Creativity


The chair and the table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old - typical Bucovina motifs

The finished chair and table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old – typical Bucovina motifs

And now for something completely different (hoping my project does rather better than John Cleese!). Relaxing with feet up is something I like to do in the evening in my dotage, having generally been up and active from around 5.30am (I’ve always been a ‘morning person’). A La-Z-Boy wing recliner chair was what I aspired to. The recommended retail price of around £1,000, or even sale offers of around £750, was more than I was prepared to pay and anyway I do not like the current ‘boxy’ cubic designs.

Then I saw an old, rather shabby, ‘curvy’ example which was more to my liking and managed to buy it for £25, thinking I could have it re-upholstered. Think again: quotes to re-upholster were around £750!

The chair as bought. Note the large grease stain on the head rest and wear patches on the arms

The chair as bought. Note the large grease stain on the head rest and wear patches on the arms

While trying to come round to the idea of re-upholstering it myself – a major job – I saw something which surprised me; someone painting an upholstered chair (‘up-cycling’ is the ‘in’ term I learned). It was on the BBC2 tv series ‘The Great Interior Design Challenge’ and, much as I dislike the tendency of programme producers to turn everything into X-factor type competitions so rarely watch them, I caught a bit of this and saw enough interesting, low-cost ideas to follow the series. The amateur designer in question had never painted upholstery before, she said, but it seemed to work.

Make your own chalk paint? No thanks – even for a cook

Onto internet to research, I found that the paint in question was ‘chalk paint’ and most of the blogs/sites turned up were about how to make chalk paint; fortunately, the search also turned up Annie Sloan, an Oxford lady who invented ‘chalk paint’ about 20 years ago and had turned it into a successful business. There were quite a few YouTube video clips giving instructions (but I prefer written words; maybe there are others who do too), even a clip showing Annie herself painting an upholstered chair.

What is more, there was a distributor of her paint in nearby Leeds – My Vibrant Home in the Grand Arcade (http://www.my-vibrant-home.co.uk/). A trip there and a chat convinced me to have a go and I left with 1 litre of Annie Sloan’s ‘French Linen’ and a tin of her ‘Soft wax’ – well under £30. I suppose for a very large project – a lot of furniture or even walls etc – making your own might result in a worthwhile saving but the hassle was too much for me.

An interesting comment from the Leeds shopkeeper when I said that I’d probably blog about my project, though I usually blogged about cooking, or poetry/writing, or photography: she said many of her clients followed these hobbies too.

The chair

Stage pictures at the end

Stage 1: Wet the chair, just water, all over. A hand spray is suggested but I didn’t have one so used a sponge. The back/head rest of the La-Z-Boy just lifts out of the base so I split it to make painting easier.

Stage 2: Paint the chair with chalk paint, working the paint well into the fabric with a brush, especially the areas on the arms where the fabric had worn through (I used a large old brush so didn’t mind destroying it by working the paint in). Let it dry overnight.

Stage 3: I ‘sanded’ the well worn areas with 600 grit glass paper to make them as smooth as possible without going through the paint, then painted it all again with a large, flat brush. Let it dry again overnight.

Stage 4: Very lightly rub down all the paint with 1200 grit glass paper (on the fabric the paint had a ‘gritty’ surface – this is not so on a firm surface like wood or plastic – see the up-cycled table below). This is to remove the ‘gritty’ feel, not to remove the brush marks which give an interesting texture.

Stage 4: This stage was needed only because the chair had a large grease stain where the head rests. Evidently the one thing chalk paint does not like is grease/oil. I had hoped the second paint coat would cover it but it still showed through. One part PVA adhesive was mixed with five parts water and painted on just the head cushion to seal over the grease. Had I known the second coat would not cover the grease stain I would have applied the acrylic adhesive ‘primer’ after the first coat, so stages 5/6 would probably not have been needed.  Let dry overnight.

Stage 5: Paint the head cushion with another coat of chalk paint. Let it dry overnight.

Stage 6: Rub down the head cushion again

Stage 7: Apply Annie Sloan ‘Soft wax’ to the whole chair. On the cushioned surfaces it was difficult to apply with a cloth so I used a paint brush. It was still rather difficult to apply to the flexible surfaces so I warmed the wax a little in the warming oven (about 50degC); it then went on more easily. Rubbed immediately with a soft cloth, then buffed with a clean soft cloth.

I think it looks great – from a short distance it could be a leather chair. I’m not sure how durable it will be, especially the deep cushion parts, but I’m sitting in it to type this and it feels good.

