21 November 2009

Where are you taking this . . . thing?

The Thing in question is not a Wookiee. In this case, the Thing is a mahogany African bar. The Cuddly Hubby's family lived in Ghana for two years in the mid-1970s. They brought back a lot of indigenous household goods. A few years ago, the Cuddly Hubby's dad and step mom were redecorating and some items just didn't fit in their home anymore. One of these was the bar. As you can see from the photo, it is not a small object. Furthermore, the bar had been in the basement family room and used as a plant stand for quite some time. It had not been oiled every year. And there were water stains in the top where the plants had been set. The Cuddly Hubby's sister didn't want it, and the Cuddly Hubby didn't want it to fall out of the family, so he agreed that it could be sent out here. Marriage involves compromise, and this was one of those moments for me.

The bar then spent several months wrapped up on a trailer waiting to be towed from Washington state to Georgia. Finally, the Very Talented Aunt and Uncle were making a trek out this way to bring items to their newly-wed and expectant daughter, and they were able to bring the trailer. So the Thing came to take up too much space on the back porch.

And it stayed on the back porch for a couple years. Not oiled. Not entirely protected from the elements. Finally, I got out there and took a look at it. One of the carved panels had come off. The other was loose. The plain panel in the center was loose. Both of the carved side panels had gouges in them where ropes had rubbed against them in transit. The top had big ugly dark rings from the plants. The large center shelf was warped. Ugh!

And then, I got an idea. What if I took all the panels off? What if I turned the drawers around, so they slide out on the front side instead of the back? What if I pushed the whole thing up against a wall, as if it were a sideboard? What if the carved panels were hinged like a cabinet?


Sometime in 2007 I began sanding the thing using a finishing sander borrowed from the Bard, who uses it for his model airplanes. I got a little done. Then in the spring of 2008, I made a real concerted effort to get at it. I still have some work to do on the two small drawers. (They are hidden inside the left panel.) And the center shelf still needs to be straightened and sanded (hence the cloth covering it), but at least the bulk of it is done. Early in 2009, I was able to hire the husband of one of the ladies in the guild to come over and hang the carved side panels. They are slightly warped, so it was really good to have a professional who has a lot of experience do this. There are moments where expertise is worth every penny, and this was certainly one of those.

This has been a tough year economically for so many people. In light of this, Brenda Dayne of Cast-On podcast did a series with the theme "Make Do and Mend." The Thing has turned out to be a great example of that. It took a lot of work. And a whole lot of sandpaper. Thank goodness sandpaper is relatively inexpensive. But the Thing has become an opportunity. It is now storing media -- some of our favorite videos and books. (Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings are all hidden behind the carvings.) And it has becoming an opportunity to display some African items. The red and black cloths are from Ghana as are the musical instruments. I sanded the top so smoothly you could do physics experiments on it. And some of the mahogany dust generated from all the sanding was put to good use by both Scenter, who wanted it as a reference scent, and the Bard, who can use the dust to patch model airplanes.

A couple other items to mention in the picture. I believe the little throw rug is also from Ghana. At minimum, it was amongst some items that came from the Cuddly Hubby's family. The dragon scroll picture also has a "Make Do and Mend" story. It was a poster given to me by a colleague the year I taught at Bauder College. She was de-cluttering, had a stack of good-quality art posters, and asked if I (the art history teacher) would like this detail from a Chinese scroll. I cropped off the section that advertised "Boston Museum of Fine Arts" and went to the big box store to find a plain black frame of the proper proportions. I came home and discovered that the poster was the right width but it was now a little too short. My cropping had been a bit too zealous. So I returned to the big box store and purchased some narrow red ribbon. I affixed the ribbon at top and bottom to add just a little more height. It wasn't until I had the whole thing framed and on the wall and was admiring it that I realized a real scroll painting would be likely to have a narrow fabric border. Furthermore, since this is only part of the complete scroll, there is no border to the left or right, thus implying the existence of more image in both directions. In solving the cropping problem, I had inadvertently given the image exactly what it needed!

Sometimes what we need is not only closer than we think, it isn't even all that expensive.

No comments: