Friday, June 21, 2013

Box Project 2 - Bits and Beginnings

My first step with the box is to get it to the point that it can be glued.  Right now its covered in pealing shards of veneer.  some of it has come off with the slightest touch; some of it needed a little help from fingernails and a palette knife.  The rest is proving to be stubborn.  I can tell from the brown/amber crystals here and there when the pieces pop off that it was all originally put on with hide glue.  This may prove to be a blessing in disguise because I know from the research I did for the glue book that hide glue will let go with steam.  So probably tomorrow I will address the issue with hot damp towels and a steam iron.  The Phillip can glue the very loose pieces back together. 

That being said, I've turned my attention to how I will eventually decorate it.  Neither Phillip nor I have the time, patience or (probably) skill to redo the veneer entirely.  But in my researches I have found that many of the boxes like this were decorated with paint in a technique called "penwork". 
It comes in two varieties, polychrome and monochrome. Often it is decoration in gold or color on black.  Sometimes it is similar decoration on gold or ocher and sometimes a combination of the two with side panels in a decorative motif in monochrome with a figural panel on the top in polychrome or vice versa. 

 But as you can see, it isn't limited to that either.  There is also red backgrounds and verdigris green.  Unlike Medieval and Renaissance boxes referred to as "polychromed wood", these boxes seem to be done in a process more akin to Russian Palek boxes.  A box is covered first with a primer, then several layers of black lacquer.  Then the design is put on in metallic paint and painted over with colors.  The whole thing is then covered with several layers or clear lacquer.  ( This is a lot more robust and durable than regular polychroming which is paint over layers of gesso.  I think I can make a decent stab at pretty design work that, while it may not be up to Palek box standards, may be nicely done nonetheless.  Time to dig out my air brush and see if it will suit the lacquer.

And while we're on the subject, how about those brass hairy paw feet.  I know I can do them as I already made feet like that for another box and I still have all the molds.  All-in-all this may take what seems like forever, but if I'm careful and do it right it could turn out splendidly.  Be that as it may, I still have to be about the very tedious business of removing that veneer.  But its dreams like this that keep me going.

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