Mostly, my family and I are OK. My charming husband has been working from home — as I have been for the last 14 years — and given the wee square footage of our house, it’s been remarkably harmonious and kind. We’ve weathered the death of my younger brother, after a long illness, without being able to gather and grieve his passing, and most recently, the furloughs and layoffs of half of my husband’s corporate master company.
The awareness that many others are experiencing far worse experience and circumstance is never far from my heart and my mind. How could it be otherwise? We are all in this together. (And for all of you who have reason to say fuck you with two middle fingers to this trite truism, I hear you.)
Ruby and Maddie are learning to wash dishes. Without me.
Scarlett maintains her unrepentant insistence on knowing interior spaces.
Um, nothing much new in that propensity.
My birthday was in early March, and I splurged on new deck furniture from Tidewater Workshop. Of course our planned new front deck construction is delayed until who knows when, but I built and painted all the new pieces with the leftovers from the wave gate project, and am sealing them as the weather allows. Above are three of the rectangular side tables.
The recent April full moon coincided with my mother’s birthday and mild weather. What a wonderful reason to sit outside late and watch the night sky.
I’ve been keeping busy with multiple projects and diversions. This 1:12 scale Bandai kit was so very satisfying to build.
What with shelter in place and all, my walks are constrained to our hilly mid-century suburban neighborhood, and I’m keen on … finding more interesting things to notice than whatever, or sweating, or not dying from a heart attack. (My neighborhood *is* really hilly.) So today it was flowers, and this one won: Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ honeywort. I use the iNaturalist app to help me identify that with which I am unfamiliar.
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.
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.
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.
I did the same prep on the Conservatory project board.
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.
When the glue seemed set, I boldly — yet delicately — poured the first course of water into the prepared base. Altogether, five or six individual glugs into each tide pool and basin.
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 acetate dam to the base. Checking again about two hours later I added more tape, and also noticed a few small areas where the glue I had used to cement the gravel and boulders to the base seemed to be turning opaque white.
The recommendation for the water product 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.
Next morning, not 24 hours later, I was encouraged to see the water was turning clearer, but the small white areas were still present, noticeably in the transition areas of gravel I had applied a few days earlier.
So I re-read the product label instructions.
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, rude assumptions and declarations. But 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 embrace that since there was nothing I could do about it now, 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 that 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 watery problems with this product mostly resolved themselves. I continue to steep myself in the experiences of others.
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 :)
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.)
I bought two of Kris Comapas’s Estate Chair kits because I wanted to use more of this thrift store dress fabric, which I love.
It’s a rather large scale print for miniature upholstery, as well as being a very fine and lightweight fabric, but did I mention how happy it makes me feel?
Kris includes good instructions and cord to make fabric-covered piping in her kits, but I generally prefer a twisted cord made from 3 strands of embroidery floss.
Here you can see my associate K-2SO inspecting the floss piping with his massively articulated fingers. (I love him, too.)
I find attaching tiny piping gracefully onto miniature upholstery to be a tedious task, so I’m putting it off until I feel more… um, articulated dextrous. And patient.
The Leadlights design studio also has a new chair. Makes it look way more office-y, don’t you think? I’m really pleased with the level of quality and detail in this chair. (Ack! This photo also reminds me I want to finish tricking out the desk accessories, and to trim that orange bookmark on the last-minute-made sketchbook!)
Work continues on the Sea House Conservatory build, with a sea level rise remediation support pier in place.
Geologic rock and boulder construction is underway. My preferred material — think I’ve tried just about all of them — is Model Magic air dry clay, made by Crayola. It is lightweight, inexpensive, readily available, pleasant and responsive to sculpt, accepts all kinds of pigments well, and dries with virtually no shrinking.
With this last batch of rocks, I experimented with adding black acrylic paint or India ink to the white clay before sculpting. One batch had fine black gravel mixed in. The paint or ink initially made the compound stickier to work with, but it was nice to start with a pre-tinted base. These have green and gray washes spritzed on. When dry (takes a day or two depending on size and relative humidity) with a fine brush I painted the surf erosion holes and granite veins with white acrylic, diluted 1:1 with water.
