I spent every blustery, wintery Saturday at a small ski club in Colden, NY; the small resort, Tamarack, was a great place to learn to ski. The classes were small, the season passes affordable, the terrain, manageable, and the nachos in the dining hall, the best that I’ve had to date (truth be told, my first ever job at a lake side hot dog stand also served the same amazing liquid-cheese nachos, and my body would probably thank me if i never ate another nacho chip again since between Tamarack and long rainy days at the hot dog stand I’ve easily consumed 4x my body weight.. but I digress).
I lucked out by learning to ski alongside my childhood best bud, who I’m sure will recognize this project and reflect back on those times with much happiness. Between the ages of 12-18, we spent a lot of time there, from fall open house to unseasonably warm spring days skiing through a substance comparable to a slurpie, and we loved ever minute of it.
Pretty with autumnal foliage too, right?
I remember the disappointment I felt upon learning of that; after all, it was the kind of place that I wanted to bring my kids to learn to ski someday. Not long after shutting down, perhaps even in a previously-arranged transaction, it was acquired by the neighboring private Buffalo Ski Club, which I have nothing against but always wanted to infiltrate, since it was only separated by a thin row of trees. I imagined that the members were hoity-toity snobs, but considered that paid memberships might also come with larger orders of nachos and more black diamonds; plus, anything exclusive seemed oh-so-desirable to a 16-year-old kid, especially the idea of exclusive ski clubs with rich little 16-year-old boys on snowboards.
I have this mammoth glass-less picture frame that Pete moved in a few months ago. You saw it photographed in this post, and since then it’s been sitting to the side, yearning for some new art. Pete says he won it at a golfing event years ago, which seems like a pretty fun prize to me but meaningless to him. Time to make it something special.
I’ve been relishing the idea of commemorating Tamarack in some way, deciding in the end to craft an abstract piece that would be meaningful to me (and almost only me). In this case, the abstract vision began to take on a multimedia approach. While I considered using a piece of brown craft paper as my starting point, I instead decided to use a large piece of old burlap that I actually had saved away at some point.
Rather than relying too much on my memory, I went straight to the Buffalo Ski Club’s website to view its trail map. While the whole left side of the trail map correlates to the club’s original ski trails, the right side is still clearly Tamarack. I wanted to make an easy-to-use template for my project, which I had decided would also employ some crafty-yet-totally-inexpensive-at-35-cents-a-pop embroidery thread.
For the template, I cut pieces of white printer paper to size to represent where the trees forming each trail were; as those clusters of trees were assembled on the pre-cut burlap, the trails started to take form. And you may not see anything yet with this photo, but believe me, this is pretty darn close to what Tamarack looked like:
I worked my way through the project cluster by cluster, slowing embroidering the clusters of trees into place and mapping out the trails. There are some square buildings in the original plan, but I opted to leave them out of the equation in the end.
Note: I haven’t embroidered anything since 7th grade Home & Careers class wherein I was challenged to make a kick-ass US flag out of felt and cotton fabric. Thank you, middle school.
Once the trails and trees were mapped, I added my own chairlift, installed the burlap within the envisioned frame, and stepped back to view the piece:
Love. I’m fully aware this has no meaning to anyone but me and a few of my friends and family members, but seeing this trail map again is pure happiness. Plus, I’m liking how the old burlap had some wear and tear and discolored areas; adds a nice added dimension.
The original vision in my mind included having the trails white. I was all for making this a full-on embroidery bonanza and hand-stitching the trails, but decided that adding paint to highlight the trails would look a little cleaner than my haphazard embroidery abilities.
As I started painting the trails with plain out-of-the-can white paint and stepped back, I knew it was going to look even better than I expected. In the end, I was elated:
I left painting the edge trails and around the chairlift until the end, deciding to fade the color and leave the area beneath the chair lift a little less saturated.
Of course, I had wanted to use this frame in the entryway of the house, but it won’t fit displayed horizontally and I’ll have to come up with a new place; maybe my bedroom. Time and testing of various locations will tell.
P.S. Just a quick reminder: Today’s the LAST DAY to enter the Sugru giveaway; go leave a message on this post to be included in the drawing at 10PM.
Among the most ingenious and innovative products I’ve ever dared to rip off, Stray Dog Designs has created a wonderful, attractive, desirable side table that I just needed to have. I’m going to give credit where credit’s due and send you straight to West Elm to see the product as it is sold today.
I’ve had this catalogue page pinned on my inspiration wall for months now with full intent to figure out exactly how I could duplicate it.
Right in the product description and within the bio, West Elm credits Stray Dog with its ability to make stunning products from papier mache. I whole-heartedly concur – this table and their other works knocked my flip flops off. I should say upfront that papier mache is a process that I haven’t so much as encountered since summer day care at Care-A-Lot in 1988. Miss Karen was a good supervisor, but I was without this go-around. Nonetheless, I was up for a good challenge and excited to see how my own model would turn out (A+, C-, or fail).
