Tuesday, December 15, 2009

French Christmas Dinner

Recovering from a wonderful five course/five wine French Christmas dinner held at Chloe's Bistro, our favorite local restaurant (http://www.chloebistro.com/). It started with seafood, then foie gras, roast goose, beef tenderloin, a wonderful array of cheeses, and ended with the traditional buche noel (Yule log cake). Now I feel like I should be trussed and put in an oven.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Busy Week

Last week of class, finishing up work on final presentation in Marketing Comm class, to be given Thursday night. Friday morning have 6:00 am flight to Florida. Will spend a few days in Charleston and Savannah, then Christmas in St. Augustine.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ah, the lovely snow

While not the first snow of the season, it was beautiful (especially on a Sunday morning, when there is no rush to get out). I took the dogs out (Savannah, the younger poodle) went berserk running around. The moon was still visible, even though the sun was up, and the sky had pink and yellow, creating the effect of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

Will probably be melted by tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back on course

I can understand why only about 2 percent of people who start blogs keep them up. Fall has been very busy (and I wish I found the time to post, because I could go back and see what was keeping me so occupied). But with Fall, closing up house in Maine, back in school, etc., these things just get pushed to the back burner.

Now I don't know if I should just continue on, or try and catch up (probably a combination of both).

One of the best things for my fall tasks has been getting a chain saw. We have lots of trees, and the forestation has gotten out of control in the past 20 years or so. I bought a 14" Poulan, and it did the job for a few trees, so while I got my money's worth, it was disappointing when it died so soon. My new one is a Stihl, with "Easy Start", and it is wonderful for people like me who are not managing a woodlot, but just want to clean up the landscape.

The pictures here are of a stray sapling that became a large tree while we weren't looking. Now it's firewood.

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Snow

As they say in New England: If you don't like the weather, wait a minute. After some lovely fall weather, we get the first snow of the season. No, these first ones never last, but it does provide a taste of what lies ahead.

So it looks like time to cover the grill and get out the soup pots.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall in New England

Our fall weather has been great. The foliage was wonderful, until fierce winds this week took down most of the colored leaves in our area. Still, with warm days and clear skies we are busy with typical fall cleanup, house maintenance, and of course, back to school. I am often tempted to move elsewhere, but when fall comes around, New England is the place to be.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

House Painting Time

With the late summer run of good weather, I have been working on my aunt's house. It was built for my aunt and uncle in the mid-1950's, and has not been significantly changed since then. I am repainting the exterior to match the original colors. The shrubbery was overgrown, and has now been reduced, so it is like time-traveling back to 1955.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Frames

Without an air-conditioned studio, gilding work has been difficult this summer. But finally, frame orders have been completed, and ready for delivery. This is a grouping of "lemon gold" (silver gilt) frames before they went out the door.

York, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Dogs were in the kennel, so we had a few days to see some historic areas we normally zip by on the interstate.
The Museums of Old York, in York, Maine show a different side of this area, mostly known for its beaches. The "Old Gaol" (jail), and the historic house above, were wonderful time capsules, and offered that "old house smell" that is part of being in a building that has stood for centuries. The museum consists of a number of building (more than we could visit that day), and is well worth a trip (http://www.oldyork.org).

A day spent in Portland, Maine to see the "Artist Colonies of the Coast" exhibit was a fitting way to spend a summer day. In addition, visited the Victoria Mansion (http://www.victoriamansion.org/) and the Longfellow house (http://www.mainehistory.org/house_overview.shtml) where the poet lived in his early years) Both of these were notable for the high percentage of original material, structure and furnishings still in place. The Victoria mansion is an incredible example of high-style Victorian, reflecting an opulence one would expect in New York or Newport.

On the way home, stopped in Portsmouth for the Moffatt Ladd (www.moffattladd.org) house (gardens shown above) and the Warner House (http://www.warnerhouse.org/). One thing about the old New Englanders - nothing was thrown away. Again, both houses outstanding for original contents, primarily due to family desires to preserve for posterity. The Warner house interpreter assumed the role of a family member, and was outstanding. Worth the visit just for her performance as a Boston woman preserving her family's history.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Lemon Gold" Frames (part II)

I have a number of gilding projects going on, as usual. One current project is a pair of "lemon gold" (silver gilt) frames. I usually take smaller projects back and forth between workshops in Maine and Massachusetts during the summer, but don't want to risk banging up something large. In any event, clay has been applied, and we are now leafing with silver and burnishing. Due to the heavy weight of silver leaf (as compared to gold), burnishing can really tire me out. I was feeling ambitious about leafing the entire frame, but this means that you have to complete burnishing within the next 24 hours.
Once the leafing is complete, tinted shellacs will bring the color to a soft, medium gold color.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Antiques Festival in Union, Maine

This past weekend I was at the Maine Antiques Festival (www.maineantiquefest.com) at the Union, Maine fairgrounds. This is the largest antiques show in Maine (a downeast version of Brimfield). I took a booth to display gilding restoration work and my reproductions of nineteenth century frames.
I spent a lot of time talking with people, the weather was perfect all weekend, and there were great falafael sandwiches available.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Finally Some Sunny Days

We are now at least getting some sunny days, interspersed in what must be the rainiest summer in history.

