Friday, April 24, 2009

The Stigma with Stenciling......

Photo of Ann Gish linens, unknown source

I recently needed a stencil with geometric lines to define the edges of a client's  mural from the unadorned walls around it.  I began to research motifs such as "greek key" and "fretwork" and decided on the look seen above.  I began to see this motif in the oddest places.....on buildings...

Photo-Lafayette, Indiana

On people's clothing......

and , those lovely Ann  Gish textiles!  
    In college, I studied design, life drawing, intaglio and art history. It was understood that my work must be "original"with no short cuts or aids.  Under our breath, we serious art students scoffed at the art education majors that incorporated sponges and stencils in their projects......when was stenciling reduced  from an art form  to a craft?  When was stenciling equated mainly  with the work of  itinerate artists in the 1800's linked to early american  decor  producing rows of pineapples and  fruit on Hitchcock chairs? 


 The word  stenciling derives from the french verb estenceler(to sparkle) and the latin scintilla(to spark).   A stencil  is a template used to reproduce  a symbol or shape through drawing or paint in a uniform,  repetitive manner.  Adele Bishop and Cile Lord marketed the first stencil kit in 1968 for the masses. It included stencils based on designs from the 50's along with the paint and brushes needed to complete a project.  These kits could be compared to the current popular  ''...for Dummies " series of books teaching everything from how to use a computer to how to learn to cook. Bishop and Lord  took simple designs ( no theorem stencils here) easy for a beginner to use and made them accessible to the masses.  No longer did  the artisan control the market for stencil work.  The costs of elaborate theorem stencil designs had a competitor! Simple, repetitive designs done by the homeowner soon became the rage and the more expensive and laborious artistic interpretation began to decline.
    I still scoffed at the use of stencils throughout my career,  the stigma with the whole  "craft" thing " bothered me.  Serious artists, in my opinion, just didn't use stencils! My attitude was about to change when I was asked to bid on a restoration job of turn of the century stencilwork in a local historical home.

      WOW! This was a dream come true!   


The entryway to this 1888 home was covered from floor to ceiling in theorem stenciling. The detail was incredible....well, what I could see of it. When I came in, around one third of the work was deteriorated. 

I had to make acetate overlays  of the intact designs to repair the areas decomposed.

I used Farrow and Ball paint to repair the missing designs and touch up faded sections. My attitude changed overnight about the use of stencils!

There was no space left unadorned in this entryway. History is sketchy on it's origins. It was not original to the home but was done sometime in the twenty year period between 1888 and 1908. 

The complexity and composition is a work of art in itself!  The blue border around the top of the walls does not repeat! TRUST ME! It has some similar motif sections, but each wall has a distinct identity.

This was work done by artisans based on their standards. They painted many things that only a trained eye would be able to appreciate.  One day, when climbing the scaffolding, I was working about fifteen feet up near the ceiling. I looked at the small "nails" holding the blue ribbon and noticed a faint shadow painted for each nail! From the ground, this is not discernible but, it was painted because, the artist knew it would be there in nature. No corners were cut, no details were left out. It was a pure joy to work on this project and learn that stenciling can still be an art form, depending on who holds the brush..... 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon.....

With spring's arrival, I decided to visit a nearby nursery specializing in not so common landscape plants and ideas. 

Located between Canton and Tyler, Blue Moon Gardens is just outside of Edom, Texas.  Blue Moon specializes in unusual and kinda quirky concepts. They have an extensive herb selection as well as shade plants, shrubs and hanging baskets. It is not uncommon to see people from Dallas, Tyler and in between grabbing a red wagon and walking the grounds.

Of course, there are the nursery cats.  Groucho is catching some sleep near the herbs. Iris; not wanting to be photographed today, was sleeping near the office.

My mission was to purchase lavender to fill in gaps where some had died last year. They carry several varieties.  I purchased two kinds-provence and grosso to go along with two varieties already in my yard. Both varieties have the typical silver green foliage and tall, spiky flower stalks. I live in Northeast Texas in Zone 8,with a fairly mild climate and lavender is very happy here!

I love the way they solved growing a variety of lettuce in a small space. Container gardening is great for patios and keeps harvesting hassle free.

Have you ever considered using lettuce as a "plant", not just a "crop"?

Ok, here is Groucho again.....

Look at how parsley is used as a border for beds! I just love this!

Parsley gives such a great texture and color while defining the bed.

Just look at these poppies without a border......

Now look at this bed with the parsley edging...cleaner lines, more definition.

There is a great section showing trellis landscaping....

and blue spruce and cedars (which I love)
Here, ornamental kale is allowed to grow tall and spiky, great contrast with the yellow pansies.

Remember, your yard is just another "room" in your environment. Let it reflect your personality as much as your home does!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Small Indulgences.....

I spend most of my days painting in someone else's home. In doing so, I have found many great touches that make a home unique. I am listing some of these great finds in this blog.

In 1643 the House of Trudon was founded. This all natural, non paraffin candle has a prestigious history.  Who else offers a candle that is based on the aroma of the waxed wooden floors and candlelabras in Versailles? Roi Soleil is based on just that! Cire Trudon was the candle source for Versailles as well as Napoleon. There candles burn clean and last longer than most soy or petroleum based ones. toilet tissue! Why didn't we come up with this sooner? Well, really we have to thank Portugal for this one! It is very soft and looks fabulous when white just won't do. They also make some electric colors. Just google  "Renova Toilet Tissue" for a list of suppliers in the USA. 

The rolls are smaller than standard but the look is worth it!

I love museum gift shops. They have the best gifts. I recently purchased a new business card holder and mirror for  my purse from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I love the raised letters. I can reach in my purse and find the mirror without actually diverting my eyes while driving. 

Ok, this is just the coolest. These shots are from one of my client's home. She has the prettiest file folders and greatest organizational items. These metal switchplate tags come in almost every subject imaginable! I love how it takes the guessing out of which switch is for what. They come in other finishes as well.  Renovator's Supply is the

John Lennon said "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans".  I hope these hints help make your daily life a little easier and a little brighter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Elusive European Blue

I have been drawn to this glorious color throughout my life.  To me, it represents all things wonderful in France and Italy.  Not blue or green by American standards, european blue is a dull,  watery blend of green and blue, often with a patina that is hard to replicate.  After many trips to Europe, I have decided years of pollutants including candle soot, diesel exhaust and nicotine give this color it's unique patination!

This door is in the heart of Venice. Years of Adriatic salt and weather have only enhanced the watery color.

                                                            detail of door

Even Zuber handblocked wallpaper is famous for use of this color.
The placemats used in Laduree exhibit the same hues.
This fabulous wall is from Le Musee Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris. 
Oxidation of copper dome-Paris

The picture at the top of the post is the results of this journey. My client simply wanted this reproduction console to "look like Europe".  It was achieved using Farrow and Ball colors Card Room Green, Berrington Blue, rottenstone, lime washes and other techniques.
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