Tag Archives: House Work

Lighting a Stained Glass Panel

Detail stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Lighting a big stained glass panel is tricky. You want the light to be warm and even across the surface to show off the colors and and patterns. Museums like The Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass at Chicago’s Navy Pier feature custom light boxes to present their masterpieces. Those of us with stained glass built into our homes as windows need another solution that addresses inside/outside light and darkness.  The glass should look good from both inside and out: a gift to the street.

Our architectural stained glass was created by Vince Taylor, starting in 2004 with a big panel in the dining room plus a smaller panel in our front door. In addition to being lovely, the panels provide privacy from the street and help reduce the heat and glare from direct sunlight on the hottest side of the house.

John tried lighting the big panel in a variety of unsatisfactory ways until he settled on LED strips around the edge. These work the best of the options we have tried – providing a warm and inexpensive light source – but the strips become brittle in sunlight in about five years. Today, John replaced the set.

This is Vince Taylor checking up on the big panel in 2012:
Vince Taylor with stained glass 2012

New LED strips going in:
LED strips

John installing new LED lights on stained glass panel 1 Aug 2016

5 year old LED strips in the trash:
degraded LED strips

Detail stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Front door stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Added 2 August 2016: night picture from the street:
Stained Glass Panel from outside at night

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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How to Display Stones in Earthquake Country

Sea Lily crinoid fossils Scyphocrinites elegans from Morocco on wall plaque

Displaying stones can be a challenge, especially in California where we regularly have earthquakes. If you are lucky, a decorative stone will come with a suitable base. Or, if the stone is small, a store-bought plastic stand may work. However, for large, heavy stones custom design and fabrication are needed for the best presentation. If you are handy like my husband John, you can make stands and pedestals yourself.

Here is what we are avoiding. This is a large cloisonné metalwork vase John and I bought in China which was flattened in an earthquake when it fell to the floor:
Chinese cloisonné vase smashed in an earthquake

Example 1: Small Fool’s Gold Sphere

iron pyrite, fool's gold sphere 1 Aug 2016

Basic hoop: My son Paul gave me this pretty iron pyrite (fool’s gold) sphere along with a clear plastic hoop for a stand.  The hoop keeps the sphere from rolling but it is only held in place by gravity. In an earthquake, this heavy sphere will probably smash something.

Example 2: Ruby Crystals on Quartz

Ruby Crystals on Quartz on a stand, from China
Simple pedestal: John brought this rock to Paul as a present from China some years ago.  It is ruby crystals on quartz, on a custom pedestal. The quartz has been carved away from the crystals to show them off. You can see in the photo below that the pedestal it came with has a trough or fitted hole carved into it the exact size and shape of the stone.
pedestal or stand for a rock

Example 3: Zimbabwe Shona Sculpture

Large fitted pedestal: I carried home this Shona sculpture of carved serpentine for John when I was in Zimbabwe with the 2016 TechWomen Delegation. I asked the sculptor, Martin Chirenda, to sign it before before wrapping. The sculpture weighs over sixty pounds and is top-heavy. We were concerned that it would break or hurt someone falling over in an earthquake. John made a low oak pedestal by carving a trough and then filling it with epoxy to fit the stone exactly. The stone is fixed to the dried epoxy with a thin pour of Karo (corn sugar syrup). Using Karo is a museum display trick that does not damage the art but keeps it firmly attached to its base.

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016 . Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare

sculpture stand

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare on pedestal 10 July 2016

Example 4: Sea Lily Fossil from Morocco

Mounted on a Plaque: We bought this ancient double Sea Lily or Crinoid fossil at Consolidated Rock & Mineral in Vacaville for our anniversary. It was found in Morocco originally. The stone is heavy but the fossil itself is fragile. We wanted to display it so that it could be admired but not broken. John just finished making this wood plaque with hooks. The plaque is mounted to the wall with a French cleat.  These are the best flowers John has ever bought me!
Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Caboose and Cactus Arroyo

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, June 2016

My office replaced a swimming pool. WP668 is the 100-year-old railroad caboose in San Jose, California (“the Capital of the Silicon Valley“) where I work for Mentoring Standard.  Above is WP668 in our backyard now, and below is what the same space looked like in the year 2000.  The swimming pool was removed ten years ago – see more photos on the WP668 webpage.

family in the swimming pool in 2000

I designed the landscape setting for WP668 based on large rocks and cactuses, including a Y-shaped arroyo (or dry creek) that is small enough to be called an arroyito.  Like the bones of California, our arroyito is largely made up of granite, basalt, limestone, and quartz, with jasper, serpentine, sandstone, conglomerates, and other stones for variety.  We bought two large boulders from South Bay Materials but the other rocks were adopted as individuals.  Every time we go on vacation or a road trip, we come home with new garden rocks, so the arroyito becomes more solid and complex year-by-year.  My family complains when they have to ride home from a trip with their feet on top of the latest stones headed for the arroyito but they still help me stuff rocks into the car.

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Happy 100th Birthday WP668 Caboose!

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Cake 25 June 2016

On Saturday, we celebrated the 100th Birthday for WP668, the railway caboose where Mentoring Standard has its office in Willow Glen (San Jose, California).  Many friends and family and train enthusiasts joined John and me in cheering on our old train car.  You can read the history of WP668 on her website.

There were balloons and a cake and we distributed WP668 Caboose Con-Duck-tors (a rubber duck toy dressed as a train conductor) as party favors.  John gave tours of his N-scale model train layout in our former garage.  WP668’s birthday present was new night lighting along her roof line.

