Happy Birthday!

I turned 48 on Friday, May 15th, and I will tell you about the most exciting birthday I’ve had in a long time!

How sweet!
How sweet!

But not because of the cake, though it was sweet and thoughtful! It was about the Window!
The last time we saw the quatrefoil window , the frame was remade. Meanwhile, glass artist extraordinaire Tom Newton had been plotting and planning the glass art for the window.

 

Shadowed in Mystery!
Shadowed in Mystery!
???...
???…

Today was the day. The window was to arrive, and installation was to begin!

But let’s go back in time…on May 15, 1967, a young woman named Carolyn (Ma!) was giving birth to a 10 pound baby. That was me. Sorry, Ma.  Fast forward 48 years, and that baby now weighs 133 pounds and now a project taking nearly four years and much of her resources to gestate is finally coming to fruition. But, as with any good thing, its beauty is from the Grace of God and the reflection of him in the people around us. Tom and Sandie are such reflections.

Here’s Sandie putting the clear glass down on the outside.

It fits!
It fits!

Next comes the artwork.

The little sticker says, "Made In Germany"
The little sticker says, “Made In Germany”

The glass is pre-war WW2 german glass the Tom acquired in a business deal. The clear glass goes on the outside, the precious colored glass on the inside. I was honored when he noticed the glazing I had done on the Church windows and asked if I’d like to help glaze this window. Yes please!
So here’s the process:

Outer Pieces
Outer Pieces

Next:

Inner Circle piece
Inner Circle piece

And altogether:

Ahhhhhhh!
Ahhhhhhh!

And so. The little pieces of tape help align the glass pieces. The tacks (unseen) hold the glass in, and the glazing seals the whole bit.

Tom and Sandie cleaned it up and got it ready for the install.

They clean it with a fine powder that takes all the fingerprints off!
They clean it with a fine powder that takes all the fingerprints off!

The install was a feat of engineering. The chief engineer this day happened to be our electrician, Dave Schramski. It was a perfect example of teamwork. Dave had an idea, and we all wanted someone with a good idea to tell us how to get this work of art up a ladder without breaking it!

A frame was built!

That's Schramski on the faaaar right...
That’s Schramski on the faaaar right…

The window was laid in…

Careful there!
Careful there!

And then wrapped for uber protection aloft.

Are we mailing this to Hong Kong?
Are we mailing this to Hong Kong?

No, just trying to get it safely to the window opening…

It's not a hauling project without ropes!
It’s not a hauling project without ropes!

So two men were carrying it up the ladder, and Mike and I were on the ropes pulling it up. It went quite smoothy, but I couldn’t take pictures since I had promised to have both hands on the rope! Luckily Sandie did and was kind enough to send them to me. But I do believe Kind is Sandie’s middle name!

Upsy-daisy!
Upsy-daisy!

Up it went in its cocoon, and Chief Shramski went out on the ladder to make sure the window didn’t get pushed through to the ground. ( I still have shocking memories of having pushed an air conditioner out a second story window trying to install it!)

He didn't like it when a gust of wind pushed the door against the ladder…
He didn’t like it when a gust of wind pushed the door against the ladder…

Inside, the boys had to loft the window into place.

Careful!
Careful!
And of course, final adjustments must be made!
Rotate Counterclockwise. No, that's Clockwise to you!
Rotate Counterclockwise. No, that’s Clockwise to you!

It was a logistical puzzle. But we did it, and the window was installed. All that remained was for nature to light it up!

And, of course, nature showed up for the job!
What do you think?

It's in!
It’s in!

And so, God said, let there be light!

Let There Be Light!
Let There Be Light!
Happy birthday, Glorious Window!
Yes!
Yes!
– The White Church Gallery

Backyard Building

The Back Door!
The Back Door!

Something’s going on with the back of the church.

Lots of room…for improvement!
Lots of room…for improvement!

As we get closer to opening day, it is imperative(!) that we have more space. All of the equipment and tools we’ve needed for renovation must be stored elsewhere when the final transformation of the building into an Art Gallery happens.

Space!
Space!

Space in the form of a storage/workspace.
First comes the cement floor, so smooth and shiny!

No, we didn't put our initials in it!
No, we didn’t put our initials in it!

Then comes the roof joists.

Kinda artsy!
Kinda artsy!
It was a ceaselessly foggy day.
It was a ceaselessly foggy day.
This man is excited about the progress!
This man is excited about the progress!
WE'RE GETTING SPACE!!
WE’RE GETTING SPACE!!

It’s a very exciting development for us. This stuff has to go somewhere!

Ack!
Ack!

 

– The White Church Gallery

Guest Workers

Got Grit?
Got Grit?