Project 2: ‘coffee’ table

Having a little chalk paint left I decided to give a rather ugly low table – acquired for £5, for utility not beauty – the up-cycling treatment. The surfaces were imitation wood grain plastic veneer, probably on chip board. Two coats of chalk paint on the outside surfaces transformed it. I painted the inside with flame red conventional silk ‘emulsion’ paint left over from decorating a wall. I roughly brush painted this, intending it to be a base coat for a second rollered coat. However, I liked the ‘mottled’ effect so much (and my wife concurred) that I left it like that. I’ve not yet decided whether to leave the chalk paint with its natural matt surface or give it a coat of wax. Either way it looks a lot more than £5 now!

Chalk paint – conclusion

This is the easiest paint to use I’ve ever come across. No preparation is needed as it sticks to anything. The only thing to upset it is grease or oil marks, which bleed through. But a primer coat with watered-down PVA adhesive solves that. I reckon that to put a coat of chalk paint on something takes no more than half the time needed with conventional paints, probably quite a bit less. What is more, washing brushes is a doddle – the paint just comes out under the tap (I’ve never been able to get brushes completely clean before, even with water-based paints).

I think I’ll be back to the Leeds shop pretty soon.

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Annie Sloan’s website: http://www.anniesloan.co.uk

madness frozen out

bones interred together        warmed

peace       buds in waiting

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian "lunatic asylum" at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried close by

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower – about 1/2 mile away – of the once notorious Victorian “lunatic asylum” at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried, together, close by

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A deep thought minute

click     to     click                   is time enough

the wind raged sea             calmed

I haven’t published a haiku, I haven’t written a haiku, for some time.

What I have found is that, for me, composing a haiku requires a certain state of mind, a calm which has been missing from the recent hustle and bussle in my life, mainly catching up on some work projects which had slipped. But there has also been the attempt to get back into film photography, some of the hassles and frustrations of which I’ve been documenting on my other blog, grumpytykepix. And then there are some aspects of everyday life in the present-day UK.

The work catch-up is almost complete. I have finally accepted that getting back into film is not going to be a easy as I thought. And the irritation of so many things imposed upon us, mainly by politicians and the mass media, is being resolved by writing about them (even though my promised ‘grump’ on this blog is, as yet, only in draft).

I’ve been fascinated by a picture published some time ago on one of my favourite photo blogs, ‘Shimmering Grains’. It showed what seemed to be a calm, almost ethereal, scene of the sea. In fact, it was taken during a gale but the sea has been calmed by a long time exposure. A perfect illustration of the oft mis-voiced ‘quote’ – “As tyme hem hurt, a tyme doth hem cure”, Chaucer; or “Time is the healer of all necessary evils”, Menander.

The picture above is a screen grab; the original picture is at:

http://shimmeringgrains.com/2012/10/23/long-exposures-by-the-sea/

But if you find beautiful photographs of things natural therapeutic, I’d recommend following this Swedish photographer’s blog.

Picture showing minimal geometry of the National War Museum, Manchester

Imperial War Museum, Manchester

I decided not to post this on my photo blog (grumpytykepix) as this was taken on my Lumix GF1 as I was attending a seminar at the museum for work, so carried digital. I’m endeavouring to reserve the other blog for film and classic cameras.

I usually prefer to photograph the natural environment but the built environment here is quite astounding and well worth a day. It made me determined to go back some day with film.

I’ve tried to minimise the effect here, but originally this picture showed up the distortion in the Lumix 14-42mm ‘X’ lens but I guess if anything was going to this is it.

The writer

Lenutsa’s right hand moved smoothly in a small arc, its shadow – pale and indistinct in the light of a solitary oil lamp – gliding over the surface of the dark, ugly thing grasped lightly in her other hand. She sighed, laid the object on the cloth which covered the small table at which she was sitting and, turning to the eastern corner of the room, with thumb and first two fingers of her right hand together, touched them to her forehead, then her lower breast, then her right shoulder, then her left. She repeated the movements twice more.

She had written the final line. It was perfect.

Turning to the table again, she gently took the wart-covered thing between finger and thumb and placed it carefully in a small cup, half full with a potion, black, evil-looking, emanating an acrid, nauseating smell. Plucking a small stick from the table, she turned the object in the liquid, carefully pushing it down as she turned.

Again and again she plunged the object into the murky depths, till the object itself, covered in raised lines like old scars left by the razor of a precise maniac, was completely black.

Grasping it lightly between thumb and forefinger, she lifted the thing from the black liquid, lightly wiped it with a stained piece of cloth and placed it on a small clay tile on the table. She dried her thumb and finger with the same cloth and looked with distaste at the stains left there.

Never mind, she was almost done.

The first rays of dawn were creeping through the window. She blew out the lamp and a golden ray from the rising sun lit on the dark thing, now becoming a dull black as the evil liquid evaporated.