Air is still damp all the time, and with the heat, it is now tropical (with more storms predicted for this week). Playing havoc with drying times and shellac work. I am trying to get things together for a large antique show in Union, Maine (http://www.maineantiquefest.com/), where I will have a booth displaying restoration and gilding work, etc.

Photo shows a street corner in Wiscasset, where the sun's appearance brought the tourists out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Visitors Spur Museum Trip

We have been getting around to some of our New England museums this week (we often delay visits to the treasures in our own back yards).

I wanted to show visitors from England something "New England", so decided on a visit to Salem, in particular the Peabody Essex Museum (http://www.pem.org/). Our guests, Yvonne and Tom Jones found it fascinating, and Yvonne in particular (an author on the decorative arts and a museum professional) said it was one of the best collections of export ceramics she had ever seen.

Since the dogs were in for an all day grooming, we were free this week to go the the exhibit of Venetian paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (http://www.mfa.org/).

It was interesting that both museums are highlighting the importance and process of conservation and research on the art work (one exhibit at the Peabody Essex has a conservator working in the gallery, for the education of the viewing public).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Head Tide, Alna Maine

Last weekend it didn't rain for a change, so we took a ride over to the Head Tide section of Alna, where the expression "time stands still" is not just a cliche. At the bend in the road are a number of eighteenth and nineteenth century homes and buildings. Nothing much going on there, but if you were there, you wouldn't want it to.

Here are some pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lemon Gold Frames

Antique dealers and collectors will often refer to silver-gilt frames as "lemon gold" frames. It sounds classier than silver, apparently. This type of finish became popular in the early nineteenth century, primarily from German manufacturers. To create them, the frame or molding was gilded with silver leaf, using traditional water gilding technique. A tinted shellac (as well as other options) created the effect of gold. This finish ages differently from a traditional gold leaf finish, and has its own distinct charm. In the Nineteenth Century, “Lemon Gold” frames were very popular, and are prized today for framing antique or reproduction art such as theorems.
The pictures show a sample stick in progress, to test finishes for what will be two large frames. The first picture shows the silver leafing, with a distressing and chemical spatter to create the effects of age. A color finish will be built up using tinted shellacs (and just when I want to use shellac, we are in the middle of another hot, humid spell of weather).

The method described here is based on a workshop given by Michael Gilbert, of Maryland.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Here is one of my paintings in the frame I made a couple weeks ago. It wasn't intended for this frame, but it worked well (as did two other paintings), so I think I will make some more frames of this design.
This painting, an acrylic, is a street scene in Wiscasset, Maine.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Fourth of July

The rain finally stopped long enough for the Wiscasset Fourth of July parade (and fireworks that night).

A typical small town parade, everyone who wants to gets to participate. Local groups, veterans, children, small businesses, and of course, local firetrucks and rescue vehicles. This year's parade seemed longer than usual. Sorry, I have no idea why the fluorescent green phallic symbols.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Making Frames

I needed to get some molding for a frame order, and every time I go to my supplier, 2 percent is for a real project, and the rest is for playing around with making frames for myself or inventory.

I forgot to take a picture of my supplier, Stephen Izzo, http://www.stephenizzo.com/, but he is a great source of wood moldings, most of which are accurate reproductions of original frames from museums and collections.

So with all that stuff, needed to get to work. Two of the frames I need to make are fairly large, and the incessant rain makes me work indoors. At the same time I chopped and joined some other frames for myself, and did a quick carving. Since I will have a weekend of gesso-ing ahead of me, may as well make the most of it. I will work on these up in Maine, where I have much more work space.

The finished frame shown is a new design I am trying. The molding is a heavy bolection type profile. I gilded the inner and outer edges, and to add some interest, did a simple incised design. After gilding and paint work, with a casein wash, it will get a final wax job. I will post another image when the art is inserted.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Painting Class

I have taken up painting again. I haven't really done "easel painting" since the early 1980's, so I decided to take some painting classes at the Worcester Art Museum (http://www.worcesterart.org/).

Right now I am working in acrylics, due to the convenience of cleanup and travel back and forth, and will get back into watercolor as well. Here is one I did, a fall scene of High Street in Wiscasset, Maine.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rooms for Tourists

The Historic New England (http://www.historicnewengland.org/) newsletter had an article about the family at Tucker Castle, in Wiscasset, taking in summer guests in order to make ends meet. By coincidence, I just found on eBay some Wiscasset photos, including one of our own house. Hard to see in the scanned image, but there is a sign attached to a tree pointing to a place of lodging that also accomodates auto parties, and I then noticed a sign attached to our house, "Tourists". So, in the economic down times apparently a number of people had to make do by opening their houses to visitors, and we now know another piece of our house's history.

