Thursday, March 26, 2009

...And Then We Paint (and Paint and Paint)

I can't believe I'm able to write this--I have one coat of paint to put on the trim and I'm finished (except for putting everything back). Three hard days of work, but the studio is looking really sharp. The gray is perfection: exactly neutral, it reflects the color of the light outside, so when it's early or late, the walls seem a warm gray, while looking cool and slightly blue in the middle of the day. The white ceiling reflects additional light into the room, while all the white trim "pops," and sets off the gray. I'm planning on hanging more artwork in the studio, and the gray walls will show the art to its best advantage; one area is being kept clear, so I have a place to photograph fiber.

I'm looking forward to finishing, and moving everything back into place. I miss my studio!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

...Then We Prime...

The priming is done, and I'm only a day behind schedule! If I was a responsible, energetic person, I'd put the first coat of paint on the ceiling this evening, but I'm not that responsible, and I don't have that much energy.

Spackling the cracks put me behind, because I had to spackle not once, but twice. I was filled with enthusiasm for fixing all those pesky cracks on Sunday evening, and had them all neatly filled before calling it a day on Sunday night. On Monday morning, I went in to check if all my handiwork was dry. Much to my disgust, I discovered that the fancy "polyester elastomer" spackle had shrunk into the cracks, rather than filling them. Feh! Not only do I have to redo all that work, but I have to find something that is going to work!

Home Depot carries an amazing number of different products to fill holes and cracks in walls. Powders, pastes, for plaster, for drywall, and so on. One of the newest (and neatest) is spackle that goes on pink, but dries white and can be sanded. I bought a bucket, went back home, and spackled the entire room...again. However, this time the product worked; as small cracks began to turn white, I could see that they were completely filled and ready for sanding. It took longer for the large areas and deep patches to dry, so I decided to wait until today to do the priming.

While I was waiting for the spackle to dry, I decided to make use of the time and get some dyeing done. I dyed several pounds of Border Leicester/Corriedale/Merino locks last summer, but I didn't have any orange dye at the time; I attempted to mix an orange using red and yellow, but ended up with red-orange. At that time, I also dyed some locks black, but for some reason they came out dark gray. This time, I have the orange dye and the time to try again for a good black. I sewed some of the net "envelopes" I washed the locks in closed, set them to soak, then decided that I wanted to also dye some roving, so I dug out the dyeing crockpot and measured out some roving.

Dyeing the locks was a pretty straight-forward affair. I've used Jacquard dyes for years, and they usually perform just as I expect. This time was no different. I measured out the dyes, added them to the pots on the stove, put the locks in, and brought each up to temperature. I used vinegar, rather than citric acid, to acidulate each vat, and as I was doing so, I suddenly realized:

Citric Acid: 4% of WOG = Vinegar (5% strength): 100% of WOG

Once each vat reached temperature (190 degrees for 15 minutes), I pulled each off the stove to let the locks cool overnight.

That left the roving. I was in a mood to play, so I measured out royal blue, dark green, and violet dye solutions, added the vinegar to acidulate, and poured each solution into a squeeze bottle. I coiled the soaked roving in the bottom of the crockpot, and went "Jackson Pollack" on the roving with the squeeze bottles. I set the crockpot on "Low," and left it for three hours, then unplugged it and let the roving cool overnight.

This morning I washed and rinsed everything, and put it out to dry while I primed the studio. It takes an amazing amount of paint--two gallons--to prime an entire room. I got through the cutting in (and got a blister from the piant brush), rolled primer onto the ceiling and walls, and primed the doors and windows. As usual, paint was everywhere, including all over me.

With the painting out of the way, I spent the afternoon dyeing more roving. My experiments continue--this time, I braided the roving before putting it in water to soak. The braid helps keep the roving together, but it's harder to get the dyes to penetrate fully without making the roving too wet. I found I could open the braid up, and by using the squeeze bottles, could get some nice effects. I tried to keep it pretty simple, using three-color combinations (light green, turquoise, lilac; red, purple, blue), but I let Stephen pick the colors for one braid, christened the "Firebird": yellow, orange, red, with a violet "kicker." Once each braid was dyed, it was wrapped securely in plastic wrap, slipped into a ziploc bag, and microwaved. I let each cool, then washed and rinsed. After a quick spin in the washer, I unbraided each braid (easier than it sounds) to dry.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First We Prep...

I dislike painting. I dislike the disruption to my routine, I dislike tearing a room apart, I dislike prepping, I dislike the actual painting, I dislike the cleanup. The only thing I like about painting is the clean, tidy look right after I'm finished--in my studio, that will last about 15 minutes.

I particularly dislike prepping. Prepping is annoying because it has to be done, but there's no lasting benefit--unless you count not having paint all over everything permanently. However, I am not a neat painter, so painstaking prep work is essential.

My mother is a neat painter. I have no idea how she does it, unless it's from years of painting, first with those oil-based paints that were full of lead, and more recently with latex-based paints. She gets up on a Saturday morning, pulls out the old paint roller and older paint tray and gets to work. It seems she needs only a single piece of yesterday's newspaper, no matter the size of the job, and there are never any drips, spilled paint, or goofs--she simply doesn't allow it.

I, on the other hand, and one of the messiest painters around. The only time my can of paint doesn't have drips around it is when it's still at the paint store. When I paint, it is on everything and in everything--I've ruined pairs of eyeglasses by wearing them while painting a ceiling, and nearly every floor in the house has a few little drops and drips of paint on them. Prepping is an absolute necessity.

After moving all the furniture and equipment to the middle of the room yesterday, I took the time to start scraping open the cracks in preparation for spackling them. New problem: after 100 years, the finish coat on the plaster is finally beginning to fail. Several large pieces came away as I was scraping open the cracks, so I'll have to do some fancy faux-plasterwork to fix the spots. Scraping and spackling is an exercise in futility. The house is "indeterminate framing" (basically, a box)--good for flexing under shear stresses (e.g., it moves but doesn't collapse in an earthquake), but tough on inflexible materials, such as plaster. Add to that a condition known as "soil heave," and you have a house that is always in need of spackling. A lot of our neighbors have ripped out the plaster and replaced it with more flexible gypsum dryboard (sheetrock), but I am trying to hang onto the plaster as long as I can: replacing plaster with sheetrock requires a professional and is expensive.

Once most of the cracks were scraped open, and the debris swept up, it was time for covering and taping. This is the hardest part of the prep work, but the most important. Guaranteed: if I don't cover it with taped-down plastic, it will have paint on it before I'm finished. Two 10x20' plastic drop cloths were enough to cover the gigantic mound of furniture in the middle of the room. Once covered, I went around the room, carefully taping down heavier 3' wide plastic. All the window frames were taped, the face-plates for the outlets and light switch removed, and the outlets and light switch themselves covered with painters tape. It took several hours, but I'm finally ready to start spackling and priming.