Turning over a gold leaf. March 30, 08.

So in order to catch up the NY period, I'm now behind on the NOW period. So I'm gonna catch you up on all the stuff that's been going on 'round these here parts and then we'll do a NY flashback in a day or two. A couple people said they don't like getting too many blogs in a row - so I'm trying to space them out, but that makes catchup a challenge. My mom is now saying out loud "What! There can NEVER be too many blogs." So we have learned a very valuable lesson upon our return from the Big Apple. This is the lesson: There is nothing more powerful on earth than a bored Eckert.

See, we think that while we were gone Madge got a little stir crazy. Normally we kind of bumble about feeling hopelessly unable to thank Margaret for all the time she spends helping us. Now we realize the truth. Margaret is apparently some kind of alien cyborg building machine which can only be fueled from the pheromones released by confirmed bachelors exposed to goo. While we were gone somehow she got rested up AND bored. And now there is no stopping her. I think if we'd been gone another week she might have built a tunnel into the theatre and started painting the entire auditorium brown "just cuz". She came over the afternoon we arrived and I don't think she's left since. Ok... she SAYS she's going home, but actually I think she's hanging out in the alley with the raccoon. The amazing thing is, in my experience, you can't get people you're PAYING to work this hard. She's like the energizer bunny. Give her 8oz of sweet tea and that woman can zoom till midnight. Gretchen, desperately neglected for paternal attention is now being raised like a feral child by Po, who is also functioning as her math tutor:


Actually in this picture she is doing some kind of research on Davy Crockett. Killed a bayr when he was only three. Nuff said. A+.

CROCKETT TO 'EM davycrockett.jpg

Anyhoo...Madge - she's been amazing. Also, I think since she's no longer running a day care, the opportunity to spend all day dealing with an immature hyperactive spoiled child who just wants to take a nap is possibly nostalgic. The hours of work that she's clocked this week with us are mega. Then add onto that the hours that Larry ends up clocking along with her simply so that he can try and remember what his wife looks like :) I don't know if we would have been ready for the Rotary without her, and now we're actually kind of ahead of schedule. Let me take you on a cavalcade of our progress since Monday. And it's a heap...I really think that this may be the most we've ever accomplished in five days. It's astounding what abject panic can do to motivate you :)

So - the day we arrived back one of our main priorities was to get the ceiling prepped for the gold leaf. Since we figured this was gonna definitely be a messy job and, having never attempted it before, we had no idea how long it was going to take. And Rich was not keen to be picking tiny pieces of gold dust out of the new carpet for the next ten years. He's already too busy trying to find the missing shards of his sanity which have sloughed off around the building. Hmm...can a shard slough? Discuss. And carpet arrives on Tuesday. Yup, Tuesday. Which means by then all jobs involving goo, paint, varnish, leaf, joint compound, plaster and dust... gotta be DONE. You're laughing hysterically now, I can hear you. How dare you mock my blind optimistic ineptitude.

So - First things first, after I had all gold paint around the ceiling done, Margaret was now able to paint the final ceiling ledges black in the inner lobby (the gold is too messy for me to do making a clean edge - so the black clean paint line along the ledge has to happen last). After that, we read the instructions for the gold leaf. Now you can get normal size, and slow-acting size. The slow acting size (sorry, the size is like glue for gold leaf) cures and becomes sticky after a much greater wait time - BUT it stays sticky for 24 hours. Which, if you're leafing a whole length of a room at a time, and you've never done it before (nay, never even seen it done), is a comforting option. So we went slow-acting. It seemed a good match for my mental capacity. So Margaret, with her steady hand of steel (seriously she doesn't shake at all...she's like Katherine Hepburn on a buggy ride) painted the face of the ledges with the sizing. (We decided to tackle one lobby at a time). So you paint this size stuff on with a brush - you have to get it everywhere you want the leaf to stick (and if you miss a tiny spot it won't stick there) AND keep it off anywhere you DON'T want it to stick, cuz then the size dries a different finish than the rest of your paint job. Fun, right?


Size goes on. You wait twelve hours for it to 'cure'. Seriously. Twelve.

She also managed to get final second coats on the two side accent walls in the inner lobby. Meanwhile Rich was starting to refinish the interior doors...