Here you see the gritty grin of a person sanding beautiful wood. Cherry, at this moment. Every piece of wood you are about to see came from a tree. I say this because it has never been so real to me before. Such a simple idea, yet so much work! Trees are not smooth, nor are they beveled or cut to size. That all had to be done piece by piece. Not complainin’. Just es’planin’!

At the end of March, we had some guest-workers. Meet Vickie and Kevin.  C’mon, let’s get busy!

There’s Kevin, helping plane some wood.

Planin', not complainin'!
Planin’, not complainin’!

The Altar piece has been the center of attention for some weeks, but other jobs are calling. Here’s Vickie getting gritty with the antique light fixtures. Go Vickie!

Scrubbing
Scrubbing
Lights Before...
Lights Before…
And after. Viva La Difference!
And after. Viva La Difference!

And we sent Kevin to the corner…to sand the floors.

You've been very very bad!
You’ve been very very bad!

But the floors look very, very good!

Scrubbing
Scrubbing

Meanwhile more vertical action on the Altar Piece.

Evening Light
Evening Light

We had a nice visit with Kevin and Vickie, but the weekend came to a close and the Altar Piece was still not done.

Thanks, guest workers! See you in a few weeks!
Thanks, guest workers! See you in a few weeks!

 

– The White Church Gallery

 

It’s like making a Giant Painting…

…overheard while eating chicken soup on a tuesday night…and the rest of the sentence was, ” but it takes three years of your life and a ton of money.”

Latest Zaitz Original!
Latest Zaitz Original!

Michael was referring to the renovation of White Church Gallery, specifically the altarpiece we’re working on.

The sides are the pillars.
The sides are the pillars.

This past weekend was all about putting some wood up on the front of the church. I started the ball rolling on Friday by pulling staples. It’s been awhile since I’d done it, and it seemed harder somehow than the last time. The staples were rusty and stubborn. It was the opposite of fun.

Ugly, ugly staples.
Ugly, ugly staples.

I had to clear the floor around the pillars, because work was about to commence on them. So I pulled staples and sanded around the front of the Church. Saturday morning, bright and early, we got to the church filled with eagerness and a bit of anxiousness. We’d been working on the wood planks for almost two months now, taking them from rough sawn planks all the way to the glorious art pieces they became. But now, after weeks and weeks of planning and plotting, we were finally going to see how the whole thing would look. Would it look as we intended- to be a glorious work of art? Or would it look like Dean Martin’s living room? (Actually- Dean Martin’s living room ain’t too bad!)

Owners: Dean Martin…Tom Jones…Nicolas Cage…then Citibank…
Owners: Dean Martin…Tom Jones…Nicolas Cage…then Citibank…

The first step was to do the bottom border. These border pieces came from giant planks of walnut.

Mitering needed!
Mitering needed!

This procedure took some hours, since it needed to be practically perfect. Level, fitted, and mitered.

P1010027

All went fairly smoothly; there was a rhythm of measuring thrice and cutting once.

Measure it one more time…
Measure it one more time…

And then it happened. A boo boo. A piece of walnut got cut too short. Red Alert, Emergency! Luckily we had a chunk of unprocessed walnut nearby. I ran it through the planer a few times, I jointed the edges, then did a quick but thorough sand job on it. It would have to be clear-coated in situ. But it looked fine, and work could continue.

All angles and edges…
All angles and edges…

Walnut is a VERY hard wood, but it keeps a nice edge.

Ah, mitered!
Ah, mitered!
Sweet! It all fits!
Sweet! It all fits!

Once the base was finished, we started on the upright pieces.

With a little help from our friends!
With a little help from our friends!

Thanks to Rybak’s owners Paul and Ann for burning the late night oil with us and getting the first layers of the altar piece up. It was grueling, exacting, tiring, but inspiring.

At last!!
At last!!

And so it goes…piece by piece, bevel by bevel. Screw by awkward screw. Awkward, because Mike had to screw each of the boards in from the back.

His arm had to fit through the space you see here at the side. And then somehow bend around enough to put pressure on the driver to screw into extremely hard wood from the back. (After drilling a pilot hole.)

There's not a lot of room behind!
There’s not a lot of room behind!

We had two different nail lengths depending on which wood it was going through. There was a lot of thought put into this! And it was exhausting work.

But we think it was worth it. Here’s the other side.

It looks better in person…
It looks better in person…

There are imperfections, and we’ll fix a few next time, but this represents so much effort that I hope it shows.

I had to take a selfie- and I think it’s my fave so far. Blurry, wrinkled eyes, weariness, but a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Hey now!
Hey now!

