Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Louis Sullivan and My Lions

“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.”
~ Louis Sullivan. 1896.

   Louis Henri Sullivan was born on September 3, 1856 in Boston, Massachusetts.
     His firm, Adler & Sullivan, designed over 180 buildings during its existence, primarily residential, and office buildings. Also included were theaters and auditoriums along with a few burial vaults for the very rich. Among the most notable are the Auditorium Building, where Sullivan would keep his office for 29 years, the Stock Exchange Building and the Schiller Building in Chicago, the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri, the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York and the Transportation Building for the World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.
    He was a mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright, who called him Lieber Meister, (beloved master).
It was under the inspirational and philosophical leadership of Sullivan that Wright and his contemporaries formed the basis of the Prairie School of Architecture. His philosophy that "form follows function" became one of the basic principles practiced by the Prairie School architects.
     After the turn of the century his practice consisted mainly of small banks and commercial buildings throughout the Midwest. 
 His crown jewel of this period was the National Farmers’ Bank in Owatonna, Minnesota, completed in 1908.

     This Summer, we hired contractors to pour stamped concrete in our gardens. 

             I wanted them to pour foundations for plinths for the glazed terra cotta heraldic lions roof ornaments I found on Craigslist last year. 
They were listed as stone lions but they are actually glazed terra cotta. They are salvage pieces, as indicated by their bases, which were slightly chipped when removed.  They are almost four feet tall!  ...and yes, I did bring them home in my Toyota Matrix, much to my husband's dismay.  Two strong Polish boys put them in my car.  It took my husband, my neighbor, his adult son and three of his friends to get them out of my car!  
             I wasn't sure how to place them so I googled images of lions flanking driveways.

         Here is what I found when I googled  the term "terra cotta lion"...

Can you see where I am going with this post now?

This building is in Columbus Wisconsin.  It is one of Louis Sullivan's "Jewel Box Banks", which are among the most treasured pieces of historic architecture in the United States.

This midwestern bank building, like the People's Savings and Loan Association Bank in Sidney Ohio, was one of the few commissions Sullivan had in his difficult later years. This small two-story bank of reddish brown brick has Sullivan's characteristic terra cotta ornamental trim.

I came across an artist attempting to duplicate Sullivan's work but he was frustrated because there really are no guidelines. He claimed that Sullivan's work was difficult to reproduce.

Another Louis Sullivan lion from the Merchant's National Bank in Grinell, Iowa. This one has wings!

Home Building Association, 
Newark, Ohio. 

People’s Federal Savings & Loan Association Building in Sidney, Ohio.

Here are some really wonderful photos of Louis Sullivan Architecture, along with a plethora of information and literature.

Are my lions Louis Sullivan originals?  I'll never know.  It doesn't matter, I loved them the moment I laid eyes on them!  One has a slightly damaged nose.  Did you notice?
I think it gives him character but my husband would like to see me repair it.

For now, they rest on concrete bases on each side of our driveway, encircled by boxwoods.  The plinths have not yet arrived.  Soon.  Then I will have photos!

Handsome husband is afraid someone will steal our lions.  I dunno.  They weigh about 400 pounds each, my husband's police patrol car is always parked out front and...
They're in disguise!  Shhhhh...

This was actually their Halloween costume last year!  Tee hee!

I had so much fun researching Louis Sullivan!  I knew very little about this great man, who was so influential in Chicago architecture!

I never did find any photos of lions flanking driveways.  I had to take design matters into my own hands!  Uncharted territory!



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Home For the Holidays?

The Twelve Strays of Christmas...

Please consider a new family member this Holiday Season?  Thousands are killed every day, in shelters all across the country.  The numbers are staggering!  
Click on this link to Petfinder  and give them a home for the Holidays and beyond!



Monday, November 19, 2012

Offering Thanks

I have collected ex-votos for many years.  Ex-votos are offerings to a divinity or saint in fullfillment of a vow.  They take many forms. The tradition of offering votive objects (that is, objects pertaining to a vow) to Christ, the Virgin, and the saints in expectation of, or in thanks for, divine aid, dates from the early years of Christianity.  My collection is mainly silver flaming heart ex-votos from churches in Italy, Portugal, France and South America. Some have the letters GR in the center, meaning Grace Received. Some are hand engraved, some ornately rendered in pure gold. It gives me so much peace to look at these beautiful milagros and think about the person who created each one, their strong faith and the connection we all have, though time and distance separate us.
At one time, my silver ex-votos hung upon the boughs of a Christmas Tree.  Their message of hope and faith seemed apropos.  However, I wanted to be able to view them year round.
I also collect ornate gilded frames.  They always make my artwork look spectacular, be it something I painted or a giclee' copy from ebay.
Since we are expecting Gracie's piano in a few weeks, I decided to begin on the Music Room.  It has been the catch-all for errant furniture, paintings, etc.
With the red velvet fabric I had left over from Gracie's nursery (just enough!), gilded frames and foam board from WalMart...and tons of staples and Duct Tape, I constructed frames for my cherished ex-voto collection...

The antique jeweler's cabinet was perfect here!  I almost gave it away!  It is over six feet long.  The ex-voto collection is over six feet high.  I could not have asked for things to go any better!  The interesting bench was a Craigslist purchase.

Ex-voto vignette with wings and candlesticks I purchased on Craigslist.

This large ex-voto expresses its gratitude in ornate gold letters...

The smaller ex-votos fit into this large frame.  This is a bit blurry because I was vying for the same spot as McGillicuddy the Big Orange Cat.  He won. McGillicuddy always wins!

This ex-voto is from Italy.

This ex-voto is from France.

This one came from Portugal.

After much contemplation I decided to paint the majority of the walls in my home white.  Since I prefer to decorate with heavy ornamentation I did not want my home to look like a museum.

Come to think of it, most museums are white.  Nevermind!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  Please enjoy your many blessings and pray for those less fortunate.



Participating in:
 The Dedicated House, Make It Pretty Monday
No Minimalist Here, Open House Party
My French Country Cottage, Feathered Nest Friday
My Romantic Home, Show and Tell Friday
Savvy Southern Style, Wow Us Wednesday

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Before, After, After-After and a Surprise!

When I finished the daybed last week I painted the unicorn crest that I found on Craigslist (for $25)  and I told you I was going to finish it that night...blogging tends to keep me motivated to finish tasks I have begun.  I know I'm being watched!  LOL!

Here is the unicorn crest two days later.  Yes.  It hadn't changed.

Here's why.

Meet Tallulah!  I recieved an urgent email from the rescue who adopted our beloved Wilberforce to us.   They had a one year old English Bulldog who was adopted but it was not working out.  She didn't have a home.  Further, she would have to be transported back to St. Louis and placed in a kennel or a foster until they could find an adopter.   Four hours away.  She had already been through so much. Tallulah (formerly Dolly) had come from a breeder.   At her tender age, she had already had a litter.  Her caesarean section had become infected and herniated.  She stayed in that condition for months!  The breeder brought her in to the rescue, where funds were quickly raised for her surgery.  That was September.  She has been recuperating.  The couple that adopted her really do love her but he just had some serious back surgery, which precluded him from being able to lift the stubborn determined little angel.
I have another Christmas stocking to make!
I will post photos of her at home.  The photo, above, is from the rescue.
She and Grace are quite taken with each other but my handsome husband is really her favorite human!

Last night, I took the opportunity to sand the crest.  The first photo is the Craigslist photo, second is my inspiration photo and the third is what it looks like now.  The last photo was taken at night.

Here is a photo taken in the daytime.  Since I have it in the window, the details are washed out. I have, since then, added and subtracted paint.  For the life of me, I could not figure out how to get the look of the inspiration crest.  The paint is obviously flaked and not abraded.  I think that applying tape over the paint while it is slightly damp, then pulling up would do the trick.  I actually lose sleep over this stuff!

Another incarnation, previous to the white.  Pretty, but not what I wanted.

Painting is a form of therapy for me.  Now you understand why I paint everything I see!
I try not to think too much about the economic state of our country (and the world) or about all the furry faces that need homes, or suffering, in general, while I paint.  Annie Sloan is cheaper than a psychiatrist.



I am participating in Shades of Amber, Quite Simply, Beautiful Things

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Archangel

When I have trouble sleeping, I read.  Sometimes I read books, other times blogs and occasionally, I read Craigslist.
I have just about everything I need to decorate the house but it is interesting to see what's out there.
That's how I came upon Armoire Number Eight.  The Archangel.

Three hundred dollars later, it came to live on Yorkshire Street!

This armoire is extremely large, at 8 feet tall, five feet wide and 2 feet deep!  

The carved detail on the front and side panels is extraordinary!

St. Michael and the Serpent?  Not certain.  However, St. Michael is not only the patron saint of police officers, Michael is my husband's name!  We have a collection of Saint Michael paintings.  We just had to have this!  When I say 'we" I mean "I".  I know you understand.

Eight armoires is my limit.  Wait.  Do china cabinets count?  



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Library Details...

This is how the Library looked a few weeks ago.  I am ashamed.   

Paint, paint and more paint!

I found some hand blocked Medici toile fabric in my closet.  I'm just trying it out here, on the daybed. I wasn't loving the shower curtain I had there!  It would have come in handy if someone left the window open in inclement weather,  though.

Clock painted with Annie Sloan French Linen, followed by Clear and Dark Wax with slight distressing. Mantel painted with Annie Sloan Graphite, Clear Wax, Dark Wax and Annie Sloan Duck Egg Wash. Table painted with one coat Annie Sloan Old White, one coat Pure White, Clear and Dark Wax. Column tables under cherubs are painted solely with Graphite.  I may finish them to resemble zinc.  More on that as it develops. If so, I will do a tutorial...

I need to raise the mantel.  Why, you ask?  Because I had to raise the tapestry to cover a vent  and it looks like it's wearing high waters!  Easy enough fix.  I just have to do it.  Get in line, little task!  Get in line!

Column tables as they appeared on my local Craigslist.

Column table after a few coats of Annie Sloan Graphite. One of a pair flanking the Library entrance.
Please note my favorite chair in the UNIVERSE in the background!

The morning sun is very bright in this window.  It faces the boxwood parterre, which is growing so well!  It also faces the new stamped slate concrete patio.  Things are coming along!  I will show you those photos soon!
I painted the crest again.  See it behind the daybed?

This is what it looked like yesterday...

It will look like this in a few hours.  The other colors were too bold, I think.

I appreciate all the advice and feedback regarding the Library table.  The color change made a huge difference in the way the room feels!  This is now my favorite room in the house!  We still have to lay the oriental rug.  However, I am picking up a new china cabinet/bookcase this weekend, to replace the cheap shelves the books currently wait upon. Then the rug. Then the chandelier!

Empire style elk chandelier from ebay...

Here is the Craigslist photo of the cabinet.  One piece.  If I live through the challenge of getting it into the house I will post photos. If not, I will be buried in it!

Recap...Behold the power of paint! I just have to say I love these Before and After collage thingies!
The first photo was taken on my cell phone but it certainly smacks of artifice, eh?  Like those Before and After weight loss shots where the person is in poor lighting and sticking their tummy out?  It was unintentional, I assure you!  Nonetheless, it does make a pretty impressive statement.  No?  LOL! 



Participating in French Country Cottage, Feathered Nest Friday
Boogieboard Cottage, Masterpiece Monday

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Craigslist Daybed Makeover

I am finally done with the daybed I purchased from Craigslist a while back for $70!  It was listed as a couch and was hidden deep in a pile of furniture listings on my local Chicagoland Craigslist.  Come to think of it, I abandoned the search for a couch altogether.  I guess I didn't need one. At the time, I didn't  need a daybed.  Life is funny that way.
  The daybed has caning on the end boards and a very classical shape.
I brought it home in my Toyota Matrix.  The guy I bought it from worked for Toyota.  He told me how to fold the front passenger seat down.  I cannot thank him enough!  You would not believe what I can fit into that car!

I wasn't sure what color I wanted it to be, so it sat.  I wasn't even sure where I was going to put it!  After I moved two bookshelves from the Library and donated the church salvage lecturn to a fledgling church I finally had a place for the daybed!

Original Craigslist photo...It was being used as a bed for a Great Dane!  I opted not to keep the top cushion!  LOL!

After two coats of Annie Sloan Chateau Grey, light distressing with a damp cloth before the wax. (I didn't want the dust to get in the caning.  It worked out very well!  No mess at all!)  The Chateau Grey was a bit lighter than I wanted, so I applied Dark Wax only to tone it down.  No Clear Wax at all.
The Chateau Grey is a grey-green.  I love it with the Dark Wax!  To make the piece look worn, I layer the Dark Wax, then more paint, then more Dark Wax.

