Sunday, October 1, 2017

What's Done Is Done and Undone and Redone

My blog posts seem to be turning into public confessions of all the mistakes I've made during the construction of Villa del Vigneto. But at this point, if I don't write about the mistakes, there won't be anything to write about! So I'm going to 'fess up again this month, but after this, I do not intend to make ANY mistakes, so all my future blog posts will be all about perfection and the carefree fun I have as I work on the villa. (Do I hear someone snickering out there in blog land???)


This is the BIG piece of 3/4" styrofoam that will be the "false" back wall of the villa, covering all the electrical wiring. I built up a frame of styrofoam strips around the edges of the existing back wall, so that there's a space between the two walls. (I didn't want the wires and plugs to be smashed.)

I applied joint compound to the styrofoam piece. The little window hardly shows in that solid wall.

All sanded and ready to paint. I wet sanded first, then went over the piece lightly with fine sand paper.

All dry and ready to hang. I carried the wall downstairs to check its fit on the back of the villa. AND DISCOVERED THAT I HAD FINISHED THE WRONG SIDE OF THE STYROFOAM WALL! I'm pretty sure that I never even once stopped to consider which side was which. I can't think of one good excuse for such carelessness. The window is just off center, so that should have been an obvious clue. But nope. Clueless.

So I spent a lot more time doing the same thing all over again. At least there was no doubt this time about which side I should work on. (Of course, I had no doubts the first time either!)


I knew exactly how I wanted the villa's exterior finish to look; I just didn't know how to go about getting it to look that way. So I experimented. I found a texturing gel at the craft store that I thought was a great idea. I applied the gel randomly, along with swipes of joint compound. I started at the west end....

...and continued on the front...

...then moved to the east end...

...and around to the back. Then I waited overnight for the texturing gel and the joint compound to dry.

I was surprised the next day to find that the gel had dried to a glossy finish, leaving great shiny globs on all the walls. I started painting anyway, assuming that the flat paint would cover the gloss. It didn't. I tried sanding off the gloss, but even the coarsest sandpaper wouldn't sand through the dried gel.

So I started over again, applying more joint compound to cover the glossy globs.

I put on just a thin layer of joint compound and wiped it down gently with a wet sponge. (Thanks to Betsy, from Daydreamer, for that technique.)

The wall that juts out at an angle didn't receive a gel treatment, because I was using that wall to experiment with paint colors and smudges. I left it "as is."

After repainting the walls, I experimented again, smudging the walls with charcoal, most of which I later covered with a blend of paint colors.

 I tried out an "aging stucco" finish on the west wall, using sandpaper, Antique Gold, Rose Pink, and Crushed Coral paints, a gray wash, taupe eye shadow, and charcoal from our Oklahoma Joe smoker.
I also needed to make "camouflage corners" for the back wall, which didn't fit quite flush with the end walls of the villa. I cut strips of mat board and made a sharp fold down the center so that each strip would wrap around the corner from back to front. I glued the strips to the back wall, but attached them only lightly with sticky wax to the end walls so that the back wall and the strips can be removed as one unit if necessary. I applied joint compound to the corner strips, wet sanded the strips with a sponge to smooth and blend the joint compound, then I painted over the strips so that they blend with the walls. Both back corners will eventually be covered with vines. (Further camouflage.)

  I had a vision of the color I wanted for the window frames - but mixing the hoped-for color was a challenge.

It took several attempts and a variety of "concoctions"....

...but I finally mixed up the right blend of colors. This close-up photo shows one of the living room windows and a portion of the "aged" west wall.


Even before I decided to construct the central tower, I had planned to have a grape vine emblem above each of the front openings. (The lower opening is the main villa entrance, and the upper opening looks into the stair landing on the second level.) After I built the tower, the front of the villa looked so plain that I was even more determined to create the emblems. So I gathered up some likely pieces from my stash and started designing. (I did not use the smallest oval frame in the above photograph.)

I think I've had the grape cluster piece on the left for maybe twenty years. It was attached to a greeting card that I received, and there was a tiny candle inserted into the space where you can see the green pin head that I added. The grape cluster on the right is a brooch that I found in an antique store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year. The other pieces are picture frames. I cut cork shapes to form backs for the pieces.

I spread joint compound (of course) over the back pieces.

I also added a light layer of joint compound to the frames...

...and to the grape clusters.

I glued the grapes to the frames and glued the frames to the cork backing.
You can see that I added an additional backing piece to the larger frame.

Both emblems are assembled and ready to turn into stone. I've tried to think what these things may be called, other than "emblems;" but I've checked all the synonyms, and nothing sounds right. (Heraldry, Crest, Symbol, Logo, Insignia, Coat of Arms, Plaque.) So I'm sticking with "emblem" for now, unless someone knows what it is that I'm trying to think of.

I painted a dark gray finish on first,

then dry-brushed on a lighter gray, a cream, and two shades of tan.

I think I added a bit of white to this mixture, but I forgot to take a photo.

I was so excited about attaching the emblems to the villa wall that I glued them right on. I had held them up to the wall time and again and was happy with the way they looked. I should, of course, have attached them temporarily with sticky wax. No sooner had the glue dried than I decided that the emblems jutted out too far and definitely looked just "stuck on."

I lived with them for a couple of days anyway, then just couldn't bear it longer, so I pried the emblems off with a sturdy knife - bringing paint, joint compound, and styrofoam off with them.

I pried the cork backing off the oval frame and removed one of the cork backs from the larger frame.

I had to do some repair work, of course. I leveled out the styrofoam where the emblems had pulled away, then filled the spaces with joint compound, which I also smoothed around the edges of the "raw" space. Instead of using glue, I pressed the emblems into the wet joint compound, which holds like glue when dry.

After the joint compound dried, I sanded it very lightly and repainted the repaired areas.

You probably can't tell from the photo that there's any difference between the "before" and "after" views of the emblems. But I solemnly swear that the new version is better! The repairs also gave me a chance to put a little "wear and tear" in the stucco around the emblems, which lends a more authentic look.

That's the extent of my September mistakes (oops - I mean accomplishments!) But one thing did go well. The end of September is the time for Nebraska's annual Junk Jaunt - 300 miles of Junk, Antiques, Bargains, and Treasures of all kinds. I hoped that I'd find at least one miniature of some kind. But there were no minis to be found in the places I looked. However, a couple of months ago, I brought some tiny bits of cactus back from the Nebraska Sandhills and planted them in miniature pots in the courtyard of my miniature adobe house. The cactus needs an occasional taste of water, but I never found anything small enough to do the job. An eyedropper was inconvenient, and a tiny cream pitcher made a muddy mess. But on the Junk Jaunt, I found a very small glass bottle with a perfect pour top - probably used to dispense oil or vinegar. It cost me a dollar, but that was money well spent, because it's the perfect vessel for watering the cactus plants. 

My Junk Jaunt Treasure!

And speaking of treasure, I hope that you'll all have a truly Golden October.