Lenutsa looked at the thing through drooping eyelids. Should she complete her task now, or sleep a little? She had just time for a short nap before the ducks began their morning gabble crying for food. If she completed her task she would not be able to sleep until all the daily chores demanded by her small piece of land and its few living creatures were completed.

She’d finish the thing.

She lit the oil lamp again. Reaching out her left hand, she took up the thing and, while holding it way above the flame of the lamp, took again the old rag in her right hand and began gently to wipe the black scars, now warm from the flame.

A red slash, bright as newly drawn blood, spilled out of the black where the rag had touched. The scars dissolved in the wake of the caressing rag. Another stroke, and golden yellow leapt out to reflect the increasingly strong rays of the sun. Another red slash, another burst of yellow; as the rag swept over the thing’s surface the colours began to coalesce into recognisable forms.

A diamond, a triangle, a star, a cross. Each delineated by a fine, shiny line, black or white. Each formed with sweeping, precise curves on the surface of the fragile creation.

Lenutsa absorbed the beauty with pride, crossed herself again and placed it at the end of a row of similar things on the nearby dresser.

She’d feed the ducks who had given her the beginning of each of those wonderful things now standing proudly in line. Then she’d walk to the local monastery, carefully carrying her creations in a plastic bag.

If she was lucky, today the tourists would come. The dozen duck egg shells she had written would each translate into one Euro, maybe more. And she would have money for the sugar, the coffee and the other things that her small plot could not provide and, of course, for the beeswax she would buy from her neighbour to write more eggs, and the chemical dyes which came from across the border, from the Ukraine.

Lenutsa crossed herself again as her lips moved silently to thank God. And then she smiled.

_____________________________________________________________

This is my first attempt to write more than the few words of a haiku or a limerick as I’ve posted before. I’d welcome any feedback from all you more experienced writers out there, or from those who simply read. (A word of explanation, the egg decorators of the Bucovina in northern Romania say they ‘write’ the eggs, not ‘decorate’ or ‘paint’ them).

imagine     differ

climb out of the commonplace

halt     think free     proceed

Browsing around looking for inspiration I came across a site which, weekly, gives three words as a prompt to write something. This week’s three words were ‘imagine’, ‘differ’ and ‘halt’. The site is

http://www.threewordwednesday.com/

I thought I’d see if the words would prompt a haiku. They did.

In my previous post I said I liked the discipline of the 5-7-5 haiku. I also like the discipline of having to include a given three words, just from time to time.

I haven’t given up on the picture haiku, marrying up a photograph and a haiku, or just creating a ‘haiku’ from 17 pictures, as I did in my first effort – I find it very appealing and my efforts seemed to prompt quite a few ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, so I will persevere.

I find Romania inspiring so I’m hoping to find some haiku inspiring pictures there in August. There’s a little place called Sadova near which, several years ago, I experienced the greatest feeling of peace ever. I hope to go there and maybe recapture that. Just the thought of it has given me an idea for a short story – which will be my first ever if I can complete it (in fact it will not be my first; I’ve been told I wrote a lot of stories as a child. Somewhere along the way I lost that).

Another idea I’ve picked up from another blog, and I’m very sorry I cannot find it again to give a credit, was to assign a day of the week to each of various subjects. For me this might be a great idea as although some people seem to run a multiplicity of blogs, each for one of their interests, I cannot imagine being able to do that. One is hard enough. It might also help with keeping up with a post a day. I’m working on it. I guess it might help followers who find one of my topics interesting but not others.

I haven’t yet signed up to threewordwednesday but maybe I’ll work out how to do the link and make it.

one destination

straight     curious meander

we wonder and wait

This is the last of my existing pictures which immediately prompted a haiku. The exercise has had an interesting result: now I’m looking for the picture and the haiku at the same time. I’ve not yet had time to indulge that.

Since I got into this I’ve read a bit more about haiku; it seems there are all sorts of combinations which are considered to be ‘haiku’ – even a single word. 

That doesn’t do for me. I like the discipline of trying to marshal my thoughts into the 17 syllable, 5-7-5, formation. Though I was glad to learn about the use of space as a kind of punctuation – as above.

Perhaps liking the discipline comes from learning, as a journalist, to make a ‘story’ fit into pretty much an exact number of words, or a similar discipline as an advertising copy writer – in general with far fewer words to play with.

In just the same way, I like to marshal my photographic thoughts with the discipline of using film. However, I’m quite happy to use the ‘indiscipline’ of digital photography for other projects, and I’m looking forward to having the creative inspiration to compose many more words in a single piece of imaginative writing – if it ever happens. But I won’t tag it as haiku.

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