Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Make a Carousel :: In Albany Oregon They're Making a Beauty

There were a lot of sights and activities that we looked forward to on the Oregon Trail, but there was one place, one experience that we did not anticipate... and it was easily a great highlight of our entire adventure. I'm talking about visiting the Historic Carousel & Museum in Albany, Oregon. Ron and Delia took us to downtown Albany after dinner, and we walked to the Willamette River along the Dave Clark Trail, to Monteith Riverpark, up and down First Avenue and Second Avenue. All the shops were closed, so was the Carousel Museum, but we pressed our noses against the windows, peering into a maker-artist wonderland! Across the street, at Sybaris Bistro, Janel and her daughters were busy putting things in order, but invited us in to meet Hope, one of the carousel figures, on display in the restaurant. This meeting absolutely confirmed our plans for Monday: We had to visit the museum, see all of the Carousel figures, get as close as possible to the tools, illustrations, works in progress, and meet the people in the workshop!

All of the details, the history of the project, the plans, hopes, and accomplishments are explained on their website. Basically, they are ten years into a fifteen year project to build an historically inspired carousel, with 52 unique and original hand carved and painted animals. Their vision statement: "To enchant young and old alike with the finest carousel in the world, promote the artistry of carousel building by sharing our skills and talents, and build community by opening our venue to events and activities”. Awesome! This is being accomplished with an all volunteer craftsman, woodcarving, painting, and artist team, and donations. And when we walked inside, met the people and saw their work, we were definitely enchanted.

No two animals are alike. In fact there are sixty-six total animals... fifty-two of them will be in use, with six alternates for days when a figure is getting repaired, or maintained, as well as five more animals for holiday and seasonal themes. A black cat for Halloween! Our Chango approves. And to my delight, how about a Christmas Rooster? He looks amazing! In addition to these there will be two chariots. Following the link to the Animals page will show you a list of all the creations, with illustrations, and details about their inspiration. Each concept is a heartfelt and creative masterpiece... some completed, some in progress, each awe-inspiring.

Harriette! What a darling. This picture show's the romance side of Harriette, this is the more elaborate and detailed face that will be seen when facing the carousel from outside. I love this word and meaning, and when lead painter Gwen Marchese explained it to me it was an aha! moment for me as I realized that of course a carousel figure might be more interesting on the showing side, where the carvers' and painters' work would enjoy more attention! Harriette the frog is spectacularly whimsical all the way around, and it's fun to read about the meanings and significance of each detail.

Soon this entire workshop, plus the carousel itself, will be in a specially designed and constructed building. Until then, you can visit the Museum and studio, free of charge, and there is a gift shop, too. In the front we saw the animal figures waiting to be painted. Each figure will be stipple painted in at least eight coats of oil paint. This means no brush strokes! It also means a lot of time for drying is necessary between coats of paint. The finish is glossy, smooth, and the colors are rich, and vibrant.

To protect the paint, and to prepare the animals for all those happy riders, each figure will be finished with 3 layers of automotive clear coat. This carousel is a working art piece, and letting people enjoy their ride will be as important as protecting the artistry of the animals. In the paint studio it was important for us to stay behind the barrier, for the pieces to not get touched. That's understandable considering how vulnerable wet oil paints, and drying figures are. We admired the works in progress from a safe distance, then stepped into the wood carving studio!

Here we met woodcarvers, men and women who chip by chip are taking roughed out forms and cutting out the details and features that will turn basswood into a bear, a quail, horses, and chariots. David showed William basic carving techniques, and talked about the forgiveness of working with wood... it's not impossible to fix an error and make adjustments to the plan. In fact some mistakes can turn into something quite lovely. David's wife, Linda, is a painter, but she's been branching out and taking on some carving jobs, too. I love how they've carved grapevines and the basket into the saddle on Martha's back.

Here is a mustang, and you can see the artist's rendering hanging on the wall.

Here's Lady Sophia, with her cat and mouse traveling companions.

The concept art is charming, and so pretty. I love all the details, and personal touches, like the gnome at the back of the reindeer's saddle, and bespectacled Grizzly Berry's optometry basket.

Inspired by a family cow, in Switzerland... I just adore Sally, the darling Brown Swiss cow.

And it's fascinating to see the animal come to life, to see the inspiration on the wall begin to take shape in the wood.

Every stage of development in this project is compelling, and a treat to observe. The finished pieces, like Daisy the elephant, are even more impressive and awe inspiring once you can appreciate all the steps and phases that brought her to life. The new Carousel home will be more than a beautiful attraction and ride; it will be a place to witness the living history of carousels, a working studio where craftsmanship and art can continue to be taught and passed on for new generations.

Hello, Sampson!

I want to return. For sure when the Carousel is operational, and we can see all the animals in their fullest splendor, but I would enjoy another visit, when everything is still coming along, when things are being put together, and people are figuring things out. This isn't a kit, the parts aren't waiting in a warehouse, there are fewer and fewer experts who can provide all the answers. They still need donors, sponsors, supporters, even just people who care about uniquely compelling projects. Challenges. Wonderful challenges... the kind that bring talented people together, and rally communities. I love those kinds of opportunities. I love the tools laid out for use, and people in a circle, thinking and tinkering, and making.

And I deeply admire anyone who wants to make something, who is willing to see what can come of holding a new tool, finding some material, asking questions, and diving in. Every contribution matters. Every part will make a whole, and I think the pleasure of partaking must be gratifying and good.

