Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Contributors Oil, 24x30 $500

Finally back at the easel. Found God and inspiration long enough to bang this out (in 2 hours). Worth a click on the image to see the details. Cross between frustration, fear and worry. On 3x primed gallery wrap canvas. I'm sick of buying frames!

Back to some Art- For Kids

I teach an after-school program called Aspiring Artists. Here are some of my 27 kids from Underwood Elementary in Wauwatosa. This is a great program that I started in Michigan. Any artist interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Creating My Own Inferno (from Hell)

This fireplace project is killing me, mainly in the time it's taking. I've tried to think of it as an art project, first with the design, then with the installation of stone veneer from Eldorado Stone, and now with the mantel build.

Here's where it all started. We just didn't like the old red brick, country schoolhouse look. Standard crap that the builder put in every house in our sub.

Step 1- Demolition. It's fun, except that I had to haul out broken concrete and bricks in a plasticc bucket 50 lbs at a time, in subzero weather to a burial spot behind my house!

Step 2: Installation of concrete backerboard

Nothing was level, plus we decided to go all the way to the ceiling. Another challenge was attaching the board to the existing concrete. You need a hammer drill, expensive screws, and a lot of patience as some holes worked, some didn't. Anyway, the next photo shows all the backerboard up and in place.
The boards have to be attached very well because this is what your stone is going to be attached to. Take time to locate your wall studs and make sure your screws are securely threaded into the exisiting concrete. They have a tendency to not want to go in all the way. Ever try to thread one of these screws in with a screwdriver? Power drill doesn't do it all the way, and the last 3-4 threads are mightly tough!

Step 3- Application of the scratchcoat

First, you need to know that I've only seen this all done at a place I own down in Scottsdale, AZ. The guys were expert masons. I, on the other hand, am not a mason. I searched for other web sites for guides to installing the screen, which led to me taking it all down after figuring out that the mesh does slope down, cuz as you drag the concrete up the screen, that's what holds it in place. I thought the cups should face up, but then the mud doesn't grab. Lesson 1....of 78! Here's me, working my way up the wall. Did I say I was havin' fun? NOT. P.S. Mixing concrete in your living room is just the beginning of the dust. Word of advice: REMOVE EVERYTHING FROM YOUR ROOM and seal it off with sheets or tarps or whatever. Then only you can live and breathe in your perfect dustbowl. It really gets dusty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Step 5- Locating your Mantel

Don't get too ahead of yourself. Where is the mantel going to go? You need to have it designed and measured out on paper at this point. I put up some boards exactly the height and depth as what the final piece would be. I also bought a piece of crown molding that was what we wanted and kinda mocked up the way it might look.

Step 6- The Stone Arrives, 4 boxes, 500# on a palette.

We selected a type of stone that we liked, but proved to be the most difficult to install. It's called a stacked stone and the installation technique is called dry stack, to give it the appearance of no grout between stones. Looked great at our place down south and on the Eldorado website. The approach calls for putting together the puzzle of pieces so they all fit nice and tight against your wall. Let's just say that the four boxes of manmade stone doesn't exactly lend itself to this nice and tight, everything-just-fits-together jigsaw puzzle. As suggested, we laid it out on the floor first. Remember to make a cutout of your fireplace opening to build around.

Didn't I say to remove ALL furniture and goodies from your room? That's part of the lesson here. I didn't take ALL furniture, flat screen TV's, home theatre equipment, lamps, etc out of the room...yet. I waited until they were covered with dust, then took them ALL out of the room.

Step 7- Let's Start Laying Some Stone!

The wife really needs to start seeing some progress. Hell, I need to feel some progress! It's a painting honey, and works of art take time...a lot of time in this case. This is week 2. I've done some light concrete work in my youth, remodeling grocery stores with my uncle. This is different, and looks count. I used a concrete adhesive even though Eldorado didn't mention to do so. Make sure your mud mix is leaning toward wet vs dry, especially in this type of install.

I also had to keep in mind the floor. We're going to install some travertine stone, so your first row needs clearance to accomodate for the floor. So far, so good. Everything pretty much fits as I had it laid out on the floor. Edges needed to be cut off. That required the use of a grinder with a diamond wheel.
THIS IS WHERE THE REAL DUST BEGINS! You're about to start eating a lot of concrete dust, as A LOT of these stones need to be trimmed to fit correctly. Everything in this puzzle doesn't come together as planned. Hey, it's remodeling, retrofit...cluster f*#%k !
Having a wetter mix, (in retrospect) will allow you to use less mortar and get a tighter fit as you stack the stones. I had problems when I got passed the first couple rows with stones coming "unset" because I think the mortar was too dry. When I went to push the next stone in place above it, you broke the seal of mortar and had to start over. This happened several times, especially with smaller, thin stones.

Step 8- Finish Laying Stone

I'm working my way up and around the opening. This turned out to be one of the easiest areas. The previous brick had a large steel angle iron to bridge the opening. This stone was harder to get all the bottoms aligned, so I opted out on support. Only time will tell if it all falls down.

Step 9- Working around the mantel area

I decided on height and depth for my mantel and screwed some wood in. All I had to do was cut stone to fit in the box. Easier said than done. Especially as I worked up the wall and started counting stones I had left. Spanning the larger area didn't work as well using the layout I had on the floor. Extra mortar, and cuts needed to make it all fit, resulted in things just not going as planned. Such is the life of a remodeler.

Step 11- The final push

All the stone in place. Ran out, so opted to add a top row of crown to compliment the mantel. As you'll see in the end, it worked out pretty good.

Now for the floor. Just 4 pieces of travertine, a little grout and that's it. Turned out that the clearance I had planned for on the bottom row of stone was for ceramic and required a bunch of cutting to get things to fit for travertine. Just more dust.

The Masterpiece. Cutting the crown molding looked great pre-staining. After that the wood warped a bit and created havoc on the corners. Some extra trimming, pushing and we're good to go. New carpet and new paint topped it all off. 1 month, and a lot of work transformed this room into what we hoped for. I'm going to put in a gas insert and skip the wood burning, so just another $500 and it's good to go. A work of art that stretched the limits of my imagination! Note to self; stay out of the concrete business!