To create a round structure for the side table, I knew I would need a sturdy frame to work from. I had decided that chicken wire would be a good framework, and I built it around a round plastic garbage can that we happened upon a few weeks ago at the mid-century modern estate sale (the sellers let us haul away our purchases in it as opposed to a plastic bag or cardboard box). The chicken wire wrapped around it nicely.
Before I really started working on the real frame, I did a test run over the course of two days to observe a few things: 1) learn how to form and attach a structure for the zig-zags, because I was going to try and mimic their dimensional chevron model (although I also considered some other patterns, like a corkscrew going all the way from the bottom to the top and that might still look great); 2) to see how the papier mache would adhere to the zig zag and the chicken wire; and 3) see if I could actually make a working papier mache paste.
On a small piece of chicken wire, I bound two pieces of twisted newspaper (or Target circulars, in my case) together.
The sample piece tested the use of zip ties to lock the zigs and zags into tight position. I also tried wire, but it was a little harder to manipulate (and hurt my fingers more to repeatedly bend and twist it). The zip ties were leftover from my scooter storage project; they’re 4″ long, and can hold up to 18 pounds each, according to the packaging. I was certain they’d keep things in place.
Contrary to some instructions to make the papier mache a stovetop activity, I went for the no-bake model consisting of about 1-part water to 1-part flour. I didn’t use glue per some instructions I found, but I do remember doing it that way in 1988. I added a pinch of salt to fend against mold in case that’s ever an issue, although it felt more like I was making waffles.
The sample zig zag received a coat of soaked newsprint (not drowning in the flour/water mixture, just lightly coated and carefully affixed to the chicken wire).
Maybe I should take a moment to mention how messy this project is. I was covered, and I’m usually pretty neat when it comes to painting, demo, sloppy projects (except when I sat in the mortar bucket, which I’ll get to another time). Messy, messy, messy. No wonder I loved it so much when I was 4 years old.
The sample model was a sweet success. It held up really well, and so I proceeded with setting up the framework for the larger, real side table model.
Similarly to the sample, I bundled ad inserts and newspapers together and zip tied them to the chicken wire; easy peasy. Make sure you have lots of paper (I almost ran out and had to wait for the free town newspaper to arrive).
Notice all of the zip ties poking out?
Snip them short. And then twist the tie around to face the inside of the table if possible to make for a nice, clean form. I also did my best to space out the zigs and zags, but I admittedly was more focused on keeping the zigs with the zigs and the zags with the zags to realize that some were closer together vertically than others; are you with me? What I’m getting at specifically is that my top strand looks about 1″ higher than it needs to be. Meh, still happy at this point!
The papier mache went on just as smoothly as with the test piece, although I ran out of newspaper again and had to pause for a day until another set of newsprint circulars when I arrived. Good news is that papier mache is totally fine after a day in the fridge, just like waffle batter. This project made me want waffles bad. (And, where were my neighbors with their recycling bins overflowing newspaper when I needed them?)
Notice that I rolled the top of the chicken wire over so it wasn’t pointy at all; the rounded edge made for a nice clean finish at the top.
Truth be told, I seriously considered leaving the newsprint exposed like this instead of painting over it like the West Elm piece. The overall grayscale with hints of color was appealing to me; maybe someday I’ll craft myself a little set of furniture left unpainted.
I gave the table a fresh coat of white primer followed by white paint and set it aside to dry. While the paint was curing, I began working on a tabletop. Instead of doing a papier mache table top or exactly what they had done in West Elm, I pulled a board from my For Your Merrypad inventory of lumber, and specifically, a board that was free to me but was too short to use in making a picture frame for the biz, and also a little too weak to be trusted to hold glass and art. It had some really great character that I thought would work well here.
Using a sawzall (instead of the ideal jigsaw which is unfortunately MIA) I cut around the square table top along a pre-drawn line, converting it from square to circle. I also added some reinforcement pieces to the underside of the tabletop with scrap wood and 1-1/4″ wood screws.
Once the tabletop was installed (a.k.a. placed) on the table, it looked pretty good!
1) Looks like I missed a few places in my painting; really, this is because the newspaper wasn’t as flush as could be in some spots and I didn’t get in all of the nooks and crannies. Live and learn and papier mache more often and maybe my skillz can improve.
2) Maybe I should paint the table top white?
3) Maybe I should make the table top the side diameter as the table for a more streamlined look.
4) Whoa, this project was totally free.
I never intended for my garage saling hobby to become so much of a series on the blog, but here’s another sneak peek of some of my recent treasures. This spring has been good to me (for very little money). Some of my other escapades helped me discover sweet pink pushpins and an old owl and hunks of glass, all of which are slowly finding their way into my day-to-day decor. This weekend, between a church rummage sale and a random estate sale, I discovered some cool finds that only stole $11.75 from my wallet.
