Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Abigail to the rescue

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Okay, even with a number of 2D digital images of the same woman, it is still hard to visualize the 3D shapes. You don’t have a real object that you can move around to where you need to see. I realized I had a perfect model laying around the house that I had picked up a few years ago at a sale for $2 – a “Cameo Girl” Lady Head Vase of Abigail from 1858. This particular praying Abigail is entitled “Amazing Grace.” [I like the way women used to look before blue jeans and t-shirts, and other blah modern clothes.]

Auray head 4

Abigail has volunteered to pose for me and pray for the outcome

The interesting thing about this vase is that the head is about exactly the size of the head I’m trying to create on my hurdy-gurdy!  It might be easier to just figure out a way to attach it to my peghead — ha!

So, I definitely have no excuse as far as a suitable model to give me the best shot at reproducing a decent face.

A Ma Vie

Monday, October 31st, 2011

hermine1When I did the laser-etching on the keychest, I promised to do a post on what the phrase A Ma Vie meant. So, finally… voilà!

It is associated with Brittany and the ermine, which I also used on my hurdy-gurdy, especially for the soundholes. You can see the whole ermine to the left, as well as the symbolic fur tufts like I used for the soundholes, and the phrase A ma Vie.

More precisely, it is associated with Duchess Anne of Brittany. As the postcard says: “The ermine,  emblem of Anne of Brittany, wife of Louis XII.”



This postcard gives more clues, the French text explaining the “devise” [motto]: “As this emblem is also that of purity of manners, it is believed that the motto A ma vie signifies I will remain pure all my life.” [or ‘in my life’] So, A ma vie [“ my life”] is an abbreviated slogan for this larger concept of purity. But what’s this got to do with ermines?

As with the French fleur-de-lis [lily], these weasel-like animals are a symbol of purity.  Their winter coats are snow-white, except for the black tip of their tails.


Anne of Brittany, r. 1488-1514

There is a legend about them that explains the Breton motto. One version is that the Duchess Anne of Brittany was on a hunt with her court when an ermine was being chased by the hunting party. When the ermine came upon a swamp, it turned to face certain death from the hounds rather than escape and muddy its pure white coat. Anne was impressed by the creature’s courageous attitude and asked that it be spared. She adopted it for her emblem. It has been used widely as a symbol for Brittany on various coats of arms, and even on their modern flag.

A longer motto of the Duchy of Brittany was Plutôt la mort que la souillure. [“Rather death than defilement”] A ma vie is a variant of  this same sentiment, according to Wikipedia.


Ermines with “A ma vie” scrolls carved in stone on an old mantlepiece

I don’t  know why they had so much difficulty portraying ermines back then. They are rather cute, contrary to the old representations.


The Angelus

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I always liked the 1857-59 painting by French artist Jean-François Millet called “The Angelus.” It shows a peasant couple stopping their potato harvesting to pray when the church bells ring at the appointed hour.


My antique postcard of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet

In addition to the simplicity of it, it shows the custom considered quaint today of the man praying with his head uncovered, and the woman praying with her head covered, as specified in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11. The man has removed his hat to pray.

My grandmother had a porcelain sculpture of this painting in her Dining Room when I was little. It turned up in a box of my Dad’s things from his attic, broken in half and badly stained by age and a couple poor glue attempts. The man’s hat has also been lost, despite having been glued in the past.


Sculpture in its found damaged condition

The sculpture is French, as it says “L’Angelus d’après Millet” on the base. It could have been my great-grandmother’s, who was from Europe. I don’t know.


Old glue along crack of the base on the femme side of the sculpture

I decided, instead of trashing it, to take it on as a restoration challenge, to see how much I could clean it up. Miraculously, the delicate basket and wheelbarrow were undamaged, despite the whole thing being broken in half under its handles. The whole femme side of the sculpture was unscathed, with the main problem there being the remnants of orange-brown glue along the base fracture.


The homme with broken hands, missing hat and orange and shiny glues

The homme was a different story. Because of his hat and hands having broken off, he suffered several distressing glue attempts, with both an old orange glue, and a clear super glue. The super glue ran in rivulets down both legs, and collected around his arms, coat hem, ankles, shoes and potato sack. Because the porcelain is unglazed with a flat finish, the shiny glue was very visible everywhere.

The first question was: Could the old orange glue be removed from the crack edges of the thick base by soaking in warm water? Yes, it actually came off very cleanly with careful scraping using an X-acto knife.


The femme's base cleaned of orange glue

Question number two: What about the clear glue, would fingernail polish remover with acetone take it off? I suppose it helped. This superglue was much harder to remove, not only because it was in crevices everywhere, but because it had adhered better. But scraping and chipping with an X-acto knife after applying acetone, it slowly was removed with no damage to the porcelain surface, even when sparks were sometimes created!

Now for the hands — some delicate pieces there, and really globbed up with both kinds of glue, including hollows inside the pieces. It was tedious, but the operation to remove the three glued pieces of the hands was successful.


The femme praying for her homme's successful operation

All the little pieces cleaned up well, too. That is good news, as they should fit much better now and the seams be much more invisible.


The homme finally free of his humiliating glue problems

Next issue was the light brownish age staining. What about denture cleaner? I got the cheapest the grocery store had, a 90-tablet pack of Efferdent. You put one in a glass with your teeth, but how many for a plastic kitchen washtub filled about 5 inches deep? I went with 36. Did that twice, leaving overnight each time. The femme liked to float, so she was weighted down with a wet wash-cloth.


