Friday, October 12, 2012

Finishing Touches

I promised an update on William's progress with his tombstones. Actually, shortly after the post about the tombstones, he had a small crisis of faith. He's put so much time and thought into these, that finishing them, and achieving the quality, aged look that he wanted to get began to feel, for him, close to impossible. He's learning as he goes, and his paint sprayer was malfunctioning, and stuff was... you know doing what stuff does... not working the way he needed it to. I was no help, because all I could see was what looked like a success... really cool, good looking markers. But he was determined to achieve exactly the authentic, realistic, and weathered look of actual cemetery headstones, and he was not about to settle for really cool.

And he was right. The next level is remarkable. He's pleased, too. It took many experiments, and adjustments, and now he is finding the right colors, textures, and layering methods to make the headstones look as though they have been worn by time and nature, by slow decay, cold nights, damp summers.

He's making great progress, and we are seeing a project many, many months in the making come to a happy conclusion.

Construction foam, research, regard and respect for historic craftsmanship, a Dremel- high speed rotary tool, paint, paint, and more paint... he's brought all of this together to great effect.

Somehow, finished with William's great care, these seem so much more than a Halloween prop. They really do convey the thoughtfulness, and esteem shown for the loved ones who have passed on. The motifs, the time spent to create those original pieces... it makes me reflective and mindful of the beauty conveyed in these traditions, and remembrances. Well done, William.

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dia De Las Flores

Una feria de flores!

Welcome to our little flower fair! We've been making floral wreaths... they remind me of leis, of October fest, and the flowers of Mexico... coronas de flores! They are pretty! Imagine how beautiful they would be if I made them with real flowers... oh, yes, very pretty.

Since real flower wreaths only last a day, and because I wanted to practice my method, before (possibly) destroying any genuine blossoms, I hit the dollar bin at the craft store. I went for the least fakey looking fake flowers. Maria's corona is made from a bunch of chrysanthemums that came with fern-like leaves.


Wire Cutters
Flexible wire... ours is floral grade
Floral tape... it comes in green and white, and it's tacky, and will stick to itself
Hot glue, or E6000... hot or stinky, your choice!

After I made Maria's, she definitely wanted to play too. I felt a little more confident about her trying this, without suffering too much frustration, since I had figured out the basics, and which parts took the most patience.

So... want to try?

Steps 1-2-3

1. Measure enough wire to fit around your head... not tight, because you'll be making the wreath smaller as you add tape, flowers, and ribbon. I suggest at least half an inch of looseness. Unwind enough wire to twist around three times... I did this because one loop of this light wire would be too weak, too flimsy. So consider the strength and flexibility of your wire and make it as rigid as you think will be comfortable to wear around your head.

2. Cut the length of wire you need, and now twist it around itself, into the wreath form. I was not especially meticulous or fussy about this. The form will be covered in tape, then flowers, and finally the ribbon, so kinks and warps in the wire are not a big deal.

3. When you have your form, grab the floral tape, and snuggly cover the form with the tape. I added this step to Maria's wreath, so she had a more uniform piece, with no wires to poke her. The tape stretches, and adheres to itself, so pull it taut, as you wrap it round and round the entire wire form. This part was a bit of a coordination challenge for Maria, so sometimes she would hand it over to me, and I would get her back on course.

See what I mean about the wire? I didn't obsess over how it looked, but to keep anything from poking, we covered all of this up with the floral tape.

It's a wrap! Maria is making her flower crown for her doll, Josefina.

Steps 4-5-6

4. Cut the flowers off of the long stems. This may require wire cutters. Leave 1-2" stems on the flowers, and if you want to include the leaves, then slide the leaves up the stem, closer to the flower.

5. The next thing you need to do is to glue the flower to the plastic stem. You may have already figured out that the flowers are not always affixed to the stems, and they can pop off easily. Once the flowers were cut, I then added a drop of E6000 around the base of the flower, to really stick it to the stem. Then I let it dry for about five minutes. Now they are ready to be wrapped onto the wreath.

6. Working from the center and front of the wreath, we placed a flower along the tape wrapped flower, setting the stem faced toward the back of the wreath. Then we start wrapping about 6-7" of floral tape from the flower base, around the wreath, and all the way down the stem.

Remember to pull the tape taut, while holding the flower to the wreath form. It may take a few passes, and let the tape overlap itself to really secure the flower to the wreath form. Again, this may be a bit much to coordinate. I was stepping in quite a bit with first few flowers, but Maria did get the hang of it.

I don't mind letting Maria know when I find a project challenging, too, and then we feel easier about helping each other, and working through the trouble spots. Sometimes the floral tape twists, and gets stuck to itself, so we would pull that short length off and start over. No problem! Each flower was laid down, with the stem going toward the back. The we started the second row, from the front and filling in from front to back.

Josefina is a little doll, so we used the smallest flowers, and no leaves.

Once all the flowers were wrapped in floral tape, it was time to wrap the floral tape with a pretty ribbon.

Step 7!