I’ve written before about how my everyday dinnerware consists of a usable collection of mismatched plates, bowls, and servingware, so I added a few choice picks to the collection – both happen to be scalloped and cheerful and fit in quite nicely with the mismatched set. The white bowl is a good size for cereal or soup; the yellow bowl will be useful when it comes to serving sides at din-din or summer picnics.
And here I go contradicting myself; I allow myself to collect random plates and bowls because I try and anchor the table by retaining matching glasses and silverware… but I couldn’t resist this set of glasses representing the United States (minus the western states and mid-west). I’m guessing it was originally a 6-glass set. The colors and level of detail (down to state and regional factoids on the back) are adorable, and for 10-cents a pop, I thought they’d look great with the other clear glasses I drink from. They do.
The clay pots were actually in someone’s freebie bin, so why wouldn’t I take them; cutely sorted like little nesting pots.
I also pulled a 8×12 picture frame from the freebie bin (for the free glass). This mangled frame is not shown but gives me the glass I need to make this empty, ornate frame usable again. This frame was a big spend, at $4. But it’s cute, right?
Speaking of frames, the great colors in this print of the Grand Canyon National Park are what caught my eye; how pretty are the swirling skies and shadowed mountains? At $3, felt it was worth trying to scoot home with the 18″x24″-ish frame between my knees (just around the corner from home, so it wasn’t scary for too long).
The frame isn’t even bad, although I’m considering giving it a coat of paint – maybe a red-orange coat that will complement the similar color in the painting but still allow the texture of the frame to show through.
I don’t own many tsotchkes; you’re not going to see me with a Precious Moments display on the built-in shelves anytime soon, but I couldn’t resist this little green dog with hand painted facial detail. At 10-cents, who wouldn’t have taken it? Originally I figured I’d paint it neutral a la the ol’ cheap owl, but the unlikely green and yellow is growin’ on me.
And then, I hit the jackpot. I stopped at a random estate sale with poor signage and turned into my dad in matter of 3 seconds. OK, back up: I’ve said for years that I’m turning into my mom (not in a bad way – she’s tall and thin, loves home improvement, perennials, j.crew, and amber jewelry), but my dad has this love for maps unlike anyone I’ve ever met, besides maybe a topographer. It’s annoying and obsessive and he’s forever hinting that I should have a map with me at all times in case I get lost (and my iPhone doesn’t count). His collection is expansive, and what I’m getting at here is that I actually bought maps. Real maps. Stunning, exquisite maps. I don’t collect maps, but maybe I do now since I brought home 10.
The sale was one town over, and come to find, the woman who once lived in the home was the town historian and was involved with mapping the town’s growth and development, so in addition to cool antique maps, reprints, and sketches of various locations around the world, there were some pretty nice blueprints of the town detailing property lines, schools, and dead ends. The family holding the sale had delivered a handsome package to the local historical society, but left duplicates and damaged items for other crazy map people to browse through. Yes, now I’m a crazy map person.
The storage unit itself was for sale ($50) and while I didn’t buy it, it would surely have made for a nice coffee table with a little paint and imagination. It was deeper and wider than this picture gives credit for, and with lots of little drawers, I could really see it being used as nice storage for my own prints and photos. I switched to the iPhone to take a photo for you so I didn’t cause too much of a scene, hence the quality of this photo.
Back to the maps. Yeah, so, I hunted through each of those drawers and came up with a fine selection to bring home with me for just $3.50. Amazing. Although it might have been because that’s all I had in my wallet short of a Starbucks gift card. Here’s the list of what I brought home, with related photos.
1. Map of New York divided by town. Within each town is the population as of the year 1865.
2. Connecticut. It was in good shape and might make for nice framed decor someday for a friend who lurrrrves CT (Holler Alyssa, if you’re reading.)
3. A Franklin County, Pennsylvania recreation map. It has a wonderful map key featuring hunting notes that I just had to take a picture of for you.
Ooh, but wait, it gets even more vivid:
5. This map of the United States is frail, tattered, stained, and beautiful. I can’t wait to display it someday, somewhere. Reminds me of my 2nd grade classroom. Those dark brown spots around Oregon were there when I bought it but seem to be marker related.
7. and 8. Two frail local town maps made it home with me too. The bright paper color coupled with the level of detail in the map was really intreguing, and I like to know more about the area that I live in, so it’s been fun to look at closely.
Fun fact: The site of an old Wegmans that’s closing at the end of the month was actually once the site an elementary school. How old could this print possibly be?
The larger maps, once I photographed them, suddenly popped out to me as being an artful backdrop for some new frames that I had needed to photograph for my store. I think it accents them nicely.
Legit self-promotional footnote: Both of those frames are available on etsy and can be seen in my store at foryour.merrypad.com.