17 Nov 2012

Making the best of a bad job

I must apologise for my blogging tardiness of late – it’s been a combination of not actually having much to say, little enough time for getting everything done and finding the new Blogger interface to be tedious to say the least.  I have started posts on several occasions, but after 20 minutes of trying to post one photo, my boredom threshold is reached quickly.  After all, I could be making something instead which, as we all know, is way more fun.  If I can get it to work, I’ll salt a few photos of my recent work within the post, as to be honest, I don’t have much else to show you at the moment – I haven’t had enough quality time with my camera recently either.

A large circle link bracelet in antiqued copper.

My last post was about the flood we experienced in August and the significant volume of mud it had dumped in our cellar.  As an update, the mud has all now been removed, the cellar deep cleaned and sansitised and an industrial capacity fan and dehumidifier installed to dry out the room.

Being a cellar, the external walls are below ground level and the floor is large stone flags onto what amounts to bare earth, so as the water table has been so high since, it has been necessary to make significant efforts to dry everything – the flood water was over 30″ deep and well and truly soaked into the walls.  And the flood caused an assortment of structural movements that have left us with some of this below-ground wall area structurally compromised, so when it rains heavily, the walls seep water.  So until the structural repairs are done, the insurers have said to leave the drying equipment in place to ensure it remains as dry as possible.

A Sterling silver horseshoe pendant, highly polished and worn on silver snake chain.

Unfortunately, the repairs are taking some time to even get started.  Obviously the repair work is being funded by our insurers, but in their enthusiasm to ensure that it is all done properly and to check all the problems thoroughly, we’ve entertained a number of surveyors, engineers and technicians.  And unfortunately, they have been sufficiently thorough in their investigations to uncover a number of problems, unrelated to the flood, that we now have to fix.  They haven’t said it in so many words, but the implication is that they must be done, now we know about them, to ensure future buildings cover.  So whilst we’re fully insured and it will cover all of the actual flood damage, we’re now faced with a considerable repair bill and upheaval on top of mitigating the flood damage – for other matters that we would have been quite happy to remain blissfully ignorant of. 

Antiqued copper squiggle earrings with long drop Czech glass beads with a Picasso and lustre finish.

On the plus side, we did get a full settlement for all of our lost contents, so have been gradually replacing the items that we need to do so and using the opportunity to do things just that bit better for the future.  When we bought the house, the cellar was already home to some of the departing-occupants junk, stuff that they seemingly couldn’t be bothered to move with them.  So over time, we just added more of our junk to it, so that space was never anything more than a rather untidy storage space.  We’re determined that it won’t end up the same with our second chance down there.

A Sterling silver version of my square chain link earrings.  Mr Boo calls this design my ‘Space 1999 earrings’.  I can certainly see that they have a very retro feel to them, but looking at photos from Space 1999, I don’t think earrings were a big feature of their futuristic and rather utilitarian uniforms. 

In an effort to start thinking more positively about the area, Mr Boo declared that it would no longer be referred to as ‘the cellar’ the very word suggests a dark corner somewhat out of sight, but will in future be referenced simply as ‘downstairs’.  It’s such a large area that it would be a shame, when starting with a new blank canvas, not to put it to better use.   When it was first empty and clean, we stood there marvelling at what a large space it is and how much it would cost us, even if we had room to do so, to build an extension of a similar footprint.  We perpetually complain about not having enough space, so squandering one large room would clearly be silly.

I wanted to make some ‘party’ earrings for the festive season ahead.  These are Sterling silver with faceted crystal rondells.

So we’ve decided to use some of the content settlement funds to have the whole ‘downstairs’ properly wired – at present there are no wall sockets for power at all and only two inadequate light fittings at the bottom.  I’m sure that once the stairs themselves are lit and all of the walls painted white (there were once, in the dim and distant past) and additional lights it will look even larger and considerably more cheerful.  I’m going to have one corner area as an additional work space, where I will do metal clay, polymer clay and enamelling work.   

My greatest sadness about the flood was that amongst the contents lost was my grandfathers woodworking bench and a trunk of his tools – nice quality chisels and the like that no amount of money would truly replace.  We looked to see if they could be salvaged, if only for sentimental value, but they really were damaged beyond rescue and the insurers condemed them.  So I have decided that the best way to do those items justice and in a manner that my grandfather would approve of, is to buy myself some tools that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford or justify and to use it to the best of my ability to make things with.

I’ve made a few necklace and earrings sets which might prove good for gifts  – these feature a hammered copper ring hung with a selection of Czech glass Picasso beads.

He was a great and skilled maker of things with his hands so I think he’d think this a worthy solution.  So I ordered a kiln for my metal clay work and take delivery of it on Monday.  I’ll have to use it temporarily in my normal work area until the wiring is done, but I somewhat selfishly bit the bullet and ordered it before the repairs swallowed up the funds I’d allocated and the opportunity was lost to me.

Unfired clay pieces waiting for a session in the kiln.  Whilst they look somewhat metallic at this stage, it’s purely because I’ve smoothed the surface to get them as ready as possible before firing.  The bottom pendant piece with the recesses will hopefully contain some coloured enamel in the not-too-distant.
I’ve been a bit besotted with sculpting flowers on everything recently.   I have a lot of ideas for more sculpted pieces when I will have the means to fire larger pieces, including hollow forms using cork clay.