As I was ordering new clay, I learned Model Magic also comes in black, gray, and “Earthtone, Bisque and Terra Cotta”. So stoked to use these colors on the next exploratory rock and boulder sets.
The finished rocks are slicked with a satin multi-purpose sealer, as they’re meant to look wet. The final Conservatory project base will have about an inch of water in tidal flow. (I’m excited about that, too, as I’ve never worked with a “water feature” before :)
Deck planks are installed, and I’ve finally arrived at a stair design that makes sense and blends into the overall structure.
Yesterday I was at Chrissy Field in the Presidio, and took a bunch of pier photos for genuine detail ideas. It was a perfect winter’s day, cool, clear and sunny, with very little breeze.
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 :)
I spend a lot of pages thinking, sketching, dreaming, considering and working out dimensions and story.
The first floor idea, though fun to design, paint and assemble, did not work well in the space. So it goes.
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.
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.
I opted to make the front façade removable as well as the roof… this makes it so much easier to photograph the interior.
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.
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.
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.
If one looks straight on, the window frames the bricked loft wall and the old Sea House logo. With sacred scarab wings.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
The back wall of the Sea House Leadlights design studio is about utility and remembrance. There’s a water spigot and old brick patio remnant for transplanting yucca and succulents. A faded advertising poster from nearby attractions survives on the wall, as does a longhorn cow skull from ranch days.
(Details: Brick wall grouted with tinted spackling paste and aged with muddy gray acrylic wash. Garden tools by Sir Thomas Thumb. Terra cotta pot by Braxton Payne. Basswood siding stained with Minwax Classic Gray. Foundation made from styrofoam, detailed here. Cow skull is resin, aged with Winsor & Newton Promarkers. Boulders sculpted from air dry clay painted in several 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.)
A vintage collection of gnomic being fèves populates the succulent understory. I tried to match their colors with the foliage, as they prefer to blend in. This guy is far more camouflaged in the final build, rest assured.
I wanted an outdoor fireplace for the deck because few things are better than being outside than being outside with fire, especially at night. I knew some of the old Sea House building bricks would be involved, but did not have a clear vision of the overall design.
Until I got a catalog from CB2.com, and saw this. And I knew.
It took more than a few sketches and extended staring into inner space to work out how I could extract the essence of the CB2 fireplace for the approximately 8.5 inches of width I had on the Leadlights side deck. As is typical, I figured out far more once I had the actual materials at hand.
I used “corner” bricks to edge the semicircles, slightly sanded to fit the curve. Regular brick make up the middle layer.
Here is the final fireplace in situ with split birch logs laid, the spark arrester chimney, comfy chairs and a good red wine ready to pour. The exquisite carved wood sandpiper sculpture is a gift from Keli, keeper of Charlene’s Estate.
I intend to start writing more here, again. I miss you. I dove deep on this project, and found I could either devote myself to the process of building or to writing, but not both. (I chronicled photo highlights on Instagram; if you’re on there I’m @nancy_k_enge. There’s also lots of pics of Scarlett :)
I wanted to raise the Sea House Leadlights building up from the project board, to anchor it to the site with a solid foundation and to allow more space for landscaping. For the other buildings in the Sea House compound I have used air-dry clay, as well as our much beloved egg carton and packaging material to simulate boulders and bedrock.
I came across this product, in an ultra-convenient, innocently beguiling craft form. Yes. Styrofoam, one of the evilest manufactured substances on our beleaguered planet.
In anguished indecision, I stood in the aisle of the crap craft store pondering the consequences of my choices and actions. And then, because I had a 40% off coupon, I bought it.
I built a two-tiered foundation on the project board, anchored with glue and toothpicks.
After a couple of base coats of warm and medium gray-green acrylics, I set the build atop the foundation to meld. I’ll add additional highlight details once all of the foundation stones are set.
I added a sill plate? between the structure and the foundation.
And so. I am conflicted about the inescapable implications and consequences of my materials choices. And yet, I carry on with this build.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After printing out the pattern with 3 point-wide ground lines, I cut the individual tiles with my desktop cutter and pasted them up.
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.
So back to the drawing board. I eventually arrived at this design, and also with a new idea for finishing it.
On multiple sheets of card stock a few shades lighter than the grout color, I printed out and taped together the pattern base.
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?