Sunday, June 11, 2017

Under The Gun: Creating A Fabulous Birdhouse

   If there is anything that I have learned, too many times the "gifts" you have spent literally hours creating too often end up being unappreciated. They are opened, looked at, put aside and then the next item is reached for and your gift forgotten. I have suspicions it becomes another white elephant gifted to the next hapless soul. There are many crafters and you feel few appreciate your work.
Starting with a raw Michael's birdhouse.
Not very Santa Fe Style I admit.
   When my sister asked pointedly for one of my fabulous birdhouses, something I have rarely given to anyone nor feel are especially, well, fabulous, I was surprised. Here I had brought things from Hong Kong as gifts so was taken by surprise. She knows I enjoy creating things so maybe she is being kind.
   She lives in the middle of nowhere New Mexico in an old adobe house and she has an eclectic collection of things ... in reality probably no different than my collection from Africa, Ethiopia, Japan, China and who knows where else.  I guess this collecting runs in the family!
The first step was finding colors that
would be used in New Mexico
   This time I really had to decide just what kind of birdhouse to create. Somehow I felt Pennsylvania Dutch or Rosemaling just didn't seem right. I Admit, I have always admired the "Santa Fe" Style, especially their use of colors, so decided those colors would be a starting point.
   The birdhouse I purchased at Michael's didn't look very New Mexican but I had a plan. The first part of that plan was the use of colors. I felt that the colors and added items would help me convert this to something "Territorial!"
The turquoise fence completed the colors.
Next faking a tile roof!
   Color was key. It had to be New Mexican, not Floridian nor even typical of California. Anyone whose ever been to Santa Fe or Old Town Albuquerque knows what I'm talking about. Color is one of the most important factors for the feel of place.
   Once those colors were in place it was a matter of adding things, giving it a bit of dimension beyond the tri-plex of flat sided birdhouses. Since this was never intended to go outside, I felt that I could add all kinds of things. After wandering both Michael's and Hobby Lobby I found things that I could add and felt would be perfect ... a wheel, chili's, small flowers in tiny pots, even a half pot!
Turquoise becomes the coordinating color
   While the color blocks looked good, it is the way you decorate that elevates this from a mere birdhouse to a kind of Santa Fe fantasy. It is deciding what to add and where to put it that makes the old grey matter work. I had seen cobalt blue used on many doors, usually against a strong rust, gold or terra cotta so decided to create doors around the perches. Using the turquoise of the fence, I felt it added a touch of color to the perches and tied all the colors together. The base was a DecoArt Americana Graphite that I purposed distressed. While it is tempting to add lots of color(s), limiting them and repeating them on your project makes it stronger. 
By adding items to break up the flat surfaces
it gains a real lifelike dimension.
   To complete the "look" I decided to give the illusion of tiles on the roofs. Paint can do some amazing things and it looks pretty good.
   Now that the colors are in place, it was time to add things. I found a small birdhouse that I glued on the tallest section and then used cream colored lines to decorate below that.
Here the contrasting wheel breaks up the flat,
straight surfaces. It echoes the rounded door.
  Next came an old wheel leaning against the fence painted like an old wagon wheel. The final touch was to add a half flower pot and then paint cactus coming out of it.
   The final step for me has always been giving the entire project an "antiquing" coat, usually a brown wash used on the edges. It tones down overly bright colors and helps tie even the brightest colors together. I also feel it gives it an old look, something that has been in the family a few generations. 
   Does it ever go the way you plan? Rarely. This time, and this is one of the first complete new items started this year, I have allowed it to develop. Looking for things I decided that it would be fun to dig in the collection of things I had adding only items that were needed like the flowers in pots on the small porch and the string of chili's that hang on the porches of many homes in New Mexico.
Its that small birdhouse, flower pot
and chili's that complete the "look!"
Antiqued and finished. 
 It was fun to create and gave me a chance to try some new ideas ... the use of colors, what and where to add things, and how to create the feeling of a style despite the items that are available.
   Of course I wanted a rounded, adobe style birdhouse but had to do with what I could find. It is the little things that give anything you do the kind of visual clue that you are looking for. It may not be fabulous, but I think I have achieved a look that she will enjoy to show. Somehow it looks New Mexican!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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