I like to pretend that the furniture in my home originated in an old French Chateau, heated only by a large fireplace, which coated everything with years of soot!  When the furniture was waxed, it served to seal in the patina.  Perhaps this piece was stolen during the French Revolution?  Yes.  I make stuff up all the time!  LOL!   I also laugh at my own jokes all the time!  LOL!  I laugh alone...a lot! It can be embarrassing at times but I'm getting used to it!
Where was I?

I added bronze ormolu to the front panel.

I also added bronze flame finials to the posts.

The cats kept checking the Library to see if I was done with their bed!  Atticus is very pleased with the results! Here he is at 7am, ready to sleep the day away! I hesitated to post this photo because Atticus is overweight.  I didn't want anyone to make fun of him!  The little angel was literally starving when I found him outside. He had a broken hip and his tail was broken in two places.  He is the sweetest little man you will ever meet, a very gentle disposition...and a true gentleman.  He loves to eat and I will not take that small pleasure away from him.  Translation: please don't call my cat "fat".  I'm sensitive!

You can see the original fabric peeking out from under the "upholstery", a garage sale shower curtain! (With apologies to Debra, at Acquired Objects). Debra, I will own some of your beautiful, historic pieces one day!  It matched a pillow I made few years back, which is perfect for the "back of the daybed.  I also added bolster pillows I bought on Craigslist from a man who bought them in Istanbul!  I made the round pillows years ago.  I love them but they need more stuffing! You can make fat jokes about my pillows if you like.  I don't mind!

The Library is really coming together!  I will show more soon!  Very soon!

You know I love a good Before and After collage!

The daybed wearing its new Medici Toile.  The coral tones complement the green tones of the Chateau Grey.  



I am participating in Shades of Amber, Quite Simply, Beautiful Things
Savvy Southern Style, Wow Us Wednesdays
Miss Mustard Seed, Furniture Feature Friday
My Romantic Home, Show and Tell Friday

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You, Veterans

I had these simple cards made over 14 years ago.  After scribbling so many hastily written, illegible notes to place on the windshields of cars I realized I needed something that was a bit more expeditious.  When I see men or women wearing caps emblazoned with their branch of service, or license plates that identify a veteran, jackets, T-shirts, etc, I tend to make a fool of myself running after the individual to thank them and shake their hand.  My daughter has had the honor of shaking many a veteran's hand. 
 One gentleman had no right hand so she just hugged him instead.  

Mostly, the elder veterans from WWII share their stories with us;  Tales of boys leaving home and becoming men under the most dire of circumstances.  These are lessons Gracie will carry with her for her entire life.  War, perhaps sometimes necessary, is never pretty. Nor is war to be entered into lightly.

I met my first veteran when I was 13.  He was a 91 year old man when he told me the story of how he left home at 18 to serve in the Great War.  I never forgot him.  He quoted the poem Flander's Fields to me, by heart.

I never forgot the words of the poem or the story that James told me.

Sadly, most of the men I have spoken to have never been thanked.  They actually thank me for thanking them!

About 6 months ago, I spied a veterans' license plate in the parking lot of the local WalMart.  As usual, I hurriedy grabbed a card and headed toward the parked car.  There was a young man and a woman inside, to my surprise.  It looked as if they had been arguing.  Too late, however, I had already rapped on the window.  They looked at me.  I felt so small.  He rolled down his window and glared at me.  "Yes?"

"I, um, saw your, um, license plate and I just wanted to thank you for your service to our country".  I stammered.  I thrust the card toward him. "May I shake your hand?"
He stared at me.
His wife stared at me.  Her eyes were red.
His wife spoke, "Can I tell her?"
He nodded his head and began to heave and sob.
He had recently returned home after two tours from, where, I never learned.
He had just left the hospital, where he stayed for several days after attempting to end his own life.
"It matters," was all he could say through his sobs, and "thank you".

There are so many more stories.  So many more.

Friends, I have given out almost 2,500 hundred cards in the last 14 years and the common refrain is "no one ever thanked me".  Then they thank me.  How backwards is that?  Really.  We thank the cashier at the grocery store for returning our change, we thank the UPS guy but we NEVER thank those men and women who gave their youth, their sanity, huge portions of their souls and their very LIVES!?

We have a joke in our house, "How do you make a Marine cry?"
"You thank him".

Thank you, Veterans, from the bottom of my soul.  Thank you for the very real sacrifices you made,  I will never forget.  WE will never forget. I promise. 




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