This is the romance side of The Guardian. {Oh, and also Harriette's adorable backside!} The Guardian is a Hippocampus, a mythological animal. Someone imagined a creature, half fish, half horse. Someone made sketches, and drew lines, developed a saddle concept. Wood carvers pulled The Guardian out of the wood, and painters shaded forms, colored fish and seaweed, and a mermaid's smile. Engineers will come in and add this piece, and all the others, to the fully restored 1909 Carousel mechanism. My favorite places are where art and engineering meet. A carousel is a wonder of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Music, Math... and imagination.

Even if you cannot visit in person, please visit the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum website.
You can also Like them on FaceBook. I am sure those volunteers would love to hear our oohs and ahhs!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We Are Making A Library!

We are are opening a Little Free Library!

This is the secret project I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, something I have been dreaming on, plotting and planning about for months. I can't believe it's almost time for our grand opening!

Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? They're darling and smart, a terrific idea begun in 2009, by Todd Bol. He's in Hudson, Wisconsin. I love Wisconsin.

Little Free Library has a good website, with a blog, and their history is really inspiring. I love that they achieved their goal to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going, in just two years! Since 2010 they have registered nearly 15,000 libraries, and they're growing!

As soon as I learned about them, I was smitten with the idea of them... I love the idea of encouraging literacy and building community, of sharing resources. Immediately I began learning all I could, even collecting ideas and more inspiration on a Pinterest Board.

I may, just may, be a teeny bit of a packrat collector! I actually had a small wood cabinet I picked up at the thrift store last year. I thought it would be a good piece for storing things in the barn, and I brought it home to spruce up some day. Once the Library scheme was firmly rooted in my brain I saw that little cabinet in a whole new light, and I told everyone here in the Bird House about my vision. I was so sure it could be done, but only with everyone helping.

So. I removed the hardware, and scrubbed the cabinet.

I took all all those blue paint samples we were testing for the house, and poured them into a yogurt tub, so I could paint the cabinet.

Maria came to help with the painting.

And while we painted, Alex cut framing and boards for a roof.

Next, I asked William if he could please cut out the wood sections of the paneled door.

Then I sanded the cut-outs.

Max cut aluminum plated so we could use them as mounting brackets. The Little Free Library will be set on it's post this Sunday!

Geoff decided to reinforce the floor of the cabinet. It's solid, now!

By now, it was Mother's Day, and besides a beach walk, all I asked for my day was to see more progress on our Library, and I got just that.

This part of the re-model really impressed me. Geoff cut this trim with a bevel so it could hold the glass pane.

Not just a good idea, but pretty, and well done, too. Geoff really made my vision even more special. Everyone did.

Maria and I have been collecting books, and we have all kinds of ideas about seasonal themes, and we hope to include Maker Club events as part of our library experience. By Sunday, I need to paint some signs, design and print book labels, make some lemonade for our neighbors and friends, and get ready to celebrate!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Make Paper Flowers

They're big, bodacious, decorative, pollen-free, and fun to make... paper napkin flowers!

It's been almost four years since I learned how to make these napkin flowers. I had so much fun making them that that Maria and I invited friends over to make more flowers. We shared them with neighbors for their garden party, and we hung them all over our house. And then we stored away all those extra napkins we had leftover, and almost forgot all about paper flowers, until now.

Now, Maria wants to learn how to make this fun craft for herself. She's older, and more patient, which is helpful when learning new techniques. She thinks this could be a great activity to bring to Maker Faire, and she wants to teach visitors to the Faire how they can make paper napkin flowers, too! With a little more practice, and the guidance of her club mentors, she will be making bouquets of flowers in no time!

Our napkins came from Ikea. They are large, dinner napkins. I think we should get smaller, cocktail napkins to bring for Maker Faire.

Maria is lining up four napkins.

We open up four napkins and stack them.

For fancy stamens in the flower center, I cut a napkin into fourths, then fringe cut one fourth, and laid it on the four full size napkins.

Now comes the folding. Grabbing all the layers, fan, or accordion fold the napkins.

It will be a little trickier if you have smaller pieces, like this green fringe cut napkin in the center, but once you have the napkins folded, cinch the middle, and fasten it with yarn or string, or even a twist tie.

Next, you will want to trim the edges, so that the flower petals will come out scalloped, and curved. An arc will give the petals soft and rounded edges. If you cut points then your petals could look something like a sunflower's, like in the first image.

Sharp scissors are a necessity for cleanly cutting through all those paper layers safely. Watch your fingers! This was a part that got a bit frustrating for Maria, until I realized that her scissors were small and probably a bit dull. Dull scissors are not as safe as sharp scissors, because dull scissors may slide and skip as you force them to cut. Sharp scissors, used respectfully, work well, and don't cause you to use excessive effort to get the job done effectively, easily.

Here we see a flower bud. It's been folded, cinched and tied, and the petals are trimmed.

Now for the blooming! Carefully pull the napkin layers toward center.
These Ikea napkins are sturdy, but they can tear, so be patient, gradually lifting each petal and sculpting the flower into a pleasing form.

With garden roses to inspire us, Maria is helping her flower bloom, by gently pulling the napkin petals toward the center, so the bloom will be full and bodacious.

Here is the blue flower, with those green, fringed stamen. I think I will snip those a bit and get them to perk-up a bit.

There are all sorts of flowers in nature. I think these napkin flowers are especially effective as peonies, roses, zinnias, dahlias, lotuses, and ranunculi.

In her hair, Maria has a flower for a hat! We simply pushed a hair comb through the yarn that tied the flower in the center, then put it in Maria's hair. It makes quite a statement!

Get your supplies ready, call over some friends, and you will have a bouquet, too! When our friends started making flowers with us, we discovered even more possibilities and floral varieties. We've shared the basics, but this is a craft to make all your own!