DOOR-A THE DESTROYA stripping-doors-rich.JPG

And started painting the inner-lobby baseboards black. Again, he has a much steadier hand than I have for these type of things. The baseboards for the outer lobby have to be remade - since in their last incarnation it was that rubber molding stuff (making it easy to bend to the curves in the walls and we'd like them to be wood. Pack Leader tried the ancient Chinese secret method of scoring a plank a zillion times and then soaking it in wood to make it bend. It was less than successful (possibly because the cuts were too far apart and not as deep as Larry says we should have gone), but we are going to try plan B - using layers of luan which will bend nicely and build them up to the correct thickness. I think is should work fine. The REMAINING baseboards however, that he's now painted black, look really great and help tie all the tones of the room together. It really ground the design.

I still had about a day and a half worth of gold painting to deal with - all the insides of doors, doorjams and archways; as well as three doors which actually were slated to get the same treatment.

The next morning, after meeting Margaret for our now-traditional pre-work Nick's Kitchen carbo-load, we headed back and embarked upon our first gilding adventure. We actually screw up Margaret's day since we don't get downstairs to work until 11:00...which gives her like four hours to pace outside the theatre, drink sweet tea and Nicks, and plan what else she can paint brown. She actually has become bored enough during these 'off hours' that she's adopted a new crusade to redecorate Porkland USA (a division of Disney-loined). She actually tried to convince me that we wouldn't need to keep the existing vinyl on the cafe chairs when we recover them, so she could use the old red vinyl on Jean Anne's chairs. So, my new theory is that she's actually syphoning off paint from us and running it down a hose along the alleyway to Nicks kitchen, where Jean Anne is hiding gallons of Brown Sherwin Williams paint in Hershey syrup bottles.

So. The gold leaf. Well I did manage to find an online video instructional clip that helped point me in the right direction. We figured out you need either a very expensive thing called a guilding brush OR a very cheap thing called a Walmart blusher brush. Guess which one we went for. So - armed with two blusher brushes, we went at it. The really interesting thing about gold leafing is that, once the size is applied absolutely correctly, the rest of the process is not hard. It's very finicky. And it can get pretty mindless and low on thrills pretty fast - but it's not hard. Which surprised me a good deal. You get your sheet of gold (or dutch gold - which is what we have - it's the cubic zirconia of gold leaf)...


Actually, I'm not entirely kidding. It's actually MORE delicate than a kleenex. If you pick the sheet up wrong or have sweaty hands and try and separate your hand from it, the sheet will split. Which, isn't the end of the world...but it's frustating. So - you take these sheets, one by one, and then try and line it up to cover where your size is, stick it in place, and then pat with the blusher brush and then blend and blend and blend. And even if it starts out wrinkly it will smooth out beautifully as the excess not making direct contact with the size, is brushed away. Challenge number one is getting the sheet lined up where you want it. Because we were high up on the scaffolding, the heat vents (though hardly gusty) were making the delicate sheets blow around like Kiera Knightley in a hurricane. So we had to turn off the heat for gilding. And you KNOW how I love turning off the heat. Yeesh. That did however make our hands a whole lot less sweaty (frostbite will do that for you) and made the sheets easier to manipulate. Anyway - so as you continue to do your sheets and brush, you end up with little spots where the sheet didn't stick, or you have a gap or whatever. Well you can just pick up some of the excess that flaked away (usually there is still a good deal of it wafting around like a slow motion autumn leaf dancing through the air) grab it on the tip of your finger and press it into the missing spots.


Then brush it smooth. What's amazing is no matter how many times you patch holes and stuff - if you bat it and smooth it right, you don't see creases or seam lines at all. It's an incredible process - which is probably why they haven't come up with a better way of getting such a nice effect since, oh, the Egyptians did it. So - you've seen our outer lobby, and you know it's not a small space. And these ledge edges go all the way around the room. And there are two of them. So, working with sheets the size of a travel tissue, it takes a while. And it's tedious. But I think it's sooooo worth it - I love how it started to come out. Working together Margaret and I finished the outer lobby in a couple of hours and then later that day she sized the inner lobby so that it would be ready the next day (another 12 hours to cure).