7. I dabbed a bit of the E6000 to the end of the narrow width, black ribbon, and secured it to the wreath form, just below the last flower, then I began wrapping the ribbon, overlapping it, and going all the way around the form, until I had the whole back of the flower crown covered. As I wrapped it, I would add an extra dot of glue to the ribbon every couple of inches, to ensure it stayed secure.

I go back and forth between calling it a crown and a wreath. I suppose it would be more of a "wreath," if we had added the flowers all the way around the form, and then it would be worn on top of your head. Since we only added flowers part way around the form, maybe that is more like a "crown."

Josefina and her corona de flores!

Step 8 is all about the finishing touches. Maria chose decorative ribbons that we glued to the sides, just behind the last flower. The ribbons drape around Josefina's face, adding to the festive look of her corona.

This corona is for Dia De Los Muertos... an irresistible Halloween suggestion from my cousin, Rebekah. I can't wait to finish it.

I hope my instructions don't throw anyone off, or read too daunting. It turns out to be a pretty simple project, with not too many supplies. Might be a fun thing to do with friends, on a rainy day!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Haunted Bird House

Halloween is twenty-two days away!
But the ghosts have come already,
They could not wait another day!

They come in all shapes and sizes,
Some small, some tall,
All gossamer and ghastly
In their cheese cloth disguises!

Writhes, phantoms, apparitions,
In legends and in literature,
In our vivid imaginations,

The specters we have conjured
Are of a friendly nature!

They are as light as feathers, but stand easily, freely. We may hang some with thread. They cannot get wet though, or they'll suffer the same melting fate as that Wicked Witch!

Would you like to scare up a pair of ghosts for your haunted house? They are really easy to make, and a lot of fun to decorate with. I learned how to make these a long time ago... when I was just a scary little kid. Gather your supplies, and give this a try!

Cheesecloth: by the yard at some craft and fabric stores, or at the market in the baking aisle

White glue, and a dish to pour it in to. It's just the regular old stuff you used in school

Some bottles, varying sizes

Wax paper, for easier clean up

A bit of aluminum foil, or any thing that can add shapes to the bottles

A pair of scissors

Once I have all of my supplies on hand, I tear off a few sheets of wax paper and lay them on the work surface. This will protect my counter from spills, and give the ghosts a place to dry.

Then I pour some glue into a dish, and add just enough water to make it a bit runny. If it's diluted too much, then the ghost will be less rigid, so only add enough water to make it slightly more fluid-y.

William measured enough cheesecloth over a tall bottle to cover the bottle, and leave some cloth draping. The part that drapes will create the base, so the ghost can stand. If you want to suspend your ghost, then you don't have to be as concerned about creating this base. William cut the portion he needed, and moved over to the glue dish.

Next, William balled up the cheesecloth and gave it a gentle dunk into the glue, then squeezed out the excess solution. Once the cloth had absorbed the glue and water, he spread it apart and prepared to drape it over his form.

Here we go! William is making sure the cloth is spread all around. You don't want to be too rough with the delicate cheesecloth, but any tears or pulls really only enhance the tattered shroud of your ghost, so don't be too fussy about it, either.

With smaller bottle and props, we add extended arms. A round dome of foil on the top of narrow necked bottles will create better proportions for heads.

This is the fun part... when you drape the damp cloth around the base, and get the arms to float and reach out. The next part is to let them dry. We did this right before tooth-brushing and story time, so the ghosts were dry and ready to greet us in the morning!

Speaking of dry and ready to greet us...
We found this little imp haunting the dryer!


Monday, October 08, 2012

Halloween Countdown: 23 Days!

William makes faux tombstones. They are works of art with a reverent nod to history, and All Hallo's Eve. He has been working on these grave markers since last year. He's done a lot of research... for historic accuracy and also to learn the best techniques, in carving, and painting, and to determine the best materials. I cannot say enough about how much care and attention goes in to each and every piece.

This is one of the first ones he carved. This was done free hand, using construction foam. He likes to model his designs inspired by genuine graveyard motifs of the 18th century.

Rebekah and I followed William into the carport to see the faux column he is constructing, and when I realized my cousin hadn't seen what William has been doing, I asked William to show her his art.

I can write about how impressed and proud of his work I am, but what I really want is for him to take over, here, and explain his thought process, his methods, the challenges, the successes. It's been a long labor of love, and he has a diligence and determination to adhere to high standards. It makes me reluctant to even try and describe what he is achieving, because I know I won't get it quite right.

Ask him! Anything. Do you have a question about his choices, or how he gets them to look the way they do? They are unfinished. He has more plans for aging them. I am hoping that he will write a post and answer our questions, because I would love to have his thoughts recorded, here.

He's made a lot of them... gravestones, markers, foot markers, headstones... each unique, each nearly completed.

This is the one we came out to see, specifically. He asked me to photograph it before he paints it.

The foam pieces are hand cut, and then were glued onto the concrete tube form. The cheap vase was a thrift shop score.

Do you know about Ouroboros, the ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail?

It might be hard for William to find time to write a post for me... he wants these finished as soon as possible. We want to spook up the garden for Halloween.

He's working very hard.

I promise to keep you posted on his progress!