The next morning, things still looked good, so we did a photo shoot.

The Artist
The Artist
And the apprentice!
And the apprentice!

Until we meet again!

 

– The White Church Gallery

 

 

 

Enjoy the Process!

We have a lot of wood that needs to be processed. Processing wood (my definition) means taking it from a rough-sawn piece of lumber to a finished piece that can be used as art.

Hey! That sounds like work!
Hey! That sounds like work!

Yes, it is a lot of work, dear Thomas. But it won’t cut into your nap time, never fear!

The beginning of the process was to plane the wood, as we saw in a previous episode.

After planing, we had a lovely pile of planks, all with slightly different widths and lengths. So we measured them and sorted them into piles.
Assorted widths!
Assorted widths!
Piles of planks.
Piles of planks.
After long deliberation, a decision had to be made. It wouldn’t have been as hard a decision if I hadn’t gotten all sentimental about losing width. The Cherry wood is so very beautiful, each piece with its own intricate and mystical design, that to modify it by sawing off an inch of it seemed a crime. Almost like cropping a painting!
What is it? Cropped!
What is it? Cropped!
Cropped it must be. The pieces couldn’t be different widths.
But wait! We can cut a straight edge without…a straight edge! So we had to use the jointer. The jointer is like the planer- it has rotating blades that makes a smooth edge. One side had to be very smooth so that it would glide against the fence on the saw and create a straight edge on the cut side.
The red warning label says: "Caution! Rotating knives"
The red warning label says: “Caution! Rotating knives”
It wouldn’t be a work-in-progress picture without the white orbs of dust! The camera (as you must have guessed by now) turns the millions of dust particles in the air into little white orbs of unfocussed annoyance.
White orbs of wonder!
White orbs of wonder!
Each time we planed or jointed, we made lots of sawdust. Since it’s March in the Thumb of Michigan, it’s still quite cold and snowy out. So we decided that sawdust would provide good traction on the ice!
Well, it seemed efficient at the time…
Well, it seemed efficient at the time…
Since I possess powers of looking into the future, I can tell you that we’re going to end up with sawdust “art” all over the front yard. But that won’t happen till the end of March!
Hey, how did she know?
Hey, how did she know?
I guess I was so busy looking into the future that I forgot to take pictures of sawing the wood to width. However my excuse is that when using the table saw, both people have to be on full alert. There really was no opportunity to take pictures and retain all our digits.
Hijinks under the Table Saw!
Hijinks under the Table Saw!
I did get some shots of the next step; cutting the bevels. We’d had protracted discussion about beveling the edges of the wood. In my minds eye, I thought it might look a little dated. In the artist’s eye (Michael), it would look great. Plus, it had the advantage of being the only practical way to ensure that the edges of the wood would line up and hide any imperfections. So the edges were all beveled. It was the right thing to do!
Beloved bevels!
Beloved bevels!
Perhaps you can see the level of alertness both participants needed for this kind of work!
Those are bevel remnants. Thin long triangles of wood. Fun!
Those are bevel remnants. Thin long triangles of wood. Fun!
That's a bevel!
That’s a bevel!
Next, we had to sand. And sand and sand. Again, as with the planing, ear protection is key to surviving the process without annoying “Wha?” syndrome.
Orange cuties!
Orange cuties!
Sanding is not a very photogenic process. Nor is it terribly exciting, but it did give me a sense of accomplishment, and I enjoyed it.
So I set up my sanders!
Three sanders…
Three sanders…
…three different grits.
…three different grits.
Oh yes, I had a little workshop set up for myself. My table top was an old door, and I had outlets and a light and everything! I masked up, squeezed in the Orange Cuties, and went to work!
Sanding
Sanding
I love you, Walnut plank.
I love you, Walnut plank.
I must say, I had more fun sanding these pieces than pretty much anything else I can think of. Mike says it’s because I like fiddly work. Perhaps, but I have officially begun a love affair with wood that I think anyone who works with it must fall into.
In between these activities, we just had to sneak peak at the soon to be Altarpiece. ( I looked it up- the name seems to fit what we are doing according to ancient church terms.)
Altarpiece- all in Cherry wood!
Altarpiece- all in Cherry wood!
Word to your mother: it doesn’t end up being all Cherry…
So: Here’s the results of weeks of work:
Walnut
Walnut
Cherry
Cherry
As hard as we worked, the maple was left undone. Mike the hero had to drive to Grindstone in the middle of the work week to take care of mailing back the water pump that arrived broken.
Broken bits!
Broken bits!
Meanwhile he sanded the Maple. No pix. Just an exhausting drive and more work.
So until next time, keep on keeping on…
He measures up!
He measures up!
– The White Church Gallery

It’s Friday, we must be…

Heading North!
Heading North!

