bit too much in love with your build? That’s how it is for me right now with these sunset light photos. I have about a dozen that made first, even second cut, and they are all epic. One more, please indulge me.

Will be largely unseen

I sighted through all the open viewpoints, and as I mentioned earlier, most all will be obscured once the Conservatory is in place. But I know, and now you do too, what lies beneath.

Retrospective: Sea House Leadlights

Albie oversees receipt of Serendipity Shed base kits, 16 August 2019

I thought it might be interesting to review building highlights of the Sea House Leadlights studio office, from start through submission. (Can’t really say “completion” because things never stay done ‘round here.) There are links back to original posts — if any were made — with more details. I wasn’t very bloggy :)

First ideas

I spend a lot of pages thinking, sketching, dreaming, considering and working out dimensions and story.

The starry floor in process

The first floor idea, though fun to design, paint and assemble, did not work well in the space. So it goes.

Two base kits mashed together

Height was added to the starter kit with parts from a second. I like to retain recognizable elements of the kit, so the roof angle and footprint, as well as door and lower window placement remained unchanged.

Loft wall detail

I glued cold press 140 lb. watercolor paper to the walls for texture before painting, and added a whitewashed aged brick back wall in the loft.

Adding siding to the new front
Half-loft installed, supported by faux beams

I opted to make the front façade removable as well as the roof… this makes it so much easier to photograph the interior.

Bench tops and bottoms

I cut the built-in benches from 1/16-inch basswood on the Cricut Maker. These were glued together and supported with 1/8-inch dividers.

Interior space begins to come together
Tree Frog green was the only possible finish color, with black leather cushions

I thought and sketched about the window designs for some time. The Pavilion is bubble-themed; the Conservatory celestial… for the Leadlights design studio I went Egyptian Deco. Mostly sort of.

Sea House Leadlights front doors and front/side windows
Sea House Leadlights upper window

The upper window is a stylized scarab. Very.

The “leading” designs for the windows are cut from lead black cardstock, glued front and back to the plexi, then framed in black on the exterior (and tree frog on the interior). I like to see wood grain, so I use a 1:1 ratio of acrylic paint and staining medium.

The scarab window at night

If one looks straight on, the window frames the bricked loft wall and the old Sea House logo. With sacred scarab wings.

Side building signage

I — or rather the Cricut Maker — cut the signage from matte black vinyl. The stars in the design are meant to resemble anchor plates used to reinforce old buildings. I love them.

In this backlit photo, the vinyl letters appear to float off the side of the building. It’s not quite so unnatural-looking in person, but knocking back the synthetic smoothness is on my eternal learn-to-do list, to find ways to tone down the material. (Transferring wee letters and figures is a fiddly, fussy business, especially onto an uneven surface, and I am not eager.)

Side sign
View from above

Here’s a roof’s-eye look at the progressing build. The holes are drilled for the LED light fixtures that will illuminate the work space below. (The wiring to be concealed beneath a custom rug and other stuff stored in the loft.) A narrow shelf beneath the scarab window on the removable front might support batteries if I ever add lighting to the front. Floor tiles gleam softly with scuff-resistant utility. Leather window seats beckon.

To be continued…

Sea House Leadlights Interior, Roof; Scarlett

Hello Sea House Leadlights office

The entrance to the Sea House Leadlights office is up a few stairs and across the deck to the left of the fireplace. A set of leaded glass doors opens into a snug but functional design studio.

Details: Terra cotta pot by Braxton Payne. Basswood deck and siding stained with Minwax Classic Gray. Pumpkins made from tissue paper and thread. Boulders sculpted from air dry clay painted with acrylic washes and sealed with ultra matte varnish. All succulents, yucca and other plants hand colored with W&N Promarkers. Many are prototypes; some available as kits at Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries.) 

Desk and bulletin board

Beneath the half-loft a large tabletop desk has plenty of room to roll out plans and inspiration. Low built-in cabinets with black leather cushions provide more seating, storage and level surfaces for tea trays.

Details: The ceiling lights are 12V modified for warm white LEDs. Bulletin board is made from cork sheet framed with basswood stained to match. Sketchbooks made from my kits at MMS+S. Various meaningful artifacts including original leaded glass designs for other Sea House buildings, and a drawing of a cat by my then 4-year old daughter. Fèves, prized vintage Monopoly shoe, and an anodized earring from the 1980s.

The white-washed brick loft stores window frames, tools, Sea House memorabilia and miscellaneous treasure — as well as the switch (lift the black basket) and battery pack (hidden in a custom box) for the LED lights.

Details: Oh yeah, the baskets and boxes are also available as kits at MMS+S.

A gazebo-style roof welcomes natural light. (I’ll detail more of that happy construction in another post.) I made the 1:144 scale basswood model of the source kit for the original Sea House Pavilion, built some years ago. The Egyptian cat is a porcelain fève. Best of all is the vibrant painting by Jim Tracey that commands the studio — also another post.

Finally, of course, Scarlett. Here she has somehow managed to fluidly infiltrate an impossibly small entrance to the Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion loft (my ongoing remodel of the original 2013 build.) I swear she does these things just to remind me she can.

Oh, how she makes me laugh.

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.

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 :)