Friday, March 30, 2018

A Little Funk Goes A Long Way

Northwest painter Bill Cumming shared his aesthetic with a figure drawing class in the Seventies. A little funk, it turns out, is also a heck of a lot of fun

I invited a design-oriented millennial visitor to tour the upstairs bathroom, that recently experienced open-wall surgery. I wanted him to see lath and plaster from the back so he can understand keys, the sloppy gobs of base coat that hold the stuff in place. I mentioned I had been told that lath and plaster offers better fire protection than the wallboard that replaced it after World War Two.

I also pointed out the full-dimensional rough-cut framing lumber, straight-grain Doug fir from a six-hundred year old tree. That timber was a strategic resource in the age of sail and the cause of European claims on this region. Full-dimensional rough cut means slivers and a two by four that measures two by four. The wood is nearly as strong as steel and makes drill bits smoke. The plumbing company sent a guy who owns an old house himself. We employ descendants of the plumbing company that served the original owners of our house.

Millennial suggested simply covering the open wall with Plexiglass, an extremely tempting concept. I fear the fire marshal might not be amused, though, so I plan to hang a truth photo over the wall after it is rebuilt. The fine wainscoting will be secured with obvious brass screws to make future repairs less time-consuming. I hope future painters observe Navy discipline and refrain from covering the bright work.

I was pleased to point out that the one area of the bathroom floor that has always been most difficult to clean was simply not there any more the last time I did maintenance.


A few years ago I experimented with rehabilitating hairline cracks in the plaster by caulking them and tracing the lines with gold, as if I were repairing ancient ceramics. Areas of blistered paint I scraped gently and dabbed with soft color, like leaf shadows. A fine-arts trained house painter loved the effect, and so did the gallant young plumber who cleared the drain over the, urk, kitchen ceiling. The plumbing bill covered what it would have cost me to redo the bathroom ceiling, because I decided to stick with finessing cracks and peeling paint as I have been doing -30-

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