Yes, the weekend ritual, with small variations, is to get through the work week, discuss plans, throw a bunch of stuff in the truck, toss the dog in and point the Chevy toward the N. Pole.

We stop at the end of M-53, where this long road meets the Lake. Sometimes it feels like the N. Pole.

I must point out that every weekend, without fail, I toss my knitting bag into the vehicle we’re driving. And every weekend, without fail, it makes the trip back untouched, unloved and undone.
But I have eternal optimism that the green yarn you see there will be made into the blanket/hat/whatevah. Ha!
Not when there is a metric ton of wood to be processed!
For most of February and now into March, we’ve been processing wood. Pine, Maple, Cherry and Walnut. It sounds good enough to eat!

Lots of Fiber!
Lots of Fiber!

We had rough sawn wood.

That means pretty much right from the tree.
That means pretty much right from the tree.
I tried the best I could to capture the gorgeous natural beauty of the wood, but I failed. The wood is more awesome than my camera shows. But it all had to be processed; the wild ends where living pulp meets bark had to go.
The first step is to plane the wood. That means to shave off layers of the rough sawn jaggedness and leave a smooth, hopefully straight edge. The wood basically came from the tree!
The planer is a device that is:
1. Really loud
2. Really cool
3. Really slow
When we first started planing, we stuck the whole plank through. That was hard. And kinda dumb. We learned… better to cut it to length first, then push it through.
What were you thinking, humans?
What were you thinking, humans?
You KNOW there’s going to be gratuitous puppy shots now, right? Thomas has integrated deeply into our lives. I’m not sure how he’ll do once we open the gallery- Mini Dachsunds are traditionally shy with strangers. But we’ll see…
Gratuitous wood shots!
Gratuitous wood shots!
Meanwhile, there’s the wood.
Mike was at the feeding end of the planer, but I was at the fed-out end. I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but I’ll just call it the magical end. Because it was truly magic. Every time a plank went through the planer, more breathtaking views came out.

I don’t have many pictures of this process because I was busy holding wood! It takes focus!
Here’s one…

Pushin' it through!
Pushin’ it through!
And this doesn’t do it justice, but you can kind of see that bits are being revealed! (I might have gotten yelled at for taking pictures rather than focussing!)
Unveiling!
Unveiling!
And more…
In process…
In process…
I also have pictures of the process of figuring out how to do this in the first place:
Ciphering dimensions.
Ciphering dimensions.
And pictures of using the jointer. Jointing is when you make the edges of the boards flat. But it also can plane the wide face of the board. It’s fun!
Wee, this is fun!
Wee, this is fun!
You will notice the ear protection. I’m teaching about sound waves in Physics during my week-day job, and I’m blathering on to my students about how delicate the ear mechanisms are. And then I prove how old I am by giving them a frequency test. I only make it to 14 Kilohertz. The under-21’s hear into the much higher frequencies. I remind them that they, too, will get old one day and that perhaps they shouldn’t turn their ear pods up to full blast. They, of course, ignore my advice as only a 17 year old can!
Can you see the orange foam ear plugs?
Can you see the orange foam ear plugs?
I took breaks to do some testing. Hey, I’m a scientist! How will the wood look with different stains. I needed to know. So I set up a lab and testing began!
Testing, testing!
Testing, testing!
Turns out, we decided to go with clear coat. With this fine grained, dense, rich wood grain, clear seemed to be the way to let the beauty though.
Clear coats for you, me hearties!
Clear coats for you, me hearties!
More next time!
– The White Church Gallery

Burgundy?

In our endless deliberation about how to do the arch, Mike decided that we should paint behind the wood that would go up, and that meant putting up some plywood and painting it.
First step: plywood!

So that's what the nailers were for!
So that’s what the nailers were for!

Higher and Higher, baby!

Not too high!
Not too high!

And finally,

Next: burgundy paint!
Next: burgundy paint!

It looked VERY pink coming out of the can…

Wow it's bright!
Wow it’s bright!
Crazy color!
Crazy color!

But it did settle down once it dried, as paint always does.

Whew! Calm down and carry on!
Whew! Calm down and carry on!

– The White Church Gallery

 

Ode to an Arch

We’re working on the Arch.
It has served as a backdrop since we bought the church. This is how it first appeared:

Where's the Arch? December 2011
Where’s the Arch? December 2011

Removal of the dropped ceiling revealed:

Oh there is is!   February 2012
Oh there is is! February 2012

Yikes.