The homme and femme enjoying one of their Efferdent baths

I used the remaining 18 tablets this evening with less water, focusing mostly on the bases, where most of the discoloration was. I’ll take them out in the morning, and let everything dry well for several days before trying to glue it all back together.



Keychest dancers 3

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. God is good, isn’t He?!

I got to do some more marquetry work on the dancers even after going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house [a 12-hour round trip] The Texas A&M Aggies beat their rivals, the University of Texas Longhorns, on Thanksgiving Day, so that was exciting.


How they look after a third weekend's work

The picture was taken at an angle to avoid flash glare, so the people look a little short.

Three of the dancers now have heads. The couple on the left is almost done, as far as adding marquetry pieces goes.  I may add hair to the back of the man’s neck and hair to the  woman’s forehead, instead of having laser-etched hair, which I had originally intended. Next, they will need to be cut out as one piece to their final outline, and inlaid into a matching recess cut in the keychest, sanded, and have the faces etched. All of that is no small task. On the couple on the right, besides a little hair on both, the girl needs her lace cap finished, and her left gloved-hand added on the man’s shoulder. The man needs his head, the rest of his hat and a tie. I replaced a couple of the pieces I had already done. That’s fairly common for me. Pieces that weren’t changed –like the purple apron– will look different, depending upon the lighting.

Amazing Grace

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I can’t wait to be able to play this on my new hurdy-gurdy. Just my speed, too — nice and slow.

Texas Tea

Friday, April 16th, 2010

No, not Black Gold [oil] — TEA, as in “Taxed Enough Already.” Sometimes you have to take a break from hurdy-gurdy building and stand up against tyranny. What better time for that than April 15th,  Tax Day?


50-foot Texas-sized postcard addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Last night I attended my first Tea Party, the Lone Star Tea Party in Grand Prairie.


"DON'T TREAD ON ME" — QuikTrip Park, Grand Prairie, TX

Great crowd of patriots and speakers. Mark Davis, the well-known Talk Radio host of 820/96.7 WBAP was the Master of Ceremonies. Another popular radio host I have listened to also spoke, Mike Gallagher of NewsTalk 660 KSKY. There was a wonderful Christian home school choir. Impressive, decently-dressed young people.

A real highlight of the rally was a speech by the Revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine. His speeches are well worth watching.


Bob Basso as Thomas Paine on restoring Common Sense to government

 We need to wake up and defend Liberty, like the patriots of old, before it is taken away from us by our out-of-control socialist government of traitors to the Constitution. God help us!


Chocolat hurdy-gurdy

Monday, April 5th, 2010

No, I’m not talking about a delicious, edible hurdy-gurdy. The 2000 film Chocolat has a very brief glimpse of a woman playing a hurdy-gurdy. There is a festival in the quaint French village’s square near the end of the film, and the hurdy-gurdy is one of the instruments in the band. I had briefly seen a woman with a hurdy-gurdy in some behind-the-scenes footage in the Special Features part of the DVD. Looking back at the movie, I discovered she did barely make the final cut.


Hurdy-gurdy player, village square, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France

The story was interesting and the movie was well-done, but I was bothered by the bias portraying the church-going townsfolk as a bunch of sinful hypocrites, and the woman who combines pagan Mayan mysticism with her chocolate-making as the heroine, rescuing the town from moral self-restraint and religious repression. True, we shouldn’t be legalistic and distrustful or judgmental of strangers, etc., but the church shouldn’t be portrayed as the source of the people’s problems, either.


2010: The Year We Make Contact

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

[That was the expanded title of the disappointing 1984 sequel to the classic, but strange "2001: A Space Odyssey," my favorite sci-fi movie as a kid in 1968. If you know anything about the original film, an alien rectangular object ends up outputting a high-pitched screeching noise. Well, here it is really 2010, and I made contact yesterday with a foreign rectangular object that showed up at my front door. However, it will take awhile before any screeching noises emanate from it. I do expect 2010 to be memorable year, due to this strange object's arrival. As Dave Bowman repeatedly says in 2010: "Something wonderful is going to happen." Except that I expect my actual 2010 will be more wonderful than the goofy sci-fi version of 2010, where Jupiter is turned into a small star, unidentified aliens oversee evolution, and everyone lives happily ever after.]

All that to say, my Hurdy Gurdy Crafters “Monarch” kit completed its 15-day odyssey from Michigan to Texas yesterday, apparently running the Postal Service gauntlet without mishap. No more fretting over whether it was lost in space, damaged by meteors, or stolen from off the front steps by aliens. Driving home from work last evening, I was relieved to spot it sitting in front of the door…


The kit was well packaged in very sturdy outer and inner boxes with styrofoam peanuts cushioning the inner box. The binder with the construction manual and the envelope containing the strings were packed outside the inner box…


Mel and Ann’s kits have a professional and attractive appearance…


The careful packing of the pieces in the box was also impressive, and must be a science of its own…


The pieces all seem to be very precisely made from quality materials using fine tools: clean and sharp edges, etc. For a detail-oriented person, it definitely passes initial inspection…


Various bags have labels listing their contents. Everything has the look of having been very well thought out and user-friendly. I haven’t totally emptied the box yet, nor completed the inventory, but I have been reading the manual, which has many color pictures illustrating each step in the process.

A recurring thought as I was browsing through the box was: “I can’t imagine Mel making all these complicated pieces.” The next thought was “I can’t imagine me putting them all together!” What have I gotten myself into? But I can’t think of making that giant leap, just taking one small step at a time.