Recently, being some several months ago or less, as “recently” tends to go for me, Hendrick’s Gin contacted me to participate in their “Curate a Box” contest give away.
Though I have been rather up to my neck in getting out the rewards for the Infernal Device Kickstarter (which when done I plan to celebrate by logging all the ins and outs of the experience into a seriously detailed tutorial), I really hate to pass up good opportunities for promotion, especially when it involves interesting new challenges.
So, in between bonding prints to wooden constructs, waiting for layers of decoupage glue to dry, refining screens for printing, and wrestling with packages, I’ve been hopping into the basement workshop and doing some work on this wooden box they sent me – the box and contents to be given away by Hendricks Gin when done, through their fascinating newsletter and blog at Unusual Times.
My plan, as with all things I do, is to make an heirloom quality and long-lasting piece, so I felt I should do a bit of added reinforcement to the original box with some fine bits of oak, birch, mahogany, maple, and/or cherry, which are the sorts of wood I prefer to make my constructs of and paint my paintings onto.
The very first step, of course, was to remove the box from the package. There was a wonderful promotional book from Hendrick’s Gin in there as well, but Insects and Angels Author and Editor Bethalynne Bajema so-loved the little book and all the artwork within, that well… she was still thumbing through the book, and I might have lost a finger if I tried to reclaim it. Anyway.. the box, above.
Another shot of the box, it’s insides just the perfect size for a number of unique 8.5×11 printings of some of my select artworks.
I plan to fill this box with:
1) At least 6 hand-signed fine art prints on a special paper and of a special size to make them one of a kind.
2) A Magickal Bag of Holding
3) A polar bear
4) A bunch of Arctic Salmon for the polar bear
5) Bethalynne says that Magickal Bags of Holding are not available anywhere around here, and are quite likely mythical.
6) An original painting, as the inside top of the box, which fits snugly but can be removed and framed.
7) Tacos! Everyone loves tacos!
8) Apparently the above is also a violation of postal code.
9) Some sort of sea monster… though a rather tiny one, made of clay and hand-painted.
10) I don’t know yet… it seems like a lot so far, so I’ll have to see what else the box can hold…. maybe some stickers and patches.
The first thing I did was to cut some pieces of oak – two for the insides of the box (one to reinforce the bottom, one to be painted and inserted into the box later), one to make for a hard and sturdy plate for top of the box.
Work Space: YeGads!! …
Above 4 photos: Ground Zero… I have been working from one thing into another for way too long. The workshop is piled in bits of brass and unsorted wood… and I am pretty sure there are some clamps and other important tools under there somewhere. I should clean up beforehand to make all of this go easier…
… ohhh… maybe after one more cut.
A thin coat of poly completes the night’s work. Tomorrow I’ll sand this down with fine paper, varnish it again, wait another day, sand it down with steel wool, varnish again, wait another day, sand with steel wool again, wax, buff, wax, buff, wax, and buff… until the box is looking very nice.
During that time, I’ll also be working on the painting to go int this box, 3 other painting commissions, shipping, and kickstarter rewards… the good thing about all these projects, is that they each have steps that involve waiting for things to dry or to set… the trick is managing that time so there is always something to do on the next while waiting on the other.
The box/dual frame: I labored hard for over a week on the box, which is a very sturdy hand-built, hand-stained, hand-varnished, hand-waxed chunk of quality hardwood (heartwood select pine base and birch sides). It not only serves as a box (if you would want to use it as such a thing), but as a self-contained double frame which requires no wall hanging. It is perfect for a coffee table, end table, mantle, dining table or most any flat surface you would like to display it on… and it is so sturdy in construction that you won’t be freaking out if people get near it.
The box has two decorative hinges with a decorative patina on the spine edge if it; The latching mechanism is self-made from another smaller version of these hinges, combined with three solid brass model cannons from a model ship. The latch holds the piece securely shut, but opens easily when you want it to with a slight squeeze of the box and an easy flip of the thumb.
I spent hours and hours and hours buffing and buffing this piece. You may not see the glossiness of it in the picture, but it is pretty shiny.
Sometimes antiquing involves making something look beaten and ratty, sometimes it is a matter of making something look like something of quality kept new by an archivist or generations of enthusiastic caretakers – quality and new as the day it was made. For this particular look, I went with making it look like somewhat well-maintained antique… something once very expensive, polished periodically by its owners – well protected, but also well-used.
This sort of antiquing makes it much more involved than the other two. When I do this sort of antiquing on fresh and new untreated wood, making it look fashionably old is essentially a process of finishing and refinishing it to duplicate what time would do: Creating many stages of maintenance and multiple areas of color to create the look of something old… dark areas near crevices and hard to reach spaces, lighter areas where regular wear might occur.
The Art: To make these illustrations mesh well with the box, I made them in this dark-carnival, old Victorian occult ephemera style, with a lot of metaphysical flavor and a touch of campy horror propmaking. It not only made them work well with the box I envisioned, but made them fun for me and strikingly bold… a primitive and stark contrast to my normal reserved and detailed works and my muted color palettes.
Painting One: “Red Right Hand” this is one of two pieces done for a collaborative collection of China Miéville inspired illustrations and artworks, an effort assembled and coordinated by John Straun of SuperPunch. The Handlingers are mind-controlling creatures which look much like a human hand with a snake’s body. I decided on red for my colors because I wanted the hand to be red, and I might it a right hand just so I could name the piece “Red Right Hand”, because I am a huge Nick Cave fan.
Limited Edition Giclees (limited edition of 20) are available in my store
Painting Two: “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”: I often name images for all of the phrases that swim around in my head. I don’t know what it is about soliloquy, sayings, proverbs, historical quotes and other such things that causes them to remain so well-embedded. I start working on a piece, and once he concept is in place, I immediately think of some string of words that fits, though usually a twist thereof. Rarely does the phrase inspire the piece, but the piece typically inspires the title, and the title sometimes shapes the work… this title coming from Shakespeare, or the once-curious reliefs seen outside of Bohemian Clubs. “The Weaver” is a large sentient spider with hands on its forelimbs (I also put them on its Pedipalps), with a love for scissors. The Spider with scissors brought this phrase to mind, so rather than repeating the more circular designs from the previous painting, I made them weave like webs, being cut by the spider.
Limited Edition Giclees (limited edition of 20) are available in my store