We tried to pretty it up!
Quaint it up with a rocker!  April 2012
Quaint it up with a rocker! April 2012
Yeah, I guess. It was temporary.
And as long as we’re in memory lane, when Mom turned 70, we dressed up the chaos and had a birthday party. Again, the Arch was the backdrop.
Good times,  July 2012!
Good times, July 2012!
I remember mopping that nasty floor with rainwater to try to get the worst of the ancient filth off. It sort of worked!
Pre Party Arch July, 2012
Pre Party Arch July, 2012
By December of 2012, It looked like this:
December, 2012 Chaos
December, 2012 Chaos
Then the fancy table was replaced with  picnic table. In case we wanted to have a picnic.
Uh, aren't picnics held outside? April, 2013
Uh, aren’t picnics held outside? April, 2013
Yes, so I we exchanged the picnic table for a bed! A futon, in case we got tired and had to nap, apparently.
Perfect place to take a nap! Ha! July, 2013
Perfect place to take a nap! Ha! July, 2013
Yeah, and as you can tell, we have a continual storage problem. We fixed the storage of the futon problem by finally getting rid of it. After three decades, it’s time to ditch the College Futon. Sniff.
Next came the Big Demolition, and we had a bare bones situation.
Uncovering the Arch! August, 2013
Uncovering the Arch! August, 2013
Later that same day – actually about 15 minutes later, we had this:
Hey now!
Hey now!
Closer inspection:
Naked Arch, August, 2013
Naked Arch, August, 2013
Behind those enormous planks is nature. Cool, raw nature.  These are truly the bones of the church. Which is fine for August, but by Fall.
The Church's long underwear! October, 2013
The Church’s long underwear! October, 2013
We needed some protection from the elements. Yes, it was a happy day!
Warmth!
Warmth!
Insulation by spray foaming. Next comes the drywall. And not soon after!
Later that same month, 2013
Later that same month, 2013
Drywall! Then Mike and Dad put up nailers on the arch in several death defying maneuvers.
Here’s Mike finishing up.
December 2013
December 2013
And then… a whole year went by… what happened to 2014? Well, there were ceilings to paint, floors to sand, trim to put up, caulk to stuff, windows to fix…
March 2014, Edge on Arch
March 2014, Edge on Arch
Sanding,  April 2014
Sanding, April 2014
The Arch also became a bit of an Art supporter.
September 2014
September 2014
And so it has been till this month, February of 2015. We keep rearranging and cleaning, trying to keep the Church work-wise. But we’re not done with the Gallery, so the art must go!
P1010085
And so, it’s February of the self-same year the White Church Gallery is set to open. 2015.YIKES!!!!

We need to pedal a little faster!

So now we have begun an art/science project.
I’m a scientist by nature, and Mike’s an artist. But he’s also an engineer, so that’s like a scientist. And I have a musical nature, so that’s artistic, right? Hence the art/science project that we are in the midst of. What to do with the arch!

Cherry and Pine. What say you?
Cherry and Pine. What say you?
This is only the beginning. As I type this, my soul mate is over yonder drawing up the arch on his CAD program and figuring out dimensions, beveling, and molding ideas. He’s trying to figure out how to make this arch a piece of art. There will be more to this story. Stay tuned.
– The White Church Gallery

Wood, Lovely Wood

We’ve started working on the front piece. Grindstone Mike has taken to calling it a riser. Mainly because it rises up in the front.

Yeah, but I thought choirs stood on risers!
Yeah, but I thought choirs stood on risers!

Maybe someday a choir will stand here, but for now, it needs a facelift.
We have acquired lots of wood from our Amish friends, and it has been drying for some time.

Playing with wood.
Playing with wood.

This piece is going to be art, so much contemplation and experimentation must preface the construction.

Cherry, Maple, or Pine?
Cherry, Maple, or Pine?
Woof! (that means yes!)
Woof! (that means yes!)

– The White Church Gallery

 

Punch list

I became familiar with the term “punch list” when I worked for Spirit of Ford back in 1999. Spirit of Ford was… well, you can read about ithere. It was fun while it lasted. I was hired as Theater Operations Manager before they even opened. That meant that I had to become familiar with the various theaters, how they worked, and mainly who to call when something went wrong. The theaters included pretty high tech equipment, and the weeks before we went public were pretty busy. The punch list included all the problems, big and small, that had to be addressed before opening day.

Spirit of Ford Theater
Spirit of Ford Theater

So the time has finally come to make a punch list for the Church. Opening day has been defined. It’s a wedding day! Our good friends would like to celebrate their daughter’s marriage in the Church, and we plan on opening shortly thereafter. With a goal like that, we cannot fail!

 

– The White Church Gallery