Sunday, July 25, 2010

baffling solutions

When you live in apartment complexes sometimes you're lucky enough to have windows on two sides but it's rare to have all of them overlooking mountains, rivers, or forests. We spent nearly eight years living in an especially nice townhouse where our bedroom had the mountain/river view. The back room, however, the one that served as our guest room/movie viewing/game playing space looked out on cat walk accesses to other apartments and would presumably allow people to look inside our lighted room. The good news was that window was at the end of a 'U' and faced west.

I don't like blinds and most curtains are boring; stained glass would have been perfect but I didn't have any so what I decided to do that first spring was to make something that would mimic its effect but be light enough to rustle like leaves when the window was opened.

How did I do it? tissue paper, transparent inks, bristol board, polymer varnish, and butcher's string. I spread plastic all over the living room floor and sprayed many dozens of tissue paper with a solution of ink and water. As they dried I stacked them and sprayed more. The process to get enough took weeks. Meanwhile, I cut wide ovals, and long rectangles from the bristol board, hollowing each one to about half an inch. Once there was enough colored tissue I laid the ovals etc. on the plastic, painted the edges with varnish and began layering torn pieces of the thin paper varnishing the whole. Each piece you see here was layered 6 times between front and back. As the groups were finished I trimmed the excess tissue and hole punched for the string.

The target date for finishing the project was midsummer's day when I knew it would light up as the sun moved across the building. This is the photograph I took that afternoon of my little personal installation called 'Summer Gate'. It's gone now but I'm glad of the picture.

This one isn't so pretty, nor was it as complicated to make, but by the time we moved here I was thinking about prayer flags. Every other panel says Om Mane Padme Om in Tibetan script and on a summer day like this one it's nice to imagine blessings on the warm breezes coming through the kitchen window. The extra good news is they blow both ways. I like to imagine every little bit helps.


  1. Gorgeous! Your creativity never fails to amaze me!

  2. I swear to you that before I got to the comment page I had planned on saying exactly what Lisa said. Your creativity does amaze me.

  3. Brilliant! I do like the first one, That would look great in our house!

  4. Wow, I thought the first picture was of stained glass!

    Your prayer flags remind me of medieval banners from paintings of castle interiors. I like the idea of prayer flags, too.

  5. lisa - I don't mean to be a show-off - just to show what we can all do with a little time and imagination :-)

    belette - and I'll tell you just what I told Lisa. It embarrasses me having anyone think I'm unusually clever :-)

    jams - Yes, that first one was magnificent. One day I may make another.

    the crow - It really did look like stained glass but my first prerequisite was that it had to be lightweight. You can't mess with hardware in a rented place :-)

    They are like that, aren't they? I love hand made things but can't afford to buy ones made by others :-)

  6. Blessings indeed!
    You are so damn creative! What patience you have to go back and do over and over, coat after coat. I did a pair of snowshoes that way, each color and layer had to be completely dry before I could work with them for the next step.
    To be honest, the first time I came and scrolled down, I thought you had made some discovery for a use for neckties. This is not a reflection on your work, but rather how dumb I am!
    This visit, I read the post and can see the work involved. As usual, your talent shines through.


  7. I really dig the first one, and it would've gone well when we were in our last apartment, overlooking a giant block of weathered asphalt.

  8. you didn't!
    i can't even imagine spending a week drying tissue and cutting out shapes by hand.
    that you even conceived of a plan to make your own 'stained glass' out of tissue is mind boggling.
    heh. and i thought i was being clever using toothpaste to repair small holes in the wall.
    susan, you are amazing.
    my house has blinds and curtains. i swear-- i never knew better. the only other window dressings i have ever seen were sheets, newspapers or aluminum foil. maybe a piece of cotton fabric, if one was being especially creative.
    maybe i should draw pictures of cats on post-it notes and stick them over my windows? nahhh.
    i hope you truly appreciate that wonderful, creative gift you are blessed with.
    i appreciate that you share it with us so generously.