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Cake 25 June 2016

Eleanor and Jessica, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

Paul and Natalie, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

Eleanor and John, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose at night 26 June 2016

WP668 Caboose at night 26 June 2016

WP668 Caboose Con-Duck-tors 27 June 2016

Images Copyright Katy Dickinson 2016

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Ella Bolli Van Gilder, Hull House Volunteer, Woodcarver

1911 Ella Bolli Van Gilder oil portrait

My Great Grandmother was Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1874-1958. Before her marriage to Walter Atkin Van Gilder (1870-1943), she worked at the famous Hull House in Chicago with Jane Addams (Co-founder of the ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union).  Like Jane Addams, Ella Bolli was a suffragette (feminist) working for women’s rights.

Hull House became, at its inception in 1889, “a community of university women” whose main purpose was to provide social and educational opportunities for working class people (many of them recent European immigrants) in the surrounding neighborhood. The “residents” (volunteers at Hull were given this title) held classes in literature, history, art, domestic activities (such as sewing), and many other subjects. Hull House also held concerts that were free to everyone, offered free lectures on current issues, and operated clubs for both children and adults. (from Wikipedia)

My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, was very close to her Grandmother and called her “Gram”. Gram was formally trained as a woodcarver in Chicago and carved furniture during most of her life. My mother remembers helping her: sanding, waxing, and polishing wood endlessly as a young teen.

I have several of Gram’s pieces, along with mirrors and stained glass designed by her husband (created by the Dutch workers in his glass factory). When we sold my mother’s house in San Francisco in 2012, we had to clean out fifty years of stuff she and my father had collected.  Some of it went to my mother’s apartment, some to my brothers and me (see Distributing Family Stuff for how we decided who got what), and the rest into storage.

During the big 2012 move, we were surprised to find a previously-unknown carved chair by Gram shoved into a corner of the attic crawl space. We have all but two of the pieces. John and I are finally now discussing how best to restore it. Some of the carved furniture by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder:

unassembled Fumed Oak carved chair by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder

Fumed Oak carved chair by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder

Fumed Oak carved table by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder

Fumed Oak carved piano bench by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder

Cheval standing carved mirror fumed Oak by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder, glass by Walter Atkin Van Gilder

detail of Cheval standing carved mirror fumed Oak by Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder

1951 Ella Bolli Van Gilder

Additional information provided by my Aunt Louise Creekmore Senatore on 14 June 2016 – added here with her permission:

That was a great Blog on some of the history of your great grandmother – Ellen Rachel Bolli Van Gilder – aka Ella to her friends and Gram to her grand-children. I actually remember a fair amount about her as I was 14 when she passed away. Her birthday actually is 12/2/1874 according to mother and the cemetery records. While at Hull HouseJane Addams encouraged her to travel to the Philippines on missionary work. Fortunately she returned to Knoxville [Tennessee] to marry Dink – Walter Atkin Van Gilder. She told me that grand-dad said when he first laid eyes on her when they both were quite young, that he was going to marry her one day!

The pictures of the furniture that she carved that you have are just lovely. Too bad not to include the chair we have that she carved with the Esperandieu coat of arms or the large bench that she gave to Mark [Dickinson]. Just beautiful workmanship! She also painted in oils but we only have one of her paintings. Gram also sewed beautiful clothes – she was so artistic by nature and in thought as is seen in her poetry and her opinion pieces.

She loved animals too! Eleanor and Wade [Dickinson] were given a beautiful black Persian kitty as a wedding present in 1952, named Duchess. They not being able to take care of a kitty at the time, Gram said that she would take her and after that Duchess was always with Gram, on her bed, in her chair. She was a sweet, loving kitty who, unfortunately, was allergic to her own fur and sneezed a lot. Gram would recite poetry to me while she ironed clothes and would read stories to me to while away the time.

She loved gardening and was always at Faraway [in Knoxville] every Spring to weed and plant and to cut the gorgeous Jonquils. She and Mom would pile them in the car in baskets and take them around to give them to friends. I got to sit in the back of the car, surrounded by bushels of wonder smelling flowers! She tried also to keep a little garden going at Elkmont [Tennessee] just on either side of the front, stone steps. She planted many ferns and bulbs. They didn’t have much success, however, since they needed water and tending more often than we were there. She is the one who named the [Elkmont] cabin “Dear Lodge.”

Note: None of the items pictured are for sale. I do not provide pricing or sales advice for similar items. Please do not ask.
Images Copyright 1951-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Front Yard Done and Growing Well

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I wrote last month about putting in our New Front Yard as part of the Landscape Rebate Program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). I started working on this project in April 2015. The yard has already passed its final inspection and our refund check should arrive within the next eight weeks.

The drought-tolerant plants are growing happily and my hope is that the winter rains (should we get any!) will not cause mudslides in the new dirt mounds.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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New Front Yard

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During the last week or so, we have been following up on the water conserving landscape plans I wrote about in August. So far, we have removed the old lawn, brought in new topsoil and decorative boulders, created Paul’s seating area, and placed hundreds of new plants. While I am in Monterey tomorrow with the TechWomen mentors and Emerging Leaders from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, John is going to finish installing the new watering system. The last step is to put mulch (bark chips) around the plants to conserve water and protect them. So far, I am happy with the results!  Once everything is complete, I can submit receipts to the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) for a refund of part of the cost of this big project.

August 2015:
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October 2015:
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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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