I recently had a conversation with a lovely woman I met while out shopping for mid-century furniture in Berkley, MI. Somehow we got on the conversation of renovation and we quickly connected about our feelings of confidence when it came to approaching a project. She had painted a brownstone. I had painted a church. The bottom line was that after doing a large project, we felt able to snap our fingers at the small stuff. Like scraping and painting the garage, for example.
During the week, I stay downstate to keep Mike company and to take care of issues around the house. And he “lets” me. He’s very supportive in this! A few years ago (pre-church, namely!) he might not have felt comfortable leaving me alone with a power washer, a scraper and gallons of primer and paint. Anything could go wrong in the hands of a rookie. Now, he dashes off to work with barely a twitch when I tell him I’ll be re-landscaping the yard and painting the garage this week.
Now, the landscaping did cause a few scrapes, especially when I got my finger literally caught between a rock and a hard place (cement!) That brought a little mist to my eyes, but I walked it off and carried on like a big girl.
Casualty: one purple fingernail that will probably not realize old age.
But totally worth it!
OK, maybe I’m feeling a little over-confident, but it’s better than sitting on my butt afraid to dig in. BTW, that green thing is a rain barrel. It’s not the most attractive thing but it sure is handy if you have flowers and a garden.
So what has all this to do with the church? Well, it’s been over two and a half years of work, and there’s more to go.
Every Friday, with few exceptions, we hop in our cars and head north. We get there with some project in mind. Most of the projects are things that neither of us had done before, at least on this scale. Mike owned a former department store turned studio/living space in Flint so he had some experience with heavy renovation, but I had none. The only thing I had going for me was ignorance and a sense of adventure…and the fact that both Mike and I have lifted weights and done yoga since we were young. Keeping our bodies strong certainly has helped, though age and gravity have taken a toll on our comfort levels.
So here I am, glazing a window in situ. I had spent a few hours scraping the window with a brush and a metal scraper, and I had painted the window frame and the outside frame white. Mike had calculated that we spent over 60 HPW (hours per window!) on the front windows by taking them out, sanding them to remove the paint, carefully picking out all the hardened brittle glazing, gingerly taking out the glass, painting, reinstalling the glass and re-pointing it, re-glazing and painting more coats. Meanwhile Mike had to cut out plywood “windows” to install over the hole while the real windows were out, and they had to be screwed in and caulked, and then deinstalled, etc. It was VERY time consuming.
That’s a lot of HPW! So we decided to do the windows a different way. I was able to scrape, paint and reglaze this window in one afternoon. An hour into the scraping, I was doubtful, mainly because my shoulders were sassing me about the fact that I had been scraping paint all week at the garage and they could use a break from awkward repetitive motions. But after a spell of listening to Jimmie Rogers (think cowboy yodeling!) I gave my body a stern talking to and it settled down into a more peaceful place. I actually was able to enjoy the process, and my doubts vanished. Meanwhile, Mike was working inside and had sanded, filled holes and painted TWO windows in the same amount of time. He had no doubts!
Mike did a beautiful job, but it’s really hard to see, both in photography and in person, since there is so much light coming in through the windows. I should have gotten an evening shot, but we were too pooped by then!
Our in situ methods saved us approximately 50 hpw, since we both spent about five hours on our respective projects. Sure, it’s not quite as thorough as the other method, but there are seven more windows to do, and other projects that are a-waiting. I think it’s a great trade off, since the windows are weather-tight and look great.
So what’s the moral of the story? I guess I’m trying to convey a little of what I’ve learned from this adventure; mainly that there’s no sense in being afraid to try things. This church had gone back to nature when we found it. It’s amazing how one little hole in a roof can open the door to nature’s full fury in the guise of rotted wood, raccoon shanty towns, cracked and crumbling plaster and more. We really couldn’t have harmed it more than neglect had already done. Step by step, with a lot of help, but also with a lot of work ethic, we have gutted and scraped and sanded and painted and installed our way into a sense of confidence. Perhaps it comes naturally for men; how else could the Brooklyn Bridge and the Pyramids have been built? But for me, it’s been a great learning experience and a great confidence builder. I didn’t foresee this aspect of our adventure, but I’m very grateful for it. I think Mike is too, especially when he sees the fruits of my labor!
I know it’s hard to tell I was being literal, because if you’ve been following our progress, you know that we try to heed the “signs” that the Maker puts in front of us. We try to listen to Him and get out of our own way as much as we thick-headed humans can.
But this sign is metal and plastic, and it should last a good long time. The art is Mike’s, and we love the colors and composition. Most people seem to agree!
Before the sign could go up, preparations had to be made.
The painting of the outside of the church is an ongoing process, and I stifled my discouragement when I inspected the painted portion from just last year. It could use a touch up already! We’re using a more expensive Sikkens paint because it’s thicker and really soaks into the wood. But the winter was brutal, and the bugs are ubiquitous.
As I was painting, my “brothers in height” (Mike, my husband and Paul Fisher, of Rybak’s) were across the way having their own adventure at Rybak’s Ice Cream Store.
The back portion of the building has to be addressed, and for this job, no skimpy ladder propped precariously against ancient wood slick with spider silk and squashed bug juice would do. They called in the heavy machinery.
The name says it all.
Nope! Women get the aforementioned ladder. This is a MANLIFT!
Well, I know that working that high in the air has its moments of doubt, but from my perspective it sure looked fun.
Thanks, David Byrne. Meanwhile, back at the cottage…
It’s good to know that it’s nap time somewhere in the world.
Back to the Church. After the paint dried, the sign went up. Construction of the frame took place first, of course.
The frame was cleverly constructed to allow contraction and expansion of the sign. Thanks to Paul Adams of Goats Graphix in Bad Axe, MI, we have a beautiful sign that will last far into the future. We were very impressed with Paul’s work and will no doubt be using him in the future.
So come on over to Grindstone Corners, grab a yummy ice cream at Rybak’s Ice Cream Store, and check out the White Church Gallery!
But don’t come too close, or I’ll rope you into helping me paint…
February has fled, leaving nothing but cold and snow in its wake. March is here, bringing cold air and snow. What the what? But that doesn’t slow down progress at the White Church Gallery.
As predicted, weekend events back home prevented my journey to the Church, but apparently my awesome husband anointed himself court photographer in my absence. He usually shuns the camera, but either he doesn’t think I believe he really works when he’s there alone, or he secretly enjoys taking pictures of progress! I think it’s a little of both…
I do believe he works, because he is very passionate about whatever he does. And he’s a very hard worker. Plus…I knew he wouldn’t be alone. Thanks to “Captain” Ron Picard, the mammoth job of painting the ceiling was nearly accomplished! So let’s see what the boys were up to!
Ahem, court photographer, is this the first one you took? Looks like you’re halfway through! Ha Ha- it’s looking good!
We thought about spraying the paint on, but the first coat needs the attention hand rolling could only give. Hence the circus act these two performed on a system of scaffolding and ladders. Go boys, go!
Yep, he is! He’s a pro! And so it went.
And just to prove he was rolling too, look what I found on the camera!
And so, here are the results of their hard work.
Wow. What a difference. Now the cracks look fine. When we had finished the ceiling over the “attic” I thought the cracks made it look dirty, but now it looks great!
Cool- the white ceiling really picks up colors! We were pondering what color we’d paint the ceiling, but we’re in love with the lightness of the ceiling, so we’ll go with something a shade or two creamier and less blinding softer than stark white.
Looks like there’s just a little bit left to prime. Then we can spray the color coat on.
The next morning, Grindstone Mike went back for some daylight pix- I love it! Nice job, Reluctant Court Photographer!
Oh ho- Mr. Reluctant Photographer shows his true artist colors. Look what else I found on the camera!
Nice work, Mike. I guess someone just earned himself a new job! (As if he didn’t have enough to do!)
Hopefully I can help out in the next few weeks, if I can break away from other commitments. Meanwhile, thanks Captain Ron for all your hard work, and thanks, Grindstone Mike, for being you!
It’s time to address the ceiling of the Church. Like any self-respecting church, it has a high ceiling made of wood and hard to reach. It’s old, stained, and has been the home of many a spider and fly over the years.
So our initial job is to prime it with Kilz. As its name implies, Kilz will kill the stains, cover old odors and even roll over any spider nests still hanging around.
So let’s get to it. It’s cold outside in February, but the Geothermal heating system keeps us toasty inside.
The problem is the space. It’s kind of cramped up in the “attic.”
It was bound to happen.
You’re bound to raise your head….
Premature white hair. Oh well, as long as I’m not alone!
We did manage to get some paint on the ceiling, and we were pleased with the results.
Mike went to work on the wall around the quatrefoil window. Big improvement!
OK, enough wordplay with Kilz! Time to call it quits.
The light was starting to dwindle, though the daylight lingered more than it did a month ago. Spring is coming. For me, spring means a lot of busy weekends either at church or school in SE Michigan, so it may be a while before I get back to this project.