This stool dates from sometime after the Second World War, when one of Ben's family decided to cope with a shortage of materials by making a stool out of old crates. Ben's dad told us to use it as long as we wanted and then get rid of it, because it was no value to anyone.
But Emily loved him...
(Sorry, irrelevant quote, but we both loved this stool as soon as we saw it.)The time came, this summer, when I had a great place to put the stool but it looked too stained and grubby to live there (near the utility room door, if you're interested). I sanded it down quite hard, to make a decent surface, primed/undercoated it in about three coats of white, to stop the stain showing through, and then gave it two light coats of 'blue indigo' matte paint - I wanted it to be a bit shabby with perhaps a bit of white showing through, rather than a perfect gloss finish. I left all the chips on the edges - I love them, too.
Yesterday it was time to gather together any vintage ephemera I was willing to use for this project. These vintage tram tickets come from Naples, Malta and somewhere in Spain, I think. I love the way my mum found them in this box she picked up somewhere - a treasured souvenier of someone's latterday Grand Tour, I suppose. I only used the battered ones...
These photographic memorabilia came from one of the lovely Bethany Christian Trust shops in Edinburgh - they seem to have been the collection of someone called Rankin, which is a good, literary Edinburgh name!
I decided to use some of my Catholic collection - mainly First Communion cards. I don't feel much in tune with Marian imagary, or with the style of language used (ovbiously in French), so I took time to find some I liked.
Here was the modern (and oh so unenvironmentally friendly, I suspect) side to the project. It's a clever spray glue which allows you to reposition papers, although some of my tram tickets were too frail for that kind of treatment.
I then spent a happy half hour arranging papers, including three of the reproduction gardening cards that Sam sent me last week - their colours are stronger and really bring the project together.
I used the flimsy tram tickets on the battered edges of the stool, because I wanted something that would mould itself to the shape and really show up all the chips and knocks. Ben thinks I'm mad.
I also used opaque patterns from my collection of French fashion papers, which could mould themselves beautifully to the edges, but could also be cut to fit awkward gaps in the middle. At first I tried to trim the edges with scissors, but I soon discovered it looked much better if I tore them carefully.
Lovely moulding in the dents! Here's some Italian for Michaela...
Finally I had everything arranged and spray-glued on - fairly loosely, some of them, as I hoped that the varnish would give a final 'stick' to everything.
I took the stool out to our well-used painting area near the pool (yes, a problem with splashes, it's true).
I've used four coats of this varnish, as, although no one will be sitting on the stool, I still want to give a really good covering to unite the varied thicknesses and absorbancies of the cards and papers I used.
And here is the finished top! The two First Communion cards proved tricky, as they were some kind of inabsorbent fake-parchment material. My advice would be to make sure everything used is absorbent, or it will be hard to stick down and varnish.
And finally, the whole stool! I will probably give it another coat of varnish, just to be sure, and then I will put it next to the white bookshelf in our corridor, near the utility room, and I suspect that it will often have a book or two on it...
I found the idea that inspired me, and the basic techniques, in Petra Boase's excellent 1999 book, 'Funky Junk'. I think there was a TV programme of the same name at about that time, although I have no memory of it. Too busy with small babies at that time...
11 hours ago