On gold leafing Day Two we had a special guest star come volunteer for a couple hours. Alane, Luke's Mom and she of the disturbing Jean Anne angel dream, met us on the street coming back from Nick's and said "I'm here to work!". She also said "I'm wearing my favorite jeans". Not always the best combo. But - she seemed very keen on gold leafing, so Margaret gave her the crash course, and she did great. It really is one of those tasks that if you were doing like a coffee cup or a wooden bowl, you'd be like "wow this is so fun... this is neat" - doing a ceiling, two hours later, you're like "Please kill me". But she did an awesome job and we were very glad for the extra help because the length to be gilded in the inner lobby was twice that of the last area. The first one took about two hours - this was at least a good four worth of blusher, batt, blusher, batt. Eventually even the Pack Leader got in on the action (I know, a very girly job on the Pack Leader scale of acceptable tasks), and, of course after us doing this for two days, within five minutes he revolutionized the procecss. He figured out that we could use scissors to cut the leaves as long as they were stacked together about a 1/4" thick to get some body and leverage. So he was able to cut them in half (just over the width of the ledge) which made the entire process go twice as fast.


Since Alane had usurped my task for a couple hours I decided to try and stay productive and move onto another task. Very commendable. Also not so smart. See, I figured I could take half an hour and run the black caulk along the baseboards. I came up with doing that as a way of finishing off the slightly-worn edges of the original moulding and also covering any areas where masking tape had prevented the gold paint from reaching all the way to the baseboard for a perfect join. The caulk would give us a really good straight seam. So - using DELICATE masking tape (which really DOES make a difference (i learned the hard way this week) along the walls I'd already painted, I ran a line a quarter of an inch above the baseboard. Then ran the caulk. Smooth with finger. Lift tape. Voia:

BLACK CAULK DOWN base-board-caulked.JPG

Looks nice right. Right. Ok. So here's where I'm stupid. Did NOT factor in two women above me on scaffolding sending snowflakes of gold dust down for the next four hours. ARGHGGHG. And unlike white caulk, black caulk has a real sheen to it so just touching it up with satin paint wasn't the perfect solution. Luckily the damage was very minimal - the heat vents (now on in the other lobby) seemed to waft the gold away from the wall - but for a while there I was scraping out little bits of gold like a Prospector. Without the California Gold Rush warm weather.

But the gold leaf looked amazing. I read online that you are supposed to seal it with a shellac. And, since it was a little more of a yellow gold than I was hoping for, I asked Rich if he could find an Amber shellac while he was on his errands. He thought I was nuts, but he did manage to find one - and after a generous coating of the shellac (which will protect it from flaking off or discoloration over time) I think it looks AWEEEESSOME.


Around this time in our progress we hit an obstacle. This happens about once every month where we need to make some big decision, and we don't immediately agree and then it's not a lot of fun. Our last big impasse was the carpet choice. As you know our original choice was discontinued. And Rich HATES carpet in principle (I think he was attacked by a carpet as a child) which makes it tough to find one that he finds less than objectionable. And I, of course, happen to have this gift for, completely unaware of anythings price, saying I like the most expensive carpet in the state. So finding a new style was not easy. At all. It was actually very stressful, particularly because we had so little time to choose. But I told you some of this before. Eventually we got down to two different carpet samples. One was slightly more expensive than the other. Guess which one I preferred? ARgh. Irrespective of price there were pros and cons to both carpets. And although this picture doesn't make them look as pretty as they are in person, here they are so you can see:


Pack Leader liked the darker black one. I did too, except I was very, very concerned that the minute anyone stepped on it there would be footprints everywhere because it was so black. The other carpet, I felt would hide less traffic (it would still need vacuumed every day, but it wouldin't look bad nearly as fast...I thought). This turned into a rather farcical discussion involving me taking it over to Nicks kitchen and having people stand on both of them to see how dirty they got. Rich enjoyed this immensely. Not. The other one of the left, which I really liked, had a slightly thicker pile. Which Margaret was concerned would be tricky with the chairs etc. So there were ups and downs to both choices. We went back and forth and back and forth, and after Rich was able to get a discounted rate (because we were ordering 1,700 square feet), and because shipping was free, we were able to get the one I really liked. Yay. All hail the great and generous Pack Leader. :) Ain't he nice. And, now that things are starting to come together, every time I wander around with the swatch and put it up against various parts of the rooms...I'm very happy. It has a nice simple geometric pattern...it's not mushy like a speckled den carpet...it's crisp. Just like Lee and Ray said it should be. So - I'm very excited for Tuesday. If I'm ready for Tuesday.

Ok. Anyway. That was the last dilemma before this most recent dilemma which happened right after the gold leafing was finished. Before we left for NY, Rich had painted one set of auditorium doors and hung them. As originally planned they were black. At this point the molding wasn't done and the ledges weren't all finished. But we looked and decided that we thought the dark expresso brown color (or "Madge Fudge" as it should be known) might be a richer, more striking choice. The black seemed a little flat. Part of that reason was because these doors are old, and have wear and tear, and putting a high gloss normal door finish on them would reveal too many nicks and bumps. Ok. So brown doors. All systems go. So after Rich finished scraping and buffing and sanding the next set, he painted them brown and put them up. And I wasn't really thrilled. Now that the baseboards were painted black and they butted up against the brown doors, I thought it looked a little weird:


Not awful. Just not perfect. Until the baseboards went up, I was all about the brown doors - and thought the black didn't look right. Now with the black baseboards I just wasn't convinced that black WASN'T the right decision. Now, there is NOTHING that delights the pack leader more than when the Jo Jo changes his mind. Rich doesn't care if I say I want something that he doesn't really like, but he wants me to DECIDE. Which I'm not good at sometimes. I like being absolutely confident that I'm making the right decision - and if one out of two people doesn't like it, then it's tough to be confident. So. After Rich made this face:


I ran away from him in terror. And then I took pictures, sent them around the globe to various experts. Like my Mom and Winston. Now, I was very, very surprised that my Mother said black doors - because considering that there was the option for brown in the mix...which is a relative of cream...she didn't opt for that. Total surprise. Winston was very torn, and said that really it SHOULD be black doors in a more glossy finish. So, after I apologized to the pack leader for being infuriating, we had a calm discussion:


And he said I could go ahead and do what I wanted. And if he changed them I didn't like them I should sleep with both eyes open :) Have you actually ever dated anyone who DID sleep with their eyes open. It's weird, weird, weird kids.

So - next day - we got some semi gloss commercial black paint and while Rich was installing more speakers and starting work on the chandeliers, I got to paint them. Before any work began, Rich in the early pre-jojo hours of the morn had spent like two hours cleaning up gold leaf with the vaccuum. It gets EVERYWHERE cuz it's so light - and if you were painting anything, every time you walked around the stuff got stirred up, started floating around, and landed on your wet paint.


And, although the door hardware isn't installed yet, I think we made the right decision:


So - this is the point where SO MUCH was going on, that it's hard to stay chronoligical...but I'll try and keep track of everything. That morning Margaret and Rich had decided that the walls going up the staircase should be brown and the alcoves painted gold. This is what happens when you sleep in a little. A coup. Actually, I thought the exact same thing - so everyone was happy. I got to work straight away doing the base coat brown and red in the alcoves and then about an hour later, painting the gold...


We also, as you can see, began spraying the bannisters the matching bronze tone to all the fixtures. I was happy to do that far down - but when we got to the gold painting, I don't want to be ANYWHERE near that job... cuz if I get bronze overspray on all that gold paint I'm gonna jump off a cliff. We're going to masking tape the whole thing with newspaper so it's masked - but I'm still afraid. I also had to get the sides of the stairs painted gold:


NOW IT'S 24 KARAT. staircase-golded.JPG

Rich was now making very good progress on the electrical side of things. The recessed speakers were now all in - and the chandeliers were looking really cool:


I know it appears small in the blog, but I think this is actually my favorite photo that I've taken of him since we've been here:


And here's a good picture of the fixture, so you can see:


And since I keep trying to take pictures of these lights at night - and when the lights on it's hard to get a good photo of the fixture, here's a product image so you know what you're looking at.


They look GREAT.

We also were concerned that the doors which had been painted gold were going to get really scratched and beaten up pretty quickly - since they were heavy traffic areas. And the gold is durable - but it will scrape. So I ran to Juergens (the local hardware store (where I keep hoping to meet a relative of Rose Nylands, but I never do) and asked their advice. They gave me laquer. Which I'd never used. They told me use a oil based brush to prevent the strokes showing in application - which really did seem to work well - although I still applied it following the brush strokes of the metallic finish to be safe. They dried very nicely - and even thought they're now protected with a hard coating, the sheen on them doesn't look at all different from the rest of the walls, which made me very happy.

By now Bob and Janice arrived - so in addition to the Power of the Pegan, we were blessed with Team Najuch. That's a whole lotta 'go gettum'.

This blog is getting long - so I'll post another one tonight, how bout that? I just gotta get caught up here, kids :)

Jo Jo.