So in anticipation, I’ve been working on a few slightly larger pieces that I couldn’t fire with my torch and hope to get these fired in the next few days – once I’ve figured out how to drive it.  I have a head so full of ideas to make with metal clay – and enamel – and maybe even fused glass – that I could do with stopping time for a while whilst I tinker with them.  If only!  {{{{ sigh }}}}

21 Aug 2012

I have a date tomorrow with mud

Heavy showers were forecast during today – fairly typical August weather in Lancashire, unfortunately. And right on cue, it started raining quite heavily as I was eating a somewhat late lunch.

As I listened to it getting heavier, I decided to check if it was splashing in through the open backdoor and as I was greeted by a patch of wet floor, I mopped up the wet patch and pushed the door closed, expecting it to be temporary until the shower passed. There was nothing especially noteworthy at that point – within 15 minutes that had changed considerably.

It progressed to raining substantially and then there was a flash of lightning. As I started clearing away my lunch dishes, braced for the imminent thunder, I spotted a large spider walking down the inside of the kitchen window and decided to catch it and put it outside – when I reached the window, it was evident that the rain was significantly heavier than I’d realised as I was greeted by the sight of the garden completely under a deep layer of muddy brown water a mere handful of minutes after there hadn’t even been a puddle.

It was running like a river through the garden and over the low perimeter wall like a waterfall – as the stones at the base of the perimeter railings are about 10″ or so deep, that must have been the minimum depth of the water.

The muddy rock-carrying water hurtling at speed past the front door.

I was now aware of the sound of running water and dashed to the front door, wondering whether it was wise or not to open it for a look out, so I cracked it very gingerly and was met by a torrent of incredibly fast moving water running down the path around the house and lapping over the front door step, just breaching the deep metal channel in the doorway. It was rumbling and rattling with the sound of rocks and debris being carried along in the stream of mud.

The water and mud poured over the pavement, garden and front path, deep enough to totally obscure the structures and differentiation between the levels.

The mud flowing through the garden a little while later once the peak level of flow had subsided a little.

I stood in the lounge and was aware of the sound of running water underneath me – I’d totally forgotten about the cellar underneath the house. I cleared the area at the top of the cellar steps so that I could open the door and peer down and was almost afraid to look. I could hear very fast running – no; gushing – water and a lot of crashing and banging. I shone a torch down the steep steps and could see muddy water lapping against about the fourth step up the stairs – the large marbled square above is a heavy kitchen worktop which had been stacked several feet away – now floating and bobbing about in the deep water.

I decided that there was nothing whatsoever that I could do about that and I’d just have to let it be and whatever happened happened. As I walked away I heard a large crash and a lot of banging and at the time, I thought it was just something large falling over, but we later saw that it was the window smashing inwards under the force and weight of the water and mud.

The cellar has an external window, but it’s below ground level and there is a recess in the path around the house to allow light into it and there is a grid within the path covering this ‘hole’. As this structure was right at the point where several flows of water converged, the large recess around the window obviously rapidly filled with water and the weight of it was clearly too much for the window frame and surround to hold. We can’t yet fully assess the damage as everything is covered in mud, but can see shards of glass sticking out of the frame at one side and splintered wood on the other.

The entire events described above lasted for a period of no more than 15 minutes, from pushing the door closed as the rain increased and splashed my flooring to realising the extent of the event occurring and being largely helpless to mitigate the damage. After about 45 minutes of a pretty substantial thunder storm it eased and the flow of water slowed, only to return in another pulse a couple of hours later as people were assessing the damage and starting to clear up.

Locals and a couple of council workers built me a little wall at the end of the path (which goes round our house and the rest in the row) with sandbags and buckets of stones that they gathered from the middle of the road as the firemen had been up the top of the hill to source the deluge of mud and rocks and found that one of a pair of fishing lodges had burst it banks in spectacular fashion and it was their assessment that the second was close behind and if we got more rain of that magnitude overnight it certainly wouldn’t hold. So the wall was to protect against a second potentially catastrophic event overnight. Thankfully although it rained several times overnight, it was rather more subdued than earlier downpours.

After the water subsided, it has left a layer of mud over everything in the area – my garden is going to need quite some cleaning. At the other end where the flow entered the garden, the gravel covering it has been swept away, even stripping back and displacing the liner fabric underneath and gouging a hole in the mud beneath.

The water levels have now subsided, but in its wake is a lot of mud, rocks and debris and the cellar (which thankfully has a large drain in the floor, at least some of the source of the flooding initially) is now under about 8″ of stinking silty mud – all our considerable amount of junk (and thankfully, that’s mostly what it is) that’s stored down there has been tossed about it the torrent and left in a scattered filthy mess – and the prospect of trying to sort it out doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. Mr Boo declared “I know I was overdue for clearing out the cellar, but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”

So my day will be filled with buckets of mud (I don’t actually know where to start – how does one dispose of tons of mud?) and phone calls to insurers – suddenly the prospect of photographing and listing a lot of jewellery which had been my plan for today, seems far more attractive than it usually feels!

Post script:

It transpires that the deluge of mud and water wasn’t from the fishing lodge (although it certainly overflowed), but purely the volume and force of rainwater, with nowhere else to go, cascading down the hillside above, dragging anything loose it crossed with it. The private drive to a large detached house much higher up has been removed down to the gas and water mains and most of that earth and gravel is what is now in our houses. The council have done a Sterling job this morning, using diggers and flat beds, to remove the bulk of the debris from the public roads and pavements and it looks significantly better than it did. They have removed many, many tons of mud and rubble.

It looks like we might avoid having to deal with the worst of the mess ourselves, it seems that the insurers employ specialist clean up companies for just such tasks, who have the right gear to do it quickly and efficiently and they’ll also assess what needs replacing for the contents claim.