You can see pictures of the house today at: http://www.forthillstudios.com/about.htm

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gloucester Museums

With the dogs in for all-day grooming, we had the chance to take a day trip. The earlier visit to Historic New England's warehouse reminded us that it had been a while since we last went to the Sleeper-McCann house (Beauport) in Gloucester, MA. http://www.historicnewengland.org/visit/homes/beauport.htm

The house is built on the rocks at the edge of Gloucester harbor, in a neighborhood of summer homes for the affluent. What makes the house so appealing is that it displays the creative decorating techniques of its original owner, Henry Sleeper, of Boston. During the early 20th century he collected architural fragments and paneling from old homes, in addition to varied collections of decorative arts such as tole, silhouettes, colored glass, folk art, etc. He took these items and arranged and displayed them for their visual effect, using themes of based on color, design, and origin. It is a combination of personal expression and "show house", which he used to demonstrate his skills for clients. His specialty was recreating "early American rooms" for people such as Henry DuPont.

We also had the chance to visit a museum new to us, the Cape Ann Museum in downtown Gloucester http://www.capeannhistoricalmuseum.org/.

A real gem, the focus is on works by Cape Ann area artists (and those who painted there at least part time), some historical items related to the area, and some good early American furniture. The centerpiece is a collection of work by the 19th century marine artist Fitz Henry Lane.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bar Harbor and Acadia

Mount Desert Island, on the coast of Maine, became popular in the nineteenth century, first for its scenic beauty, then as a social center for the elite. A large number of summer mansions filled the Bar Harbor area, but when the depression arrived, the lifestyle virtually disappeared, and the great fire of 1947 wiped out many of them.

The area is most visited today due to Acadia National Park, and many of the homes of the affluent are secluded, shorefront sites (very private properties). The tony areas are now Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, and the Bar Harbor business area is primarily filled with tourist-oriented shopping and eateries.

Still, as you can see in the background of my picture taken on top of Cadillac Mountain, the views of the coast are still pretty much unspoiled.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ellsworth, Maine

Since we had to put the dogs in the kennel anyway, we took advantage of the freedom to make a trip to the Bar Harbor, Maine area. After Bangor, our first stop was in Ellsworth, to see Woodlawn Museum, the family home of a wealthy Maine family. The last descendent to use the house, Colonel Black, left the grounds, plus the house intact and furnished, as a public space and museum.

A beautiful brick house with a white portico, it is vaguely reminiscent of Monticello. It is primarily furnished in 19th century pieces, with some earlier family furnishings. These "time capsule" museums are so rare, it is always a pleasure to see them.


Looking in "New England's Attic"

On Wednesday, we went to a members' tour of Historic New England's storage building and conservation facility in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

In addition to the collections displayed in their historic house museums, they have a large collection of artifacts relating to New England domestic life. Visiting this facility is like seeing the biggest attic in New England - furniture, ceramics, paintings, etc., from the time of the Pilgrims to almost the present day. Some items wonderful and rare, others more valuable for their context or the glimpse they give us of the past.

If you have a chance, visit some of their house museums this summer.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Skolfield-Whittier House, Brunswick, Maine

One of my favorite recreational activities is visiting house museums. I have seen some beautiful restorations and interpretations of historic homes, and some notable for their architectural features or collections of decorative arts. My favorites, however, are those that simply still exist, as untouched as possible, from the day the original occupants left (either to other locations or the great beyond).

This past weekend we revisited the Skolfield Whittier house in Brunswick, Maine (a part of the Pejepscot Historical Society). The house museum section is one half of the property built as "twin" houses in the 1850s.

It was enlarged by the family in the 1880s, and had many Victorian alterations and redecoration. It was used only in summers from the mid 1920s, until it was turned over for use as a museum. What makes visiting this house so wonderful is that it has virtually no restoration, and everything (and I mean everything) is still there, from the major furnishings down to boxes of laundry soap. A highlight of the house is a Victorian double parlor that was probably on ly barely used since its 1880s refurbishment. Other rooms show the accretions of time, as new items were added over the years (but they apparently were reluctant to dispose of the old items). There is no other term I can use other than "time capsule".

If you are an old house type person, or just visiting Maine, check it out:


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Visit to Burlington

We were visiting Burlington, VT a couple weeks ago for the annual meeting of the Historical Society for Early American Decoration (http://www.hsead.org/). This group studies and recreates historic painting and stenciling, from the simple to the incredibly complex. One of the special exhibits at this meeting was a display of work by teachers with a Vermont connnection.
I became involved with this work years ago when I was beginning to study decorative painting and gilding.
Check out the society's web site for more information about what we do.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Since I was encouraging two other people to start blogs, I realized I should have one myself.

This blog will focus on my interests in the gilding, restoration, antiques and the world of decorative arts in general.

Thank you for reading (and following)!