Saturday, December 30, 2006
On Saturday,January 13th and Sunday,January 14th, I taught thirty students where we all had an enjoyable class painting "Yellow House Farm". We started the day with the Inn's muffins and pastry, tea and coffee by the fireplace. Then we all got ready around 9:30AM going over the packet of instructions and preparing the canvas. At noon luncheon was served and all eighteen students were then ready to sit by the fireplace in the old kitchen for a five course meal. We then returned to the class in the Ford Room of the Inn, where we eventually completed the painting about 4:00PM. There were seven out of eighteen that had never painted before and succeeded with their painting. The Sunday class was just twelve and a lot of fun as well with everyone completing their painting.
As one student wrote to me she said....."The Inn was beautiful, the food was fabulous and the instruction was the best." I hope that you too have this opportunity sometime to join the many that have taken a class and gone home with a painting and a memory of a special day.
Friday, December 29, 2006
There was quite a bit of fog December 21st until the sun tried so hard to come through late in the day. I couldn't even see the horses that I bring carrots to but there are two somewhere in the fog. Sometimes I pick a bagful of some nice sweet green grass that is still growing. I thought by now I could be cross country sking but there's still plenty of time for that. For now I'll just have to gaze at my last year's snow bound fields and dream.
I saw the sun setting outside my studio and before I could get the camera, the sun had disappeared to this beautiful crimson/orange glow. I was fortunate to capture the hawk observing from the tree and it seemed very peaceful watching me.There are birds of all kinds here living next to the Connecticut Audubon with the rolling hills to the river . This is one of many beautiful views to enjoy here next to the Old Cider Mill.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I rearranged the gallery here in Glastonbury where there is much to see. There are many examples of my work from paintings to tins and wood accents with many more being worked on. If you enjoy folk art and want to see original unique work I invite you to visit. Just call first to be sure I am in at 860-633-7707.
December 27th,06, was a day of change after twenty years at Salt Marsh Antiques in Rowley, on the North Shore of Boston,where I have exhibited my folk art paintings, decorated furniture, prints, cards, tin pieces, mural samples to name a few works of art. I had help from Mary, Rob and my wife Janice packing everything in just about two and a half hours. We then went for lunch in Newburyport. Janice then mentioned I had to get to Manchester for business at the printers which I entirely forgot. Manchester is such a nice little town with beautiful seaside vistas. I noticed a place to have hot chocolate when we were leaving town and thought it had a cozy warmth having candles on the tables. It seemed just the right touch to take a break before our trip back to Connecticut. Write to me if you would like to know just where this place is.
For now, please visit the Marblehead Arts Association, 8 Hooper Street in Marblehead where I continue to have different work in the gift shop. Marblehead is my hometown where there is a rich history and tradition that influenced my earlier days drawing harbor scenes and old buildings around town. I'm from M.H.S. class of '63 . .............Seems like yesterday.
Monday, December 25, 2006
When I first started in business forty years ago, I had a store among antique shops in a small little north shore town called South Essex and did tavern signs, paintings on wood, decorated furniture and local drawings. I came across an old fashioned display case similar to the ones I remembered long ago. It would fit very nicely on an old country store counter I recently was given so it seemed a natural progression to sell penny candy. One of my favorite places to get candy was from Charlie Strong over in Gloucester, a man in his mid eighties who ran the business out of his home. He told me he was the first dealer to sell candy in town sixty five years ago, which would have been at the turn of the century. He happened to give me three photos of himself, the horse and the elegant wagon, complete with all the fancy lettering, which he used to deliver the candy in. He seemed to be able to get many of the familiar varieties I remembered and a few extra special ones. There was one small orange chocolate bar wrapped in tin foil and a colorful paper that was made in Israel. It had a great taste and I couldn’t believe it was selling for only a penny! I told Mr. Strong about a new museum in Newfield, Maine that had a country store that felt as if you were stepping back in time and they wanted to sell penny candy. I gave him a contact person there where he later would fill his station wagon up to make the trip for a few more years past his mid eighties. Taking the trip there probably reminded him of visiting the country stores back in his earlier days.
I had an idea of increasing traffic to my new business so I painted a large one cent candy sign and placed it in front of my shop which drew in customers. It also soon became a favorite stop for the neighborhood children particularly when getting off the school bus. Twenty years later when I see my little customers all grown up they tell me how much they enjoyed the shop and thank me for it. Selling the candy was also a way for me to save the monthly rent money of $75.00. The penny candy days seem to be over, like the kind that I sold, and if you do find some, it won’t be the variety, quality, size or price it was back then. It just isn’t the same, which brings to mind that I don’t think pennies are valued that much anymore and just kicked aside. I had a neighbor a few short years ago who told me her story of pennies. When having tea with her mother, Marvis was always asked if she would like some sugar or have a penny. It was the WW II days when there was rationing of several commodities, sugar being one. Marvis chose never to take sugar in her tea and saved enough later to buy U.S. war bonds. She called them “sugar pennies” and occasionally I use that phrase in my work when I decorate old small boxes.
The other day I bought a sandwich and handed over $3.35 waiting for the three cents in change which never had the intention of being returned to me I realized when I heard the cash drawer slammed shut. The three cents wasn’t even thought of as my sandwich was cheerfully given to me with a “have a nice day”. I was at the local market recently and the clerk asked me if I wanted my penny change or receipt. I said “I’ll take them both”. I thought of Aunt Sadie’s fudge, sugar pennies and how times have changed. Pennies still add up to a dollar.
Early old nails and spikes can make for some unique finishing accents for building interesting items and decorating. Early wrought nails were first forged by tapering all four sides and then pounding the top to create the head of a nail. After 1800 cut nails were machine made having only one side tapered. I have collected several different kinds of nails using them in ways that I would like to share with you. The best and most original to find are the hand wrought nails of the 1700’s. In 1988, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, there was a fire that destroyed the roof of a famous three story federal house built in 1795. I had the occasion to sift through the remains, finding many hand wrought nails found in the burned out wood. It also happened that the demolition crew was also saving the nails, pulling them from the boards with great care. I appreciated it when I was given a coffee can full of the rare old nails knowing I was going make use of them in my work, which I still do today. Later I created memorable pieces of this historic house using the nails mounted on wood. These were used in a fund raising auction to rebuild and bring an uplifting spirit to the owners who had just recently completed restoring the house. With the money raised it helped to rebuild the roof and the destroyed cupola before winter. The Lord Timothy Dexter house was saved, standing tall on High Street minus those hand wrought nails that held on the roof planks.
I also happened to find copper nails from the house’s slate roof. There was a circle with a star embossed on each one. I cleaned these nail heads with copper cleaner bringing out the star’s raised pattern. I used these to nail on latches I carved for different boxes and furniture pieces I designed. Rusty nails should be cleaned by using a wire brush and then varnished if they are going to be used for show. They might be just the accent to use on an old beam to hang some herbs for instance.
One time I noticed piles of old railroad spikes along tracks that were going to be replaced. I gathered as many as I could. Some were very rusty with lots of pits but I liked them the best. Choosing some of them, I went to a local forge operating at the time and had the ends cut off. I then had a wood screw braised on so it could be screwed into a beam making for a unique kind of hook. I have a variety of nails all cleaned and ready to use or just to enjoy arranging them as accents around the studio.
Where would we be without nails and spikes? It’s nice to have a few arranged here and there for their historical memory and to make us wonder what they might have held together at one time.
You are invited to the Studio/ Gallery at 1313 Main Street, Glastonbury, Connecticut. Please call 860 -633 -7707 for more information or go to www.christophergurshin.com