Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chambord Bottle Chandelier

“Any fire?”  My husband shouted from the basement.
 I peeked over the chair I was hiding behind. “No.  No fire.” 
“Try turning it on.”  He  yelled, “But, look away while you do it.”
I reached for the chain, shielding my eyes with my other hand.  Like that would protect me form an exploding light bulb.  I gave it a tug.
“Hey, hey!” My husband had come up from the basement where he’d spent the better part of the afternoon manning the electrical box.  “It works!”
Hanging the new hall chandelier I had made in class ended up being a minor ordeal.  I had put it on my husband’s honey do list knowing that it would take two people to accomplish, but I didn’t realize it would turn out to be the feat that it was.  It was mostly my fault.
I’d been sitting on this pile of old Chambord bottles for a couple years.  They came from various parties and people.  Once the neighbors knew I thought they were interesting, we struck a deal.  He got the plastic piece around the outside, and I got the beautiful round bottle.  I was able to accrue a lovely pile of holy hand grenades.  Once, I had to fend off my husband wielding a garbage bag and once I rescued one from the recycling.  My husband followed me back to the house, “Emily, what are you going to do with them?”  “Make a chandelier.”  It was a desperate, spur of the moment thought that was only meant to placate my husband’s concern that I was turning the basement into a flea market.  But, as it turned out, it wasn’t a bad idea.  Though, maybe not a well thought out one.
We needed a light in our hall anyway.  The one that was there was broken and we had been using a flashlight to peer in the linen cabinet for years.  I used a light base from another part of the house, a bunch of wire, and some ball bearings.  I was short a bottle, so my project went on hold until we could drink through another.  Chambord is great in a cocktail, but you don’t need much.  It was more of a challenge than I thought.  We made cocktails we called “interesting.”  Like, a pineapple juice, Chambord, dark rum concoction I named a Bleeding Kraken.  It tasted good, but it looked like what comes out of a faucet that hasn’t been turned on for a while.  Eventually, I finished the chandelier and proudly held it in place to see what it would look like.  That’s when I realized the fixture was wired to use a chain, not a switch.  I didn’t design my chandelier with a chain.  Back to the workshop.
Then there was the problem with the nest of excess wire hidden inside the chandelier.  Once hung, my husband flipped the breaker and POP!  Everything went out.  The wire holding the bottles in place was touching a live wire from the house.  We took it down.  Did I mention that it’s heavy?   I fixed that problem with most of a role of electrical tape.  But, the problems progressed.  We put it up and took it down four times before it actually worked. 
Now, it hangs securely and lit.  I like it.  It casts a pretty shadow through the hall.  And, I should take a moment to thank my husband for being patient and supporting my elaborate plans, no matter how many times he has to check the breakers.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paint-By-Number Zen

Running errands with a friend, we came across a wire display of Paint-By-Numbers in the kid section of the art supply store.  We couldn’t resist.  Half joke, half spending frenzy, we each bought one; planning to ply our painting skills with a bottle of wine later in the week.  I brought mine home and tossed it in a pile on the dining room table.  There it sat forgotten. 

Until one day, lacking in inspiration and bogged down with brain prattle, I let procrastination get the better of me.  Instead of going to my workshop and finishing the pieces I needed for the week, I checked the weather.  Then did the dishes, walked the dog, checked the weather again, went on Facebook, put on some socks, checked the weather one more time, and then distractedly sat down with a pile of papers form the table.  Under the health insurance summery and the 2 for 1 deal on pizza was my paint-by-number.  It seemed the time waster I was dreaming of.  But as I popped open the first little numbered paint pot, something changed.

There is something about doing a paint-by-number.   It has the same inexplicable draw as coloring with a three year old.  It doesn’t really matter what it looks like.  It’s not like you drew it.  It’s understood that you aren’t creating a masterpiece.   You gather your stock paintbrush and ubiquitous jar of water. You pick a primary color and tug on its plastic tab. You dip in the brush and search the printed cardboard for the right tiny blue number and begin.  Then it happens.  By the second tier of the smokestack, you stop being concerned with picking up dog food.  By the third or fourth leopard spot, your breathing slows. You stop bunching your shoulders and crinkling your forehead.  Filling a swath of cloud, you begin to think clearer, have better ideas. 

I painted four number 10 spaces, and I was ready.  I’d somehow found focus simply by covering up little blue lines with a tiny brush.  I went to the workshop and was more productive than I had been in two days.  I had stumbled onto an indispensable tool.  The paint dries quickly, so I can cover just a couple of spaces, filling in what will become a shadow or a suitcase.  Then, put it back in a drawer until I need it again. I don’t really know what I’ll do with the finished product.  Maybe hang it in a pantry or the closet.  The finished product really isn’t the point.

My friend and I did eventually get our wine and paint-by-number diversion.  We had mimosas and rolls and painted.  Thinking up marvelous plans (watch for a paint-by-number cocktail) and churning out color blocked amalgamations that only vaguely resemble the picture on the box.  The picture didn’t really matter.  Just that we had a great time.  Am I suggesting that paint-by-number will cure you of anxiety and put you on the path of brilliance?  Well, yes.  I am.
When was the last time you did a paint-by-number?