  9. you must be some kind of artist and stuff with all yer fancy art like doings.

    when are you bringing your ass over to work for me, i mean with me, and dcup, and dcap, and tengrain and the rest?

    the place is bleak. we need some light.

    and i need someone to help me design a new header.


    fuck, there's a lot of work.


    email me through the blogger type deal.

    was that rambling?

  10. spadoman - Well, you know what it's like when you see something in your mind's eye and just have to see it in reality. Then the work becomes discovery and you forget the blisters and the fact your knees hurt from crawling around on the floor with a spray bottle and varnish :-)

    randal - Trees are much nicer for people than weathered asphalt. Let me know if it happens again and I'll do what I can.

    sera - Oh yes I did. You should have seen the blisters I got from cutting bristol board with scissors, but the cool thing was seeing it take shape and having it be even neater than I'd imagined.

    Another thing that would work (and be less energy intensive) is colored acetate cut and layered into shapes and hole punched for pieces of nylon fishing line. I may try that one of these days - if I get bored (Hah!)

    I feel whole when I'm making things and get energized by sharing :-)

    s - Is that you fairlane? That's some pretty heavy company you're talking about there. Did you ask them? I'll drop a line ;-)

  11. I love these. I've also thought that curtains and blinds are boring. Your work on these is fascinating - particularly all the layering and assembly.

    In our house blinds actualy are best because we generally pull them up so we can get ALL of the window exposed. We can never get enough light coming in. We have valences over the tops, just enough to hide the blinds when they are pulled all the way up. Nothing else to block any light.

    But we don't have issue with privacy or ugly views, so that works for us.

  12. steve - We always do as much as we can to keep the light as well and the first thing I'll do in a new place is to pull up the blinds. If necessary I curtain the lower part of a window for privacy. These were made specifically for those reasons and both worked well. You're lucky to not have either be an issue.

  13. thought i'd told you some time ago how beautiful the 'stained glass' is..... guess not, so i'm saying it now. just wow! i'm working on ideas for my townhouse reno. this is inspiring.... but requires more time than i have.... i saw something once made of sheer fabric that i liked. it was a flat panel the size of the window, made entirely of pockets, in which could be tucked leaves, shells, feathers, etc. i may use that in one or more of my rooms. and i have 2 large pieces of clear textured glass that i plan to make frames for and suspend in the largest windows (kitchen and living room) for privacy. i don't like window coverings that block the light, and haven't time just now to do something more creative. (but i see stained glass somewhere in my future).

  14. gfid - It was really pretty but not something made to last over a long period of time (although I did get 7 years). The sheer fabric with pockets sounds like a very nice solution. Stained glass is wonderful but anything good is also very expensive. There was a lot of it in old houses back east but very little came west back when it was very popular. In this place I found myself with mirrored sliding closet doors in our bedrooms so I found a place that sells etched glass window film. I have bamboo in one room and jungle plants in our bedroom.

  15. i've seen some of the window films with etched or stained glass effects. some of them are VERY good fakes, and quite lovley.... worth considering. in a former life, i did a little stained glass work (and hope to take it up again when i get settled) .... though i don't pretend to any great skill, and would never presume to compare it to that of my betters, it's hard to make ugly stained glass. something like quilting that way.... (which i also did in a former life, and hope to resume when i'm settled) and i still have tools and quite a lot of beautiful glass i've packed around for years. ....and fabric.... beautiful silks and hemps that one day will find their place in something functional and lovely. now i'm all wistful and yearning..... as i go put the primer coat on the new drywall....

  16. gfid - The etched glass window film we have is quite perfect but I'd never buy the stained glass films. I tried some stained glass work a long time ago too but it was too messy for my taste and a little dangerous too. There are just some crafts that are impossible in apartment life. My husband made a couple of really nice pieces but once again.. carpets etc. not conducive.

    I'm sure you'll find a way to a lovely and relaxed personal space where you can concentrate on your projects at leisure. I'm hoping for a bit of that myself.